No Saving This Soul
“Only Baptists go to heaven. Sorry, Episcopalians go to hell.”
This pearl of wisdom from my friend, Diane, came around the same time that she assured me that her parents didn’t have to do that nasty sex stuff to make babies. They just prayed to God and Mommy got pregnant. I hope I was at least a little skeptical about both of those assertions. I was 12.
Anyway, one summer after we’d moved to Ohio and had come back to western New York for a visit, Diane’s Baptist family was going to something really special and us kids all piled into the car after supper. Curious, now that I think about it, that Mom and Dad took a pass on this one. It was an old time fire and brimstone tent evangelist meeting outside of town in a big field.
Most of the details of that meeting are hazy and insubstantial, but I remember with utter clarity sitting rooted to my seat in horror as the thundering preacher person rolled out story after story of the calamities that befell those who had rejected the gift of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Maybe I wasn’t first in line to be saved that night but I sure was out of that chair pretty quickly.
What a relief to get my own Bible, feel the preacher’s hand on my head, and leave knowing I had been saved.
Except that later in bed I couldn’t sleep because I knew it hadn’t taken.
I didn’t feel saved. I didn’t feel different. I certainly didn’t feel protected and in the presence of my Lord and Savior. I lay there and knew there was no hope for a sinner as foul and rotten as me.
We went back the next night, of course, and maybe for other nights as well. Every night that we went I got in line to be saved (I don’t think they gave me any more Bibles). And every night in bed I felt around inside of myself, checked my soul, and found that I hadn’t been saved after all.
That launched my Bible-thumping phase that lasted several years and had me going to prayer meetings back in Ohio as well as Sunday School and joining the church choir. But riding quietly right under my urgent need to be saved were some inconvenient and not-welcome questions. I discovered that my teacher in Sunday School got edgy when I’d ask who Adam and Eve’s children married if they were the only people. Each other? Yeah, that didn’t go over so well.
Still not entirely sure of the state of my own soul I decided that my Mom really needed saving. My Mom wasn’t like my friends’ mothers. She looked like a movie star, wore bright red lipstick and tight stretch pants, drove fast and swore like a man. I became very worried about the state of her soul and put all my effort into saving her. I’m not sure what she made of my mission but I hope she was more amused than annoyed.
Did I find salvation after all that?
Yes, but not where I thought I would. Not where you’d think that either. I found my higher power in drugs and alcohol and for a very short time those worked brilliantly. I successfully treated my alcoholism with alcohol but it was a solution with a shelf life.
Nice Girls Don’t Use Needles
How a junkie saved my life when I didn’t think it was worth saving
I wonder about all the frightened people who, shamed by the preacher person, are certain that they are too far gone to be saved. All the queer kids, the doubters, the ones who just cannot stop masturbating or sneaking peeks at porn, the ones whose questions are deflected and never answered. Organized religion has a lot to answer for in this world as the Men of Religion spread disinformation and sow discord.
The love and connection of a bunch of fellow sinners saved me.
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