In the absence of any brilliant ideas on what to post on here, I thought I may as well talk about my personal experience in becoming a Christian. I think most people think Christians are that way because they grew up with it. It’s a family thing or just a cultural thing that one mindlessly accepts without examining the issue for themselves. Or some people think that one becomes a Christian because they reach some sort of extreme personal crisis and turn to religion for comforts and to find a community within a church.
This wasn’t the case in my life. As a child I went to Catholic school, and my parents were Catholics, although they weren’t really the practicing variety. They were university graduates and quite liberal. My dad actually turned into an agnostic and even showed a certain interest in Native-American folk religions. He taught on a reservation for a time in South Dakota, and when he and my mother lost their jobs, we moved in with my grandparents in Michigan, who were Every Sunday Catholics.
Not only were my grandparents adamant about regular mass attendance, my dad got a teaching job at the Catholic school. Although I was confirmed, it didn’t really mean anything to me. I remember having to wear uncomfortable shoes, feeling bored while the priest gave his homily, doing a lot of kneeling, and getting a tasty Communion wafer at the end. That was about it. I went to confession once or twice, and tried to do penance with rosary beads and came to think the thing was a quite a chore.
I think in my heart of hearts, I didn’t believe God was the works-oriented God that I felt was being presented to me, and if you’re Catholic and you’re reading this, please don’t misunderstand me. I know there are some Catholics who know God in ways I wish I do. I’m just giving you my point of view as a runny-nosed kid. But as a kid I prayed to God and had a sense of love for him in my heart.
When we my mom got a job in St. Louis, we moved away, and from there on, we only attended church on Christmas and Easter (The CEO club – Christmas and Easter Only. Nyuk, nyuk).
I remember becoming really conscious of right and wrong when I was around 9 years old. My friends were regular thieves of the gas station, filling their pockets with Now and Laters and Laffy Taffy. I think the owners of the store almost had to know what was going on. One of our friends would buy something, while the rest of us lined our pockets with candy. I finally gave into temptation, and at that moment, something was noticeably different about me.
Paul explains this tragedy in his letter to the Romans:
Once I was alive apart from law; but when the commandment came, sin sprang to life and I died.
Before this time I felt as if I had a certain peace with God, but I knew better this time. It as if I was Adam in the garden of my childhood innocence, and the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil was very chewy and came in grape and cherry flavor.
The damage had been done. I listened to the serpent’s lie, my innocence was lost, and spiritual death had done it’s work. Really, it was only a matter of time before it happened as a member of the human race. The intrinsic sense of God I had within and my communion with him was gone. This is the sort of childhood horseplay we all look back at as adults, and we all laugh with a bit of nostalgia, but the results of this incident were actually quite tragic, as I’ll outline in my next post.