I had always considered myself to be a Christian. I was baptized when I was an infant in the Catholic Church– a recognized world-class Christian religion. According to my dearest friend, a member of one of those religions that came out of the Reformation, she was a Christian but I was not. Being baptized as an infant did not count. I had not been saved nor made the personal choice to be baptized. From what I understand, once you’re saved you’re assured of a place in heaven, even if you murder someone (that certainly would explain why a lot of prison inmates become “born again”). Assuming heaven is a particular locus in time and space, why could I not have a reservation, too? I mean, could it be that easy? I was never given that option at my Church.
Each religion has its own criteria for getting to heaven. I suffered through catechism every Sunday for what seemed like decades. I endured four years of Catholic girls high school. Surely tolerating Nuns should count for something. There should be penance points and a tally kept by a neutral party, like Switzerland. I think I just described the Church dogma, except for the Switzerland part (that’s for banking purposes).
I was six or seven when I began catechism (religious instruction), taught by Nuns from the nearby convent who ran a private high school for girls. I had never been around a Nun before, so I spent most of my first year of catechism staring at the Sister. Over the years, through parental coercion, catechism prepared me for the milestones every good Catholic kid accomplishes.
The last required was Confirmation, sort of Catholic Bar/Bat Mitzvah, boys and girls together. My confirmation made me a Soldier in Christ, a defender of the Faith. So, where was my reservation? Would I have to find a scalper hanging around a churchyard to buy a ticket? If only it were that easy.
Christians, according to Christians, are people who are Saved. They’re separate from the rest of us
Philistines christians– the ones who have to earn our salvation. But if this was Rome in, say, the time of Nero in the first century, I would still be thrown to the lions, because the hated, underpaid, syphilitic Roman soldier who’s dragging me off, kicking and screaming, to sure death, does not know Christian from christian. I would be better off telling him I was from Mars than trying to explain to him that I was christian with a small “c” and not a member of the group targeted for persecution (since Mars was one of the Roman gods, he might have thought me sacrilegious, so let’s make that Pluto).
Note: I acknowledge that there is some controversy regarding lions’ role or lack of it in martyring Christians or christians but I’m taking a little license in that area.
What if an angel shows up while I was being dragged away, and smote the soldier and gave me the keys to his chariot? Now that’s being Saved.Wrong kind of saved?
Same scenario. This time the angel tells me to die for Christ and I’ll go to heaven. Knowing me I’d want to know what he means by heaven because the literal and figurative architecture of that construct, which could be a destination or some state of spirituality, or an alternate dimension, can differ widely between individuals, especially among religious leaders. I mean, if I’m going to be eaten by lions, and it’s going to hurt, a lot, I’d really like to have a few guaranties and at least one condition. This is where Faith comes in.
While in hospital recuperating from that total knee replacement, my friend, RM sent some of her friends from church to visit me. I was wary of her friends–all Christians–Bible Baptists no less, and I, an anthropologist (oh, ye of little faith). One person in particular visited me several times. The fact that I kept falling asleep did not deter him. He was a Pastor at RM’s church and apparently RM wants me to go along on the Rapture and not be left behind to fight the anti-Christ or zombie apocalypse or wrath of God. Yes, the Pastor was on a mission to save me. I didn’t want to insult him but I did ask a lot of questions regarding the writing of the Bible itself. He kept telling me not to be so intellectual. Not to think about it. Just do it. And therein lies the rub.
The above is an updated version of a post that can be found on my other blog, Sapient Chronicles. Click Here to read the original.