Conversion Story, Part 1
Carl Huber – St. Katherine Drexel (Frederick, MD)
I was recently baptized into the Christian faith at St. Katharine Drexel, so recently that I guess you might say I’m still a little wet behind the ears.
I have been asked to reflect upon the experience of this year’s catechumens as well as something of my own personal faith journey. In terms of my own journey, I’ll not go into too much of the detail of how I went from proud atheism to humble Christian baptism, but I’ll reflect some on two questions I have recently been asked: why Christian, and why Catholic?
I believe I can make the claim for all the Catechumens that this year has been one of growth and discovery, just as surely for the sponsors as it has been for the catechumens ourselves.
Together we have examined scripture, catechism, and conscience. We’ve looked deeply into the church, and questioned ardently and honestly, often challenging our leaders, teachers, and mentors who met us at times with profound dissertation on the history, mythology, poetry and imagery of the bible, and at other times just with the simple truth, “I don’t know, it’s a mystery!”
In the past I would laugh at that answer, “It’s a mystery.” But today, for my part, the mystery is the key to whole thing about God. I can conceive of the universe on a level from quarks to galaxies, all the way back to the big bang. But what I assert no human being can really wrap a mind around, is what caused that. That remains a mystery! The mystery. And the name we give to the mystery, the incomprehensible uncaused cause of everything, is God.
My spiritual path ultimately involved perhaps not so much a discovery of God as a redefinition of atheism. Like many things in life, I’d gotten something quite backward. For a long time I understood that because I did not believe in the literal truth of the stories of the bible that I didn’t believe in God, and therefore, I was an atheist.
Today, I see God as the author of the universe. This marvelous creation we all live in, and my very own existence, is an open book, written by God herself. Today, I realize that many people, like myself, get it backwards. They look at the book and mistake it for its author. Maybe that’s closer to what atheism really is, a simple misunderstanding, a misidentification of the things in this world with its Creator. To think that one knows God by looking at his creation is as wrong as looking at his creation and thinking that God does not exist at all. Either way, its all just the arrogance of thinking that one can know the unknowable. So today I appreciate the mystery as something to be savored.
Through the RCIA, the catechumens had the opportunity to probe into the mysteries and the myth, to begin to wade through the layers of human interpretation, laid over the mysteries for thousands of years, and to understand them better, for ourselves, and to see them in a new light. Today, I believe we have a keener appreciation for one of the best answers in the world, “I don’t know – it’s a mystery.”
Getting to the questions: Why Christian? Not all who believe in an unknowable creator have to be Christian. Some people familiar with my life are at least a little bit surprised. My own daughter reportedly came here tonight, only because she wanted to see what it looked like when hell freezes over.
There came a point in my life where I found myself in the emotional crucible of a key life decision, and my normally logical and scientifically trained brain delivered up a hallucination, in the form of Jesus Christ, and it spoke. He said, “Carl, I already died for your sins so you don’t have to. You are forgiven. And, you have things to do.” To the simple answer is that I’m Christian, because Jesus saved me.
I have to wonder, though, how the image of Jesus Christ got into the dark recesses of my subconscious atheist mind, ready and waiting to save me, when I most needed it. Let’s consider two possible theories. First, Jesus could have come himself in the form of an energetic being, through a cosmic wormhole and across a two thousand year time warp, and landed somewhere in my very own psyche. That’s a plausible theory. But I have another. You put him there. You! You who have gathered together in His name, day after day, year after year, millennium after millennium, you who have gathered in His name and have been the body of Christ over two thousand years, and you who are here tonight. It is through you that he was there when I needed him to tell me exactly what I needed to hear at exactly the right moment.
I’m Christian because Jesus saved me, and because you Christians made Him possible.
And if I may speak for the other Catechumens, in the last year, we have all learned much more about Christianity and what it really means to live a Christian life, and that ultimately, what Christianity is about, is about living well, and living a good life, with a cultivated conscience, in a world of serious challenges presented by people of all types. Together we have learned about the Catholic way of being good Christians, and just plain good people.