Tripping on the Street
Part 1 appears|
in this issue.
Carmen did take the plain little book home with her. She studied it too; over and over, for almost a month.
She was not studying the booklet in order to prepare herself to join their cult, as her parents believed, though. She was skeptical from the beginning, and what she read in the little book only confirmed her suspicions.
The first thing Carmen looked into was the little booklet’s description of the “true Christian’s” beliefs, such as her parents had talked about. She was still struggling to understand what the real difference was between the Church’s teachings and their own beliefs.
It turned out that the founder of their church had preached that there were three “acts of grace,” which were the mark of the “true Christian.” There was nothing like them in the Church’s religion.
The first two had to do with the whole issue of being “saved,” such as her parents had talked about. They both referred to a type of baptism ritual, but unlike in the Church, you had to be baptized as an adult. Only in that way could you be “cleansed from sin” in the second blessing, or so the little book claimed. Then, when you made a public declaration of your faith in Christ, and your willingness to accept his spirit into your heart, you were considered to be “born again,” or “saved,” and could become a member of their cult.
But Carmen had always learned that it was only the Lords who were Born of God, just as all of the faithful would eventually become at the Final Resurrection.
It was the third act of grace, though, that really weirded Carmen out. It was known as “true baptism in the spirit.” What this meant, as far as Carmen could figure out, was that you started speaking in gibberish, supposedly under the influence of the holy spirit, which they also called “speaking in tongues.”
Carmen read a little more about their beliefs after that, but only what she needed for her own purposes. She also read over what the little booklet had to say concerning the “true” history of The Book and the Church. But that didn’t interest her too much either. It was simply one version of history against another, and who was to say whose version was right without being there yourself?
The sections on the early history of Christianity, on the other hand, she found quite fascinating.
By the time the end of the month came, when she asked her parents to contact their pastor about a second meeting, Carmen was as ready as she could ever be. Her arguments had been written out, and rehearsed several times.
This time she wouldn’t be nervous or scared. This time she knew what she believed, and what she wanted to say.
And what type of man she was dealing with.
* * *
“Welcome, my child. Your parents inform me that you have been very diligent in your studies since last we met. Please be seated, and share with me what you have learned.”
Carmen took her seat at the little table before the translucent screen with confidence this time. She was quiet for a moment as she briefly rehearsed her argument. Then, “Well I learned a great deal about the history of Christianity.”
“Yes, go on,” the shadow encouraged.
So she related what she’d learned. The way it all began with the first coming of Christ at the beginning of the Second Age. The way the Romans founded the first Christian church after the collapse of their empire. About the Protestant Reformation at the end of the Middle Ages. The history of the various adult baptizing traditions.
“Very good, go on my child.”
“Your own church was founded only fairly recently, about 300 years ago. It grew out of a religious revival movement known as ‘the holiness movement’ in a place called Topeka, Kansas in 1901 S. A. That was when Charles Fox Parham preached that a third act of grace, ‘spirit baptism,’ must be added to the other two — the ones the holiness movement had focused on.”
“Very complete,” the shadow said, “and what does this mean to you personally, my child?”
Carmen paused to take a deep breath before she continued. “Well, first, there were lots of different Protestant churches, weren’t there?”
“And not all of them believed in adult baptism or being born again, did they? In fact, most of them probably didn’t. It seems to me that most of them were actually more like The Church of the Reborn, and felt that as long as you believed in Jesus, your own personal relationship with him was your own personal business.”
“Yes, but they were mistaken in that belief, just as The Church of the Reborn is mistaken.”
“But how can you be so certain of that when most Christians, even in the past, wouldn’t have agreed with you? How can you call yourselves the only ‘true’ church?”
“You will feel the truth of it.” The shadow was emphatic. “You will know it when you have been baptized and accepted the spirit of Christ into your heart. As surely as you know that you live and breathe.”
Carmen’s tone became deadpan, like a poker player placing a bet. “Then it’s a matter of faith.”
“Of course, my child, but also of experiencing a true conversion, after which all uncertainty will simply melt away. As it will when you have truly come to know me.”
