April 30th, 2010

Cocktopus

Having Ventured Behind Enemy Lines, Part 2

The other day I told the first part of my encounter with a christian revival tent rally, and one of the believers there. Today, let me tell you about the latter half of my evening there.

As the evening went on, there were a number of speakers interspersed between the songs. Lay people, so far as I could tell, who were giving their “testamonials” about how they had managed to screw up their lives and only subsequently got their shit together after a conversion to christianity. It reminded me heavily of a conversation I had had a few months ago with my mother, in which I was talking about how christianity requires weakness in its followers in order to function. It needs some void within a person – real or imaginary – that it can claim to fill. It can be financial, emotional, social, medical or mental, but there needs to be something you see as fundamentally wrong with you that only their god can solve, or forgive, or what-have-you. If no such flaw exists, then they will create the illusion of one, through their catch-all of “original sin”, and then provide the illusion of a cure for this through a lifetime of service and cash donations. Like a drug dealer who creates the problem of an addiction in a user’s life, and then offers to solve the problem of the cravings thus-engendered through regular financial transactions.

This sense was re-enforced a short while later as one of the staffers – and I can’t say I’m sure I know what his role was, though I suspect he must have been some sort of deacon or something – came up to the podium and started asking if anyone had any ailments, down to and including a medical dependence upon prescription drugs. He promised that through the magic of his imaginary god, these illnesses could be cured, and that the sufferers could simply stop taking whatever drugs it was their doctors told them they needed. At this point, I recall my demeanour towards these charlatans becoming decidedly more hostile, as it became how dangerously ignorant and irresponsible they were. It was fortunate that nobody took them up on this offer, because this is the sort of behaviour that really can get gullible believers killed, when they stop taking their life-saving treatments thanks to their irrational belief that the magical sky daddy has cast a magical spell of healing upon them.

Finally, the preacher got up to preach. His sermon was rather unpleasant to listen to, at least for me (though naturally I do not pretend not to have a bias here). His voice was frantic, nearly shrieking, as though what he said was SO URGENT that it needed to be conveyed with the same sense of immediate panic that one might communicate to a rescue worker that THERE ARE TWO KIDS TRAPPED IN THAT BURNING BUILDING LISTEN TO ME NOW AND DO NOT TAKE THE CHANCE THAT I AM NOT 100% CORRECT. He gesticulated about wildly, so as to keep all eyes and all focus upon him, and seemed at times almost ready to burst into carefully-rehearsed tears.

His sermon revolved around a small part of the story of Jacob and Esau, in which Esau, starving, comes to Jacob and begs for a bowl of soup. In his moment of need, he short-sightedly offers to trade away his inheritance and birthright in return for this bowl of soup, and later comes to regret having done so. This, the priest used as an analogy for trading away one’s chance to get into heaven in return for a BOWL OF SOUP, whatever that BOWL OF SOUP may be, whether your BOWL OF SOUP be money, your BOWL OF SOUP be sex, your BOWL OF SOUP be drugs, or whatever else it is that distracts you from the better use of your time which is to spend it groveling before his god. A simple metaphor which takes all of ten seconds to explain, but which he spent the better part of an hour belabouring, shouting the phrase BOWL OF SOUP some hundred or so times after doing so had already lost any rhetorical or theatrical value. Towards the end of his sermon, he asked all in attendance what that BOWL OF SOUP was for each individual; what distraction it was that kept us from fully embracing his god. I remember laughing out loud as I thought to myself “A desire for moral and intellectual integrity.”

Finally, the sermon came to an end, and with it, the service proper. People began milling about and chatting, joining one another in various prayer groups and suchlike. It was at this point that the priest, who could not help but to have noticed me standing outside of the tent the whole time, came over to speak with me.

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