Monday, January 30, 2012

Knocked out by the Holy Ghost

So, back in a former life, I worked for a Christian FM radio station.  It was mostly pop/rock music (back before some of the artists we played made a mass exodus out of the closet), but also there would be sponsored hours of talk radio, for example Dr. James Dobson's Focus on the Family.  Down the hall from the bigger studio was a glorified closet (a real one, not a figurative one with gay Christian singers in it) containing a pile of equipment that amounted to an AM station that was dedicated to 24/7 Christian talk--national stuff like Dobson, but also local stuff.  Basically, any yokel who preached, taught, or thought they could bought radio time, and we let them go to town.  My role was much like Roz's on the show Frasier, although I realize even as I type this that I need to update my pop culture references.

I digress.

Our station was located on the property of a large (but not mega) church that was very charismatic in its approach.  These were tongue-talking, hand swaying, jump up and down folks (predominately white, so it wasn't even good swaying and jumping).  They were also for the most part quite poor and were manipulated out of the little money they had by this institution on a regular, ongoing basis. 

One of the ways in which they were milked was the phenomenon of the REVIVAL.  REVIVAL seems like it should be something that happens spontaneously and on its own, and one would imagine that the community at large would see some evidence of God's people having renewed energy and dedication to do good in the world, but none of these things were true of the revivals in this place. 

Here, revival meant that some quasi-famous-only-to-people-in-a-certain-grouping-of-charismatic-churches preacher would be invited to come and preach for several evenings in a row.  The guy that they brought in who appears in this particular story was young and HOT.  This guy was dumb, dumb, dumb, but he could dance around a stage, string some words together, shout and get people riled up, and he was HOT.  Women in the choir (and a certain percentage of men) would really dress up and jump up and down during the singing.  Stuff bounced.  Parts were flying.  People wanted to snag this dude.

Because of his ability to get these people going on an emotional high for hours on end, he came back night after night, and the money rolled in.  At the end of the week, it was very quiet when the pastor of the church took the pulpit to bid fairwell to Mr. McHotness.  It was a sad, somber moment.  Congregants were in tears.  The lights were dim, and the worship band played something really slow and soft.  Prayer warriors walked slowly around the perimiters of the sanctuary, praying evil out of that place.  Praying for the spirit to keep falling, and for the will of the Father to be done.  This is how they did things. 

Each element was in place--the music, the lights, prayers praying, pipers piping.  Seemingly spontaneous, spirit-led, working in the way the Lord really wanted to work.    The silence was electric.  There were chemicals flowing through these folks, the kind you get when you're in a huge group of people all focused on one person or thing or purpose.

The pastor surprised them all when he announced that God did not want this revival to end.  Hottie was coming back for another week of revival!  Wooooooooooo hooooooooo!!!!!

Oh, Jesus God, the pandemonium that broke out.  The dimmed sanctuary suddenly lit up like Times Square on New Year's Eve, the music blared loud and raucous, and the body parts were flying up and down again.  The somber pray-ers in the aisles threw their hands in the air, faces to heaven, tears streaming...yes, Jesus!!!  Yes, Jesus!!!!  They shouted at the tops of their lungs, but it just mixed with the rest of the holy cacophony.

At the end of the second week of revival, repeat the above scene.

At the end of the third week of revival, repeat the above scene.

At the end of the fourth...

At the end of the fifth...

This went on for six weeks.  The dough rolled in, and Pastor was seen purchasing clothes at the local mall with and for McHotness, including a $300 pair of shoes.  Other little scenarios like that went around, and I don't know if any of them were true.  But there is no doubt about the fact that in this economically depressed area, that church raked in offerings night after night after night for six weeks straight.  The crowd didn't increase.  It was the same group on the last sad night as it was on the very first.  Some of the young ladies in the choir probably never repeated an outfit.  They brought it every night on the off chance that maybe...just maybe he'll see... 

This would all mean absolutely nothing to me, and I wouldn't know about it except for the fact that I worked at the radio station owned by this church, and on the same campus (if a campus consists of a church building, a radio station, a small K-12 Christian school and a big parking lot covered in goose shit because of the lake nearby--drain that thing, and I swear you'd find bodies).  It really only mattered to me, because I had to run the live feed of the revival on both stations.  The normal music and stuff was replaced by the revival, per the pastor (ring master).  That's where I come into all of this.

Somewhere in the middle of the chaos of these weeks, there was an issue with sound that I couldn't fix at the station.  I had to go over to the church to check something with the sound guy over there. 

