Friday, September 17, 2010

Faithful Friday - Kissing off Religion

This is the 3rd installment of my blog series titled Faithful Fridays. Click the link if you desire to read the first two. Otherwise proceed on with this post.

As previously stated I was raised Baptist. Sort of. We didn't attend church often but when we did it was Baptist.

In the other Faithful Friday posts I mentioned my bond with my great grandmother. I was a brat and threw a fit as a small child if my mom tried to leave me with anyone other than my granny Bartlett.  Granny Bartlett pretty much gave me everything I wanted. Food, toys, entertainment. Granddad Bartlett was a neighborhood ice cream man. He drove the north side of Amarillo in an old red and rust colored International. amongst family he had the reputation of being a mean man but upon his death lots of young men and women came forward to tell us, Grandad's family about his generosity. How he used to give them Nutty Buddies and Ice Cream sandwiches when they didn't have enough money to buy them, but Grandad Bartlett is not the subject of this post.

Lucille Bartlett was born January 1, 1904. I'm not certain she was born in Bethany Missouri, but I can for fact say that is where she grew up. Her family was Methodist in those days. Somewhere along the way she married my great-grandpa Orville and they moved to Texas. And became Baptists. My mother was their eldest daughter granddaughter. In 1972 I arrived. By that time Lucille and Orville had a slew of grand kids. Great and otherwise.  But like I said we had a close bond and I spent countless hours with my granny Bartlett.

By the mid eighties Granny Bartlett's health was beginning to fail. Alzheimer's' plagued her and she often got confused. Granny Bartlett did not always know where she was at or what year it was but never not once did she fail to remember my name.

It was October of 1987 when Granny Bartlett was admitted into the hospital for what would be the last time. Frail and confused she couldn't have weighed more the 90 pounds at the time. Until she'd gotten in such bad health granny Bartlett had been an avid reader of the bible. and she had continued to get cassette tapes listen to sermons from a local Baptist Church long after she was able to actually attend services.

But because of her prolonged illness and absence from church the pastor that came to visit her in those final days did not actually know my grandmother or anything about her. Somewhere int eh discussions the man discovered my great-grandmother having been raised Methodist had been sprinkled for her baptism rather than the full dunking the Baptist Church deemed necessary.

The conversation took an ugly turn from that point on and the end result was my great-granny, an 83 year-old-woman on her deathbed was now convinced she was going to burn in hell simply because she had merely been sprinkled and not submerged.

Was my granny confused? Disoriented? No doubt. But did that Baptist preacher try to bring her comfort? did he go out of his way to alleviate a dying woman's fears? Did he attempt to right the wrong he inadvertently initiated?

No. he stood before my family and said, "We can baptize her the correct way right here in the church. That should make her feel better."

And that is what we did.

Did it make her feel better. Maybe spiritually and mentally, but i cans till hear her cries of pain as they dunked her. I can still see the tears of anguish filling her eyes. I can still feel the burn of shame that we, her family allowed that man to terrify and taint her final days on this earth.

Do I believe God is the kind of anal-retentive creator that would insist on some absurd set of rules that must all be followed to an exact T and in an identical way before he would grant passage into a heavenly ever after.

No only no, but hell no.

The event pissed me off then and it pisses me off now. I wish I could apologize to my grandmother. i wish I had been big enough then and man enough to toss that self righteous preacher out on his butt. Was it right to condemn an entire religious denomination based on one fool's act? Was it right to turn my back on God and all organized religion two decades?

Probably not, but that is exactly what I did when on October 23, 1987 my great-grandmother, Lucille Bartlett departed this world.


Mystery Robin said...

That's an excellent post, Travis. There's so much harm that's been done in the name of religion. And so much of the New Testament is Jesus chastising the religious leaders for exactly that, I don't know how it ends up happening so often, but I know it does. I'm so sorry that your grandmother went through that.

G said...

Some religious people have such tunnel vision that they never realize the harm that they do simply by criticizing what they perceive to be a horrible wrong that someone else did years or even decades ago.

Mom24 said...

That's so sad. I'm sorry. I'm sorry for your Grandmother and also for your loss--both of your grandmother, but also of church. I too have a story about a Pastor ruining religion for me. I resent him for it, I know it's him and not God, but church will never be the same for me.

the walking man said...

There are no words strong enough that can be written about that "man of some god or another" who terrorized an old lady in her last days after living a life of goodness and kidness.

But Travis for you, because this is Faithful Friday, I will tell you what that Spirit you seek is in need of from you. Forgive the foolish and the unwise because they know no better, they do what they do because they study man's way not that Spirits.

