Being raised in the Fortieth Street Baptist Church in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, meant getting up really early on Sunday mornings and driving eight or nine miles to the church from where we lived. It's not like we didn't have another Baptist church around the corner from where we lived, or even somewhere in between - but you have to understand - we were MEMBERS of the 40th Street Baptist Church - so we drove to the 40th Street Baptist Church!
Often times when I'm asked what denomination of Christian faith do I claim I will answer that I don't claim anything - I'm a Christian. I attend a few different churches, and to be perfectly honest, I'm not sure I'll ever be a member of another one. I just don't feel as strongly about membership as others do - but I do believe that every single person who has even the slightest bit of interest in knowing what lies between the pages of the Holy Bible should become a Southern Baptist - for as long as it takes to get that information into your head, and then get the heck out of Dodge! I did, I think back on my upbringing, and yes, I'm extremely glad to have been trained, drilled, force-fed, and guided through the Word...it truly is a light unto my path at times - when I'm in the depths of the daze, sadness, depression, seemingly endless out-of-control life-spinning events - I have a refuge. I have that foundation! I have the knowledge, and because I'm allowed to have my own thoughts and can make my own decisions - I have the belief that I will be taken care of. God really is out there, and He really is interested in me.
Being raised in the Southern Baptist church, I learned every single detail of every single story - except, it did take the teachers and preachers a little longer to explain to us that the 12 sons Jacob fathered weren't just from his first wife, or his second wife, or his first concubine, there was a fourth - but you know, those types of details aren't that important really - not during Vacation Bible School, at least I know he had 12 sons, the became the 12 tribes of Israel, as Jacob was later called Israel - and I know that he had a daughter too. Which begs the question, why didn't Israel have 13 tribes? But, again - ours is not to ask at that tender age. Being raised a Southern Baptist I was encouraged to make a stand early on regarding my decision to follow Christ's teaching - I didn't really have a choice in the following part, but at the age of 6 I realized I might not make it to an adult age - having been as sick as I was all the time and I wanted to be sure that if anything happened, if I was sent to the hospital again and forced to breath from inside a plastic tent like I was, I wanted to be sure I was going to be able to see Jesus - and I made that point very clear to my Mom. Dad wasn't much help in that area - he always referred religious questions over to Mom, but he was there when I was baptised.
In the Southern Baptist faith a kid can't be baptised until they become a Christian, which literally means they have to give their heart and soul to Christ through prayer, and in most cases they're required to make it public by coming to the front of the church and asking to be publicly baptized. Although my kids were raised in the Baptist church, Caity was baptized in a creek in a wilderness reserve - of course, and there was nothing public about it - she wasn't raised a Southern Baptist. I was raised in the Southern Baptist church and therefore, when the time came, I was baptized in the big tank of water just behind the pulpit on the stage - you've seen them in pictures. Usually a big painted mural of the Jordan River is behind the plastic or in my case the metal tub-like pool - and I was asked to undress to wear the white robe that would be "washed" with me. My mom made me a little white dress too, she was good like that.
The day came, and I was presented to the church commonly. I was asked two questions before everyone - Do you know beyond any doubt that if you were to die today that God would take you to His Heaven? How do you know? I answered in the affirmative on the first question, and didn't hesitate a second on the last - because He said He would and I believe Him - that's a good answer from a snot-nosed brat - right? I was led into the metal pool. Just as I stepped off the last step the water encased me. I was just a little shy of being tall enough to be able to set my feet on the bottom of the pool and still be seen by the audience. No problem - I was hoisted up by the preacher! He held me, laughed, and as he was talking he even made a little hand gesture over the water and scooped up a little brown spider that was crawling its way up the glass of the tank. With a chuckle and a wave, I was lowered again, this time horizontally, and "raised to walk in newness of life."
Being a Baptist isn't a bad thing. I've returned to the church and am actively an attender - just not a member. The church holds more for me than it does for some I'm sure, but in my lowly, and self-aware opinion - NO other faith offers as much information about the history of the church, its people, its legend, its tradition, than that of the Southern Baptist - at least I know I usually beat the socks off anyone if they engage me in a trivia contest over the Old or New Testaments - at least I got that one covered. Another really cool thing about being a Baptist - we know about the Rapture, we don't have to rely on books about being Left Behind - although I love the series - I prefer the original.