Normally, I might've driven down the drive that led back to the church to expedite the solution, but the parking lot and drive were a huge cluster fuck of cars (98% piles of junk and 2% nice) due to the service.  I walked down there.  This was in the summer, and I was wearing cargo shorts, sandals and a t-shirt.  Probably some stringy-yarny-beady bracelet.  Very hippy-dippy-Jesus kind of a thing going on.  This attire didn't really matter, because people dressed all different ways there, but it plays into the funny of WHAT HAPPENED NEXT...

Quotes of the Week--Lemon and Hag

"According to Rick Santorum, we shouldn’t allow abortions even in cases of rape, because those fetuses are gifts from God.  Yes, God’s gift to rape victims is pregnancy.  Maybe this is just me, but I would kind of prefer God to give me the gift of Not Being Raped In The First Place."

--Blag Hag

"Who's in charge NOW, winter dryness?!"

--Tina Fey as Liz Lemon

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Kentucky Fried Budget Cuts (or...Noah, I Want You to Build a Park...)

In all fairness, this is actually two news stories, not one.  It would be easy for me to say (and actually I think I did in my last post) that Kentucky's recent proposed budget cuts millions from education in order to fund a Noah's Ark themed amusement park, but that's not true, and it's a simplification of a complex issue.  My sensibilities are a little trigger-happy when I see a brain-exploding scenario such as this, so take this with a grain of salt.  However, it's hard for me not to scratch my head when I see these two issues--one directly and one indirectly related to education--in juxtaposition.

I paint this story with loose brush strokes, but on one hand, the proposed budget cuts millions from higher education funding specifically, and K-12 education indirectly. 

Obviously, this isn't a problem specific to Kentucky.  I remember some summers ago when our Indiana governer Mitch Daniels cut education by $10 million, and politely requested that schools perform necessary cuts without firing teachers.  (Right.  Ten million dollars in staples.  It's all that stapling.  Stop stapling, everyone, and we can all keep our jobs!  Jesus.).  He wanted to perform his stereotypically Republican duty of cutting education without coming off as a villian, so he passed off an impossible task. 

I digress, but the point is that Kentucky is also in a pinch and will probably cut their budget for education.

On the other hand, there is a Biblically-themed amusement park planned for Kentucky (of course, related to the Ken Ham atrocity of a Creation Museum there) that will include "a full-sized wooden ark, a walled city much like what was found in ancient times, a replica of the Tower of Babel with exhibits, and a first-century Middle Eastern village."  (What the WHAT?  Seriously, you can't make this shit up.  To be fair, it's going to be an amusement park and I am already amused.  Mission accomplished.).  It's hoped (and, sadly, probably correctly so) that the park will bring in lots of tourism cash, and if it does will receive hefty (in the millions) tax breaks.  Also, there are $11 million set aside for improving roads around the proposed park site, and that remains untouched for the moment. 

Again, these are two separate incidents, and I can't really say that one person physically robbed a safe marked "education" in order to build a full scale ark covered in slip-n-slides.  Also, any business, religion-based or no, theoretically gets the same treatment (tax breaks, road improvement negotiations) if it can effectively convince their state government that it will be profitable for all.  This is much ado over a proposed budget and a proposed park. 

BUT... the whole thing smacks of dystopia to me.  I can't help but think of children whose education is cut and cut and cut, who then attend an amusement park with an unapologetic goal of getting across the message, "This really happened."  My mind leaps to exaggeration land, where homeschooled kids are solving story problems from their Christian math books, such as "If King Hezekiah has a thousand flocks of sheep, and King Uzziah has three thousand flocks of goats, how many gays should they stone to death?"  or "Yahweh is angry at his beloved chosen people.  How many piles of their dead babies will make him smile again?"

Kentucky (and every other state), this is God (Michelle).  I want you to build a park. 

This park should be big and nice and have lots of computers and books and art supplies.  There should be many caring adults there who will teach the kids math and literature and science.  The children should learn the best evidence that we have about human origins, and they should learn about the history of cultures all around the globe and from all times.  They should learn about important things that happened in their own communities during the civil rights movement.  What if there could be a section of the park dedicated to comparative religion?  Children would learn other perspectives than their own, and this would be excellent not scary. 

A kid called Eric might understand why a kid named Omar has a shrine in his house, and not be freaked out about it.  A girl named Kristin or Kyung-Soon or freaking Dakota should be able to look through a telescope, see a distant star get wiped out and think, "Holy shit.  I wanna do this for the rest of my life." 

I want you to build this park, Kentucky!

Of course, I'm not talking about a park.  I'm talking about schools.  And I'm not talking about Kentucky, I'm talking about everywhere.  I know money doesn't appear by magic, but there is some stupid crap going on while schools have buckets sitting under leaks and the kids have gone as a class to some basketball game but have never been to a real museum where the dinosaurs aren't wearing saddles (Creation Museum, I'm looking at you).

Okay, everybody, let's fix this.  Any suggestions? 


