Dream of:16 October 2005 "The Promised Land"
I was sitting at a table with four or five other fellows, one of whom was Gary Altizer (my boyhood friend from the fourth and fifth grades). We were in a building in a rural county in southeastern Ohio. The others talked about where they lived, and Altizer spoke of Gallia County, not far away. I thought of mentioning the Cabin which I had built on the Gallia County Farm, but the Cabin had deteriorated so much over the years, I decided to not even bring it up. We continued talking for a while longer, until the meeting broke up and everyone dispersed.
As I walked out the door and began strolling through the building, I realized that I was in a church. I noticed a stairway and I thought I heard someone preaching upstairs. I walked up the wide stairways to the second floor, until I reached the room from which the preaching seemed to be emanating. I stuck my head inside the door and discovered that the preaching was coming from a radio. I backed out and headed back down the stairs, still intrigued to have discovered this little church there in this little county.
Suddenly a preacher (a slender fellow probably in his mid 30s) appeared and began descending the stairs with me. He talked about his church and said it was a "Southern Methodist" church. I rather emotionally told him that I was somewhat familiar with Methodists because as a child I had been brought up in the Methodist church. I quickly added that I was not now a Christian. He acknowledged my statement and he simply stated "you changed your opinion." I responded, "Yes," but I quickly added, "I believe in God."
At this point, I wanted to try to explain to him why I wasn't Christian. I had many reasons, but one reason in particular had been on my mind lately. I had come to believe that there was only one God, and that the Christians seemed to contort that concept by turning Christ into a God. I told him I believed what Mohammad stated in the Koran, that God has no son. I said that God was "resplendent" in himself and that he didn't need a son. Again, fumbling a bit, I explained that I believed in the idea of "one God."
I quickly added that I was "no adherent of the Koran" either. I was only using Mohammad and the Koran to illustrate my belief in one God. I didn't believe in Islam, but I thought Mohammad's insistence in the Koran that God didn't have a son was extremely important, and that Christians should pay attention to this assertion. I also wanted to impress on the preacher that my rejection of Christianity was well thought out, and that I was versed in both the Bible and the Koran. I hadn't arrived at my concept of God lightly.
We had descended the stairs to the vestibule in front of the main sanctuary to the church. The doors to the sanctuary were open, but the lights were turned off inside the sanctuary. Suddenly the lights in the sanctuary blazed on. Dozens, if not hundreds, of people had been sitting quietly in the darkness in the pews, engaged in something, although I didn't know what.
I immediately felt embarrassed. I had been talking so loudly, practically shouting, denouncing Christianity. Obviously all these people must have heard me. Some elderly women approached me and wanted me to come in. I protested that I couldn't go in there. I was sure my little speech must have offended all the Christians inside. Nevertheless the women insisted that I enter. I relented and walked inside. The service was just about to start. As the preacher disappeared into the background, the women escorted me right down to the very front pew, positioned right in front of the pulpit. Before I could sit down, the congregation broke into song. In front of all the pews were microphones on silver rods. All the people were singing into the microphones and the sound of the singing was a bit overwhelming. A woman over to my right was particularly intent on blaring into her microphone. I felt as if all eyes were upon me. With difficulty I pulled my microphone around in front of me and I tentatively tried to catch the seemingly familiar and enjoyable tune and join in the song. As I chimed in, I distinctly heard the melodious lyrics "the promised land."
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