Saturday, September 8, 2012

The Road From Damascus: The Jesus Portrait

The Road From Damascus

The Jesus Portrait

I remember walking up the green, carpeted stairs to get to the Sunday school room. On the wall facing the end of the stairway was an oversized painting of Jesus sitting on a boulder surrounded by little children and small lambs. Jesus dressed in a robe of white and baby blue while holding a gnarly, Sheppard’s cane. Clear blue skies and perfect greenery finished the idyllic setting in which Jesus sat ministering to the little children.

I was five or six years old when I first felt an uneasy feeling about that portrait. I couldn’t quite grasp what it was, but for some reason it just didn’t seem right. Every time I looked at that painting of Jesus, and eventually all Christian imagery, it left an unsettling feeling in the pit of my stomach. I didn’t believe any of it. I didn’t believe in Jesus, god, Noah or anything that I was being taught. Something didn’t add up.

It's been nearly 20 years since I've seen that old painting.
This painting is similar to the one of my childhood.

I grew up sheltered and naive. I didn’t know there were other religions of the world. I didn’t know there were people that didn’t look like me, that didn’t speak the same language as I did. I went to a Lutheran church. I thought Lutheran was a religion. I thought Baptist, Catholic, Pentecostal, so on and so forth, were all different religions. I didn’t know they were all under the umbrella of Christianity. I was eight or nine years old before I figured that out. And of course I did not know that a person had the free will not to believe in god. It never occurred to me that 'not believing in god' was allowed. This explains why I thought there was something wrong with me.

I felt awful about myself. I felt different than everybody else. I was too ashamed to talk about not believing in god and Jesus and the whole religion thing. I knew for sure, in my adolescent mind, that I needed help because I didn’t believe in god, but I was afraid I’d get in trouble if I said anything. I remember walking past the Jesus painting with a Sunday school classmate. He was going on about how great Jesus was and I for reasons unknown to me said, “I don’t believe in Jesus.” He quickly replied, “Don’t tell your mom and dad. You’ll get in trouble and they will send you to the devil.” And here I was thinking the worst my parents would do to me if they found out was to spank me.

My parents stopped going to church. I have no idea why. Honestly, I didn’t care why. I was just happy I did not have to go to that building again. Except for on rare occasions when my Grandma wanted us to attend with her and Grandpa. I went with a smile on my face because I just couldn’t resist either one of my Grandmothers. Really, how do you tell your Grandmother, “No”? You can’t. This is the reason I eventually attended catechism.

Somehow and someway I was able to squirm my way out of going to catechism when I first turned of age to go. However, it wasn’t meant to be that I would never attend this class. A few of life’s circumstances lined up at the same time that somehow formed a hole in my plans in never having to be a participant in this brainwashing scheme.

To Be Continued in “The Road From Damascus: Catechism Class” - coming soon.

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