Saturday, August 04, 2007

Saved from Grace: Memories of the Harvest

Apparently, the Harvest Crusade is back. And as soon as I saw it in The Register, I just had to read it. After all, I used to be a part of it.

Yes, believe it or not, this dirty, queer vegetarian hippie used to be a "Christianist". And in reading about what's happening at this year's Harvest Crusade today, as well as reading the latest installment of Claudio's awesome "Ignorance to Enlightenment" series at Orange Juice earlier this week, my past has been coming back to haunt me. And today, I'd like to begin sharing with you my own personal experience in being saved from "being saved".

Follow me down below as I begin to share my own experience of being saved from the "saving grace" of Christian Fundamentalism...

(Cross-posted at The Liberal OC)

In his "Ignorance to Enlightenment" series, Claudio has discussed his own wild experience behind the scenes of right-wing Catholic fundamentalism in Orange County. Now I have a somewhat similar experience, except that I was raised in a Protestant Evangelical household. My dad was raised Catholic, and my mom was raised Lutheran. But once they discovered the "saving grace of Jesus" at Calvary Chapel, my whole family would never be the same again.

Shortly before my grandmother (Mom's mom) died over 11 years ago, my mom began to experiment with Christianity. You see, she was part of the original "hippie" generation that sought to bring about peace, love, and understanding to the world via groovy rock music and psychedelic drugs. However as she became an adult, she grew up and grew out of it. But still, she always had that suspicion of "organized religion"... Until she went to Calvary Chapel, and until her mother died.

There was just something about the awesome "praise music". There was something about Pastor Chuck and Pastor Greg that was so compelling. There was something about the message that Jesus can "wash away all your sins" and "give you real joy and eternal life". My mom was in need of comfort, and she found that and much more at Calvary. She was hooked, and it didn't take too long before my dad and I followed.

About eleven years ago, we all went to our first Harvest Crusade at Angel Stadium. We were wowed by the hypnotic praise music. We were brought up to our feet, lifting our hands to the sky as our emotions were running wild, feeling the Holy Spirit descend upon us. We were moved by Pastor Greg's message. We knew we were dirty, awful sinners who were in the grasp of Satan, and in dire need of salvation. We knew that Jesus loved us, and was ready to forgive us of all our sins, and heal us with his saving grace. The pull was just irresistible.

This wasn't exactly the first time I made the altar call, and it certainly wouldn't be the last. But nonetheless, I did it. I prayed the "Sinner's Prayer", and I invited Jesus to come into my heart and save me.

The experience ended up changing my life forever, but not exactly in the way that Pastor Greg said it would. I thought I'd discover eternal life and a new life in Christ, but all I'd end up discovering would be misery and heartache as I'd have to repress my true self. Oh, and my pain would only be worsened as I'd have to watch my mother descend into a world of madness as the church stood by, unwilling to undo the damage they had done to her. I thought I had discovered the saving grace of Jesus, but instead I only became involved in a movement that disdained me and who I really was, and a movement that only pays lip service to "family values" while simultaneously hurting families with the politics of hate.

But did I know anything of what was about to happen to me and my family eleven years ago? No. I was too busy being caught up in the hypnotic music, singing a "joyful song unto the lord", "praising the lord with gladness". That's the interesting thing about the Harvest Crusade and the typical Calvary Chapel music. One can easily be entertained with contemporary pop music with a "Christian twist", and indoctrinated with one person's interpretation of Christianity and what it means, but one never really gets to the meat of true Christianity at the crusade and at the church.

Now don't get me wrong, I have NOTHING against Christianity. I still have quite a few Christian friends, and I appreciate discussing with them how Jesus would be the awesomest "left-wing radical hippie" if he were here today. No, I just have a problem with wacky fundamentalists who try to warp Jesus' message of love and inclusion into a message of hate and exclusion. And unfortunately, churches like Calvary Chapel and forces like the Harvest Crusade are part of that fundamentalist contingent who preach love, but don't practice it.

As I see the pictures of all these people at the Harvest Crusade this year, I don't know what to think. I don't know whether to sigh at the insanity of it all, or simply cry for the people who are "saved from their sin", but soon become captive in a life of repression and sorrow. I've been there, and I've done that... And I have the scars to show.

To be continued...

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