Monday, October 18, 2010

Early Memories

I will begin my story of my religious journey with some of my earliest memories. We did not often go to church when I was a child, and when we did, I did not like it because it was a strange place where I didn't know the people or the routine. I did not like religious art; it seemed strange looking to me. Depictions of Jesus I saw did not make him out to be someone I would look up to or want to be like.

My real interests were in the realm of science and technology. I liked jets, rockets, lasers, and astronauts. I had little plastic dinosaurs, and I learned all of their names. I had a book about science that had diagrams of jet engines and other machines, showing how they work. I had a children's encyclopedia, and I loved to look at the volume on science and nature. One of my favorite cartoons was "Jonny Quest." I wanted to grow up to be either an astronaut or a scientist like Dr. Quest.

I do remember that both of my grandmothers were regular church goers, and that one of them spoke to me once about Jesus. She said that if I believed that he died for my sins on the cross, I would go to heaven. I think up to that time I associated heaven and hell as the places good and bad people went to when they died. I knew that I wasn't always good, so this idea of believing in Jesus seemed like a good thing to do in case all of this was true, and I wasn't good enough to get to heaven otherwise. However, it seemed like some kind of loophole, and I wondered if I was doing the belief thing correctly enough to qualify.


cd_starkey said...

Looking forward to you sharing more, Greg. A couple of "side" comments for fun.

Yeah, "Jonny Quest"! I, too wanted to be like Dr. Quest (or Mr. Spock...different milieu).

"Depictions of Jesus I saw did not make him out to be someone I would look up to or want to be like". Are you speaking specifically of artistic depictions? Do you recall what it was about the art? Also, is it the job of art to depict Jesus in those terms?

Gregory said...

Thank you, Doug.

Spock comes into the story later.

I was thinking of the artistic depictions, which at best seemed old fashioned, but the worst seemed strange or effeminate to me. I'm not being critical of the art, however, I'm just expressing my thoughts as a boy. If I remember correctly, our Catholic neighbors (whom I believe you know) had a Sacred Heart image, which I thought was especially strange. I didn't even like crucifixes because I didn't want to look at that blood and suffering.

My opinions are very different now. I see a heroic quality in the better images of Jesus, but it is a different kind of hero that I didn't even begin to understand back then. I now understand the triumph of the cross, and I admire the humility of Jesus.

Anyway, I was trying to make the point that I had no attraction to the person of Jesus, and although some of that was my reaction to the art, I am sure it would mostly be blamed on my fallen nature.

cd_starkey said...

Fair assessment of the art. While I don't want to minimize the role of our fallen nature, I think your impressions of the art are valid. I think there is/has been an "effeminization" of Jesus in art since the late Middle Ages. I remember a comment by Larry Norman about how, in the movies, Jesus was always walking around "like He'd just had his nails done". (An amusing double-entendre, but a valid observation).

And I agree, the "Sacred Heart" images are a bit eerie and frightening to the young mind (I remember similar impressions as a child). The symbolism in art is often mystifying to the outsider. And sometimes as adults, we fail to recognize the impact it may have on children.

Interesting your impression of crucifixes, as well. I remember thinking of them as "more holy" than mere crosses; don't know why particularly... the devices of the childish mind.

kkollwitz said...

I remember when Jonny Quest debuted, the summer after first grade. All of us would stay outside playing until the last second, and dash home for Jonny at 6:30pm.

That was a long time ago...Supercar, Fireball XL-5, Jonny Quest. All prophets (in their own way) of Star Trek.

kkollwitz said...

"I did not like religious art; it seemed strange looking to me."

Ha! As a pre-Vatican-2 Catholic, one of my oldest visual memories is of Jesus rebuking Satan in the desert, courtesy of the stained glass windows in St. Francis Church (now Cathedral) in Houma, La.

Gregory said...

I'm sure I didn't see the original run of Jonny Quest, but only caught it in reruns. I don't remember Supercar or Fireball XL-5.