April 07, 2005

An Encounter (maybe)

from - smijer

Although I am now a freethinking Unitarian, I was raised in the Southern Baptist tradition. Baptists believe in miracles, but they don't ever really expect to see them. I remember being a child and hearing the preacher, during a dry spell, tell us that if you come to church to pray for rain, then you'd better bring an umbrella with you. That earned him a lot of "Amens", but I got the distinct impression that the people who even went so far as to bring an umbrella to church would not be entirely surprised if they wound up not having to use it on the way home. My impression was that went for the preacher as much as for anybody - but you ever know. Anyway, the Baptist will tell you that God answers prayer, but sometimes His answer is "no." Or "wait." You kind of get the idea.

I also remember that same Baptist preacher preaching up a storm (not a rainstorm - ha ha) against "charismatics"*. I was young enough at the time to have to ask my parents what exactly a "charismatic" was, and I didn't quite understand the answer they gave. It is only recently that I realized that charismatics are fairly numerous in this part of the country. And, it was only about a year or two ago that I discovered that I was married to one.

Specifically, I discovered that I was married to a member of the Church of God (Cleveland). Now, Church of God folks take their miracles seriously. So much so, that they have special weekend retreats for changing lives through a miraculous Encounter With God. I am pledged to go there this weekend, with an open mind. I go willingly. Mrs. smijer was very patient with my (admittedly fruitless) efforts to prosyletize her with reason and rationality, so this is her turn to try to prosyletize me with Christianity. She hopes that, by witnessing the work of the Holy Spirit up close, I might be granted a Saul-like conversion experience from God.

For those who aren't familiar with the Charismatic faith, you should know that they flatter themselves that the goings on that take place in their ministries are the same kinds of works that the Holy Ghost miraculously performed through the ministries of the apostles, as recounted in Acts and the Epistles. So this weekend, I can expect to hear people "speak in tongues", and when hands are laid upon them, even see them become "slain" in the spirit. The former I've witnessed first-hand; the latter is a form of religious ecstasy that I've never personally witnessed. If I picked a good weekend to go, I might even see a leg lengthened, or chronic pain relieved. Mrs. smijer knows quite well that I have too many rational and moral objections to most varieties of Christianity** to hope that witnessing these relatively mundane 'miracles' will persuade me to toss aside those weighty objections. What I believe she is hoping for is that, in an environment where lots of folks are praying, and the Holy Spirit is already busy, and where I am as receptive as possible to the possibility of the divine, that God will reveal Himself to me the same way Jesus revealed himself to Saul on the road to Damascus. In my post for the next Carnival of the Godless, I'll let you know how it turns out. From what I've read, I would be surprised if I experienced a religious ecstasy myself, without being a little more receptive to the religious evocations going on around me (and without the help of a psychotropic drug). I have long been curious about such experiences though. So, if I experience one, I will report it with relish and as much precision as possible. If I experience a religious ecstasy and it manages to remove my doubts about the reality and morality of some variety of the Christian religion, I'll certainly report that, too. And, in order to avoid skewing any possible results, I'll refrain from posting my bets ahead of time. I am entitled, however, to a 5% rake from any gambling pools that may be conducted on my account.

*My current understanding is that my folks don't share that particular preacher's views on the charismatic movement, though I'm not certain exactly where they do stand on charsimatic spiritual practices.

**There exist varieties of Christianity that manage to avoid most or all of these problems. By interpreting the meaning of the Bible in a way that departs radically from the interpretation of any conservative Christianity, most moral objections to Christianity can be avoided. The rational objections are more difficult, and are really only avoided by taking an agnostic or atheistic view, and taking only moral lessons from Christianity.


Posted by smijer at April 7, 2005 06:13 PM

I'm dying to know how this turned out.

univar.jpg Posted by Buck on April 13, 2005 12:14 AM
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