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Just as I am?

Any kid who grew up in a Southern Baptist church in the 1950s and ’60s knew at least one song by heart.


Just as I am.


That was the song the choir and the congregation (with heads bowed) sang during the invitation, the time after the sermon when people were invited to come forward and get right with God.


The featured image, written long ago, captures my feelings about those moments.

In the Baptist church of the ’60s, “Just As I Am” was the only approved authoritative invitation hymn. If someone broke into my house in the middle of the night, burst into my room with a gun drawn on me, shined a flashlight in my face, and ordered me to sing Just As I Am, I would start it in E-flat.

STEPHEN WOODFIN


That’s the power of memory, but even more so, the power of religious training. Think about the givens in your life, the customs that pass without scrutiny, the practices we retreat to, especially in uncertain or difficult times. These ingrained ceremonies, insights we take as unquestionable, do us much good, but also perhaps much that is harmful.


If we stomp our foot and say, “This much I know is true,” we are also saying, “Don’t push me on this one. I know what I think. Leave me alone.”


But, you know, we could be wrong about some of those givens.


I’m in favor of challenging hidebound values, not to throw them out with the bath, but to see if they are really the values that I live by, or should live by, or deserve my allegiance.


Scribbling down a few words at a time about the things I believe make me tick may be one of the best ways to get to the bottom things.


And perhaps change some things that need changing.

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