Monday, October 15, 2012

Carl and the Revival--with apologies to the religous

When we were in grad school in 1981-2 Carl taught a couple who attended a sort of Pentecostal Church and we were invited to a revival. Let me say upfront this is not making fun of Penecostals or born agains since I grew up a born again Southern Baptist. This, like several other posts, is directed at my husband.

I came to use this story when we studied Langston Hughes' great essay "Salvation."  I found that the Catholic students and most of my non-Catholic students had no idea what a revival was really like. I tried to get them to have the feel of it by watching Alvin Ailey's Revelation, one of the greatest dances ever created and that I have ever been privileged to see. Then I tried explaining when I was in high school I went to revivals that last a couple of hours and there was an invitation song, often "Just as I Am."  We would sing it for as many verses as the revivalist wanted; it might be four or forty.    I was not cut out for revivals, I soon realized, that despite being blessed with a ridiculous attention span, I just couldn't do it. Church services yes, revivals no. We would go with my choir to the inner city churches and they would ask our deacons to take over the service and they would say, "We don't do anything much but pass the collection plate."

Then I hit upon this story. I don't know if it made a difference in understanding Hughes but it did give Carl yet another claim to fame.  Parents would come in and ask for the best Carl story and I would be confused . Did they know which one?Turkey?  Darth Vader?  Revivals? It was the revival , more than once.

We get to the church; I had already lodged a protest about spending an evening this way, but Carl, at that time, could spend a lunch or evening with practically anyone,arguing it was only one day, one hour, one whatever of his life. This leads by the way to another Carl story. But back to my point.  I   protested , pointing out that I know how this goes and it is not Southern Baptist which means it can go longer and be much more conservative. He insists; his students want us to come.  I point out what happened with this idea earlier (see next story).  We have to go.

We pull up.  I see the church is rather small and has all the windows boarded up. I already can't breathe. I am claustrophobic and now realize much worse of one than I initially thought. I don't like boarded up windows but in we go. We sit through singing which I don't mind and a long sermon which I can manage. Then the invitation hymn starts, and unlike in my church, they come down and ask each and every person if he or she is personally  saved.  I tell them yes right away because I have made a public profession in the Baptist Church and been baptized even if I am now Catholic.

Then it happens.

They get to Carl and ask if he has been saved.

He replies , "I don't understand the concept."

They kneel around him and pray and he is the last one like poor Langston Hughes in "Revelation."  But unlike Hughes he sticks to his guns with ,"I don't really understand the concept of this kind of salvation."

I point out under my breath that he will understand a great deal about it when and if we get to the car.

This does not deter his stubbornness. And it is sheer unadulterated stubbornness ; he had been to my Baptist Church, he had  a theology minor and he still has more books than a preacher and a priest on theology (when we moved at one point he told me not to bother dragging up the boxes left in the basement that were filled with theology because they were the lesser ones in terms of importance and besides that there could not be more than 20--try 85).

I tried telling them he was saved; I am not sure they believed me but the service finally ended and I said that I  would never do that with him again. It wasn't the church members praying over him; it was his unremitting stubbornness which is still a bone of contention today.

I say that he was just being stubborn then; he insists yet he didn't understand the theological concept-- and still doesn't. I still say he is just being a pain.


  1. OK, you have officially made me cry; I am laughing so hard right now.
    Carl should have come to the Baptist funeral I attended once, complete with altar call.

  2. I have never been to one with an altar call; I have been to an African American one with a nurse for those who fainted.