was indoctrinated into Protestant Christianity from birth and accepted Jesus as my Lord and savior at the ripe old age of four. I don’t remember much about my childhood but I still remember that evening and the place of worship in Panama we called “The Home.” It wasn’t a formal church and I imagine it was more like what you would have seen in the Apostle Paul’s day where believers gathered in homes to praise god together through song and prayer.
A quick aside: on my blog I’ll never capitalize the word “god.” It’s not a proper name. If I use a proper name like Jehovah or Jesus or Allah I’ll capitalize it as per English grammatical rules. However, since I commonly refer to “god” you can assume I’m speaking of the Biblical deity known as Jehovah or Yahweh.
The Home was situated either on/near a sugar cane plantation or the stuff just grew wild because I remember running through the sugar cane with friends and partaking of the sweet grass. On the night in question I remember being particularly moved by a speaker during an invitation and I turned to my dad to ask him to help me accept Jesus into my heart. I had a vague idea of what the concept meant at the time and I’m positive that I honestly and earnestly meant what I was saying, but I can say for sure that at that point I had only been given the happy, shiny Jesus stories and didn’t know much more than that I really, really didn’t want to go to Hell (another concept which would later become even more confusing as I learned more) when I died. My dad took me aside and knelt with me to pray. I remember standing next to a radiator against an outside wall, not too far from a window. I remember singing, although I’m not sure of the hymn. It was most likely a standard invitation hymn like “Softly and Tenderly” or “Just as I am.”
My dad helped me through the prayer of repentance (although I don’t remember having done anything at that point for which I should have been really sorry) and I asked Jesus into my heart. What I remember feeling is relief as though a weight had been removed from my shoulders on which now I can reflect and know that it was the threat of eternal damnation that I was certain no longer applied to me. What I didn’t feel was the Holy Spirit descending on me like a dove and god’s voice booming down from Heaven saying, “Welcome, my child. With you I am pleased.”
Later on I was baptized in the Pacific Ocean (a fact that, to this day for some reason, is a proud part of my history just for its mildly exclusive nature) and considered myself a Born-Again Christian™. It wouldn’t be until later in my life that I’d realize that meant I wasn’t born a Christian – a fact that escaped me then but now makes all the difference to me. The reality is that I was born an atheist but I never really stood a chance at staying that way because I was born into a Christian home. My parents loved me and wanted the best for me and that meant they had to tell me about Jesus and save my soul from eternal torment and separation from god. They did this because they were taught to do it by their parents or their culture, and their parents for the same reasons, etc. And there we all were, denying our natures and clinging to some vague, outdated concept in the hopes of escaping the worst punishment imaginable.
From this point I would build my entire world view around legend and myth without really thinking too much about it and, like the good little “Christian soldier,” I’d pledge a conquest on the world around me to win hearts and souls for Jesus. All the while, I’d be suppressing doubt and disenchantment and resentment under the unyielding thumb of my family’s organized religion.