My Fucked-Up Past With the Churches of NC

Let’s start with a little back story:

I’m an athiest, but that isn’t what this post is surrounding. I didn’t come to terms with the actual word for a few years, when I was still being dragged, bribed, half-carried to church until about the age of ten. Back then, my mom was trying to involve religion as we began to grow and develop, so church was the perfect opportunity to plow the power of the Holy Spirit into innocent minds. I remember never buying the whole “religion” thing, even at that age. I never had any sense of comfort in going to a church or praying to some guy in the clouds that everyone was convinced was going to protect them. Do you know how weird and confusing that sounds to a little kid? 

Well, I remember hating church from the start. I hated having to dress up all nice and neat for it, I hated the prayers that were happening every ten minutes, I hated the stupid families that went up to the front of the room and bragged about their relative dying and that they needed our prayers. What the fuck were my prayers going to do for them? What do I even say in a prayer? Through all those times of going to church, I never participated. I sat up proudly, with my eyes wide open, when it was time for morning prayer. I drew pictures or explored the church when it was time to study the “good word”. I would ask my mom time and time again if we could sit in the “private prayer” area, which was just an empty room with a large plexiglass window to watch the service from. There was even a button on the wall to turn the sound on and off, so you didn’t have to hear the pastor speaking. That was my favorite place in the whole church. The only times I ever highlighted in the complimentary bible they gave me was because the pastor would give you candy if you did. These weren’t moments of me rebelling just for the hell of it. I honestly felt like the entire dance of religion was pointless.

The youth groups/bible studies were the worst. Why? Because the teachers there were borderline psychopaths. I recall one afternoon where I begged my mom–literally begged, with tears running down my face–not to bring me to bible study. She told me to just go in and try it out. “Just hang out at the back and if you don’t like it, just walk back out. I’ll wait here by the door and we can go home.”

I quietly agreed and stepped into the room, red-faced and teary-eyed. I made my way to the table near the back of the room before I felt a hand grabbing my arm. I whipped around and saw this woman of about twenty holding onto me. “Everyone is sitting over here,” she said, gesturing to the other table, full of children. “Don’t you want to join us?”

I shook my head ‘no’ and tried to speak, but all of my crying had made my voice shaky and cracked. The woman gave me a small smile and pulled me over to join the others. She pushed me into a chair, and held my freaking arm down against the table, still doing that creepy smile. I looked up to the little window on the door in desperation, where I made eye contact with my mom. She raised her eyebrow and gave me the “come here” gesture. I attempted to stand up and leave, but the freaking woman was holding me down in my chair. 

“Come on,” she purred. “Don’t you want to participate? God would be very sad if you left in the middle of his teachings.” I could feel the blood pounding in my ears, my heart beat racing. I felt like a caged animal. I shook my head and looked back to see my mom, but she had disappeared. She must have figured that I didn’t want to leave since I was still sitting down. Little did she know I was being pinned down. 

The woman grew frustrated when I still wouldn’t make eye contact or talk, so she handed me a pen and a note card and told me to doodle a little bit to relax myself. First of all, what the fuck? I want to fucking leave, not draw you a goddamn picture!

But I took the bait, seeing that I had no other options. I drew out a picture of my cats at home. Safe. I drew on that notecard for the entire length of class. When the bell rang, you better believe I ran down that hallway and practically leapt into mom’s arms. 

We stopped going to church after a few more occurrences. There was never a spoken reason why; we just sort of stopped going. By the age of seventeen, my friend asked me if I wanted to go to her church with her. I hadn’t been inside a church in seven years. With all the shit I did since then, I was running the risk of bursting into flames at the entrance. But I was finally convinced when she told me that there was going to be a buffet available after the services. Free food, why the hell not go?

When we went in, I recognized all of the kids from school. Along with them were lots of elderly folks. I’m talking eighty and up. Half the time they wandered around the rooms of the church like lost puppies. I was introduced to them, then moved on to the middle-aged churchgoers. One woman with bleach-blond, curly hair came up to me and asked if I went to church regularly. 

“Nah, I’m an athiest” were my exact words as I scanned the room for the so-called buffet. “I haven’t been to church in years.” 

The woman looked a bit surprised, as she should be, I suppose, but forced a smile. “Well, I hope that you’ll come to visit more often. God’s a great guy.”

“Yeahhh…This is just my first visit. You can tell the big guy up there that I’m doing great on my own,” I retorted, already bothered by this woman’s presence. Before she could respond, it was time for services to begin. My friend and I quickly ditched after ten minutes so she could show me the church. We went into the supply room and looked through the buckets and drawers full of art supplies and cool knick-knacks. We spent the whole afternoon up in the costume room trying on shepard costumes and acting out scenes with each other involving plastic swords and a giant inflatable camel. I actually enjoyed myself, though the church wasn’t to thank. Just their stuff.

I went one more time with my friend, just because I wanted to eat and fuck with the costumes again. However, on this day, a man walked up to me that I hadn’t been introduced to, yet. We shook hands, and he took the initiative to comment on my clothes. Because don’t we all do that after first meeting someone? Totally normal!

