Here’s the tell-all interview with Geoffrey you would have been looking forward to all summer, had you actually known about it. For the very first time, he will reveal the details of his journey into the Catholic Faith. And to ensure that we here at Austin Catholic New Media throw him the hard questions, we have selected none other than Geoffrey himself to conduct the interview. It’ll be just like an echo chamber, but even more awesome.
Q: So, you don’t smell like a convert?
A: You’re right, I don’t. I bathe quite often in Benedictine handcrafted soap. My Irish Spring shampoo also works miracles in masking the “new Catholic” smell. Most people take one whiff and assume that I’ve always been snuggled in the very bosom of the Church. It comes as a real shock when they notice that my parents don’t go up for communion when they visit. But yep, you got me. If the Catholic Church were a server for Halo, I’d probably still be classified as a n00b.
Q: How long have you been Catholic?
A: I joined back in high school, and I was Catholic at heart for awhile before then. Officially, however, I’ve only been a card-carrying Papist for seven or eight years, depending on which of my two Confirmations/Baptisms you count (more on that later). But the fact that nobody has ever seen me toting around a physical Bible (thank God for the camouflage provided by digital copies) has led many Catholics to believe that I’ve always grazed among their sheepfold. Plus, I have been known to drink on occasion, and I can dance like a boss! Who would honestly suspect I’m a former Baptist?
Oh, that reminds me of a joke! There are three truths in life:
Q: Geoffrey, please don’t finish that thought…
A: Jewish people don’t recognize Jesus as the Messiah. Protestants don’t recognize the Pope as the leader of the Christian faith. Baptists don’t recognize each other at the liquor store.
Q: …you are so immature.
A: Well, as Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 18:2, NRSV-CE). Thus, I do my best to avoid anything even remotely resembling maturity.
Q: I’m pretty sure that’s not what Jesus meant. But, lest we get sidetracked, can you tell us about Geoffrey B. C. (Before Catholic)?
A: Shortly after I was born, Mom’s great aunt, Margueritte, and her husband, Stephen, dedicated me to God’s service—because God was the only guy big enough to handle my rather unique, shall we say, blessings to the world.
Margueritte was a minister in the Assembly of God denomination and a missionary to Africa, but Mom and Dad have always been C.S. Lewis Christians, so we visited a lot of different Christian congregations during my earliest years.
A few months before my fourth birthday, my family moved from El Paso to Austin, where we’ve remained ever since. It was there that we discovered Bethel Baptist Church. They had a dinosaur-themed vacation Bible school, I was a typical little boy who loved dinosaurs, and the rest is rather self-explanatory. Dad and I were baptized together when I was eight years old. I publicly accepted Jesus Christ as my personal Lord and Savior. Everybody cried. It was like Lion King “Circle of Life” type stuff. You would’ve cried too.
Q: I was there. I did cry. I’m the same person as you.
Right…that statement was more directed at the reader.
Q: Oh, okay. That makes a lot more sense.
Anyway, by middle school, I’d mostly lost interest in going to church. My Sunday school teachers and my pastor couldn’t answer the kind of questions I was asking—about history, difficulties in the Bible, and the existence of God. You know, light conversation topics. Plus, no one took my disability into account when planning youth trips and activities. At times, I felt positively quarantined and discriminated against.
The tipping point came when nobody would help me complete my Boy Scout Emblem of Faith badges. So, I got frustrated and decided to study things on my own at home. If it hadn’t been for a string of amazing coincidences, I probably wouldn’t be involved with any church at this point in my life.
Just imagine, somewhere far across the etherbranes of the multiverse, AntiGeoffrey is giving a talk for the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason & Science entitled, On the Stupidity of Faith: How Unthinking and Uncaring Pastors led me to become an Atheist Super-Jerk.
Q: That’s…slightly terrifying. Although, a cosmic clash between AntiGeoffrey and Geoffrey would be pretty incredible to watch. Any chance of that ever happening?
A: Since the Large Hadron Collider failed to open a stable wormhole big enough to devour the Earth and transport a handful of survivors to the AntiWorld, most likely not. However, I can assure you that the fight wouldn’t last very long. Mad scientists cured AntiGeoffrey’s disability early on, and now he plays pro-football and dominates the world as a super villain.
Q: Wait…how do you know AntiGeoffrey’s a violent football player who midnights as a super villain?
