I was 18 when I dropped out of the Southern Baptist Convention. At one time I had been a very gung-ho believer. When I was a freshman in high school, I thought I should attend Sunday school, then church Sunday morning, Sunday evening, and Wednesday night. Smoking and drinking were terrible sins to be avoided at all costs, and to even think about anything to do with reproduction was to be avoided. Remember the Sermon on the Mount,”If your eye offends you, pluck it out.” Well, I sure wasn’t going to pluck my eye out so I didn’t look at girls without a great deal of trepidation. I was a very committed and up-tight young Baptist.
At that time, my family went to the First Baptist Church in Enid, OK, a church that my great-grandfather had ministered about 1910. In my enthusiasm for righteous worship, I thought of going to the Sunday evening youth service in Enid, but I went to school in a small town that was closer to our farm, the small town of Waukomis. Now Waukomis did not have a Baptist Church, but they did have a Methodist church. Not quite as righteous as a Baptist church, but a Methodist church was probably close enough to Baptist righteousness so I decided to attend the Sunday evening youth group at the Methodist church with my high school classmates.
I had a lot of fun with the Methodists. They were much more relaxed about life. The religious discussions were less rigid. There was much in the way of fun and games. As an example of a game they would play, one person would hold an orange between their chin and chest. They would pass the orange to a member of the opposite sex. The catching person would take the orange by capturing it between their chin and chest. Another game was passing Lifesaver candies from boy to girl to boy to girl by passing the Lifesaver on toothpicks held in lips. These were unbelievably lustful games for a young Baptist. The whole experience of hanging out with the Methodists made me reconsider the plucking out of eyes business.
Over the next few years I continued to study the Methodists, as well as the Disciples of Christ. I went to college where I looked into the Anglicans, Presbyterians, Catholics, and Unitarians. I finally concluded that religion was a bunch of myths, so I gave up on the lot of them. I lost interest in being a committed member in any religion.
Obviously I have changed my perspective a bit. Although I still believe that religion is myth, I have come to realize that there is value in religion. So here I am writing about why I am a committed member of First Unitarian Universalist Church of Wichita.Charles Merrifield
(TO BE CONTINUED)