How did I, an atheist, come to attend a liberal, non-denominational church founded by Rick Diamond (who has a “Doctor of Ministry degree in Postmodern Church Leadership”)?
I first met Rick Diamond at a book signing event for one of Anne Lamott’s Christian books at Barnes and Noble.
My ex-girlfriend (and now friend) DeAnn had invited me. I was going through a fiction writing phase and would attend book signings to support other authors and to see how the experts did it. I had read the autobiographical part of Anne Lamott’s book “Bird By Bird” on writing and loved it, and I was curious to see what she might have to say about religion and Christianity. DeAnn’s interest in Christianity surprised me a little. I had known her at that point for 18 years, and religion hadn’t been a driving force in her life. I found myself thinking that I had pushed yet another woman over the edge to Jesus-freakism (more on all the woman I’ve “converted” to Christianity in a later post).
As the people gathered for Anne Lamott’s talk, DeAnn pointed out many of her fellow churchgoers. Of the perhaps two hundred or more people who had shown up for the signing, maybe a dozen were from DeAnn’s church. She took me over to meet Rick, the minister. He’s tall, dark blonde hair, glasses, bearded, scruffy, shirt untucked, a bit of a pot-belly, jovial, very friendly. We spoke briefly. Okay, I liked him, I thought. But I would never see him again.
Oddly, this was a group of liberals, not something you normally associate with Christians (more about that in a future post). Turns out I was the only right-winger in attendance. Anne Lamott made some disparaging remarks about George W. Bush and so on and so forth about the Iraq war, and asked if there was anyone in the audience who supported Bush. I raised my hand, fearing that I would be the only one, but knowing that I could handle it, like old times up against the Jesus freaks I argued with years before. She was nice and didn’t crack any jokes at my expense, and that alone raised my already high level of respect for her to new heights. Later she was friendly as she signed my copy of “Plan B” and thanked me “for being a good sport”. She won a fan that day.
But this blog isn’t about Anne Lamott. It’s about how I came to attend this crazy church.
DeAnn and I had dated years before (lived together, had wild and crazy times together, broke up, somehow became friends, you know the drill). Now our friendship consisted of dinners out once a month or so, nothing too intense. As the years passed, DeAnn became more religious. Somewhere in the intervening years, she had found Jesus. We have never spoken of it. She would have answered my questions if I had asked, but I never really thought to ask. Also, I’m not sure she would have been able to explain her conversion to me even if we’d had the conversation. Part of our success as friends, after being lovers, was that we respected each other’s decisions, didn’t bicker, didn’t try to analyze the other, just accepted each other as we were. So I found myself friends, again, with a Christian woman, one who didn’t want me in a romantic way.
When she invited me to attend her church, I said yes. I was not averse to churches. I had met Rick and was curious what all the fuss was about with this liberal church. And I was feeling like it was time to advance my search for spirituality, or whatever the hell it was that was taking over my consciousness. So I attended DeAnn’s church that Sunday morning, January 21, 2007.