Deliver Us from Christianity: The Assemblies of God
Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored," making a way in this world today for better gods and hosts of fae! Speaking of hosts, I'm Anne Johnson. Stuck inside recovering from surgery in the best of all possible weathers.
(Update from yesterday: Decibel the Parrot was brought indoors last night by the fine young neighbor fellow across the street and his pals from the basketball team. Remarkably, no fingers were bitten during the transfer.)
Some of you might have heard of the Republican vice-presidential nominee, a woman named Sarah Palin. But since you might not be as familiar with her church denomination (Assembly of God) as you are with her, let me catch you up.
I, Anne Johnson, actually attended an Assembly of God church for two years in my youth. I will now testify to my experience there and extrapolate from it, in that unsubstantiated way that becometh every blogger!
Right now I'm reading a book called The Age of American Unreason, by Susan Jacoby (Pantheon Books, 2008). One of Ms. Jacoby's arguments is that the political clout of the Christian Right had its beginnings in the 1960s, as fundamentalist Christian Americans reacted to the counterculture by drawing ranks and forging connections with like-minded individuals, even unto conservative Roman Catholics. Because the media focused on the counterculture in the 1960s, this upsurge in fundamentalist Church activity occurred off the radar, only to explode upon the scene with the advent of the first Great Republican Beast, Ronald Reagan.
Yep. Take it to the bank. (Well, then again, you might wanna bury it in your backyard or buy gold. Just saying.)
I think I'll spread this sermon over several days, so here's Part One.
When I was seven years old, smack in the midst of the 1960s, my best friend invited me to go with her to Bible School at her church. My mother was always looking for ways to get rid of me, so off I went with my pal.
The church was an Assembly of God. Bible School was held in the evening. It began the same way every evening. We formed a line and marched into the church singing "Onward Christian Soldiers."
Bible School ran through two weeks, and most of that time was what anyone would call "normal" Bible School. We learned memory verses and got rewards, just like in Tom Sawyer. We made crafts. We sang uplifting, kicky Jesus songs. We made our way through all those child-approved Bible stories, like "The Good Samaritan."
But on the next-to-last night, something happened. The previously benign Bible School teachers became terrifying Pentacostal preachers as they launched into a description of the Crucifixion in all its Mel Gibson glory. The teachers hollered at us. They fell on their knees and prayed loudly for us. They moved through our ranks with a crown of thorns and made sure each of us got our fingers pricked on it, so we could imagine what it would be like to wear it on our heads. They showed us pictures of Jesus drenched in blood.
This live horror production lasted ninety minutes. Then we were exhorted to make Jesus' suffering worthwhile by being born again in the spirit. We were told to kneel at our chairs, and someone would come around and pray over us.
The formerly benign but now fearsome Bible School staff moved amongst us like the Wrath of God, laying hands on every kid who had been terrified into submission.
I was one of those kids.
My family had always attended church, but we went to a staid Methodist place where no one raised their voices except the choir. I wasn't prepared for the Pentacostal way of doing things. My childish impulse was to follow the fold, if only to escape a scolding, a humiliation, or another round with the crown of thorns.
This was 1966, readers. Do you think it was any different in 2006, when one presumes the Palin youngsters probably attended their own Assembly of God Bible School?
Well, yes and no. In 1966 the enemy was Satan. Today the enemy is Satan ... and all Democrats.