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Isn't it pretty?

Friday, May 07, 2004

Being Saved

Another anecdote from my past… From the time I was 7 until the time I was 13, my family lived in Oklahoma City. The Jewish community there was very small, and not especially centralized. There were Reform and Conservative shuls, and a Solomon Schecter day school, but absolutely no Orthodox influence in the community. My family lived in an area that afforded us a very good public education, and I usually one or two other Jewish students in my grade. However, my friends tended to come from religious Protestant backgrounds, and were primarily Baptist. Being open-minded and liberal, my parents would let me go to church with my friends when I was invited, which wasn’t especially often, but did occur occasionally. Several of my friends were very active in their churches, and spent one or two evenings during the week there, participating in the youth groups that were offered. Each year, the main Baptist church that my friends were associated with held the “Crusades” – a week-long effort to convince as many people as possible to be “saved,” or to accept Jesus as their savior. After the services, pizza was served to everyone and a band played for the enjoyment of the crowd. Being a naïve 11 or 12-year old, I accompanied my friends one year to their “crusade.” It sounded like fun – who turns down free pizza and music? I didn’t know what the word crusade meant, I had no idea what being saved symbolized, and to me, it was an opportunity to hang out with my friends. Sitting through the preaching, watching many people approach the altar to accept Jesus into their lives, I watched with fascination. It seemed to be such a spiritual moment for so many, a spirituality that I had never experienced. I whispered to my friend next to me, asking her if I should go up and be saved. She encouraged me, but cautioned that it wasn’t a decision I should make lightly. I didn’t really understand what was going on, what it meant to be saved, but there was something about it that seemed very appealing. I wasn’t saved that day. Something kept me from walking up to the front of the church, probably something to do with the fact that I didn’t fully understand what it meant. And after that day, despite my friends’ periodic pleas with me to save my soul from being doomed to an eternity in hell, I never again had the compulsion to be saved. Years later, reminiscing on that evening in the Baptist church watching other people being saved, I can only draw a comparison to what I feel was my spiritual awakening approximately 7 years later - steps away from the Kotel, watching the sun set as thousands of Jews sang in the beginning of my first traditional Shabbos ever.

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