The Old Baptist Days
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09-04-2016, 09:49 PM (This post was last modified: 10-04-2016 09:31 PM by Shai Hulud.)
The Old Baptist Days
I find myself a bit under the weather, so I've been grading tests, posting, and reading today. I finally picked up The God Delusion and find it's not half as acerbic as I thought it would be. However, for some reason, it's making me think of my first two decades of life and religion and just how angry I can still be about it, and how bitter. I hope you all don't mind a rant, but might as well talk about the time before I was Catholic, since these uncomfortable memories are surfacing and it feels like it'll be nice to get them out on 'paper' as it were, even if no one comments.

My great great grandparents were Catholic, however, in my great grandparents time, there was a massive family split. The Catholics were disowned and don't even appear on the family tree any more, so thorough was their purging (I should know, tried to do a family tree project in high school; I need something like Ancestry.com probably) by the Baptist side. The Baptists all attended the same church for the next few generations. I can even remember celebrating our church's 150th anniversary!

When I was but a sandtrout and had yet to grow into a sandworm, I started feeling uncomfortable with things in Sunday School. As much as my father and I disagree on stuff, he probably had something to do with this, because Sunday nights we'd stay up and watch National Geographic stuff on PBS, or NOVA, or other documentaries that showed how beautiful nature was and how awesome space and all that could be found in it was.Anyhow, it helped me learn to question things at an early age. One thing that's not popular in Sunday School? Questioning things. Pretty quickly I learned to keep my mouth shut, and normally I did.

I accepted Christ early on, around eight, but didn't go up for baptism because I thought I had waited too long. Most of the people I knew had gone up earlier in their lives, so being eight years old seemed to be too old to go up when literally every other kid from my class had by the age of five or six. This, in turn, only led to teasing because I "wasn't a Christian".

Eventually as high school approached, my family guilted me into going to youth group, which was sort of fun. We did have some good times, but by then, the cliques were already pretty well set out, so I was on the outside. Most of the people there used it as a dating service more than anything. I will say that some of my best memories of high school did come from youth group though. Once a youth pastor's kid was playing GTA 3 hooked up to a projector and the youth minister walked in to see the son beating a hooker to death for money on the sanctuary wall. Another time during a "lock in" in a former funeral home that had been ironically renamed The Life Center, we all played sardines on the third floor with the windows covered by trash bags and blankets, and the light switches were taped down heavily so you couldn't turn on the lights.

Not all was fun and games. I outright questioned a Sunday school teacher, "If Christ couldn't sin, then how is it He had free will to choose whether or not to sin, because doubting God is a sin?" Still waiting on an answer for that one, got me kicked out of Sunday School that day. Around this time the youth group also had a "Religions to Beware Of" series. Mormons, Jehovah's Witnesses, Satanists, and Wiccans. Turns out I was the only kid who had Mormon and Wiccan friends, and knew that the official stance of the Church of Satan wasn't worshiping Satan as a deity. This class led to me being called Anti-Christ, Satanist, and other things for the rest of my time as a Baptist.

During the same period, the wider church was undergoing a series of changes as well. We brought in an anti-evolution speaker and I went to eight solid hours of "Dr. Dino" spouting pure pseudoscience and Creationism. At one point he threw stuffed dinosaurs into the audience to prove a point about "gravity deteriorating" or something like that and hit me in the head with a brontosaurus. He didn't apologize either when I returned it and said "hey you lost this, my head found it". We also had people who were hating Harry Potter, and when a copy was donated to the church rummage sale, a woman in all seriousness wanted to burn it! This period also began the Great Service Wars...traditional vs. contemporary. Like many Baptist churches, we had begun to have a new "contemporary" service with newer music instead of the old hymns. Well the older folks didn't like that and complained. So it was placed at 8am before the older people came, and began to flourish, moving from the Life Center to the main church building; then the older folks complained that their parking spots were being taken by all the new young people. Then they tried moving it to 11am and the traditional service to 8am, and the older folks complained about how the church was trying to drive them out by making them get up early and attend services before Sunday School even. Meanwhile the younger people were crying "persecution".

