Once upon a time, I thought the inside of the earth looked like this:
According to what I had been taught, people were running around screaming and pleading for mercy. No matter how hard they scream, how fast they run, there is no escaping the fire.
There I sat in my first geology class at Del Mar College. I had already decided to be bored. This was not a class I wanted to take, but I had no choice. I had considered changing my major to get out of taking the class, but I couldn’t find a major that didn’t require geology as a core science class. This probably had something to do with the size of the college, the fact that we had two amazing geology professors and a difficult time keeping and paying for other scientists not related to the nursing program.
The teacher powered up his slide slow presentation, and started talking. I was seated in the very far back of the class, which is exactly the opposite of what they tell you to do if you want to make a top grade, but I never rebel without flair. And then he started talking. I wasn’t in the mood to be convinced but he sure loved this thing, geology. I hadn’t even bothered to clarify the difference between that and geography, so I was a little cloudy the first five minutes of class.
And then he showed us a picture of this:
And then my heart stopped. My feet became glued to the floor and I couldn’t fidget or cast spurious glances at the professor to show him how bored I was. I did manage to squeak
“Can you please go back to that slide?”
Because I was so completely amazed and I wanted to sit and stare at the picture for, oh, the rest of the class period. And maybe the next period also. He said we would come back to it. And then, to my utter joy, he made us draw and color this picture to help us remember what the inside of the earth looks like.
I don’t know how I missed the basic lesson of the earth consisting of layers of rock, but I had. Somewhere back there when one of the children in the Alamo Foundation started disputing the age of the earth, I completely lost track of the earth itself and whatever we were supposed to be learning about it because I was so consumed with our theology and not blaspheming the Holy Ghost, I just started checking out during science class whenever anything even remotely challenging to my faith would come up. Too bad, because I never lost the image of hell as a place beneath my feet going into the center of the earth. Forget about the fact that fire needs oxygen to burn and that once matter begins to burn it actually turns into new and different matter (thus preventing you from burning in a “lake of fire”). As far as I knew, hell was mere meters below the surface of the earth.
One time, my little brother fell into a hole that had been dug behind our house on Georgia Ridge. It must have been related to a major plumbing fix because it was quite deep. Anyway, I ran to get my mother, and as I reported the situation to her, my worry was not that he had broken a limb or cracked his skull. I was worried that he might fall into hell. I had told him to pray hard when I left him, because I was sure god was trying to get his attention over some sin he had committed.
But back to Del Mar. Geology began to set me free. I had already gone to Wellspring. I had already uttered the words “cult” and “I” in the same sentence. This was different. This was as if someone shoved a video of me break dancing into my face. I can’t dance, but I can’t see that I can’t dance. Right? I didn’t know what I didn’t know. I couldn’t connect the dots between not being afraid, and knowing what not to be afraid of.
Geology set me free from the fear of burning in hell, which in turn set me free from the fear of blasphemy of the Holy Ghost, which in turn set me free from the fear of asking questions, which is what led me to believe I would make a great scientist, because I do love to ask questions.
The more off-the-wall, insane, belligerent, challenging, and needling the question, the more it needs to be asked. I hope the brothers and sisters who are still in the Alamo Foundation will find this blog and agree.