So, I “grew up in the church.” Isn’t that a great turn of phrase? “In THE Church.” I use it now and have heard many people from different denominational backgrounds use it as well. Today I mean it in the sense of the the church universal, but I was raised with the meaning being a distinction between our church and all the other false churches. Wow… I managed to go off on a tangent in the first paragraph!
Here’s how stupid or whatever I was… I remember a defining moment in the 5th grade at Sunday School when I entered an argument about whether or not there were animals in heaven, i.e. whether or not animals have souls. By the way, I am not even giving an opinion on the question right now, just recalling a historical event. Basically, I was arguing that animals do have immortal souls and were in heaven… I said it was obvious because of all the animals in the Bible stories. You see, I thought that all those great stories of old had happened in heaven. I had no real connection to this stuff being historical or tangibly connected to life. I like to think in light of my very slow beginnings I might have sped up a bit by now.
I was baptized at the ripe old age of 10 (5th grade year) because my pal Chuckie was baptized. You have already gotten a picture of my wizened understanding of God’s will and works at that age. The thing I remember of that evening, past the act of being immersed, is that my friends all asked if the water was heated. It wasn’t.
I was loved at that church. There were several adults who took interest in me and were very special in my life as mentors and teachers. I hope that my inability to learn and process doesn’t lead you to doubting their ability and sincerity in trying to help me. I will never forget Ms. Willamina, and I am way too young to know how to spell that name correctly! She was one of those great big old Ladies of Color that everyone should know growing up. She hugged me every Sunday and brought me gifts from her trips home to see family in West Virginia. She also knew how to wear those hats, as only such ladies could know. I hope that thirty some-odd years later my memories of her come close to the mark. I do know this… even if the physical image of her in my mind has subtly changed over the years, she left a indelible mark of peace and love upon me that shines crisp and clear through all the years. In that, she was Christ to me, and ever will be.
Growing up as a boy in Texas half my family (Dad’s) was Baptist, and the over half (Mom’s) were members of the Churches of Christ. Since Dad “converted” to marry mom, I was raised in the Church of Christ. This movement began in the States just a couple of hundred years ago or so and is referred to as the American Restoration Movement. That movement has birthed three distinct denominations in our country, the Churches of Christ, the Independent Christian Churches and the First Christian Churches (known as Disciples of Christ). I have attended and/or ministered in all three branches. The movement’s goal was to “restore” First Century Christianity by better understanding and applying the Bible, thus undoing the 2000 years of “broken” Christianity to date. I was taught as a child, both implicitly and explicitly, that the church had “fallen away” and ceased to exist in any true form shortly after Christ and then was just restored back in our own country. When pressed, my teachers allowed the possibility, and some the probability, that there were always, in all times, people reading the Bible and practicing their faith just we were doing now… they just never seemed to make the news. That was where I started.
For many of you who have traveled a similar road, you’ll know instinctively both the extreme legalism of such a beginning, and yet also the undeniable sincerity of those teaching me. We were the “true children” of enlightenment, basing all our faith on the correct view and interpretation of scripture. No mystery here, folks, we figured it out. Thank you very much, all done. Here are the five steps of salvation and here are the five acts of worship. Here’s the only proper name for a church, and here’s the proper eschatology. Now, go have some fun.
But fun was more than a little elusive. I was a debater in high school and began to see some serious problems with our rational, analytical approach. We completed disregarded the accepted rules of logic and constructed a bent hermeneutic, very much our own. All the while very sincerely believing that we had St. Paul and even the Lord Jesus himself snuggly in our pocket. I asked questions and was shouted down. I challenged the “logic” and was warned of damnation. But where do you go? Here are so many people that I love so much. Here is where my journey began.
Maybe it’s as simple as a spiritual inertia… maybe it’s not. Whatever it is, I stayed on with the Churches of Christ for a very long time. I stayed on as a missionary and as a youth minister. I stayed on through contention and trial, most probably self-inflicted. I stayed on as an outsider/insider. But my journey never stopped, and today I am the outsider/outsider. I am not among the Churches of Christ, nor any denominational affiliation. I suppose on the best days I am in what you would call the “Non-Denominational” church movement that has taken root in our country out of the newer evangelicalism. On the worst days, I might just be rogue. On whatever day it is, I just pray that God holds onto me, and I can only trust the grip of God far more than I trust my own.
I woke up this morning to the news… the Crocodile Hunter has been killed. I don’t know about you, but as for me and my house, we truly loved Steve. We’ve owned the movies, we’ve watched the shows, and one of my boys has had a Croc Hunter birthday party. He always made me think of the many years ago when Jaime and I ran around Kenya in clothes just like that! Little khaki shorts and shirts that we bought from our good friend, Mr. Oni Mullah! But, we never looked that sporty!
I was thinking jealously this morning of Steve and conversely the weiner TV crew my gen grew up with: Mr. Rogers? Captain Kangeroo? Henrietta Hippo? Sigmund the Sea Monster? H.R. PUFFINSTUFF!!! It just seems that my kids have been blessed by being weaned on someone so refreshingly happy and, yes I’ll say it, real. I was thinking it’s kinda interesting that Captain Kangeroo didn’t care all that much about animals, but then the Crocodile Hunter didn’t really “hunt” crocs either.
Yep, I believe that Steve was real. He was really engaged and really in love with his family and his career and his zoo. You wouldn’t love having your own zoo! Come on! I recall watching cable in our college yearss, maybe around 1994, and seeing Steve for the first time. He thinks he spots a snake or a lizard or somthing, so he leaps from his still rolling truck, stumbles into a sprint, tries unsuccesfully to leap the great Dingo fence, and comes up with nothing but dust… nothing but dust and a huge grin.
Steve will always be real… we have lived among giants.
I’m not really sure how many times I’ve started a blog, just to delete the sucker and pretend to have never heard of the stuff. I’ve done the stupid personality tests, ranted about giving blood and recycling…
Well, right now I have no rants. I might start with a couple book reviews and just talk about some ideas that are kicking around in my mind. Peace.