Sunday, 8 April 2012

A Chrushin' Conversion: My 8 Months as an Evangelical Christian

              Yes, for a brief while and the noblest of reasons, I became a Canadian-style evangelical Christian, although with minimal proselytizing on my part. It all began a few years earlier when I started attending an evangelical summer camp, known as Ontario Pioneer Camp, because a few friends also went. I was a stranger in a strange land, experiencing a shock program of worship singing, bible study, praying, and strict moral regulation. But it was ineffective: I still lacked that all important born-again experience where I would repent and begin speaking in tongues.  But I returned in the following years, partially because they allowed frivolous activities such as sports, card playing, and laughing, and partially because I didn't know camp could be much more enjoyable, owing to my lack of exposure to drugs, alcohol, and women. I decided to sign up for their leader in training program, which to my delight allowed boys and girls in the room. It was there that I met her, a funny born-again Christian, and soon enough, the spirit was willing and the flesh on fire: I was saved!

"These pews have really brought the room together."
                After camp had ended, we started attending an evangelical church called the Meeting House, which oddly enough held church at famous players movie theatre. They broadcast a feed from the real Meeting House in Oakville, headed by Bruxy Cavey. This long haired, overweight forty year old bears more resemblance to the Big Lebowski than to any preacher I've encountered. But, describing itself as a church for people who aren’t into church, he fits the mantra. In an attempt to shed associations with the institutionalized Christianity of the past 1000 years, they have taken post-modernism to the max, which meant we often took part in some unorthodox activities. One time in bible study we were asked to draw a picture of god, an activity I found difficult. The best one pictured a cloud holding a crucifix; mine looked like E.T. without any arms.

These hunks put the erection in resurrerection
Yet nothing epitomizes Christian post-modernity more than worship music, where people sing about how much they love god to guitars, bass, and hip female singers. Unfortunately, the stereotypes of rooms packed with Christians halfway between mourning and orgasm singing "our god is an awesome god" is true. As a reserved young man, self-conscious about any display of emotion, I struggled to summon such great enthusiasm. The popularity of this music is astounding. One popular group is Hillsongs United, whose hit songs include: Jesus loves me, I love Jesus, and their latest, nobody loves me but Jesus. Despite mediocre vocals, predictable lyrics, and uninspired chord progressions, they are still able to fill stadiums of believers worldwide. There is better Christian music in the world, but they lost a lot of street cred when Sufjan Stevens came out of the agnostic closet.

They get beamed to the sun
In addition to indoctrination by singing, we were also taught about theological issues. I enjoyed this, although some of these people were not theologically savvy. They are biblical literalists which has a profound effect on their thought patterns: any argument with non-believers can be won by stating: "O ye, of little faith" followed by a relevant bible verse. But at least they have settled the age old question of free will: they believe god has a plan for you, but you have the free will to follow it or not, but God knows what choice you will make, but he still lets you decide. Also, despite inroads made by third wave feminism, god is still a man, although there is debate over whether he has a penis.

In the end, my faith lasted little longer than the crush which had created it. Yet, that wasn't the only reason I wanted to believe. The comfort and sense of purpose that comes from belief in a supreme being was reassuring in a morally ambiguous universe. It is easier to know right and wrong with someone telling you what to think. But sometimes, at night and alone, my newly formed Christian worldview fell to pieces while staring into the infinitely empty darkness of space. I believe Carl Sagan said it best in Pale Blue Dot: "Our posturings, our imagined self-importance, the delusion that we have some privileged position in the universe, are challenged by this point of pale light. Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity -- in all this vastness -- there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves. It is up to us."