Forgiveness is the beginning of not only healing but also wisdom because in order to forgive you have to gain knowledge. Wisdom is the proper application of knowledge.

Be Well on your journey.

DrillerAA09 said...

I is unfortunate that the actions of many within the church are the exact reasons so many reject God. One has to look no further than the thief on the cross to know that baptism, of any sort, is not a requirement for salvation. It is a testimony to that salvation.
Even as a life long Southern Baptist, I have never been taught that baptism by immersion is necessary for salvation. Okay, I'll quit preaching now.
Great post. I had a wonderful grandmother like yours. I do miss her as well. Have a great week-end.

Stephen Parrish said...

I dumped the Catholic church when I was a teenager because I could no longer tolerate the nonsense it was foisting on me. In grade school one of the nuns made us sit on the edges of our desk seats, with one butt cheek hanging over the side, to make room for our guardian angels. Try learning math sitting like that. Later I was told I would go to Hell because I had eaten a hamburger on Friday. If I had eaten the hamburger on Thursday I might have made it into Heaven. But no, I pissed God off by eating it on Friday, so he was going to make me burn for eternity. A priest once chastised me for wearing blue jeans to church. "You are showing disrespect for God," he said.

God cared what pants I wore? No, the church did. Big, big difference between the two. Big.

Leah J. Utas said...

A crime committed in the name of religion. That fellow disgusts me no end. Methinks he'll get his in the end.

Texanne said...

Every profession has its share of Nazis, people for whom rules trump good sense, understanding, and love. I feel for your granny, and for you. Know this, Travis: every one of us has some ugly memory, some angry ghost of a time when we didn't act in the way we wish we had. I won't say, "It's all right." I will say that your granny knows you're hurting and wishes you to forgive yourself and that dim-witted bureaucrat disguised as a pastor. Yourself more than the bureaucrat. Both of you were locked into expectations. The point is: next time something like that happens, you rear up on your hind legs and make it stop.
This will most likely have to do with one of your kids and some teacher.

Charles Gramlich said...

A lot of folks who would easily be believers have been ruined and tormented by such assholes as that preacher. SOme made the connection betweeen God and such preachers and rejected GOd too, but it is the preachers who are the sinners

Melissa Marsh said...

Robin is right - Jesus was furious with the Pharisees and their regard for the "rules." That pastor was a Pharisee, in my eyes.

I was a Baptist growing up, then I switched to Presbyterian and am much more comfortable there. My pastor is awesome - he is the first to admit that he is a sinner. I love such humbleness.

Liz said...

Faith, religion and even the Church are so much bigger than the small men who are in charge. Shame on that minister for his words and his actions.

Lissa! said...

When my mother was 9 yrs old, her best friend drowned in a lake near their home. She has been terrified of water ever since. When she was 13, her father decided she needed to be baptized in the Baptist church. She was beyond pertrified of the thought of being dunked in that water!! He forced her to go through with it and, as soon as she was old enough, she refused to set foot in another church- period. I don't blame her a bit. I have seen and heard horrible things from the mouths of 'Good Church People', particularly Baptists. I avoid them at all cost. My time with God is better spent alone.....

Old Kitty said...

I am truly sorry to read about your grandmother's terrifying ordeal. And I'm sorry that your family were put through this unnecessary event. It's just awful. Unfortunately all organised religions have their extremists and they tend to overwhelm the truly compassionate. It's such a sad state of affairs. I can only hope for change from within.

Take care

Being Beth said...

First, thank you for sharing such a life-defining event with us, Travis. The way I see it, that event has an epilogue attached to it. In the end, you did not turn your back on God forever. You have come full circle from a fifteen year old boy who didn't know what to do with what you witnessed and even felt you were a participant in, to the spiritual man you are today. You didn't lose your faith, you have only found a better fitting expression of it. So what if it took a couple decades of searching? Last I heard, it generally takes a whole lifetime to fully mature spiritually. I'm sure God takes great pleasure in you, and if God is smiling at you, I'm pretty sure your great-grandmother is too. Peace my friend.

Carol J. Garvin said...

Our son was baptized in the Presbyterian Church, his wife, in the Christian Reformed, but because of where they are living they currently attend a Baptist Church. They and their children are totally involved in the work and worship there and love the people. They would be happy to become communicant members, but they cannot because they refuse to be "re-baptized".

It's strange how we can get hung up on worldly manifestations of our faith and end up missing the whole point of salvation.

That preacher did your grandmother a terrible disservice, despite probably meaning well. But when we let a mistake like his gnaw at us and deprive us of the joy and blessings that God intends for his people, we compound the wrong. I expect, from her heavenly perspective, your grandmother has long since forgiven the misguided preacher. I hope you can, too.