Friday, January 20, 2012

Oh, God! So much Grapevining!!!

I've been grapevining here a bit--only three posts this month so far. I will remedy that this weekend with separate posts on World Book Night, Kentucky's education budget cuts (which allow them to maintain Noah's freaking Ark), and the promised story of me getting knocked out by the holy spirit (some dude). Spoiler alert: It takes place two decades after my being mistaken for El Diablo, but it ends exactly the same. I end up in a church, on my back, on the floor and laughing.

This kind of thing happens to everyone...right? Oh, dear...

Friday, January 13, 2012

Could It Be...SATAN?

When I was growing up, my family went to a Christian church of the generic, non-denominational, middle of the road variety.  This was good for a number of reasons--that is to say, it could have been worse. The church was formed in the mid-sixties, and my parents were founding members. Like many churches of its type, it began in someone's home, continued in an elementary school gym, and then grew large enough to progress to its own building. Land was purchased and a building was built. It's been remodeled and additions have been made, but inside it is much the same as it was back then. It sits on a hill a mile from my door.

Back in the day, between my own children's activities and being there while my parents were in their meetings, I was at church a lot. Usually my time there was supervised, but on occasion my mom or dad's class or choir practice would run late. This meant playing and/or roaming around with one of my childhood best friends, Jeff. We practically met at birth, went to the same schools, went to the same church, were in band and plays together, and are great friends to this day. I recently quizzed him about the following story, and he remembers it as I do, and can vouch for its accuracy. We were, indeed, mistaken for Satan!

When we were about seven years old, Jeff and a few other kids and I were wandering around behind the scenes at church. It was late (to us, anyway), and we went exploring in the more mysterious places in the building. We went into the sanctuary, where the windows were dark and the only light on was up in the front, a spotlight on the cross on the wall above the baptistry. Our church was one that believed strongly in full-fledged dunking, so there was a little mini pool elevated up there. When there was a baptism in church, you would see the minister and the "baptizee" emerge from some unseen stairs, and step down into the water. They were dressed in white robes, and could be seen from the waist up. The person being baptized would be dipped back, like in a dance, and then he or she would come up soaked (doused by heavenly father, wet with salvation). This was something I did at age fifteen, but that is a story for another time. I suppose I should tell it.

On this night, we walked up the center aisle and went up the steps past the pulpit. We stood up on a pew that was up there so we could look down into the water. The single light reflected little waves up on the cross. It looked spooky, and we were loving it. We wondered if there was something magic in there, in the water where grown-ups dunked each other and sometimes children and there was supposed to be some change that happened when you came out of it. We wondered if something bad would happen if you touched the water when you weren't being baptized. We tentatively stuck the tips of our fingers to the water's surface, then all the way in, then we were splashing in the water with our hands and arms. Nothing happened. No burning. No magic.

Bored with that, we went back into the choir room, then the room where people got dressed for baptism, the library... Dark rooms that seemed more interesting than they did in the day. It turned out that we kids weren't the only ones who found the church slightly creepy at night. We knew that adults felt the same way, based on what happened next.

We started down the hallway leading by a few offices toward the only door that had light spilling out of it. We treaded lightly so as not to attract attention and possibly be shooed away to a playroom or worse, taken to our parents' boring Bible study class, or whatever. However, in the dark one of the other kids (not me or Jeff--we're the ones telling the story after all) knocked into a shelf of cubbies filled with choir sheet music, and made a noise.

That's when we heard it. The movement in the lit office stopped suddenly, and we knew we'd been heard. We froze in our places, just knowing we were about to be busted by the church secretary or someone. Then we heard a voice, not the secretary, though. It was a man's voice, and it said clearly, strongly, dead-seriously..."SATAN???" We stared at each other in awe, in the dim light.

Like a flock of birds moving precisely and suddenly, we simultaneously bolted down the hallway, into the side door of the sanctuary, down one of the side aisles, and back into safety in the fellowship hall.

We literally fell on the floor dying laughing. Not only were we incredulous about being taken for the prince of darkness (if I were referring to Ozzy, I would capitalize the title out of respect--you see, I actually believe in Ozzy), but also we could not believe who had done the mistaking.

It was the pastor!

The minister of our church heard a bump in the hall, on a Sunday night when there were still people in the building, and his mind immediately leaps to Lucifer, Beelzebub, that is the enemy, the devil. Yikes.

Even at this young age, even though on some level we were believers, we grasped the ludicrous nature of this situation, and made the connection that our very level-minded, not crazy, salt of the earth minister had had encounters with who/what he thought was Satan.

I would go on in life to feel as though I had encounters with some kind of evil, if not the big red man himself. Otherwise rational people from all stages of my life taught me how to deal with such encounters, and I listened, and I believed. I own it.

