Monday, February 6, 2012

Knocked Out by the Holy Ghost II: Holy Ghost Protocol

Before I pick up where I left off in the story that I began here, I'll give just a touch more background on the church and pastor of which and of whom I write.  Again, this church owned the radio station where I worked, and for the most part I didn't have to deal with their antics.  I will say here also that a handful of my co-workers attended this church, and most were really delightful people.  The rest of the staff was comprised of conservative Christians of various brands, and we even had the odd Methodist and Catholic here and there.  For awhile, we had a culturally Catholic but practically agnostic fill-in receptionist, and I loved how she described her boyfriend, "He's a Christian, but he's not sick with it." 

When I saw this CNN article (and I only saw it because of the link at Republic of Gilead--thanks, Ahab), I thought of the church in my story.  This is exactly the kind of shameful theatrics that this church would play host to, and their congregation would go nutty about it (nutty, as in gleeful nutty).  I really recommend watching the video at the above link of Pastor Eddie Long being wrapped in a supposedly 300+ year-old Torah (it looks like they soaked it in tea to make it look aged), which also supposedly was harbored successfully through the holocaust.  Around the five minute mark is where it really gets going if you want to toggle forward.  If you've never witnessed this kind of thing, it may be surprising to you, but I promise that these types of churches pull stuff like this on a regular basis.  I've seen some healing services and such, and it's all a combination of community theater/magic show/used car salesmanship, etc.

I bring up the Eddie Long incident in order to help paint a picture of the church in my story.  Besides style of worship, I see two things here which they have in common.  A.) Many churches like this seem to be fascinated with the Jewish roots of Christianity, but they end up celebrating that connection in a really tacky way that is horribly offensive to Jews.  I just watched a documentary about Hasidic Jews in America called A Life Apart, and I can't imagine how deeply revolted they would be to see a charismatic preacher being wrapped in a Torah and lifted up in a chair while verses are being chanted in Hebrew.  If Hasidic people had no other reason for their abstinence from television and other media, this one event justifiably would do the trick.  B.)  Churches like this seem to deify pastors even more when they have been accused of some grievous sin (crime).  The CNN article linked above mentions the fact that Long settled out of court with four young men who said that they were coerced into sexual activity with him.  The bigger the atrocity, the bigger the show when a Man of God is being lifted up (usually figuratively) by his people and in their eyes dedicated to God and initiated into a new era of ministry. 

Just briefly, as an example of specific shenanigans, I'll tell you that one of the things the church in my story did regularly was selling prayer cloths.  The pastor and his wife would take white cloth, pour annointing oil (also known as...oil) onto it and pray over and touch the cloth.  They would do this on local TV.  Then, the big piece of cloth would be cut into little pieces, and you could buy a piece by calling in and giving your credit card number.  In exchange you would be blessed and stuff.  Let me remind you here that I am not making any of this up.

Anyway, back at the ranch...

I walked up the drive to the church where the revival was going on in order to fix a problem with the sound.  The radio station was airing the revival, and I had to make a trip over to the church to talk to the sound guy over there.

Well, it turns out that things were on autopilot, because the sound guy was up front in a mosh pit of congregants who were getting slain in the spirit.  The sermon portion was over, and the handsome young revivalist was calling people forward to get the spirit, and whatnot.  People flooded down there, of course.  Elders from the church were helping him talk to people, heal them, pray, and the big shebang which gives the most visual impact for these things, they were touching people on the forehead or blowing on them, and this had the effect of people falling back due to being filled with the holy spirit (holy ghost, as they say).  People would then lie on the floor speaking in tongues, or crying, or just lying there as if asleep.  The women wearing skirts or shorts, after they went down on the floor, would be covered from the waist down in little modesty blankets.  No legs should be exposed, or even worse, the stray panty-clad cooter here and there if a skirt flipped up too much.  We women, even when in a spirit-filled coma, shouldn't make our brothers, or a certain percentage of our sisters, stumble into lust.  That was truly the reason for the modesty blankets.

I don't even really have to continue--you've guessed the ending by now.  This story isn't exactly The Sixth Sense.  I went up to see if I could chat with the sound guy, as he at least wasn't on the floor, and in trying to make my way through the crowd at the front, an elder cornered me.  There was no, "can I pray for you," or "do you need healing," or "howdy!"  This stranger in a suit who was about twice my age walked up to me, looked me in the eye, and said in a strong tone, "TAKE IT" and shoved me in the forehead with the heel of his hand.  Another suit behind me did the junior high hallway trick of kneeing me in the upper calf so I immediately folded back and went down on the floor--the combination of those two things will do that to you.  As I mentioned in part one of this tale, I was wearing shorts, so I got the little blanket flung onto my legs, as well. 