She already knew him, Carmen thought, and in the Biblical sense.
“But true faith in Christ, first and foremost, yes.”
“But not faith in The Book.” It wasn’t a question.
“Of course not, my child. Surely you cannot continue to believe in The Book after all you have learned about the true history of its creation, the true story behind the Lords, and their false presumptions of Godliness?”
And then Carmen pounced.
“And why not? After all, I have only your word on that, don’t I, that the Lords created a false testament full of myths to serve their own ends, that they’re not really angelic beings, as they appear when you see them on the televid. But the Church, the school, the government, the news media, and everyone else, they all tell me differently.
“Just because you’ve written a little book that says it’s all false does not make it so, any more than saying you are the one true church makes it so when so many other Christians throughout history would disagree. Why should I believe what you say about history if I shouldn’t believe what the Lords say in The Book? At least they were Born of God at the Second Resurrection.”
“Then you still have faith in the Lords,” the shadow was clearly shocked, and beginning to lose his composure, “despite what you now know of their true intentions in creating The Book?”
“Yes I do,” Carmen’s reply was calm and sure. “‘Cause in putting up the data to build the arks, in order to protect us from the Great Dying, they are my saviours just as surely as Christ is my saviour.
“And just as I owe obedience and service to Christ, I owe obedience and service to the Lords, just as The Book teaches. After all, your own church was founded only recently too, you admitted it yourself. So in founding the Church, as we all agree happened, what the Lords did is no different than what your Mr. Parham did, now is it?”
“But Mr. Parham’s teachings were revealed to him directly by the Holy Spirit during a moment of revelation.” The shadow’s impatience had become more than evident. “They were intended by the Heavenly Father for the enlightenment and benefit of humankind, and not to assure humanity’s subservience to the will of the Lords. Surely even you must recognize that, my child.”
“Yes I do. But I also see that what the Lords did is no different than what the Romans did when their empire collapsed, the dark ages began, and the first Church was founded. After all, what both did was to found a single church to try to keep the people together. To save what they could during a time of desperation, when things were falling apart all around them.”
There was silence for a long moment.
“So it seems to me that what the Lords where thinking at the time, and whether they are truly angelic beings or not, is not what really matters. What matters is that it is the truth that we need to follow if we are to survive in the Third Age, and to live through the Dark Times.”
“I see.” The shadow’s tone turned sardonic. “And so the specter of relativism raises its ugly head at last.”
“Relative what?” Carmen asked.
“You deny that there is a single truth. You claim that the truth can be different in different times and places, as the ungodly always have. Well I’m afraid that you can never be saved while following beliefs of that nature, nor while continuing to believe in The Book. For as long as you believe in falsehoods, you can never be a true Christian.”
Carmen smiled, almost ready to drive the final nail through his arguments. “Then it is you who are not a true Christian.”
“How dare you,” the shadow sputtered. “Do you accuse me of blasphemy, as your Church would?”
“No. I don’t need to. But if you cannot be a true Christian as long as you believe in falsehoods, then you and your church are not true Christians, and never have been.”
“What presumption!” the shadow shouted. The pastor rose to his feet, placed his fists angrily upon the table, apparently glowering down at her from beyond the translucent screen. “How can you believe such nonsense?”
Carmen continued unflustered, deadly calm as she brought her argument to its logical conclusion.
“Because before the Enclosure, you yourselves once believed in the second coming of Christ. In fact, you preached that it would happen roughly when it did, around the end of the twentieth century. You also believed that the Antichrist would appear upon the earth, and that there would be a great battle between good and evil, after which there would be a new age lasting about a thousand years. Isn’t that so?”
“And yet now you claim that I shouldn’t believe in The Book ‘cause it teaches me that all of these things have come to pass. Well if The Book is false, then your own beliefs were also false. You now deny the power and majesty of Christ by claiming that he did not, or could not appear when the world most needed Him, while actually condemning those who do believe it.”
Carmen paused. There was a palpable silence from beyond the screen.
