I Nearly Become A Baptist – July 26, 2011

First Baptist Church Piedmont, Alabama

Back in the days when I was a little boy I used to help my granny plant tulip bulbs, I’d dig the holes and she’d place the bulbs in them and whatever concoction she had to add to the hole, blood meal maybe I don’t know. But one thing I do know, my granny and me we did everything together. No matter what project she had going on any given day she included me, taught me, helped me understand and when appropriate made me laugh till my belly hurt…..You see my granny wasn’t a funny person, but she was funny, if that makes any sense fellow gardeners. I’d never seen my granny laugh uncontrollably with anybody else, but when it was just me and her digging around in her garden, with her azaleas, canna lilies, zinnias, tulips, daisies and some flowers I didn’t even know the names of, well she made jolly old Saint Nick seem like Senator Strom Thurmond from South Carolina. I never really knew why my granny was so funny and jolly with me but not with everyone else in her daily doings, her friends from the garden club, her neighbors she interacted with every single day. her church groups, the “Study Club”, I never ever figured out what the “Study Club” was but one thing for sure, granny never cracked even a grin, much less a smile when she had the “Study Club” at her house. So I kinda grew up thinking that granny saved all her smiles and grins and laughs just for me and so each one of those smiles, grins and laughs were as special to me as anything in the whole wide world. You see when I was with my granny, by gawd I was with her and visa versa, And that’s how I kinda saw everything in life. If I was with one of my little friends from granny’s neighborhood I was with that friend come hades or high water…..:-)

Now I was raised Jewish, I went to a synagogue, I had a bar mitzvah, which means I had become a “man” as I read from the Torah (The first five books of the Bible) on Shabbat at the synagogue, which made me officially a man, I only wish it were so……:-) But my grandmother on my mother’s side of the family was a Baptist/Methodist.  I never knew how it was you could be both. As a little kid if you were Jewish, you were Jewish, not Jewish and Lutheran or Jewish and Presbyterian. So right off the bat I was somewhat confused about religion in general and how it was practiced at my granny’s house in particular……And if you think that was confusing, wait till you hear this…….:-)

My grandfather on my mother’s side (my father’s parents died when he was only 5 years old so I had only one set of grandparents I ever knew) was Jewish and studying to be a Rabbi, a man of great knowledge and respect in the Jewish community. He was studying to be a Rabbi in Russia when all of a sudden the Czar decided it would be fun to send some of his Cossacks, (kinda like the goon squad or a group of every bully you ever knew in your whole life all together at one time gathered together just to make your days as unpleasant as possible) into my grandfather’s village……That was the Cossacks, and they were the law in those parts as their power came from the Czar and the Czar’s power came from God and of course the several million men he kept under arms all the time…….:-) Well when the Cossacks were on the loose in the predominately Jewish areas of Russia, well it was sometimes a smart move to perhaps find another place to live, and be quick about it and that’s what my grandfather, his 3 older sisters and one older brother did. As they used to say in an old John Wayne western to the good guy, “Fellow you better be outta town by sunset or be in the street in the middle of town packing a gun”…..Well my grandfather, his sisters and old brother weren’t even packing one gun between them all so they decided to leave town and they did. They came to America in the early 1900′s like millions of other immigrants. Came through Ellis Island In New York. My grandfather told me in so many words onetime that when he got to EllIs Island even there he looked around to see if there was any Cossacks roaming around New York but he told me he never ever even seen one, not on horseback swinging a sword or on foot with a whip and a pistol, that made my grandfather very, very happy and from then on America was the greatest place on earth for my grandfather and it was the greatest country on earth to him everyday for the rest of his life till the day he died….