They never settled the worship wars while I was a member. However, the contemporary service did help me start to realize how dis-enchanted I was with my Baptist faith. Church People often are the worst; smiling to your face, while slipping a dagger in your back. Professing a belief in Christ, while acting the opposite of how He told us to behave. For an example; my mother used to volunteer in the church prayer chapel back when I was a Baptist and had two rather unfortunate run-ins with the "Worship Band" from the contemporary service we went to at the time. Once, she went to do her shift in the prayer chapel and couldn't, because it was filled with their equipment, as they were too lazy to take their stuff back downstairs. Another time, she was there praying for the intentions in the book left inside the Chapel, when a few people affiliated with the Worship Band came in to set up finger foods for after the service and told her to "just leave. Some of us have actual important things to do." Prayer was unimportant to these Church People, but snacks were.

At sixteen, a beautiful experience at church camp convinced me to go forward for baptism at last, because years before I made God a promise, and the conditions were met. For the first time in my life, courtesy of a power failure in the middle of nowhere, I saw the stars without any man made light polluting the night. I felt as though I would be judged, and to be honest, I still feel like I was judged for waiting too long. People congratulated me, people more often than not, did it in forms of "it took you long enough" or "I always knew you weren't a Believer". Backhanded smiling comment after backhanded smiling comment about how it was about time I got "Saved".

The next couple of years was more of the same old, same old. More church camp, more Sunday School, more contemporary worship. During Senior year of Sunday School we had two very interesting classes that happened. One was everyone admitting they really hadn't known what they were doing when they went up for baptism at a young age, shocking the teacher. But they assured her that they knew for sure now. I still got flak for waiting. The other was the "evil liberal atheist college professors will try to make you forsake Christ" lecture for all the Seniors one Sunday. Well, I took dual credit college courses my senior year and my first math class was with a local Pentecostal minister who was an adjunct; he would bounce sermon ideas off of us. Biology adjunct? Used a textbook with half a dozen Creation stories in it so she could maximize Creationism and hardly talk about evolution. In fact, the first time I met someone who fit the "liberal atheist professor" stereotype was when I started working in academia and he thanked me for showing him where he could get the Satanist coloring book for download, just so he could put a copy on his desk to troll one of our Mormon coworkers.

Around 18 I started working on the weekends and the church lost its senior pastor. The church constitution said the associate pastor couldn't become senior pastor; the associate held a vote to change it and was unsuccessful. Around this time he started trying to drive people out so that he could change it and get a raise and new title. Meanwhile, I started working at McDonalds (still the best job I've had outside of academia, as far as the people I worked with). Working almost every Sunday between age eighteen and age twenty-two, do you know how I grew to recognize my brothers and sisters in Christ? By asking myself, "Who are the angriest, rudest, and most demeaning customers we have?" On the Lord's Day, to be blunt, there are a ton of holier than thou "Christian" assholes who turn people off to the message of Christianity and to the saving Grace of Jesus the Christ.

I got to watch things from the outside. I watched a 94 year old retiree be fired from his volunteer librarian job and the library turned into new office space for someone's relative, because "nobody reads any more". I watched countless people be driven out, persecuted for not liking the right candidate for the new Senior Pastor. I watched my mother be the token dissenting voice (a fact she soon recognized) on a search committee for a person that was already picked out, they just had to make a show of looking at more qualified candidates. I watched as a man was accused, and that's the only word that fits in the way it happened, of being gay, because he wasn't married at the age of 30, to quote one member of the search committee, "He's 30 and unmarried, he's obviously a gay and we can't let a gay near the children!". Funny story, he's now married to my cousin and they have two daughters.

And when I did leave the church, or at least stopped attending, nobody said a word. No one voiced a concern or a care. One less troublemaker seeking to understand our faith, one less guy to have to contend with in all the politicking and power plays and nepotism. They only cared when I came back to request a letter saying I had been baptized, because I was joining the Catholic Church...then they cared, enough to de-friend me en-masse on Facebook and to tell me I was going to Hell. On the latter it's kind of funny because I was told that while I was going there too.