“So maybe there’s something to that relative-like truth you just talked about after all. And if you admit that so much of what you once believed is now a falsehood, why should I have faith in anything else you have to say?
“Maybe being born again was just your way of trying to pretend that you were better than all of the other Christians. And right now, it seems like you are using it to try to pretend that you are just as status as the Lords are, or even more status.
“But you never can be, because it is the Lords who are our saviours, and not you.”
The shadow simply sputtered for a moment, before he fell silent once again.
And then, unable to resist, Carmen finally added, in her most sensuous, innocent little girl voice, “You never realized that I recognized you, did you ‘daddy?’ But you remembered me.”
More silence. He knew who was in charge now.
“And if I’m not mistaken, your church forbids that type of behaviour.”
Carmen rose triumphantly from her seat. She took the little book from her purse, and placed it back upon the table. “You can have this back. I’ll have no further need of it.”
As she reached the door, the shadow finally gathered his wits enough to say, “I feel sorry for you my child, to be offered the truth and to turn so blindly from it. After what I have heard here today, I fear for your soul, and I shall pray for you.”
“Don’t bother, ’cause I feel sorry for you,” she said, as she opened the door to depart, “and good luck avoiding the authorities, ’cause I doubt you would enjoy the Mainland.”
* * *
Their pastor told her parents of everything she’d said when they’d met that final time. He left out the part about their prior meeting, and the way he liked being serviced by young girls, as she’d known he would.
She’d been met with nothing but cold stares and a stony silence which lasted right through supper when she returned home afterwards.
It was obvious to Carmen that her parents had barely been able to tolerate her presence ever since. They certainly made little effort to hide their opinions. Like their pastor, they seemed to feel that Carmen was already a damned soul, who was hardly worthy of their continued attention, if not an actual threat to expose them to the authorities. Only the fact that they’d been legally responsible for her up until then had kept them from kicking her out before her eighteenth birthday.
But her misbehavior, and her growing defiance, had been sufficient revenge for Carmen. That and her steadfast refusal to follow the “responsible” career path her parents had always planned for her. Surprisingly, they had still been willing to pay for it, too, in spite of everything. That’s why her refusal to attend university had probably hurt them most of all.
But her music was her future.
Carmen’s tastes in music and clothes had always been more street than her parents could tolerate anyway, especially since she’d learned to defy them. Their tastes were much more thirteenth floor. But that was too prep for Carmen’s liking. And besides, all of the kewl kids were into the street scene. That’s where she’d been hanging out ever since she was a kid, so it wasn’t anything new to her.
Carmen could only afford a little place down near the street at first. Her parents would have said it was “beneath her,” or “too close to the Coast.” But it was all she needed for now, while she saved up enough data to pursue her true career. It was also handy to her work.
Prostitution itself was also no big deal to Carmen. In fact, the way she figured it, if you really thought about it, it was just the standard way men and women treated each other in any relationship. Men paid for things, and women put out.
And the sex itself? Hell, at her age, she was horny all the time anyways; the sex was therapy to her. After all, even though most of the guys weren’t particularly young or attractive, they were all status on her corner, and you could just close your eyes and pretend.
In fact, Carmen realized, you could even consider it as a type of sacrifice, or service to those who were more status, just like the real Church promoted.
And just what her parents’ pastor had been looking for, she thought, with a smile. Hell, she’d have to write a song about that. She would call it “Sacrifice Yourself.”
Sex and religion, Carmen thought as she excitedly stepped away from her corner and began to head toward home. Potential new melodies and lyrics were already beginning to run through her mind. With her background, she figured it was a sure fire hit, and she’d already begun writing several other songs that fit the theme.
After all, unlike her folks, the street respected The Book. And that was what she intended to capitalize on.
Through her music.
All she needed was a studio with enough space to rehearse so she could put a band together, and a computer with digital recording capabilities so she could record a demo, and then she was on her way.
“Just like dialing the phone,” she said with a smile, and right now, she had work to do.
Copyright © 2009 by Dudgeon