So you see things at the Wisebram household, my grandparents house was kinda convoluted to say the least, confusing and well as a young kid even though it was kinda confusing, it was kinda wonderful too, wonderful in the extreme…..You see I been to about as many Bar Mitzvah’s of my Jewish friends as I’ve been to Revivals with my Christian friends……I went to Jewish summer camp up in the mountains and Vacation Bible School in Piedmont, the highlight of my summer every summer for years as a kid. So you see my granny was raised Baptist, but attended the Methodist Church here in Piedmont, my grandaddy was studying to be a Rabbi at one the great schools of learning in Europe but ended up marrying a southern Baptist girl from Hartwell, Georgia who he fell in love with miserably and couldn’t live another day unless he married her immediately and he did. So let’s see what we got here fellow gardeners. We got one granny who was raised Baptist, going to the Methodist church here in town and one grandfather who was Jewish and studying to be a great  and learned  Rabbi going to Sunday school at the Baptist Church with his best friend Pinky Roberts. Have you all got that straight fellow gardeners and if you ain’t and are confused, imagine what I must have been as a 5, 6,7,8,9 year old kid back then when coming to Piedmont to stay the whole summer with my granny and my grandfather…….:-)

“Paul From Alabama, this story is kinda sweet and even somewhat interesting but as most of your stories are, its really really confusing and getting a bit long too. So you reckon you could get to the point of this story and bring it to its conclusion whatever that might be so we might even have an inkling what it was about in the first place?”……Fellow gardeners you are clairvoyant, I was just getting ready to do that very thing…….:-)

One Sunday, a beautiful Sunday in Piedmont, Alabama, and when you’re 7 years old or so in Piedmont, Alabama you’re in heaven already, at least that’s what I thought as a kid. So its a beautiful, heavenly Sunday morning and me and my little best friend who lived next-door to my granny, well I went to Sunday School and church with him every Sunday at the Baptist Church. I had this little white Bible that had a zipper around it to close it up and it was my prized possession above all things, my little white zipper Bible. Oh and it had red lettering in the parts of the text where Jesus spoke. I tell you I loved that white Bible with the zipper and red lettering……

Well this Sunday they’re having a revival, now I have no idea what a revival is as its my first one and whatever it is I was with my best buddy and I’m sticking it out till the end whatever it is……Cause fellow gardeners, you can say what you will about Paul From Alabama, but when I’m with ya, I’m with ya, come Hades or high water……:-) Well you must know before I tell you about the revival that going to a Jewish synagogue for services on Friday nights or Saturday mornings was, well I got to tell truth, kinda boring, at least boring for 7 or 8 year old kid. The Rabbi read from the Torah, he gave his sermon in a measured tone, not too loud, not too soft, not too long, not too short. And the Cantor, like a Jewish version of the a one man choir sang hymns or Jewish hymns I guess you’d call them. Synagogue for me was let us say, non threatening, a quiet time, a time for reflection and a time to keep looking at your watch to see when it was finally going to be over so me and Daddy could go to the movies and get something to eat at the delicatessen.

But we ain’t talking synagogues today fellow gardeners or movies or bagels and cream cheese at the deli. We’re talking revival at the Baptist church in Piedmont with my best little friend in the whole world. Well this man shows up in the church on the stage by the pulpit and he is the best dressed guy I ever seen in my life. I’d have thought he was a movie star if I’d recognize him. And his hair? He had hair that was so full and long but not a hair, not one hair would ever get out of place no matter how much he marched back and forth across the stage or jumped up and down, a hair on his head never even flinched……:-)

Well into the sermon or revival things start getting kinda sticky for a Jewish boy from Atlanta at his first revival. You see the louder this preacher or revivalist  start preaching the more scared I get. And before long he’s in such a tirade about something that I’m scared to death and would have run home right then but like I said, I came with my best friend and I’m leaving with my best friend no matter what. Where he goes, I go…..What he does, I do…..I’m just like that and always have been, I got it from my granny I’m sure……..:-)

So now they’re having something called an “altar call” and during this “altar call” I look around and it seems like almost every adult I’m used to seeing with smiles on their faces and a good word for me all of a  sudden these same folks are all crying, tears and wailings and crying and I tell you I ain’t never seen anything like it in my young life and to tell the absolute truth, I’M SCARED TO DEATH……:-)

