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Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Gravitational Pull-Up: About Religion

From the UPC comes this week's assignment:

This Week's Gravitational Pull-Up: About Religion

Time to delve into faith a bit. A simple question can complicate so many things:

Is the religion or belief structure that you practice, or try to follow, a matter of personal choice?

Very interesting question! I'll duck the free-will, omniscience/omnipotence of God, existential nature of this topic, and just talk about the choice I have made and continue to make.

Two paragraph summary of my religious background:

I was born and baptized a lapsed Catholic; the last non-lapsed Catholic in my family was my great grandmother, a picture bride from Portugal. Grandma lapsed first, though she was baptized, confirmed, and whatever else it is real Catholics do until they become professional gamblers the way Grandma did. Mom was baptized, but I don't think she was confirmed. Mom got the necessary amount of religious instruction, from Grandma, necessary to decide Christianity was just a way to control women. Woe to the Evangelical that knocks on Mom's door, Bible in hand, ingratiating smile in place. The women especially.

Mom and Dad were amused, if not alarmed, when I sought religious instruction in my early teens. Whence came this strange desire- what vacuum needed filling? Personally I think it was the long-lived influence of all those Narnia books I so loved. I had no idea they were Christian propaganda. I didn't like Church much, though, and was content to feel The Big Hunch, and identify myself as a lover of Christ.

It happened:
Then IT happened. I was 16, climbing up the dry part of a waterfall's face, and I slipped. It wasn't that far to the bottom, it probably wasn't death or anything, but it was a broken bone, or maybe a cracked and bleeding skull, and a long hike, rock hopping back up the river to civilization for an ambulance... a lot of pain and helplessness and embarassment. And I prayed as I slipped, and I felt a more real reality, and both my feet and both hands suddenly and at the same time found perfect purchase at once. I had slipped only a foot.

So... It isn't that the slide stopped. That's no scientific proof or anything. And it isn't that I was going to be hurt and then I wasn't hurt. It is the More Real Reality part. What happened is I had a mystical experience... I felt touched by God. I felt incredibly safe, I felt wrapped in a Golden Caress of Love, I felt... I felt Him. I don't know what to call it or how to describe it. But I had prayed for Jesus to help me and then I felt this incredible feeling which I felt was He.

The Choice:
Now, you can call it hallucination if you like. You can call it whatever. More important, though, is the fact that I can. This is the Pulp Fiction Conundrum, if you will. Jules tells Vincent he's going to walk the earth because they are alive through a miracle. Vincent says it was a freak occurence. Jules says Vincent is thinking about it the wrong way. It happened. Jules makes one choice, Vincent another. I don't know whether or not Jules felt the glow I felt... he doesn't mention it... but I certainly wasn't ready to mention what I felt that day for several years. The point is, I'm not going to try to rationalize it away. That moment of golden glowing was more real to my senses than any other moment of my life. It was steel to my every day reality's amorphous smoke rings.

Only I can't remember it, exactly. I remember feeling it. I remember an echo of what I felt, and I remember it happened. That's my choice. I can choose to betray God and myself- to ignore that mystical moment by rationalizing it or forgetting it or downplaying it- or I can acknowledge it and be true to it. I'm never true ENOUGH to it, but I can at least acknowledge that it was real, and hope that that is enough. So that is my personal covenant with God.

And it has become a contract from me to myself, as well. The contract is more or less: Will I humbly acknowledge what really happened, or will I be a superior cynic, looking down my nose at those dumb enough to think such things can be real?

Long rambling story short: I'm a Christian by choice.


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