My third (and final) baptism happened when I was twenty-three and I was the mother of an infant and pregnant. The pastor had been preaching a series of sermons through the book of Revelation, and the things he was saying were very scary.
I knew that I was not saved because I was apparently an unsubmissive wife because I did not hang off every word that came out of my husband’s mouth like it was the Gospel. I was constantly shamed in that church about not being a good wife, because I would not only voice disagreement with my husband but I would ask questions of the pastor without my husband present, and that was not allowed because I was only allowed to know what my husband allowed me to know and so it was him that was supposed to give me answers or go to the pastor himself for the answers and then decide if he wanted me to know the answers. This whole withholding of knowledge was the biggest issue for me at the time, because I had so many doubts, so many questions, and I just wanted to know stuff. I loved to read, and I loved to learn. I loved to read and learn and absorb and I have always been an overthinker. But now I was only allowed to read books approved by my husband. Of course, I had my secret stash.
In the cult, we were only allowed to use the King James Version of the Bible, as this particular church at the time taught that the King James Version was inspired again by God in 1611, the year it was translated. This double inspiration meant that the KJV and the KJV only was the word of God in the English language. There were a few crazies that were the favorite guys that my pastor followed and so he preached insane things like that there would be a rapture in the end days where Jesus came back again for those who were saved. That is actually a common Christian belief, but this pastor took it further. He said that the Bible clearly states that “the dead in Christ will rise first” and some bullshit about forty days and therefore, if Christians were watching like they were supposed to be, they would know when the rapture was near because God would rise the dead first, and they would walk the earth like zombies for forty days before the rapture.
I was scared that once I saw these zombies, my days of getting saved would be limited and that even then it might not work and that I would end up living through the tribulation, which was a whole different horror story of its own. While I like to read some horror stories, I have no desire to live any of them.
In great distress I went to the pastor and told him that I was not sure that I was saved and that I was scared that if I died tonight on my way home from church, that I was going to hell. He told me to go home and to read the book of John, because the Bible stated that the Gospel of John was written so that we may believe. I went home and devoured that entire Gospel in one night, trying to make connections and notes. The next morning when my husband went to work and the baby was settled, I again read the entire Gospel, and I came away from it convinced that I was not saved. I wanted to get saved immediately, but I got this idea in my head that it would be far more special if my husband were by my side when I got saved, so I spent the next several hours in horror, being afraid that God would kill me because I did not get saved immediately but rather waited several hours.
My husband came home and we knelt together beside the bed while I begged God once more to have Jesus come into my heart and save me, that I repented of my sins and that I was sorry but most importantly to please let me go to heaven when I die. I called the pastor immediately, and his excitement was obvious. He somehow thought that I would now become the perfect submissive wife to my husband because I was a Christian now.
As you can probably imagine, this shit was exhausting, and it took a toll on me. But I was baptized one last time, in a cattle trough in the middle of the church parking lot because the pastor believed that baptism was to be very public and humbling, and so people could see people being dunked into a cattle trough as they drove past or came out of their apartments across the street.
There is much angst among the vampires in Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles. The books have deeply Christian themes, and several of them, particularly Louis and often Lestat, have shame about who they are and the things they have done. But even Lestat has a come to Jesus moment:
“When Lestat is taken by Memnoch to heaven and is confronted with the image of God’s face, it is a powerful and shattering experience. Because God goes against all of Lestat’s expectations. God doesn’t judge or condemn Lestat. Instead, he asks, ‘you would never be my adversary, would you? You wouldn’t, would you? Not you Lestat, no, not you!’ Lestat’s silent and ambiguous response is simply an exclamation: ‘My God!’ It is the human face of God that means so much to Lestat – that and the plea that implies Lestat’s nature is not what he always believed. Much later in the novel, Lestat is confronted with God on the cross. And here he has his most visceral experience of the divine, when God tells Lestat, ‘The blood. Taste it. Taste the Blood of Christ.’ In a literal picture of the Sacrament of Holy Communion, the vampire literally drinks Christ’s blood. It is only when God is in human, bodily form that Lestat finds any connection to him at all – and the bodily experience of drinking his blood is the most concrete and transforming experience of all.” (Clements, pp. 48-49).
God meets us where we are at, but my version of God was completely and utterly messed up. But, slowly but surely, I kept having doubts, I kept asking questions, and over time, I escaped all of this.