“Do you always dress like that?” He asked tentatively. I looked down at my flip-flops, khaki cargo shorts, and plain white t-shirt with my backwards baseball cap.

“Yeah, I do, actually. Just not this exact outfit every day,” I reply, trying not to be offended.

“You know that it’s god’s wish for us to appreciate and love the bodies he gave us.” The man gave me a smile like you would give to an toddler when they ask why they couldn’t walk around without pants. “I’m sure he would like to see you in clothes made for your body.”

Well…way to make your god sound extremely perverted, there, buddy. “Oh, did he tell you that?” I snapped back, stuffing my hands into my pockets, standing up taller. “Everyone that knows me knows I dress like this. They think I look good, I think I look good, so I think I’ll stick with it.”

“We don’t want to make god unhappy,” the man tried to counter, still smiling at me. Fuck off, dick. 

Feel free to make your god as happy as you want. I don’t believe in anything. Therefore, I have nothing and noone to impress. Sounds refreshing to me!

The conversation was over as quickly as it started when my friend pulled me away. Just then, the same woman with the blond hair approached me with a concerned look. I asked her what was up and she said, “Your friend told me that you are going against the plan god gave you.”

What?

“She said that you’re into…you know, dating…females. I understand that you believe this is your path in life–“

What?

“But I’ve offered up a prayer to help save you from this issue. I’m here to help and get you on the right path.”

Ohhhkay…first of all, how dare you. It was only my second visit to the fucking place and already someone was trying to “convert me to straightness”? When was it ever your place to take it upon yourself and “offer up a prayer” for someone that you barely know? Especially for a reason that gives your life no issues whatsoever. 

Second of all, who are you to discuss my sexuality with the phrase “the right path”? I’m on the goddamn right path I want to be on! I’ll take whatever path I fucking choose, and it’s none of your goddamn business what path that is. 

“Actually, I couldn’t be happier with my life. I have a stunning girlfriend who is the love of my life, my home life is great, my grades are awesome, and I’m training to go into a military career. So I doubt god is going to offer me anything worth taking at this point.”

I was already boiling mad by then and told my friend that I wanted to go home now. She pleaded with me to stay, because she didn’t like anyone else there and she would be alone if I left. I rolled my eyes and sullenly agreed, but told her that the blond woman had better stay away from me for the rest of the day. 

Instead of food that afternoon, we were treated to a psychotic video by some Christian/stand-up comedian about the “good word.” I thought that it wouldn’t be too bad because maybe the guy would make fun of some bible verses or something that I could cackle at.

Nope. The dude’s opening line was “Those who do not believe in the words of the bible, or steer clear of the open arms of god, are sinners and will remain sinners until they burn in the pits of hell.”

Woah, easy there, man! Where’s the funny? I felt like I had been slapped in the face. I gave my friend an incredulous look, and she could only shrug. Apparently she wasn’t expecting that, either. I decided to stay a bit longer and see if this guy was actually capable of being funny. Maybe that was just his warm-up to catch the audience’s attention.

Wrong again. The entire time of the video was spent with the man pacing around the stage, blurting out bible verses in complete seriousness. Apparently the “funny” part–you know, the stand-up part–was his voice impressions of god, Jesus, and the disciples. That. Was. It. The entire time, the people around me were murmuring “Oh yes, Jesus” and “Amen! Preach it!” with every phrase Mr. Comedy was spewing out. The video spoke about drugs being linked to the devil. Somehow your cigarette was the devil’s tongue or some shit like that, and he was consuming you as you consumed him.

What. The. Fuck.

Or how the women forced to work as prostitutes and strippers to be able to feed their kids simply hadn’t given in to the “teachings of the good word,” and that if they picked up a bible once in awhile, they would somehow find the answers to get them out of their dark place. Seriously? What, is there going to be a check for a million dollars stuffed between Abraham and Ruth? I just don’t see how a book is going to save anyone from poverty in any shape or form. 

There were plenty of other gems in this video, but I quickly forgot them as soon as they were brought up. When that ordeal was over, the pastor went to the front of the room and asked how everyone felt, and if they had anything to add. My friend actually raised her hand to say, “The stand-up guy wasn’t exactly…funny.”

“Well, it can’t be all fun and games when discussing the word of god,” exclaimed some middle-aged woman from across the room. “If we make jokes, it would be disrespectful and people wouldn’t take it seriously. God wouldn’t appreciate it.”

If to you, god made this man a comedian, he fucked up big time, honey. There goes that creation down the drain. 

“But he’s a stand-up comedian,” I mentioned, staring the woman down. “His whole career is based off of making jokes about everything. If he wants to do put religion into his material, he has to make it funny. That’s how it works!”

“We’ve all made some good points here,” the pastor interrupted in his stupidly calm voice. “But the whole point of the video was to take something from it. Did anyone learn anything?”

Yeah, I learned how not to do stand-up comedy.

“God is good. God is life. God is love,” said a fat, balding man with a mustard stain on his pants. The whole room erupted into applause and “amens”.

That, my friends, was the last feemble attempt at bringing me to a church. Shit, where’s my cigarette so the devil can consume me? I’m surprised it hasn’t happened by now!

-Sara

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