This is going to be embarrassing—for me, don’t worry. You, on the other hand, are more than likely going to experience something else. Like laughter or at least a chuckle here and there. It’s not something I’m ashamed of but it speaks to my life and journey through the world of Christianity and organized religion. You see, for most people it’s not unusual to have been baptized. Maybe you were baptized as an infant, or maybe it was later on in your life. There’s a chance you’ve done both—baptized once as an infant growing up Catholic, then again when you converted to Christianity. Although, it doesn’t always happen that way. Perhaps you’re dry. Never been baptized. You at least know someone who has been. But the chances of you meeting someone, or being someone, who’s been baptized three times is rare. What’s even rarer than that? Someone who’s been baptized four times. Enter me.
Now, I never set out to be baptized four times. It's not like Super Bowl Championships you attempt to stack up over your career. And as I look back at my twenty-nine years of life, it's a bit embarrassing to acknowledge I ventured into the murky waters of death and resurrection multiple times. But that’s because I didn’t always understand what was occurring. One might call me easily taken by ear-tickling words but truly, it’s my explorative nature. When I dive into something, I usually dive in fully. (No water pun intended.) In my younger days, this trait of mine operated in a frivolous manner.
For example, along with everyone else in high school I had to read Fast Food Nation and threw out all my crap food with ingredients long enough to be a short story. I began getting my groceries from Whole Foods and lectured my unbelieving family who laughed at me as I did so. (My deepest apologies to Oreo's for ever thinking I could replace you with plant-based attempts at Nabisco's glory.) Another time I wanted to be Chris McCandless and leave everything behind. I swore I’d do it. (Years later I did make it to Alaska, only to find out I was highly unprepared and extremely unmotivated for such a task.) I was also a skater for a long time, which I adopted faithfully. (I like to think I still have a skater attitude but also wonder if I ever fully achieved such a risk-seeking personality. Although, I did rock a shoelace in my belt loops and that counts for something, right?)
The point is, I’ve bounced around in my life as I suppose numerous others have. But when I began studying Christianity and reintroducing it into my life in my early college years, I was captured entirely. My brother wrote it off as another faze of mine and surely, it was—in the sense that there were numerous fazes within the Christian umbrella awaiting me.
There was something about learning that the religion I grew up with was dramatically more complex than I ever knew that sparked my interest. Growing up we did the whole Sunday church thing followed by the Sunday family breakfast thing. No discussions about God or the sermon took place at breakfast. But we did look at the cartoons in the newspaper while my mother looked at ads and my father read about politics or something. That was about it. Oh, and sourdough. Lots of sourdough.
That's not to be mistunderstood as a critique of my parents or how I was raised but rather a statement on how I was given a simple understanding of church, the Bible and God. I’d accepted it as part of my worldview without truly understanding anything about it. Every Wednesday I'd go to youth group, skateboard around the premises and climb on the church rooftop but spending time thinking about theology wasn’t something I found myself doing. (Besides the time I put a question about masturbation in the anonymous question box for our youth pastor, but that's for another time.) Of course, I believed Jesus loved me, did the infamous Sinner’s Prayer and yadda yadda yadda. But that’s about as far as it went.
As I continued to learn about the Bible and Christianity, continuing my education at Biola University where I majored and minored in Biblical Studies/Theology (yes, that’s a lot of Bible reading in-between snoring), I found myself expanding my thoughts and views, often altering them as I received new data. However, as I like to learn most things, it was hands-on. So, when I learned something I wanted to experience it. To live it. And thus, we get the simplified and condensed version of how I became The Man Four Times Baptized.
Over the next four weeks leading up to the release of my new novel, Free Dom, I want to open up these baptisms and see what’s there. For myself and for you, if you’re reading. I plan on picking them apart to see where my head was and where it is now. To look at how my thoughts have changed and what I think was occurring at the time. Not only that, but the theology hiding behind each one. If religion or Christianity isn’t your belief system, don’t fret. This won’t be a pitch for you to join the club of dunking believers. Honestly, if anything I think it would steer you away or give you a moment to laugh at someone as foolish as me. But that’s precisely the thing, baptism is a foolish endeavor. It’s all rather foolish in the end. To think going underneath water does anything is a weird concept. Is "does" even the right word? Or is it only an image of something invisible? These are the questions we’ll explore. So, join me in my foolishness if you’d like. Maybe you’ll find some joy in it. I think God does. Fools seem to be his favorite flavor of human.
I’ll see you next week at Pirate’s Cove for THE INITIAL DUNK.