Once upon time, in the early ’70s, my mother got involved with a religious group called John the Baptist Charismatic Renewal Community (JBCRC). It was a touchy-feely kind of church — well, not that touchy-feely; my mother was certainly no hippy. I didn’t really care for the extra church services — as I remember, they held service on Friday evenings and we still attended mass on Sunday as well — but at least they had better Jesus (a nice hearty whole wheat Jesus) and, even better, I got to have wine! (Er, I mean blood.)
Anyway, as a kid, I would hang out, shake my head at the people speaking in tongues, and pretty much just kill an evening. This went on for a few years and my mom got into the group pretty seriously. We went to the regular catholic mass on Sunday (in French, no less!) and attended the JBCRC services as well.
We even went on weekend retreats with them across the bay in Oakland. They owned (or rented) an awesome property that had, in addition to the residence halls, cafeteria, and church, a great handball court, blackberry bushes loaded with berries, and a stream surrounded by trees and bushes — every young city kid’s dream playground.
Ironically, that’s where I lost my religion. We attended a service where the priest gave sermon talking about how, if one didn’t accept Jesus as one’s lord and saviour, one wouldn’t get into heaven. Afterwards, I went up to the priest to ask about that.
You see, my dad was Jewish. Sure, he agreed to raise the kids catholic and went to mass with us, but he never actually converted. He tended to doze off during masses (it was our job, as kids, to nudge him if he started to snore) and, honestly, I think he only went because the French Basque congregation had great wine at their events and celebrations. But even though he was part of the community and even joined the Father’s Club, he had never converted. So I was concerned.
I explained to the priest that my dad was a good man and a great father, who did a lot of good in his community but that he had never actually converted to Christianity. I asked if that meant he wouldn’t be going to heaven.
The priest, clearly thinking he could get me to convince my dad to convert, enthusiastically told me that yes, he wouldn’t get in unless he converted and accepted Jesus into his heart. He didn’t know my dad that well, obviously. My dad was too stubborn to let me talk him into anything. But, more importantly, trying to convince him to turn to Jesus simply never even crossed my mind.
Instead, I decided that if my dad wasn’t going to heaven, then I didn’t want to go there either. And that was the beginning of the end of my belief.
(To be fair, I never really thought much about religion; I was just Catholic by default, because my mom was Catholic.)
Anyway, my mom was well and good suckered into this group. In 1977, the leadership of the group decided that God wanted them all to pack up and move, lock, stock, and barrel, to, of all places, South Bend, Indiana. I have no idea why God picked South Bend or why he decided we all needed to go there, but my mom was all gung ho about moving along with the group.
My dad knew better than to argue with my mother so he sat back and let her get the initial enthusiasm out of her system. He then simply told her that he wasn’t licensed to practice in Indiana so he wouldn’t be able to work. (He was a C.P.A.) That, fortunately, was enough to convince my mother that God didn’t actually want us to go.
The rest of the group, however, did go. They all moved out there and I pretty much forgot about them.
Some years ago, something made me think of the group and I did some googling. I learned that they had indeed moved there and had merged with another group that was already in existence. I gathered that that was the plan all along.
Recently, however, the news has been tickling at my memories of this part of my life and what might have been. So a little more googling confirmed what I thought I remembered. The group that the JBCRC merged with in Indiana? The People of Praise, the same cult that Supreme Court Nominee Amy Coney Barrett has been a part of since birth.
Barrett was born a few years after me but not so long after that she and I wouldn’t have known each other. It seems reasonable to think that, had my family moved to Indiana with the JBCRC, she and I would have known each other and might have even dated. It’s possible that we might even have ended up together. So, yeah, in an alternate universe, I could be married to a future member of SCOTUS and, given the misogynistic culture of People of Praise, she would have been my bitch.
But, honestly, I think I dodged a bullet.