Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Deep Roots

All things must come to the soul from its roots, from where it is planted.
Saint Teresa of Avila



My family is deeply rooted in religious rebellion. Both of my grandmothers were Scots-Irish, descended from Protestants who were at odds with both the Catholics and the Anglicans. (See: Ulster-Scots ). My paternal grandfather was alleged to be a descendant of French Protestants. (See: Huguenot ) By the nineteenth century, these three families were all American Baptists. My maternal grandfather had a Welsh Protestant (Presbyterian) father and a German Protestant (Lutheran) mother.

Additionally, in the late nineteenth century, one of my Baptist great-great-grandfathers obtained a copy of a tract called "Food for Thinking Christians" that was written by C. T. Russell, considered the father of the present-day Jehovah's Witnesses. He accepted the doctrines of those who were then called Bible Students, as did his son and later his granddaughter (my grandmother). Possibly due to the influence of my great-grandmother, my grandmother attended a Baptist Church every Sunday while meeting with the Bible Students as her father and grandfather did during the week. She played the organ and sang in the Church. It was there that she met my grandfather. Now how a West Virginian who was a product of a Presbyterian-Lutheran marriage happened to be in a Baptist Church in Arkansas around the turn of the century was never told to us. I expect that would be quite a story in itself. But the tall West Virginian married the tiny Scots Irish Bible Student and he became a Bible Student himself.

Back in West Virginia, my other Scots Irish grandmother was being raised as a good Baptist. She was attending school, and her 8th grade teacher was a handsome fellow of French descent who was also a good Baptist (his grandfather built the local Baptist Church which is named for my father's family). On Christmas Day, 1905, he picked her up in a horse and buggy, ostensibly to take her to Church. Instead of attending regular services, the handsome school teacher married his beautiful 16-year-old pupil.

The first couple, who met and married in Arkansas, were my mother's parents. The second couple were my father's parents.

Fast forward to World War II, and my mother is a pioneer (a Jehovah's Witness missionary) in West Virginia. She is studying the Bible with a widow; three of the widow's four sons are serving in the War effort. Her fourth son, who already had a family at the start of the War, has married a Jehovah's Witness woman, and the widow wants to know what this religion is all about. Ultimately, the pioneer meets one of the widow's sons (home on leave from the Navy), who has also been discussing religion with his brother. These two marry, and become my parents.

So as you can see, religious rebellion has played a very prominent role in my personal history. I am descended from strong-willed, strong-principled, and hardworking folk who invested their lives in studying the Bible and endeavored to live by it. My parents were the same. They thoroughly believed their Jehovah's Witness faith was the one true religion. That is how they raised me.

Why would I ever doubt that I was born into the right religion? What could possibly persuade me to leave the "faith of my fathers"?

Next: In the Embrace of Family

2 comments:

japhy said...

The "American-Baptist Welsh-Presbyterian German-Lutheran Jehovah's Witness" faith of your fathers? Wow. That's quite a lineage!

NanaR said...

LOL japhy :-)

It is a bit tongue in cheek...

But by the time my "fathers" got to be JWs, they were absolutely certain they had it right...