The Truth, Mainly - 06/07/1993

An inoculation for wickedness
by Leon Satterfield

In this shifty morass of moral relativism inflicted on us by dirty rotten secular humanists, it's reassuring to see that some things don't change.

I'm talking, of course, about what happened last month in Colorado Springs when two little Methodist girls—8-year-old twins—went with friends to a church carnival at the Cornerstone Baptist Church and ended up getting baptized.

Their mother wasn't happy; she hadn't given them permission to be baptized. The minister said he didn't need parental consent to do what the Bible says to do.

"If parents had carefully read the advertisements," he said, "they would have seen that there was a possibility baptisms would take place."

And sure enough, small print on the carnival fliers said one of the goals of the church ministry was "to baptize new Christians in obedience to God's word." Bigger print promised "extra prizes and candy for those who bring lst time visitors."

It all took me back to the proselytizing we did in Baptist Youth Fellowship during revival week at the church I tried to grow up in. We'd divide into a Blue Team and a Red Team and, since there were no pagans in our town, see who could bring in the most Methodists to hear the Good News. Jumping Out the Church Window 6/7/93

Our big selling point was the way we got baptized. Instead of just putting a little water on our heads—something we might hardly notice—we'd go all the way under. We'd come up plunging and snorting, winded by our struggle with Satan. It was hard to ignore being totally immersed. It got our attention and filled us with intense evangelical zeal.

But it was hard to maintain that intensity, and the least relaxation produced some pretty picturesque backsliding. When your sanctity is as pure as ours was, you don't get much exposure to wickedness so you don't build up an immunity to it. When it comes, it's like small pox in the New World. Mine came on a Sunday morning in July, 1946, when I was 12 years old.

I jumped out the church window.

I don't want you to think I'm bragging about this. It's one of the most spectacularly shameful episodes in my life. And it wasn't my fault.

Satan, disguised as Duane Sparks, the boy who lived across the alley from me, had whispered in my ear during Rev. Ewing's final benediction. Here's what he said: "Let's jump out the window when the prayer is over."

The window was open because it was hot. Methodists were air-conditioned, but our church didn't believe in it. Heat was instructive. By noon in July in southwest Kansas, you had a pretty good idea of what awaited non-believers.

Duane didn't have much to lose by jumping out the window. He was already going to hell because he went to Sunday movies and owned a deck of devil's playing cards. I, on the other hand, was nearly without blemish. I'd been totally immersed when I was in second grade, and I rededicated myself every chance I got.

But the heat must have blown some of my virtue circuits, because when Duane said "Let's jump," I said "Sure. Why not?" Church would be over when the benediction ended anyway. It wasn't like we'd be jumping out while the love offering was being taken or while we were singing "Have Thine Own Way, Lord."

So after Rev. Ewing said "Amen," and the choir finished "Lord, Dismiss Us with Thy Blessing," I climbed up on the window sill and, assuming Duane Sparks was right behind me, jumped the seven feet to the sandburs below.

About halfway down, it occurred to me that I might be committing a Serious Sin. Rev. Ewing thought so too. He'd seen what I was about to do even before I did it, and with a miraculous burst of divine energy, he got out the door, down the steps, around to the side of the church, and under the window at about the same time I did.

I don't know what Methodist ministers do when a member of their congregation jumps out the window. They probably worry that it was something they said. They probably worry that the jumper got hurt.

But Rev. Ewing believed in a more muscular Christianity. He'd been a Marine chaplain in WWII. His favorite hymn was "Onward Christian Soldiers." Bailing out of church windows was a clear breach of the discipline he was supposed to enforce.

So he wrapped his thick fingers around the back of my neck and squeezed. He marched me before him around to the front of the church, up the steps past the emerging and awe-struck congregation, and back inside where he sat me down in my pew. I nearly wet my pants.

"Now," he said in a preternaturally quiet voice. "You walk out of God's house the way God intends you to."

So I did. I walked out the way God intended me to, as best as I could figure His intentions. I walked tall, stiff-backed, my knees hardly bending, my face numb with terror, out the door and down the steps past my mother who was trying not to notice the family disgrace.

Duane Sparks, who'd been innoculated against showier forms of evil by Sunday movies and devil's playing cards—and so hadn't jumped at all—looked at me and grinned.

That's when I committed another sin: I envied him.


Satterfield is a college professor and writes as a means of discovery.

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