Later, I would think, "Wow...being told to take it, and then being knocked down to the ground by two men.  Isn't that a little rape-y?" 

But after a stunned few seconds on the carpet, I did what I had done two decades previously when I had been mistaken for satan.  I lay there on the floor of a church and laughed my ass off.

14 comments:

  1. The guy TRIPPED you in order to make it appear that you fell down in the spirit!? What a bunch of [CENSORED]. Do these people have no sense of physical boundaries?

    Regarding women swooning in the spirit and falling backwards, have you ever seen the documentary MARJOE? Your experiences sound remarkably like those in the Charismatic communities shown. It always struck me as theatrical.

    As for the fundamentalist fetishization of Judaism, TheCall Detroit immediately came to mind. It's interesting how the rabbis trotted out for such gatherings are usually Messianic Jews.

    Finally, thanks for the shout-out. I'm glad the CNN link was helpful.

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  2. He did, indeed, Ahab! Crazy, I know. Those who were there for different reasons than I went down easier, and some on their own without even being touched. Wanting the experience to be real makes it so. Looking back, I realized that a person walking around up there unaffected wouldn't look good.

    I will check out that documentary for sure.

    You're welcome for the shout-out, and thank you as always for an informative, insightful blog.

    I'll give a little extra here about the revivalist, since he wasn't in part two very much. I was relaying the story above to a young female co-worker who attended that church and who ran a tv camera during the revival. There was this weird little dance move he would do--he would look in the distance for a second, then suddenly wiggle as if having a severe chill or a minor seizure. I asked her what was up with that, and she smiled and rolled her eyes a little. She explained that maybe only she could see this since she was running the camera, but there were monitors around, and he would do that whenever he happened to get a glimpse of himself.
    I said, "Oh, brother."

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  3. How funny--I just added Marjoe to my Netflix queue, and as a result, they recommend that I also try The Sting and The Music Man. :)

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  4. THE MUSIC MAN makes sense! I'm surprised Netflix didn't recommend ELMER GANTRY.

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  5. That would be a great fit, too. :)

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  6. Wow. That is hee-larious. You hear these kinds of stories and you never really think of them as real, but then you're reminded that those people involved in the story Believe and have no doubts about their Belief.

    I've read about 'Marjoe.' Fascinating story. Would like to see that movie one day myself.

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    1. Rich, I've got more funny stories from that era of my life, but I think this one does take the cake. I hope to watch Marjoe this weekend. I'll try to post about it.

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  7. LOL! Oh man, I can't believe they did that!

    It's both funny and scary at the same time, really. I mean, most people, if said event happened to them, would say it was assault. But, in that situation it was acceptable. Just...creeepy.

    (And, as a goofy side note, I was looking at the other comments, and I swear every time I read "Marjoe" my mind would replace it with "Margo") :D

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    1. It was totally assault! I like to believe that were that to happen today (and it couldn't possibly--how would that happen to one person twice?), the story would end with me standing up and both of those men on the floor cupping their junk. I might gently tuck the modesty blankets around their heads before walking away. With age comes wisdom. :)

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    2. I can so see that as a scene in a movie. LOL!

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  8. This is absolutely sick. So glad you were tough enough to take it. But really glad you didn't keep it.

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    1. Me, too, dear Mitch. I'm glad it's far enough in the distance behind me to be funny.

      What's not funny is that this church is thriving today with the same tactics, though I see through a little digging on the internet that they've had some PR help so as to look more slick and less crazy. The crazy is still there, though, no mistake.

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  9. The only time this very thing happened to me was when I was on a retreat for youth group. I had NEVER heard of this slain in the spirit nonsense at my normal Methodist church. So I am at this retreat and it is time for communion and everyone is getting pushed in the forehead and falling down. Seriously, I had no idea what was going on. And in fact i was worried that I wouldn't fall down! So I made sure that I did. But seriously, I had no idea why this was happening...Oh the ways of the church can be so very bizarre.

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    1. Glad I'm not the only one who has taken the trip to the floor with great confusion!

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