Why Jesus Freaks? Part One
**This series of posts, in which I will discuss the years leading up to my writing of Jesus Freaks, will be written from my perspective. I say this plainly for a reason: I’m going to talk a lot about different religions, and a lot about my experiences in my chosen religions at different points in my life (yes, various religions). When necessary, I’ll provide scriptural reference or news references. I am not going to bash any religion. I will simply be discussing the experiences of a young girl through a young woman. Take what you like and leave the rest.**
Why Jesus Freaks?
What a loaded question. Yet, it’s one that’s been thrown at me since I started writing Jesus Freaks: Sins of the Father. Why that title? Why are you writing this? Just … why?
In order to appropriately answer any of these questions, I have to back up. Like, way up.
In May 1983, I was the first-born child to my parents, Rick and Brenda. To back up a few years more, Mom was raised Protestant, Dad was raised Catholic. They met with the priest of the Catholic church when they were engaged, to discuss getting married at that church.
Part of the deal when you’re Catholic, or marrying one, is you must agree to raise your children, not just Christian, but Catholic. And, before any of that, if one side of the partnership is not Catholic, they either must convert to Catholicism or surrender all spiritual decision-making surrounding the children to the parent that is Catholic.
This … was not Kosher with my mom. Or my dad. So, they traveled a quarter mile up the road and decided to marry in, baptize us in, and attend Grace Church, the Episcopal church in the center of Amherst, Massachusetts.
Side note: If you’re ever in the area, you really should go see it. It’s lovely. So is the Catholic church, for that matter, but I’ve only been in there for funerals.
Anyhow, Grace church is the church I was raised in. Early in my life, as early as age five or six, I remember asking my dad, “Can we go to church today?” And, he often obliged. My brother was an infant/toddler at the time, so my mom would usually stay back with him. My earliest memories of that church include sitting in the long pews and staring at the stained glass windows, sometimes reading from a hardcover riddle book. I also remember the priest being incredibly kind and welcoming. And the choir. Lord, help me, the choir. I got chills just now, thinking about them. Moreover, I remember just loving it there. Wanting to go, and being left happy for the day following the service.
Yes, I may have been an intense child. I didn’t know what I was feeling, or why, but I knew I loved it there. So, I stayed there. For years I was a semi-regular attendee at church, made easier when an Episcopal church opened up in my town. I remember that even as a senior in high school, I started sometimes going to church myself before work. I wasn’t actively studying the Bible then, nor did I have a particularly deep prayer life, but I felt at home inside the walls of church—any church.
Then came college, and what I refer to as “My Two Year Dance with the Pagans.”
The razor’s edge I walked during this time, and fell off of, is the crux of why I wanted to write Jesus Freaks, though I didn’t know it at the time. During those years, I was strictly a poetry and short story writer. Poetry, mainly, but short stories when my creative writing class demanded as such. Poems from that time in my life, which are tucked away in various hardcover journals, highlight my emptiness and my new search.
See, I was a freshman at SUNY Plattsburgh on 9/11/01. That crisis, mixed with being on my own and experimenting in every sense of the word (which I may or may not discuss in another post) not only drove a wedge between me and God, it blasted us apart a though a grenade had been dropped in the middle of our relationship.
Everything was up in the air, and I began a rapid descent into the thinking that goes: Well, there is one God, but probably many paths to him. And, whatever people believe will happen to them when they die, if they live the life prescribed by that religion, than that’s what they get. Reincarnation? Fine. Heaven? Good. Nothingness? You got it.
It was this time in my life—18-20—that had me question absolutely everything I’d once believed as true. I went to church some Sundays and prayed to the “god” and “goddess” of the Earth at my self-constructed pagan altar. Yes, I had one in my bedroom at home. It was oriented however it needed to be (things at the North end, South, etc.) though, I can’t remember the exact configuration.
This time, and my recovery from it, would eventually form the basis for Kennedy Sawyer, her friends at home, and people she comes in contact with both on and off campus.
I’ll delve deeper into my “Two Year Dance” in another post, and discuss my emergence from it. Why I call it an emergence you’ll also discover. I will not ever bash another religion. I will only discuss my experiences with them, and if I know nothing, I’ll say that up front.
For now, what I want you to know is that Jesus Freaks started working its way into my veins when I was a little girl kneeling in front of the altar at Grace Church, dipping my stale communion wafer into the golden chalice of dry red wine.
Photo Credit: ba1969