Fun story; eventually the church membership dropped so drastically that the associate pastor got his promotion....goes to Cancun on a yearly basis now for vacation. He's been working to rebuild it ever since, but no one from my family who had gone there for over a century is left, I was the third and last generation to be baptized in the baptismal pool above the sanctuary. Part of that still makes me sad, even as I'm bitter and typing this, that now senior pastor was one of the only non-family members in the waiting room when I was born. He was a good friend of my ex-Catholic uncle.

I did a bit of wandering around in college. Went to Chi Alpha when told it was non-denominational, found out the hard way it was Assemblies of God locally. The whole people flopping around on the ground thing is scary in real life. Had a minister from a Baptist church come to my door at one point and find a reason to leave when we talked through the "Roman Road" that I showed I knew about and then asked him why Paul would still say to work out one's salvation with fear and trembling if the Once Saved Always Saved implied by the Roman Road was correct. Never saw him again.

Eventually, and another story entirely, I ended up as a Catholic. Where I was encouraged to actually question my leaders and its dogmas and doctrines and to do the research on why something was portrayed some way. During the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults (RCIA) classes, I watched the priest argue with this Creationist guy over evolution, and it was amazing to me, because it was the first time I saw a member of the clergy actually believe in evolution.

Since then it's been very lax, as compared to being a Baptist. Far less judgmental, far less guilt, etc. Encouragement to doubt things and find out what the reasoning behind them is; my priest and I have read a few books mutually (we found out in conversation) ranging from (currently) Searching for Sunday about an Evangelical who found herself drawn to liturgical worship, to Trusting Doubt, about losing faith and sometimes will sit down before Confession and talk about them...not exactly stuff the folks in the parish book club would probably approve of.

The only people who tend to compare to my Baptist days are "Traditional" Catholics, who tend to hate everything after Vatican II. Though I did have an interesting time at a "Charismatic Catholic" event once, where I was the only person who got prayed over and didn't fall over, confusing a Franciscan priest quite a bit.

Thanks for letting me rant and be bitter about my old church though. They'd be horrified of me today, I'm sure (in part from the few who didn't defriend me on Facebook). Playing those "Satan games" like Dungeons and Dragons, reading Harry Potter, being one of those evil liberal academics! Though I'd argue more moderate leaning liberal, but to them, education = liberal. And I do have to say, my "Jesus Camp" experiences don't in any way resemble that horrifying documentary of the same name. Also that youth minister's son from the GTA 3 moment? Currently serving time for using a computer to solicit minors for sex.

Edit: A few other things:
*Senior Pastor guy skipped my cousin's wedding rehearsal where he was the officiant to do a high school football game referee job.
*Was deep into the Christian subcultural bubble; if you've ever seen Seth's talk on Christian ripoffs of stuff, I only learned about one new thing. I've been to Creation (the Christian Lollapalooza), played Bibleopoloy (and a Christian equivalent of RISK), used Testamints, etc.
*I've prayed the Sinner's Prayer multiple times because I wasn't sure if I was really Saved.
*I've never felt "on fire" for God, it's always been more of a "Well I believe this is true" thing.

Seriously, screw Baptists. Actually to be totally honest, I loathe Evangelical churches in general these days and hate to go in them unless I have to for a wedding or a funeral service. If I have to go in one, I start to sweat, breath faster, and it feels like I'm going to go into a full panic. One local mega church back home's youth minister is constantly on FB reminding me I'm not good enough, not a "True Christian" ™ because Catholics aren't Christians, and that I was never a real Christian because I never meant the Sinner's Prayer; screw him. I've told him before we don't worship the same Jesus.

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15-04-2016, 09:33 PM
RE: The Old Baptist Days
Oh my god. Testamints. I had forgotten all about those things! Speaking as the grandson of a Southern Baptist minister (though he died days before my second birthday, so I never really knew him), I can vouch for many of the things you talk about here. Most of my dad's side of the family is still Southern Baptist and I have had many an...let's say, "interesting"...conversation with my cousins. Up until about 6 years ago, I had no idea that they thought Catholics were going to hell. It's all so crazy and cult-like.

