... I was lost, but now I'm found.
Was blind, but now I see...
What intrigued me about the place as much as anything was how full of history it was. I mean, Charleston was one of the very early European settlements in North America (ca. 1670) when it was known as Charles Towne.
Its politicians were heavily involved in the American Revolution and the Civil War (or The Recent Unpleasantness, if you ask the tour guides) as well as an important battleground for both. Only in the last 25 years has it really economically recovered from the Civil War and Reconstruction. The result of that is that huge numbers of historic buildings were never torn down over the years. The blessing in disguise of Hurricane Hugo in 1989 brought in an influx of insurance money, which allowed many of these historic buildings to be renovated to their former glory.
As I have a major interest in history, this place was a great source of inspiration. I loved to walk the streets and look at the houses and gardens. I loved to listen to the tour guides as they spun their tall tales, when the carriage tours passed by. Among these buildings was St Michaels Episcopal Church, built in the 1750s.
This was a place that was jam packed with history. Signers of the Declaration of Independence and creators of the Constitution worshiped here. You could see the plaques on the walls and the stones in the graveyard.
It's one thing to go into a place like this in the middle of the week when it's hushed and empty (and air conditioned with temps in the 90s and 99% humidity), but it's quite another to experience it with a worshiping congregation.
I admit that I was still going to services as an observing social scientist, but here there was a difference. I found myself really connecting with the sermons. What is a sermon really other than a glorified speech? These speeches were really getting to me. They touched the wounds in my life, and I started to have a glimmer of why I felt like a fish out of water when I tried to live by what I understood as "society's rules" for success, happiness, fulfillment, or whatever you want to call it.Interior of St Michaels
That was all well and good, but I couldn't get past this thing about why people "believed" or how they had come to believe. I still couldn't get a more coherent answer than "because," which just wasn't cutting it. Obviously, my interest had been piqued, and I was perfectly willing to continue going to services because I was getting something out of it.
One day in a public library, I found the most extraordinary book, The Original Jesus: The Life and Vision of a Revolutionary.
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