But then, at age seven, rolling on the floor in tears with my friends... was hilarious.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

...and I Would Like to Share with You the Most Amazing Book

This made me laugh so hard! Thanks to BlueCodeRed at Formerly Sanctioned for posting it.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Favorites of 2011: Movies, Music, Art

Here is the rest of my favorite stuff from 2011 (new or new to me) in the categories of movies, music and art. Also, at the end of this post I'll say a little bit about what I'm going to do with this blog going forward.

This summer it seems like there were even more super hero movies than usual for that time of year--Thor, Green Lantern, Xmen: First Class, Captain America, etc.  My favorite of all of them this year is a dark horse pick that people either didn't like or missed altogether, and that is Super with Rainn Wilson, Ellen Page, Liv Tyler, and Kevin Bacon. 

This would make a great double feature paired with Kick-Ass, though this one is more heartbreaking.  I was surprised at how moved I was as I left the theater.  (It would also make a good "Kevin Bacon playing a douchebag" double feature with Xmen: First Class).  This is one I would have totally missed if it weren't for my film group.

Another Earth/Melancholia
I'm pairing these two together, because in a way they made me ask some of the same questions of myself.  Both could be summed up like this: a planet is coming this way, so what do we do?  What does this mean?  Both are sci-fi without gadgets.  They are not the same movie, by any means, though. 

I came out of Melancholia thinking, "Wow, a lot of people will hate this."  To me, it's worth viewing and getting through the difficult bits for the first eight minutes which entail a trippy visual experience that I can't compare to anything I've ever seen before, and for the last thirty seconds or so.  Another Earth is a little less "what the fuck?", so while being gritty and cool, it will be a little more palatable for some.  Both allow for hours of conversation fodder.

Higher Ground
I really related to this story directed by and starring Vera Farmiga, which is based on a memoir called This Dark World: A Memoir of Salvation Found and Lost, by Carolyn S. Briggs (I believe the book can now be found as Higher Ground: A Memoir of Salvation Found and Lost, because of the movie adaptation).  Her character is into adulthood in the eighties, whereas I was a child then, but I was taken right back because of how accurately they captured the era.  Her brand of Christianity is slightly more intense than what I grew up with, but I recognized some of the characters on screen from my religious upbringing--not literally, but by their type.  Her disaffection felt similar to mine, and I left really having to process what I'd just seen.  I'll definitely see it again, and if I can fit it in will read the book.

This was my favorite movie of the year.  I didn't expect to like it that much, but when the term film noir began to be tossed around, I thought I'd better give it a try.  I was gripped from the beginning and was surprised that there was only one action-packed chase scene.  Most of his driving, like the character himself, is very methodical and contained.  The opening sequence which features this is one of the most intense I've seen. 

I was surprised at how snubbed this movie has been--I thought it would be Oscars all around, but I think only Albert Brooks was nominated on the acting end of things.

Night of the Iguana
Richard Burton, Ava Gardner (after whom my niece is named), and Deborah Kerr star in this really wonderful black and white movie from the early sixties based on the Tennessee Williams play of the same name.  I enjoyed watching this with my film group in one of our members' wicked awesome home theater that he built piece by piece all by his onesies.

I can't believe I'd never seen this before.  To me it was just the poster on the wall of every male-inhabited dorm room I'd ever been in.  It was playing in some theaters this summer for a one night only event due to the blue-ray coming out, and again I went with my film group.  I've never been so totally lost in the screen at the movies.  It really seemed like a look into an over-the-top parody of something, but I know some of the creators of the film insist they've walked into offices where there was a mountain of cocaine on the desk, and this was considered by the desk-sitter as nothing out of the ordinary or as something to hide.  I was really more fascinated by this movie than I ever imagined I would be, and like many fans I will view it multiple times before it's my turn to go out in a blaze of machine gun fire (or by whatever means I may depart).

Harold and Maude
Another great one I'd missed before now.  As I watched I understood a few more jokes from Will & Grace that were a mystery before. :)


The Book of Mormon (the musical)
Hello.  My name is Elder D.  And I would like to share with you the most amazing soundtrack.

Pink Martini
I'm kind of in love with them right now.


Blue Crown, by Harvey Littleton, 1988
I'm running out of steam here, so I'll just leave you with one of my favorite pieces at the Indianapolis Museum of Art.


Ok, so moving forward I'm going to tell some stories that only I can tell, because they happened to me, and they are true.  Here are what some of the post titles will be:
  • Stuff I never would have done if I'd waited around for a date
  • Ukrainian Muslims on 9/11/02
  • Knocked out in the Holy Ghost (translation--pushed down by a man in the front of a church)
  • Russian mob restaurant
  • Mistaken for Satan
  • Peeing on the Train
...and many more!