Cloudia said...

Excellent, reasonable and humane post!

Strange, see the Bill Gates quote on my post today if you find the time.

Those people who raised you explain a lot about who you are and why we care about you.

Warm Aloha from Honolulu

Comfort Spiral

wordvixen said...

Jesus said "believe in your heart and confess with your mouth". While I do believe that baptism is a good thing, I can not find anywhere in the Bible that requires it for salvation. I do think that denominational doctrine is an interesting study, but I think so many times it causes more harm than good.

Driller has a great point- I'll have to remember that.

Do you know that baptism is much older than Christianity? Apparently when other people became Jews, baptism was part of the change- dying to the old way and being reborn as a Jew. Supposedly that's what our baptism is based on. That's why being dunked in water was viewed as a very public declaration of your beliefs.

Sorry, I know that's not particularly helpful in this situation- I can't help loving trivia.

Dizzy Ms. Lizzy said...

When I was in first grade in Catholic school, the nun told us that we were not to be friends when anyone who was not Catholic, because they were going to go to Hell for not being Catholic, and we didn't want them taking us down with them, now did we? In fact, we were to feel sorry for them because of this.

I could not understand how some of my family's friends, who were such good people, could be condemned to Hell just because they were not Catholic. I was also scared to death because my Grandmother on my Dad's side was Methodist. I had a close bond with her, very similar to yours with your Granny Bartlett. I was inconsolable, thinking that my best friend was going to Hell!

I was six years old when I heard this, and it really confused me then, and now, 50 years later,it still does.

I have turned my back on "big business" religion, but my faith in God has and will remain strong. I do not attend church regularly, but when I do, it's a small independent church that I feel very comfortable in.

My best to you, Travis, and I hope someday the pain of that episode diminishes to a tolerable level.

jerseygirl89 said...

That is a heart-breaking story, Travis. I'm sorry. This illustrates much of my discomfort with and dislike of organized religion.

Laurel said...

Travis, I am so sorry. I never had an experience quite that heartwrenching, but I have seen religion abused in some terrible ways. Justification of opinions and behaviors that cannot be justified.

It's the biggest reason I made an active decision to stay Baptist and raise my kids that way. One of the major tenets of the denomination is true study of the Bible. I know, because I've read it, that baptism is not required for salvation in accordance with the Christian faith. I know what the Bible teaches about such a legalistic approach to religion. Those rituals that we insist on separate us from God. We focus on the superstitious symbols instead of the truth. I won't be lied to or manipulated by anyone, seminary educated or PhD in divinity, because I know better.

And for each terrible thing I've seen someone do in the name of God, I've seen dozens of great things as well. Be mad at the wrongdoers. Go one better and call them out on it. But don't paint us all with the same brush because I can guarantee you that if me or mine had witnessed such we would have run that snake oil salesman out on a rail.

And one more thing in the trivia department. There are so many Baptists in the south because they did not require a college or seminary degree of their ministers, which made it easier to start and grow churches. It also made it easier to attract bass-ackward idiots into the ministry.

JR said...

Unfortunately Travis, I ran into an experience with the Baptist church that turned me off to organized religion. Excellent story. I am very sorry your family had to endure such a horrendous act by a so-called man of God.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Religion and politics both make people madder than hell. And I mean mad in both senses.

Debra said...

Apparently the "pastor" had never heard of the story of the thief on the cross. If I remember correctly, they didn't take him down off the cross so he might be dunked in water. But Jesus, hanging right next to him, said "THIS day thou shalt be with me in paradise".

I have a life motto..."never let church people effect your relationship with Jesus Christ."

Odd motto I know, coming from "a preachers wife". I learned a long time ago, "religious" people will kill you in more ways than one, if you let them.

And then there's Jesus...and HE makes all the difference in the world.

I enjoyed reading this post, even if it did make me want to hurt that so called "pastor".


Annie said...

Wow! I'm so sorry for what happened. It shouldn't have. Jeez! Baptism does not save. Hello!

lyzzydee said...

what a story!! It should be what you make of it, not what is convention. Its got a bad name at the moment, mind you it may well have been the same thoughout history.

Junosmom said...

Great story, Travis, and great writing. Could easily be incorporated into a book, ya know, because we all have moments that set us on a different path than we started and we all have moments that we wished we had done differently. That's what makes this a great story - because we can identify with the feelings the story invokes in ourselves.

Debra She Who Seeks said...

You were right to be pissed off. A religion that does not make room for compassion is only a hollow set of self-serving rules. Compassion should always be the trump card.