Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Day Three, IWTV: Louis's conversion

I forgot myself. I forgot myself totally.

Those were the mortal Louis's overwhelming thoughts when he encountered the supernatural creature that is the vampire. He said his past "shrank to embers."

This experience is almost akin, in fact, almost perfectly describes, my conversion to Christianity when I was twelve. I grew up as a Sunday School kid. My parents separated when I was six, and since then, my uncle Albert and aunt Wilma had taken me to church every Sunday. I enjoyed the stories, but that was all they were to me: stories. Fantastical, adventurous, but having no more real value than say Jack and the Beanstalk or Puss in Boots. All these stories anyway amounted to one moral for the young boy: be good and obedient.

Then one summer, in Laguna, someone shared the Gospel to me, and the clouds parted in my mind and my heart cracked open. I realized God loved me, and expressed it undeniably through the Man Jesus Christ. All those stories in the Bible taught me in Sunday School: Moses crossing the Red Sea, David defeating the giant Goliath, all of them pointed to Jesus' love, birth, sacrifice, death, and resurrection. I was reduced to nothing. I made a decision to embrace Christ.

I guess it was opposite for Anne Rice at the time. In the biographies of her, we learn that she turned to secular humanist atheism in college, having grown up Catholic. And I think she expressed the same feeling in this scene of Louis's transformation into the vampire. Isn't it curious that the feelings surrounding the separate experiences are the same? Two different conversions, both resulting into the death of ego.

I always return to that moment when my faith runs dry. And also at the story of my baptism, which is a story for another blog entry. And my near-death at the floods of Ondoy. God always saving, God always loving.

Louis cherished his last sunrise before he became a vampire. He was going to lose the light. I, on the other hand, grew up to be a teenager and realized I lost the dark. The music of the Smashing Pumpkins, whose poetry I loved were denied to me. So were Anne Rice's books that had the words vampire, damneddevil, thief and witching on them. I never smoked or drank. I tried to be obedient. But internally I rebelled.

In college I broke free from all shackles and read the novels I wanted and smoked. I was expelled from the catholic university because they found bottles of liquor in my bag, put there by my classmates. I went all crazy. I thought why did I convert to Christianity so young? Why don't I have the stories of ex-drug addicts, or ex-prostitutes who tasted the dark before coming to Christ? Why was I to be denied all these worldly pleasures?

Louis's transformation into the vampire was physical. He was to have a body that would have powers no human being could have. But his soul... did it change? That was his burning question for the rest of the book, and highly worth examining.

When I converted to Christianity, there was no heavenly lights falling down on me. The world felt utterly the same. But inside I felt cleaned, loved, treasured, assured. Writing about this now as a thirty-three year-old man, I think, what happened? How come I lost all of that? I might not have changed physically dramatically like Louis turning into a vampire, but my inside was changed. I became, in the words of Saint Paul to the Corinthians, a new creation. Am I less loved and treasured today than that first day? Surely not! For God is faithful and continued to love me in spite of my many rebellions through adolescence and young adulthood, and even in my 30s.

For us Protestants, the proof of commitment to our new faith was through certain rituals: prayer of acceptance and repentance, baptism. Both symbolized the death of the old self and the rebirth of the spirit. We were to study Scripture and continually meet with fellow Christians. For Louis, the proof of commitment Lestat required of him was for him to witness the death of his plantation overseer. Louis had a reverence for life which, he said, never went away even though he became a vampire. Why is death always a part of any ritual of conversion, whether symbolic (as in baptism) or actual (as in Lestat's killing)? These are mysteries of life I would not know. Life and death seem to be deeply ingrained into the very fabric of our universe.

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