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.