It was middle school – maybe early high school. I was a percussionist in the school band (because I’m cool) and I seriously wanted to take Robyn, the pretty girl with whom I vied for first chair every week since sixth grade, to the school dance.
Unfortunately, I was a chubby, maladroit nerd simply trying to survive the hellscape that is adolescence. Speaking to women – even fellow social outcasts – was not in my toolkit. But after riding bench for several of these hormone ridden nights of sadness, I was desperate to get in the game. Plus, I had it on fairly good authority (thanks, lunch room) that Robyn liked me too, not to mention the presence of what I would later come to recognize as “signals,” apparently some ancient druidic language combing facial expression, body language, and leading words that I was – am – unable to make heads or tails of.
I remember the day during my extensive reconnaissance when Robyn told me she went to a “Church of Christ.” I was worried: though I would later realize I knew plenty of people originating from this branch of the Church, at that point I was utterly ignorant. All I knew was that it wasn’t Catholic like my friend Tyler, nor Pentecostal like my friend Blake, nor Baptist like everyone else in Oklahoma. Nor was it like us.
Unfortunately, I had no real idea of what “us” actually was.
Our church said “Christian Church” on the sign, but if I assumed anything, it was that those words were more of a general statement than a specific one. To me, it meant not Catholic, not Pentecostal, not Baptist. And now, not Church of Christ.
The irony here is that this lack of specificity was what was intended by the sign. The Restoration Movement (the larger movement of my church) was birthed out of a desire to be “Christians only,” and as long as I remained ignorant of their actual history or theology, I was able to maintain the illusion. The double irony is that the “Church of Christ” is simply the right-of-center branch of this same movement, sundered from ours nearly 100 years before due to a string of historical, geographical, and theological vicissitudes which would not be of interest or import here.
The takeaway is that technically she and I were part of the same denomination.
Anyway, desperate as I was to land a date with my fellow band mate (again, so cool), I asked my dad, the pastor, what this suspicious “Church of Christ” was and if it was indeed a secret mystery cult that sacrificed baby rabbits under the harvest moon as a means of appeasing the god of denominationalism. It was not.
I don’t remember the full answer, whether or not he mentioned our churches’ historical kinship, but I remember the words “conservative” and “non-instrumental” showed up while “heretic” was conspicuously absent. Praise be.
Well, I could list the reasons why Robyn and I didn’t end up together (though the zits on my face and “Sears: Husky” written on my jeans probably are reason enough), but we maintained a friendship throughout high school, until she left to pursue music I traipsed off to Bible college. Not entirely sure she didn’t get the better end of that one.
I share this memory with you first because, of all my early experiences in faith, this is the earliest which rises to me out of the depths when I consider those moments that saw me awakening to a movement. From here, things become much more concerned with tenets of faith and life choices, but for now, I just want to know if I could finally dance.