Whew. Thank you all. I knew there would be a reaction but . . . wow. Thank you.
I also wasn’t going to write about this again tonight, but I do want to acknowledge all the good wishes (and the occasional mazel tov. I’m still a many-ways-up-the-mountain person. I doubt that will change). And I admit that I have every intention of continuing to write about my journey, to the extent that it is funny or relevant or I am willing to hang it out here in public. If I drop the tea-urn on the chief abbot of Tintinnabulation Abbey* next Saturday morning, you will read about it here.
But religion, like politics, is perilous ground, and I do not thrive on controversy and shouting. Avoiding politics is mostly relatively easy because I’m not running polls or reading the political commentary in the GUARDIAN/ECONOMIST/FINANCIAL TIMES or subscribed to Reuters, although I do retweet a certain amount of stuff that other people have gone to the work of finding for me.** Religion . . . as I said last night, I’ve always known there was Something out there, and I’ve had various perhaps somewhat non-standard experiences reinforcing that knowledge. This is different. I’ve never felt the need to describe, define or witness any of it before. But it’s part of this package that you do what you’re told.*** I might not have had to come out last night, but I was going to have to do it. God says. I can’t remember if it was before or after I’d realised I was going to have to go public on the blog, and that furthermore I was going to try to do it at about the two-month mark, but I remember vividly a conversation with Oisin—who is one of my mentors and a, I think it’s called a lay reader?, and gets to wear a frock and everything, and is taking the service at St Radegund next Sunday, and I will be there—when he said, you know, God is going to tell you to do stuff, and you’ll have to do it. Eeep. Which is when I realised why I was going to have to put my conversion up on the blog. And why I am now jumping at small noises. . . .
I do understand the shock. Christmas Eve, 1970. Was not being Christian at all, at all, and hadn’t been for some years. But was lured into Washington Cathedral by gratitude for husband’s safe return from war and the promise of music I loved. (Talk about naive belief in one’s own impermeable shields…) And. WHAP the clue bat.
It definitely does change everything. (Also made me think those people who thought a religious experience was all warm fuzzy glowy feelings…hadn’t had theirs yet.) And…I’m glad for you. And admire you for letting us in on it, when you felt able to do so.
Thank you. (Thank you, again, all of you.) Music. Yes. Scary. I’ve also always had a very intense relationship with the music I love—much of it written by Christians more or less for the glory of their God, whether officially for church services or not—and now it’s sometimes like WAIT A MINUTE I DON’T THINK I’M SUPPOSED TO DIE YET. Another eeep thing. But singing Purcell’s Evening Hymn now? Well . . . God help me.
And I am so with you about people who think religion is all warm fuzzies. Get real. Is there anything deeply worthwhile that isn’t hard work, and the harder you work the more you get out of it? (Okay. Chocolate. Anything else.) Not that I’m always very good at this.† But I’m aware of the principle. Trying to be an even sort of good Christian is going to be . . . eeep. But warm fuzzies aren’t in it. The hard bits are hard and the joy is . . . scary. And I’ve only just started. Eeeep.
Is it appropriate to offer congratulations?
Yes. Or at least I hope so. Happy to have them. Thank you.
They would be heartfelt — I find myself envious, in the past few years, of the comfort that faith and belonging to a religious community seems to bring to those who have found it and found a place in one.
I am so colossally awful at the human-group thing that trying to belong to a church community is actually going to be one of my more lurid challenges. Sigh. A friend pointed out that there’s a perfectly good tradition of solitary whatever in Christianity, and there is, but that’s not where I’m being led/dragged/shoved like a balky kid going to her first day of kindergarten NOOOOOOOOOOO. Personally I don’t know how anyone does coming-to-belief without the whap up longside the head bit that is what brought me round, but I’ve been told that it may just creep up on you, like strengthening sunlight. You might try going through the motions in a healthy religious community and see if the sunlight starts shining on you.
. . . I can’t believe you were so vulnerable as to share something of this magnitude (which might alienate legions of fans). Best of luck on your journey!
I feel a little bogus accepting praise for writing about this. I am a writer, it’s what I do. And God said. At the same time . . . I am really, really, really REALLY exhausted, last night and today, because of the stress and anxiety about doing this thing I knew I had to do. (And I give myself points for getting it done on the day.) So thank (all of) you (again). As for alienating legions of fans. . . . Um, well, eeep. I hope not. I would have thought if I were going to alienate legions of fans I was much more likely to do it by my wet liberal knee jerk ranting apocalyptic feminism, which has been around for quite a while. Hmmm. Maybe that’s why I’m not a best-seller.
I cannot stop smiling.
. . . what does Peter say? And you wouldn’t happen to have been reading CS Lewis at the time, would you?
Peter, bless him, is whole-heartedly supportive, which is a very good thing because I would find it very difficult if he weren’t. He is himself not a Christian, but the Dickinson clan is riddled with Christians, so he’s used to the breed. His brother-the-priest is one of my mentors.††
And . . . C S Lewis. I think I’d better come clean about this sooner rather than later. Lewis is one of the big strident reasons I knew Christianity was not for me. I am allergic to C S Lewis. That he brings some people to Christianity is great and wonderful and excellent and whatever works. But that’s the end of it for me. I know people feel passionately about Lewis—well, so do I, but not in a good way—so I’ll just say, please respect my feelings about this.
I’m an atheist, but I just want to say this, for what it’s worth: You have not alienated this fan.
Nor this one.
I can’t deny it was somewhat of shock, and I had to read it all a few times before it sunk in. Along with everyone else here, though, all I have is respect and admiration for your courage in sharing this with us, and the best of wishes that you will find whoever and whatever is right for you on your so suddenly changed path through life.
Thank you. I have been the most worried about the reaction of you long-time loyal forum regulars—I knew that some of you would turn out not to be Christians or some other committed faith, and might not swing with it—you ones I’d notice and really miss, if you went away. THANK YOU. Yaaaaaaay. . . .
There’s lots and lots more to say, of course, and I’ll certainly say some of it sooner or later. But tomorrow I really am going to write about something else. And right now I am going to bed, to sleep the sleep of the semi-just.
* * *
* No. But it should have bells.
** http://video.msnbc.msn.com/the-rachel-maddow-show/49736294 for example, about the election, which I tweeted a couple of days ago. Thank you, Blogmom.
*** I am so not going to get into this. But one of the things that put me off Christianity for nearly sixty years is the whole blind grovelling obedience thing. Eh. Here on the other side that’s not what it looks like. But the language can be a little off-putting.
† Not that I’m even most of the time moderately good at this.
†† Speaking of the kind of wild coincidences that happen: my road to Damascus moment happened in the afternoon. That evening Peter’s brother the retired priest rang and I picked up the phone. I literally hadn’t spoken to him in YEARS: we emailed occasionally but he usually rings Peter at times that Peter is next to the phone and I’m not. How nice to hear your voice, he said, sounding really pleased. Oh, er, hi, I said. Um. . . if you have a minute before I turn you over to Peter. . . .
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