I ain’t never seen grownups cry except when my father’s twin brother died and daddy cried for days but that was the only adult I’d ever seen cry to any extent or become so emotional……Now this preacher starts asking everyone to come up to the altar if they feel the feeling or feel the need or feel something or other, I’m still trying to figure out what it is and why I ain’t feeling it whatever it is…..:-)

Well I look over at my best friend and now he’s crying too and boy I am scared to death now. Cause one thing I know for sure when my best friend starts crying its time for me to find out what the heck is the problem and try to get out of the way of whatever it is………:-) Now my best friend and lots of other folks start leaving the pews we’re sitting in and marching right up to the altar where the preacher or revivalist is and as I came with my best buddy, well wherever he goes, I go and I march my little self right out of that pew and down the aisle to the altar, for what I don’t know and don’t really care. I just know I go where my best friend goes and I hope pretty soon that folks will calm down and stop crying and being so emotional, it’s starting to give me the creeps……:-)

Now I get about 15 feet down the aisle right behind my best friend and I feel a hand touch me on the shoulder. I look up and see this nice man I know as the husband of the lady who lives across the street from my granny, the lady who makes such good apple pies for us. Well her husband who is something I come to find out is a “Deacon” of the church kinda corrals me over to sit next to him and whispers in my ear something like this, “Paul, I think it best you just sit here next to me till the service is over, OK? Would you like that?” Well this guy is a really nice guy and he doesn’t seem to be crying like everyone else and I think its probably the safest place for me sitting right next to him. Right next to him till I figure out what in the heck is going on.

Well fellow gardeners, I know what was going on now, a revival, an altar call and an expression of belief and joy that I understand now but was absolutely baffled about all them years ago sitting in the pew next to my best friend with my white Bible with the zipper down the side clutched in my little hands……..:-)

And so fellow gardeners that’s how I nearly became a Baptist and as some of my good Christian friends are fond of saying, “Some of best friends are Jewish”, well some of my best friends are Baptist and one beautiful Sunday morning in Piedmont, Alabama I nearly became one myself, a Baptist that is…….:-)

Paul From Alabama

Addendum:

My life has been all the richer for the friends I’ve made in life no matter what their religion. Whether it was Christian Arabs in Israel, Muslim Arabs in Israel. Baptists, Methodists, Church Of God, Church of Christ, Holiness, Presbyterian, or Catholic here in good old Piedmont. You see I come to the conclusion that we’re all of different faiths or even no faiths but I judge folks on how they treat me, how I see them treating others and not what the name of the sign says where they attend religious services or even if the don’t attend anywhere. I even respect and like my Uncle Morty who thinks it’s a sin to eat a ham sandwich, I love Uncle Morty but you see I love ham sandwiches too and if I had a one dollar for every ham sandwich I ever eaten at my granny’s house, at the Dairy King or every sausage biscuit I ate at home or at Young’s truck stop, well I’d have enough money to build me my own church, synagogue, mosque and even a really, really big revival tent, one as big as the tents they use at the Ringling Brother’s & Barnum & Bailey Circus……..:-)

Paul From Alabama

The comments below were transferred from my “old” blog as was the little story above with the date of the story as shown.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

8 Comments 
My parents were not the same about religion. My mother was baptized in one faith, attended school in another and my father regjected his in adulthood. I attended a Lutheran church because it was walking distance from home and when it came out in favor of the Civil Rights movement, my mother forbade my father from restricting our attendance.

One of the most beautiful moments in my Lutheran upbringing was helping to serve Passover dinner.

Not long before my mother died, we started having our first serious conversations about her faith. She pretty much held that private. She said she considered herself a Christian. Asked why she didn’t push us, she said

Because more than God wants to be obeyed,He wants to be loved. If the relationship is forced, it cannot be love.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011 – 09:57 AM
Bubba_MoCity
You sure we ain’t twins?

