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The shock of freezing water 0

Dear Bradshaw,

Arriving at work last week, when I asked Helen about her weekend, she said she had been baptized the day before, adding that it had been euphoric, an epiphany. She had even spoken in tongues, she said, and that’s how she knows her faith is real and that now her soul is saved.

“I thought you were already baptized,” I said.

“I was,” she said, setting her purse on the chair next to me and then switching on her computer, “but in the name of Jesus. This time it was in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost.”

“Really? There’s a difference?”

“Yes, because now I-am-going-to-heaven.” Those last words rolled off her lips as if she was singing an anthem.

“Really,” I said, “so if you’d have died two days ago, you’d have gone to hell?”

“Not exactly. It doesn’t work like that.”

“But anyway, if you’re not baptized, like me, you go to hell when you die?”

“Yes, of course.”

I was on another computer, searching the Internet for a newsworthy story to discuss with my first student. After a few seconds of silence, I asked, “Is the water important or is it just symbolic?”

“No no, it’s important.”

“Did they splash you with it or dunk you under completely?”

“Completely under and let-me-tell-you that water was cold!”

“Maybe that’s why you started speaking in tongues. Because of the shock of freezing water.”

“No no,” she said, typing in her computer’s password, “I was speaking languages.”

“How do you know they were languages? Was someone there to interpret? Perhaps it was gibberish.”

“No, they were languages,” she said, glowing and animated. “I was there. It happened to me. I know it was real.”

While perusing an article about the US Ambassador who was killed in Benghazi, I couldn’t help wondering if he’d been baptized. I asked, “So you believe that God, who created us in His image, condemns most of his creations to burn in hell for eternity?”

“That’s why I got baptized.”

“A week’s not enough? It’s necessary we burn forever and ever?”

“I guess so. I don’t question God’s ways.”

“Is the God you believe in a loving God?”


“But if you don’t get baptized in His name he’s going to burn you for every second of every moment of every instant of your afterlife.”

“Mm hmm.”

“That doesn’t sound a little harsh for a ‘loving’ being?”

“Not at all. Anyone can do what I’ve done. It’s easy.”

While browsing the article on my computer screen, I learned the US Ambassador had been killed in response to an amateur film made by an American and posted on Youtube. Apparently, the film mocked Mohammed, the prophet of Islam, and I wondered why the murderers hadn’t let Allah administer the punishment, and also why they had killed the US Ambassador instead of the man who had made the movie.

After bookmarking the page, I asked Helen, “So Buddhists and Hindus, Muslims, they’re all going to hell?”

“If they don’t get baptized, yep.”

“Have you ever read the Bhagavad Gita? Do you know anything about Buddhism, or Taoism?”

“Well, like, I’ve heard some stuff, yeah.”

That’s when my student arrived, Shaw, and I got to work teaching. But, as you can see, this conversation is still on my mind. Not that I’m worried about going to hell. If hell exists at all, it’s right here on Earth, as far as I’m concerned. But perhaps I can sum up my consternation by highlighting Nietzsche’s famous words, “There was only one true Christian, and he died on the cross.”

Amen, brother.


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