Wednesday, June 15, 2011

The Whelming Flood

My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus' blood and righteousness...
His oath, His covenant, His blood
Support me in the whelming flood
-'The Solid Rock', Charlie Hall

Warning! Do not continue to read if you are not doctrinally and politically open-minded!

I was recently reading about another blogger's baptism and it got me thinking about my own. I remember friends standing out in the cold (I was baptized in February in a creek) praising God and embracing me. I remember my "good confession". And of course I remember the frigid water. I was raised religious, considered myself a "good person", and had many doubts about whether I even needed to do this. But as I stood in that cold water I was overcome by sense of peace and resolve. I knew I was going to be raised up from that water a new creation filled with the Holy Spirit. But I wasn't expecting what would happen while I was under the water.

Naturally at a time such as this, when so many eyes upon me taking such a momentous action, thoughts flooded my mind. Thoughts of family and friends, thoughts of sins encouraged and sins rejected, thoughts of what may happen next. And as I was dunked under the water all those thoughts rushed through my mind, much like my life flashing before my eyes. I've heard similar accounts from others after their baptisms, some more vivid than others. But each experienced some kind of "life flashing before your eyes" in a very spiritual while also very real sense.

Ok, so maybe you're uncomfortable with my putting so much spiritual weight on a "sacrament". I'm not going to get into any doctrinal or theological debates on this subject right now, but I want you to be in the same frame of mind I was in.

I was encouraged by these thoughts, and they continued through the day. I even had the above song (or at least the quoted verse) playing over and over through my head. Until lunch when I read an article that included the video below. Now here's your warning. The subject of the article? Waterboarding.

Ok, maybe I'm a little crazy relating baptism to waterboarding. But like I said, this was my frame of mind. So as I watched the following video I was thinking about what must have been going through his mind. As I was immersed under water, unable to breathe, spiritually sacrificing my life, the above thoughts and feelings flooded over me. Imagine having a towel placed over your head and water poured over you. But instead of peace, you feel panic, instead of your spiritual life flashing before your eyes, your physical life passes before your eyes in the very real sense that this may be the end. In both cases, it is the end of your life as you've come to know it.

Christopher Hitchens brings up a good point in this interview- if you have some "intelligence" to share, you feel a sense of overwhelming betrayal, and if you don't, you have no hope because there would be no end to the flood. So I wondered how a Christian, at peace with his or her convictions and looking forward to a home that is not of this world, would react to waterboarding (remember, Hitchens is an atheist). But at the same time, wouldn't a Muslim feel much the same way? It's not as if their convictions are weaker. And while they don't practice baptism in the Christian sense, they do practice ceremonial washing (much like in the Jewish faith on which baptism is derived) called Ghusl.

I guess my point is, the feelings of drowning and claustrophobia induced by waterboarding may remind one of baptism or Ghusl, but it does not end. You are not brought back up. Peace is replaced by panic. Yet, does a "true believer" respond differently than a non-believer? If you have no hope going in, I would expect the feeling of hopelessness. But what about Christian martyrs who suffered joyfully under all sorts of torture? Should we expect any different from a Muslim who is firm in their faith? It just seems to me, in hindsight after watching this video, that this method of torture wasn't well thought out. But that's just me.

I want to add that I've been blissfully ignorant about all of this. Yeah, I'd hear about this on the news and see it dramatized in movies, but I've never given it a second thought. This video was made two years ago. I saw it yesterday.

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