Fundamentalist Christian Home
The late nineteen fifties and early sixties were a time of new discoveries and technologies. But, in spite of the rapidly changing world around us, life in our small Pennsylvania town was quiet and uneventful. Children had specific bedtimes; meals were served around the dinner table. And for the most part, drive-through windows lay in the future, as did drive-by shootings.
Newspapers carried stories of far away wars and starvation. The world was huge, however, and television coverage was relatively sparse, allowing folks to feel generally safe and far removed from such stories. Even the cold war, which hung over us like a great black shroud, seldom made headlines and, other than the occasional duck and cover exercises in school, it seldom explicitly affected our world.
News of a neighbor buying a new color television set was about the most significant local news one could expect, often warranting visits from as far away as Hatboro. My family, however, was more than satisfied with our second-hand black and white set. There was little reason to buy newer and better technologies, given the short time that we would have to enjoy them. Besides, we knew that much greater news than the purchase of a new TV set was on the near horizon. The event which we awaited would make color television pale by comparison. Indeed, our anxiously anticipated event would make us the stars of a universe where no television, of any sort, would have a place.
Small pink, gray, and blue houses, each one identical except for its color, dotted the streets of our neighborhood. But, even within this uniform existence, our house was different. Looking from the outside, our family’s tradition of dressing up and filing out the front door, Bibles in tote, to attend church on Saturday—Sabbath as we called it—set us apart from the rest of the Irish-Italian Catholic neighborhood. In my eyes however, this was the least of what set us apart from our neighborhood, from in fact, our world.
Jesus was about to return and reward His faithful followers, namely us, for our virtuous lives and undying commitment to Him! We needed only to prove ourselves worthy of this great inheritance and we would be whisked off to Paradise within a very short time. Our knowledge of this fact enveloped and defined every aspect of our identities and dictated precisely how we related to everything and everyone in our world.
We had use for neither life insurance nor any long-range financial plans, since the future was going to exist in Paradise, where insurance, indeed even money, were of no consequence. This was, perhaps, why my father worked for the denomination for a wage that barely met our basic needs and certainly didn’t allow for any nest egg. This was also, perhaps, why my father never said, “When I die,” but rather, “If I die.”
Our morning devotionals, a family time spent in reading and prayer, consisted of reading from books within a series called "The Conflict of the Ages". These books, which carefully outlined the endless conflict between good and evil, explained how this war began in heaven and is now waged here on earth. It was a horrifying look at our battleground—our planet—in which good and evil struggled for supremacy, forever attempting to possess the souls of humankind. Since our lives were strictly limited by the beliefs within the covers of such books, the upcoming Paradise was a lovely dream with which to fill our challenging days; days jam-packed with endless temptations and innocent-looking, although evil, traps.
From as far back as I can remember, I suffered from nightmares—horrific nightmares that left me screaming and lying in cold, sweat-drenched sheets. I dreaded nighttime, since no night-light was capable of holding my nighttime demons at bay. Then one night my father taught me a simple trick which he assured me everyone in the world knew—a trick that I would later learn was called “lucid dreaming and controlling the dream”. This is generally thought to be a two phase process. But I learned both at once. And I learned them overnight.
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