I’m not Jewish, but also remember my first Revival.  Saw the tent and big sign hust outside town – Moab Utah wne I wsa about 11.  Asked my Mom, ” what’s that?”  She said I would have to see it for myself and asked if I wanted to go.  ”Sure!”

Well You did a good job of describing yours, so I won’t bore you with mine – but Mom did have to grab me up and rush out of that tent.

I was laughing so hard at all the antics I was witnessing, I couldn’t control myself.  Never attended another one, tho…..

Tuesday, July 26, 2011 – 10:00 AM
Being raised as a Southern Baptist I have been to more revivals that you can count.  These days I prefer to just say I am a Christian.  Was always taught that the Jews were God’s chosen people (witness that Jesus was a Jew).  Not my duty to judge others.  God will do that himself in good time.  He has given me a love of all His children.  Leading me to Paul of Alabama is one of His blessings to me.
Tuesday, July 26, 2011 – 11:05 AM
Paul, the world would be a much nicer place if everybody had this attitude! Good for you!
Tuesday, July 26, 2011 – 12:57 PM
Jan Case
Paul, I was scared into being saved and I wish someone had pulled me aside to say that seeking God was a GOOD thing, not something that no one in her right mind would do unless she was truly terrified not to do it. Religion sure can make a mess of faith sometimes.
Tuesday, July 26, 2011 – 03:09 PM
Phyllis
Paul, I loved the story.  You have a way of making me be able to picture all of this in my mind.  I can just see you in the Baptist Church walking down the isle behind your friend!!  Love it, it is priceless!!
Wednesday, July 27, 2011 – 11:24 AM
@Lydla, Two things, one your mother sounds like a really intelligent and I bet wonderful mother. And two, you attended a Lutheran Church cause it was within walking distance of your home. I mean think of that  for a moment. I know you have that was just a silly rhetorical question I reckon. But folks don’t come out of their mother’s womb saying, “Hey I’m this or that religion.” You’re just raised that way by whatever it is your folks are or came to be by either being born into it or whatever. How you come to God or even not come to him is such a willy nilly thing. Not the fact of you knowing or not knowing God but how we come by our religions, our religious identities is what’s willy nilly and I don’t mean that disrespectfully. It’s just the way life is.  Sorry for the rant, I don’t mean it as a rant at all, must thinking aloud.

@Bubba_MoCity, Lord I love that nickname…..;-) No we ain’t twins,  one of me is about all this world can handle or that my wife and mother can handle for sure……:-) My mother has rushed me out of a thing or two in her time and mine not revivals but situations in which I just wouldn’t, couldn’t or didn’t shut up…….:-)

@LouC…..You are a blessing too, a blessing to me.

@Phillip, Thanks Phillip and thanks for your visit and taking the time to respond. I’m coming up to see your garden one of these days. And when I do I’m going to try to take in all them roses and hydrangeas you got and come back home smiling from ear to ear……One of these days……

@ Jan C. Yes it can Jan, you see it everyday somewhere or other, I know folks are doing the best they can but we can sure make a mess of things sometimes. I lived in Israel for 6 years and I saw some things of a religious nature that warmed my heart and made me proud to be a human being, part of the human race and I saw some things, some things I wish I’d never seen or wish had never happened in my life time or anyone elses……

@Phyllis, funny you say that, I write as a picture in my mind and you see it as one……Got to be a good thing…….thanks for reading my little stories as always…

Wednesday, July 27, 2011 – 04:56 PM
Anonymous
Come to think of it….I ‘almost’ became a lot of things as well….some good and some not so good…..lol. Hopefully, I landed on the right side of the fence more than the wrong side….find kindred spirits of many faiths, backgrounds, ethics, etc also,,.. Enjoyed the story…Rickey
Friday, July 29, 2011 – 08:58 PM

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