Excerpt from Out of the Church - For God so Loved the World that He did not call Mac McConnell to be a Pastor. And all the people said, AMEN.
This is a draft:
When I was a child I had a drug problem. You see, every Sunday my mom and dad drug me and my brother to Sunday school and church. Oh, I didn’t mind much, except for that persistent “Clean up, dress up, sit up, shut up,” because I knew, after church we would head off to try a new brunch place on Long Boat Key. We did that religiously. I would load up on those silver dollar pancakes, they were the best. Now this was the fifties and brunch was lavish. Kids under twelve ate free. Dad was no dummy. He knew my brother and I would eat enough for the rest of the day—for free.
But here’s the thing, Sunday church didn’t seem to have anything to do with the rest of the week. It’s what we did on Sunday mornings—period.
I was baptized at eleven, but only because other boys in my class were getting baptized. No one bothered to tell me what I was doing, nor why. It just seemed cool to have the whole church get all excited when boys got dipped. First I had to answer the altar call and fill out a card at the end of the Sunday morning church service at Avondale Baptist Church. It’s not there anymore—the building is—but another church is meeting there now. I was sitting on the front row when Dr. Walker, our lanky preacher-man, came to collect the cards. How was I to know he wanted to shake my hand? I thought he wanted the card and the stubby yellow pencil back. So, when he stuck out his hand I stuck the card and the pencil in it, but his big hand swallowed mine and squeezed the pencil into my palm. I fought off screaming, but there was no stopping the tears. I still have a charcoal dot there today.
The preacher called my mom up to stand with me. “Dad slipped out to get the car.” She said, but I knew he was overdue for a smoke. The entire congregation came by. They were so excited I was going to get baptized and showered me with hugs and kisses and pumping my hand—the one with the pencil hole of course. But when they saw my tear stained cheeks they kept praising Jesus. I guess getting stuck with a pencil made me holier than the other boys, which wouldn’t take much.
When the big night came, the excitement must have worn off; half of the congregation was missing. There were four of us getting dunked. Robbie went first. I just hoped he had a bath for a change. The preacher had on waders and his white smock floated around him like a cloud on a soft summer day. Bertrand was next. He giggled the entire time and his face was so red you could barely tell where one freckle ended and the other began. The crowd muffled their laughs to no avail. The preacher tried to stay serious as he asked the same question to Bertrand that he had Robbie.
“Have you accepted Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savoir?” Bertrand coughed out a yes like Robbie had and that garnered a chorus of amens as the preacher bent Bertrand backwards, holding his nose, submerging him and yanking him up to a round of applause and more amens. Robbie sputtered a bit then shook his red head like a wet dog and sprayed the preacher and a few in the choir loft. When the laughter rose the preacher cleared his throat and it stopped. He had a powerful throat clearing routine when he needed it. It sounded a lot like a junkyard dog’s growl.
The preacher stretched out that big hand to me and I froze thinking of the fresh wound in my palm. He waved me into the pool, but I looked out at the congregation which was a huge mistake. I got cold feet and looked for a way out. But Buddy was behind me and didn’t budge. I was trapped. If ever I needed Jesus it was then.