My involvement with religion began and ended at a very young age. I am seventy years old now, and while my memory is hazy on some of the details, the essence and psychological impact of my early religious experience is still vividly with me. It took me many years, however, to come to a deeper understanding of what had happened.
My father was a career U.S. Air Force sergeant, so we never lived in one place for very long, and I grew up never having long-term friends or classmates. He retired from the Air Force in 1962, and we settled in a city in Iowa. I was fourteen.
We soon started attending a Presbyterian church, though I can’t remember any role Christianity ever played in my family other than on-and-off-again church attendance, more off than on. I responded with enthusiasm, however, because it afforded me an escape from the dysfunction of my family and the emotional abuse my alcoholic father constantly inflicted on my two sisters and me, and on my mother, who responded by ceasing to be a meaningful presence in the family.