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15-04-2016, 10:27 PM
RE: The Old Baptist Days
Thanks for sharing! I found this so interesting to read. I don't remember my Baptist days, as my family left the Baptist church when I was 2 years old and my dad found out that the church bought a drum set. He wasn't willing to start a worship war and would rather leave such a place entirely, so it was the OPC and Calvinist tulips for me instead. I did go to a non-denominational high school though, so there were plenty of Baptist in our midst. A lot of what you said throughout rings so true...even though we seem to have ended up in very different places "spiritually", as I'm out of Christianity entirely. But we're both on this forum, having made our own decisions, doing what we can to open our minds. Yay for us Smile
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16-04-2016, 07:37 PM
RE: The Old Baptist Days
Apparently the Baptists banned sexual intercourse..... it was too much like dancing.

Boom, tish.

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16-04-2016, 10:34 PM
RE: The Old Baptist Days
Former Southern Baptist here as well and I dipped my toes in the Catholic waters a bit before coming to atheism. Anyway yeah I can definitely relate to the panicked feelings when even thinking about attending church again. Confused

Love your username, by the way. Smile

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16-04-2016, 10:40 PM
RE: The Old Baptist Days
(16-04-2016 10:34 PM)Escape Artist Wrote:  Former Southern Baptist here as well and I dipped my toes in the Catholic waters a bit before coming to atheism. Anyway yeah I can definitely relate to the panicked feelings when even thinking about attending church again. Confused

Love your username, by the way. Smile

Bless the maker and his water
Bless the coming and going of him
May his passage cleanse the world
May he keep the world for his people Hobo

Dune!

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17-04-2016, 08:22 PM
RE: The Old Baptist Days
(15-04-2016 09:33 PM)StrangestTribe Wrote:  Oh my god. Testamints. I had forgotten all about those things! Speaking as the grandson of a Southern Baptist minister (though he died days before my second birthday, so I never really knew him), I can vouch for many of the things you talk about here. Most of my dad's side of the family is still Southern Baptist and I have had many an...let's say, "interesting"...conversation with my cousins. Up until about 6 years ago, I had no idea that they thought Catholics were going to hell. It's all so crazy and cult-like.

So glad to not be the only one who remembers the Testamints! And Southern Baptists, oy, slightly more hardcore than my brand was. I was part of the American Baptists, which from what I understand is largely the same, but allows women to be involved in ministry. And I can only imagine "interesting" in that case... x.x

(15-04-2016 10:27 PM)debna27 Wrote:  Thanks for sharing! I found this so interesting to read. I don't remember my Baptist days, as my family left the Baptist church when I was 2 years old and my dad found out that the church bought a drum set. He wasn't willing to start a worship war and would rather leave such a place entirely, so it was the OPC and Calvinist tulips for me instead. I did go to a non-denominational high school though, so there were plenty of Baptist in our midst. A lot of what you said throughout rings so true...even though we seem to have ended up in very different places "spiritually", as I'm out of Christianity entirely. But we're both on this forum, having made our own decisions, doing what we can to open our minds. Yay for us Smile
Your dad sounds like a lot of folks during our whole worship wars thing, the more conservative left early. The non-denom high school sounds so interesting, coming from a public school setting, but knowing folks who went to Christian high schools or having read conversion and de-conversion stories involving schooling like that! You put things beautifully there though about making our own decisions, taking our own paths, and opening our minds! So "yay us" indeed!
(16-04-2016 07:37 PM)SYZ Wrote:  Apparently the Baptists banned sexual intercourse..... it was too much like dancing.

Boom, tish.

I laughed. When my mom was a kid, the kids in the youth group decided to hold a dance, and the church sent in the deacons to stop it.

(16-04-2016 10:34 PM)Escape Artist Wrote:  Former Southern Baptist here as well and I dipped my toes in the Catholic waters a bit before coming to atheism. Anyway yeah I can definitely relate to the panicked feelings when even thinking about attending church again. Confused

Love your username, by the way. Smile

Bless the maker and his water
Bless the coming and going of him
May his passage cleanse the world
May he keep the world for his people Hobo

Thanks, it's good to know it's not just me. With my grandmother passed, I have no reason to go into a Baptist church any more, but for a few Christmases, it was a bit hairy there with the rapid breathing and such. And if you don't mind my asking, was it Catholicism that helped lead you to atheism?

