I’m so far removed from these stories now. There is not a lot in me that longs for salvation or a heaven multiverses away. I’ve never quite held on to what I’d confirmed in those kids. I’ve since then known that what I longed for in those days (and even before my birth) was solidarity, and the immanence of a new kingdom within the shell of the old. It could sound Marxist to the right person. I don’t know if I care much for this fact, either. I have come to understand that Jesus did these things for me. I knew somehow that he’d done it all along even if his material presence has faded in my mind, his Spirit lives on in me, and I will never be the same.
These stories are more like faithful experiences than some scientific truth. I’ve tasted and seen the salt and lightness of them burn my wounds. I couldn’t help but put it into others. Not that they might be saved, but that “in this great heartache..” of existence, that they might know the comfort and transformation that is bound to overcome the world as it is, moving it to the world as it should be. Below are two myths that shape the lyrics of a song. I hope in whatever relationship you have with faith and religion, that you might find comfort in the wonder that children live in.
We all sat in the dark outdoors, listening to the pastor speak. I’d been unprepared for this night. All that I can really remember is the mound of smoldering ash that glowed as the preacher spoke of salvation. That night, there would be a boy who’d cry in my arms as I witnessed him give his body and spirit to a G-d. To the G-d, you might say. He was so brave.
Later that week, I’d tell the cabin boys that it’s okay to doubt, to be curious, to be confused by the Bible; Lord knows that I was. I wasn’t certain that I believed everything that was preached that week. But I’d hoped that no child would put their light out. I hoped that doubt and divorce and death would never EVER kill their joy in wondering. I left that camp more enlightened than I’d ever been.
I sat with all of them, trying to answer their questions. I’d been drinking the Spirit again, as I was prone to do before co-leading the youth group. My brothers and I spent hours soaking and philosophizing, though we might have claimed we were simply doing what any diligent Christian might do. We’d hoped it would be our window to wonder and divinity.
Zack would ask those kids, “Who wants to go to heaven right now?”. I have to be clear here: there was no seance or the drinking of a poison; group suicide is not what we had in mind. What followed was not nearly as scary as you’d think. We sent them off into their own spaces for a sort of meditation, though we’d never call it that. We played some music for a long while and then asked them about their experiences. These small children saw pearly gates, nothing, and the long awaited love and acceptance spoken to them in the way one speaks to a bride. Zack and I had “been to heaven” before. We knew and didn’t know how everything seen would be complicated outside of that room. And still we wondered what else these children might say.
Below are the lyrics to the song: