I was a do-right child, the kind raised among the good gospel people of the local First Baptist Church. We were the Sunday morning, Sunday evening, and Wednesday night sort, and we feasted on a steady diet of John 3:16, hymns, and sing-songy sermon points. Among these sermon points, I remember precisely two, the first of which was "don't cuss, spit, drink, or chew, and do not go with girls that do," and the second of which was "Baptist born, Baptist bred, and when I die I'll be Baptist dead." Make no mistake about it, our congregation examined the red letters of Christ and the black letters of the prophets. We learned the gospel message and the plan of salvation. Tuesday nights were for visitation of the sick, and Wednesday nights for scripture study. But despite all these very good things—and they’re all very good things—more than anything, I remember our axiomatic reduction of Christianity to two things: rules of holiness and denominational fidelity.
Like any youngster, I grew out of boyish skin and into more adult faith-questions. In my twenties, I climbed from the Baptist cradle of my youth and crawled into a less-Baptist world. Here, the reductionist axioms on which I'd been nursed did not apply, and I met other Christ-bearers who applied different rules of holiness. I remember my first jarring encounter with this notion. It came in a bar.
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