And awesome quote fellow Dune fan!! Fortunately no one has yet speared me in an attempt to ride me and prove their manhood.

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Dune and Cap!! Seriously, Cap made the first Avengers with stuff like that. Or "there's only one god ma'am, and he doesn't dress like that."

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17-04-2016, 09:21 PM
RE: The Old Baptist Days
(17-04-2016 08:22 PM)Shai Hulud Wrote:  
(16-04-2016 10:34 PM)Escape Artist Wrote:  Former Southern Baptist here as well and I dipped my toes in the Catholic waters a bit before coming to atheism. Anyway yeah I can definitely relate to the panicked feelings when even thinking about attending church again. Confused

Love your username, by the way. Smile

Bless the maker and his water
Bless the coming and going of him
May his passage cleanse the world
May he keep the world for his people Hobo

Thanks, it's good to know it's not just me. With my grandmother passed, I have no reason to go into a Baptist church any more, but for a few Christmases, it was a bit hairy there with the rapid breathing and such. And if you don't mind my asking, was it Catholicism that helped lead you to atheism?

And awesome quote fellow Dune fan!! Fortunately no one has yet speared me in an attempt to ride me and prove their manhood.

My "dip" in Catholicism was mostly just research and reading about some of their beliefs as I was going through my deconversion process. In the churches I grew up in, there was a good bit of disdain for Catholics. We believed that they *could* be saved, but probably weren't, believed they worshipped Mary and that they should not have the pictures and statues they had in their churches, etc.

Catholicism was just always held in a bad light, so once I started questioning the Baptist tenets, one of the first things I started looking into was Catholicism. I thought their churches were beautiful, I liked some of the rituals (I thought their use of tactile things like rosary beads or even prayer candles were neat), and I just in general wanted to see what it was that other Baptists found so disagreeable about the Catholic church and to see how I felt about it for myself.

I never attended a service or went and spoke with a Catholic priest or anything, though I did follow Jennifer Fulwiler's blog Conversion Diary for quite a while (and this was when I would have still had the wrong ideas about who atheists were and what they were about).

Ugh, I'm rambling - anyway, yes it was a brief period of research and fascination I went through and pretty much the next stop was atheism. I did not dig into any non-Christian religions to speak of.

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17-04-2016, 09:37 PM
RE: The Old Baptist Days
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17-04-2016, 09:37 PM
RE: The Old Baptist Days
I grew up Catholic and from 6th grade through my early 20s lived in a small, very Catholic town. And by very Catholic I mean the only other 'church' was a Kingdom Hall that was built some time after moving there. The schools in town were all Catholic except for the kindergarten. About as Catholic an area you can get without actually being in the Vatican. My knowledge of other religions was, at best, dismal. But I didn't give it much thought as I really didn't ever buy into any of it any way. Being Catholic is just what we did.

Moving to SC in the mid 80s was a real eye opener for me. I had never been around people who talked about religion all the time. Where it was an opener for conversation...hi, my name is so and so...what church do you belong to? Blink

One night a couple good Baptist ladies showed up at the door to invite us to come to their church. One asked what my religious affiliation was...when I said that I was raised Catholic the older of the two ladies actually audibly gasped. Then I had to go on a mission to find out why. I soon learned that some of the tent revival preachers were teaching that Catholics were like Satanists and all sorts of other wonderful things. I was stunned. As time went on I found out how hated the Catholics are by many of the other 'Christians'. Hell, I didn't choose to be Catholic. I know a lot of Catholics...they didn't seem that bad as a whole.

My Pentecostal neighbor was more accepting. But then she was raised by a Catholic father. Religion caused us some problems...funny how you are not only expected to be Christian but also the correct flavor of Christian. Undecided And all the different kinds of Christians seem to think that theirs is the correct one.

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