A month or so back I mentioned I was in the midst of taking RCIA classes on my journey to become a full blown, communion receiving Catholic. I promised then to tell y'all a bit about my faith journey from a reluctant baptist -- to an anti-organized religion non-believer-- to my current leap of faith.
I've struggled to fight a launching point without trivializing both my anger of old and my new found or at least newly rediscovered beliefs. This post in particular will no doubt come across as silly but I have decided to go back and talk about the very roots of my distrust of churches.
This may come as a surprise to y'all but I was a fairly pampered kid. I didn't mean pampered as in my parents bought me everything I wanted. That certainly was not the case as were in now way an affluent family. I was raised by my mom in a single parent environment. Even before my mom and dad divorced he was never around. He was a hardware salesman who worked out of Albuquerque some 200 odd miles west of Amarillo. I can't even say for sure when my parents actually divorced. That's how little of an impact on my everyday life the event had.
Nonetheless I have very little to complain about my childhood. My mom worked so more often as not I stayed with my great grandmother. Granny Bartlett, as I called her, catered to my whims to the point that she would send my great grandfather to the store every morning to buy whatever I wanted for breakfast, and lunch. Toasted coconut marshmallows? Yep, if that's what I wanted, that's what she fed me. And they were among my faves. Grandad Bartlett was an ice cream man. he drove an old International truck and spent his spring and summer time afternoons driving around the neighborhoods in north Amarillo providing cool refreshments to the throng of children. And I sampled freely from his wares.
Granny Bartlett was a religious woman and my earliest recollection of church and the bible is of her reading the good book and quoting scripture. She was a Baptist but had originally been Methodist back in her hometown of Bethany, Missouri. I of course loved my Granny Bartlett with all my heart.
But my mom became worried that I was too dependant on my Granny. She felt I needed exposure to other kids and more of a school environment to prepare me for Kindergarten.
So she decided to enroll me in a nearby Methodist pre-school.
I didn't want to go. I cried when she dropped me off, but then again I cried when she left me anywhere other than Granny Bartlett's.
I eventually blubbering but still I wasn't happy. The other kids happily sang along to Jesus Loves Me This I know while I silently brooded. I remember begrudgingly playing Hokey Pokey, but it is lunch that scarred me for life.
I was a tremendously skinny kid. A poor eater to say the least. And the gruel they served up wasn't about change that. Yeah, I know peas and mash potatoes is not what most of you would call gruel. But even at that age I was a meat and brown gravy carnivore. Well that and toasted coconut marshmallows.
I refused to eat. One of the teachers, I for years described her as a Nun, became angry at my refusal to consume the peas and mashed potatoes. Long story short, this woman enlisted help to hold me down in the chair and force the food into my mouth.
To this day my mom will steadfastly say this never happened. She will point to the fact there are no nuns in the Methodist church as her proof. She is right about the nuns. I'll admit that much. But I was only a kids. Four years old at best. I'd never been to a Catholic Church so what the hell did I know about nuns?
However, I was old enough to know when someone was force feeding me mash potatoes. I can still close my eyes and feel that woman's rough handling of my head and jaw. I DID NOT IMAGINE THAT.
Is it trivial? But a small, brief moment in time? An event that probably has next to no impact on who I am today?
But, that was the first time I realized the world was not all rainbows and unicorns. And the fact it happened within the walls of a church may or may not have shaped my resentment of organized religion. But it did instill one thing, deep into my subconsciousness. People do bad, even in the name of kindness.
My mom, never believed me, but let the record show she never took me back to that place. She tried a few others over the years, but in the end I always came back to my Granny's Bartlett's.