Brent and I went to church with his dad yesterday, a little country Baptist church counting a congregation of about 40 souls. Since we don't attend regularly, I really enjoy it when we do. I grew up in a Southern Baptist church and I know the hymns, the sermons and the feel. Only now I don't have to feel guilty about whether or not I am "truly" saved and I won't have nightmares about what happens if I'm not.
The pastor, Pastor Chase (not his real name of course), told a great story of his own conversion. He was a boy of 9. His parents and grandparents lived on the same property and farmed it along with other local church members. One day Pastor Chase came home from football practice to find no one home. Since they weren't in the house, he figured they were in the barn, but it too was bereft of his brethren. He could see the church two fields away and he focused hard on it, wishing and praying to see any of his kin or church brothers in the vicinity. Alas, the church was quiet. Pastor Chase was in shock. Surely the rapture had come and Jesus had taken every one of his family members and most of his friends and neighbors as well. But young Chase had obviously been left behind. It seemed especially ironic to his child's mind since he had been planning to be saved in church next week and now he would be spending his eternity in hell with a long stint of earth-bound hell before. As he sat there crying and trembling he became so caught up in his grief that he never heard the family coming up the hill from the garden until his grandmother touched him on the shoulder with a look of concern growing in her eyes. Chase went right to his knees and offered his heart to the Lord and I reckon that's about when he became Pastor Chase as well. The moral of the story? Having the bejesus scared out of you at age 9 will get you saved and to heaven for sure.
I was gifted a "get out of hell free" card before leaving and I'm feeling pretty secure with my little card in my pocket.
I experienced the same feelings, the same thought/guilt processes in my efforts to understand the religious experience of my youth, with which I no longer feel anything but the most quaint affinity, as I did attempting to understand my experience with AA. I've known for a long time that it felt the same and yesterday I understood more about why. The similarities were striking to me as they were revealed.
Attend church forever/go to meetings forever
Follow Bible literally/follow Big Book literally
Another striking commonality: they both use fear to great advantage to get their point across. Fear of hellfire and damnation or a lifetime of drinking. In my life, they amount to the same thing.