I was the one who dressed up as Jimmy Swaggart when I was a kid. I was seven, maybe eight-years-old, and there was nothing more entertaining to my imagination than pretending to be the then famed preacher.
It was 1986, a time when a lot of church folks were convinced that cartoon shows could be an entrance for evil spirits to spread unspeakable temptations. I was banned from watching He-Man, a show now equated as an accidental force of homoerotic adventure — with a miniature Wizard.
A few days before I resigned from being a pastor someone told me that I had the greatest job in the world. This man didn’t know that I had a resignation letter already typed out, or that half of my collection of bible commentaries and translations had already been sold online.
I could have been a Scientologist as much as anyone else; it’s really all about the odds. If your mother broke water in India it would be an easy wager that you’d end up Hindu. In my impressionable teen years, there never were any believers of the Galactic Confederacy of Xenu waiting to give personality test outside a half-stocked K-Mart in Youngstown, Ohio.
Thanks to the technology of social interaction we are all pretty annoyed with each other. Conversations transformed to minor-debates are now in the open and ad nauseam. Friends that are far removed, linked by past employments and classes once attended, wreck time meant to be killed trying to create shouting through over uses of capitalization.
I saw a pastor make a video collage for a youth group after 9-11. Footage of the planes decimating the towers to toxic ash was spliced with pictures of Jesus on the cross feeling pretty bad about dying. The pastor said God uses these disasters to bring more to Him. I walked out of the editing room and never spoke with him again.
The church was the sumptuous centerpiece of my life well before I even understood that religions had their own cultures. Before I had the credentials to be a pastor, I lived as one–regaling verses and interpretations to all who would listen. I was snobbish before I could drive.
I’ll never forget my first pro-life rally. A man dressed as Death roamed throughout the crowd. He was not a whisper, his demeanor held nothing faint or still; an overbearing laughter floated through his mask of bones and decay as he shouted, God’s judgment is here, there will be blood in his anger.
When religion becomes one’s own defining culture, encapsulating our very being, escape becomes a trudging path – for many a road not even worth taking.
“Just let loose,” the head pastor (him) said to the assistant pastor (me). The words fell down much like a decree from a sovereign lawmaker; a pastor’s words thrust themselves onto their staff with an oracle of power. They are to be followed to the letter and with little question – well, questions can be [...]