A: I have my reasons.
Q: Have you been engaging in inter-dimensional vacationing without me again? I hate it when you do that…
A: No, no, nothing of the sort. The three rationales behind my AntiGeoffrey hypothesis are based on observations made in this universe only:
(1) Have you seen how thick my neck is? It’s quarterback thick.
(2) Without my disability, I wouldn’t have learned patience.
(3) Atheism would supercharge my lack of patience with raw anger.
Q: Right…you do realize not all atheists are angry?
A: Of course I realize that. But if I were an atheist, I’d want to be an angry one. I mean, who would want to be Jean-Paul Sartre? He pretty much just belly-moaned about his pain and the meaninglessness of existence, albeit in a very poetic and beautiful way. Still though, that’s not a very fun hobby on which to spend one’s Sunday afternoons. In my opinion, exchanging some baseless argumentum ad hominem with people and calling it a debate is more thrilling.
Q: Okay. And exactly how does all of this tie in with your conversion?
Because for a time, I actually did flirt with the idea of becoming an atheist. Not so much was happening for me on the Christian front—that is, until my friend Nathan told me about Joseph Smith during my freshman year in high school.
Q: Uh, what? Come again? You were saved by the Mormons?
A: And raised by wolves in the jungles of South America.
But jokes aside, yes, in a very real sense, the Mormons changed my whole course in life. Nathan told me that around 200 years ago, this Joseph Smith guy had supposedly retreated to a sacred grove of trees to ask God which church was true, if any. My friend explained to me that the true Church had to have four marks: it had to be one, united organization; it had to be holy and directed by the Holy Ghost; it had to embrace people of all nations; and it had to be able to somehow trace its authority to Jesus’ original twelve(ish) apostles.
One, holy, catholic, and apostolic. The thought had never occurred to me that the first Church founded by Jesus Christ himself may have survived in some form all the way down to the present day, complete with successors to the apostles themselves. To me, the idea was absolutely revolutionary. If anybody had the answers to my questions, surely it would be this Church.
Wherever it was…
Nathan also told me about the doctrine of eternal progression, the plurality of gods, and the pre-mortal life while we were playing Turok: Dinosaur Hunter that evening, and it didn’t sit well with me. I mean, don’t get me wrong, it was all very interesting. Yet, it sounded nothing like what I’d learned from my preliminary studies of the Bible and ancient history.
So, in the midst of my confusion, I did what Joseph Smith did. I went across the street to a nearby park, found myself a quiet, sacred-looking grove of trees, parked my wheelchair, and prayed.
Q: And two glorious personages of light appeared unto you?
A: Not so much. But I did reconnect with my childhood friend Lon a few days later. His family, under the tutelage of a man who went by “Rabbi David,” had become Messianic Jews. This meant that although they recognized Jesus as the Messiah, they didn’t believe he had done away with all the requirements of Torah, such as eating kosher. They basically sounded Jewish, and Jesus himself was a Jew, so I thought they had a decent claim as any to being the first Church. I attended their temple-thingy a few times to check things out.
Unfortunately, I soon discovered they were basically Baptists who wore kippot (yarmulkes, for the uninitiated). It was a very disappointing experience. Especially the “Davidic Dancing Girls.” Most were well over 40 and not at all in a condition suitable for belly-dancing with scarves.
All in all, I’m glad I dodged that bullet. A few years after I became Catholic, I heard Rabbi David’s whole congregation went downhill once he announced God had told him in a dream to divorce his current wife and marry the younger, more attractive youth director. It was supposed to be symbolic of God divorcing America or something. (There once was an online video of the whole debacle, which has since conveniently disappeared, but you’d only want to watch it as a Lenten penance anyway).
Q: And let me guess, Rabbi David played the role of God?
A: Of course he did. Why wouldn’t he? Were you expecting him to instead, like Ezekiel from the Bible, lie on his right side for 390 days and cook his food using dung? Only real prophets do that kind of crazy stuff.
False prophets, on the other hand, are much more reasonable when it comes to protecting their self-interest.
Q: So, what happened next?
A: You’ll just have to wait until my next blog entry to find out, won’t you? But to entice you until then, think My Big Fat Greek Wedding. No, I didn’t get married, but I did meet the good folks at the Greek Orthodox Church (actually, Antiochene, but details, details).