Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Deliver Us from Christianity: Assembly of God Part 3

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored" as we move into the dark part of the year! A blessed equinox to all, and may you reap a bountiful harvest! Or at least hold onto your job and your house.

I've been sermonizing about the Assembly of God, a Pentacostal denomination that's been out on the charismatic fringe of Christianity for many decades. Our future vice president, Sarah Palin, is a member of this denomination. Which tells me she'll conduct her foreign policy with the goal of getting those Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse out of the paddock and onto the home stretch.

I attended an Assembly of God for two years in my formative youth. And I'm a better person for it ... but not for the reasons the church might endorse.

Most of my legions and legions of readers are way too young to remember the late 1960s. It was an interesting time to be young. The sand was always shifting every which way.

Of course clothing fashions changed in the late 1960s, just like everything else. Suddenly we had this new style called the "miniskirt." The name says it all.

My best friend's older sister was in the youth choir at the Assembly of God. One week her choir sang a peppy Christian song. They didn't have choir robes like Methodists. They just sang in whatever clothes they wore to church.

The following Sunday the pastor stood up to preach. But instead of beginning his usual fiery sermon, he just took his fist and slammed it onto the lectern as hard as he could.

These are his very words:

"This church is full of harlots and Jezebels!"

I was not yet ten years old. I didn't know what a harlot was, but somewhere in my Assembly of God education, I'd heard of Jezebel. Not good and female. I knew that much.

According to the pastor, the girls in the youth choir who had sung so sweetly the week before had raised lustful thoughts among certain members of the congregation ... because the girls' skirts were too short.

The pastor proceeded to name the offending girls one by one, and told them to stand when he said their names. He ticked off a half dozen girl-names, and finally he said my friend's sister's name, and she had to stand too. Once they were all standing, he ripped them each a third eyeball, promising them tough lives here on earth and a never-ending scorch-fest in the hereafter. He told them that if they ever came to church again with skirts above their knees, they would not be allowed inside the door.

My memory of this event does not extend to how my friend's sister was scolded by her parents after the fact. My guess is that the parents didn't want to fuss in front of me.

But to this day that preacher's venom remains fresh in my mind. How much more difficult would it have been to take each young woman aside and discreetly demand a dress code? Any of the church ladies would have been very willing to do this chore, trust me.

As an adult looking back on this incident, what strikes me the most is the fact that a bunch of teenagers were singing about God, and some of the men who were supposed to be listening were instead daydreaming about shagging the girls. And one, probably no more than one, of these men decided to confess his guilty longings. Giving the pastor a golden opportunity to put some vulnerable teenaged girls in their place.

Even as young as I was on that day, I remember thinking that it was the pastor who was out of line, not the teens in miniskirts. You don't have to be grown up to recognize injustice.

But this was not the incident that finally caused me to stand up to my domineering mother and renounce the Assembly of God.

Tomorrow I'll tell you about the nail in the coffin. You may find my conclusions controversial.


yellowdog granny said...

if Jesus knew what the people on earth were doing in his name..he'd be really really pissed..

sageweb said...

Wow what a creepy guy. I wonder how awesome he felt after that.

Evn said...

if Jesus knew what the people on earth were doing in his name...

He does. Which is why He's into Santeria now.

Legion said...

"You may find my conclusions controversial."


*shocked face*

THE Michael said...

Now look, Anne, the Taliban have been trying to get the truth across to us that men are not responsible for their lusty thoughts; it's those damn WOMEN who are at fault when a man acts upon his impulses and rapes them. So, if a Muslim woman can be gang raped for accidently showing a square milimeter of bare ankle, imagine the punishment a girl wearing a MINISKIRT deserves!

There's something inherently evil about religion........

democommie said...

I remember going to church (RCC) when I was a teen-ager. I did NOT think about the young lady in the pew in front of me from time; I thought of nothing EXCEPT the girl in the pew in front of me--with as much imagination about various sex acts as a 14 yo virgin could muster.

I went to a Unity church for about six years between 2000 and 2006. I enjoyed the (a former major league party person) said, "you really have the spirit!", I replied, "I can for the spirit, but (as I looked down at her) I stayed for the cleavage". She laughed her ass off!

I'm pretty much done with church, except maybe for pagan fertility rites.

democommie said...

I hate haloscan.

that should have read,

"I enjoyed singing in the choir. One night one of the ladies in the choir..."

BBC said...

Whatever, shouldn't you be getting ready for hard times instead of muttering so much?

Aquila ka Hecate said...

Jezebel - one of the true heroines in the Bible. A Pagan priestess who stood up for her dieties.
Hmm, I remember the '60s all too well. I must be older than most of your readers :)

terri in Joburg

Inanna said...

The Assembly of God, slut-shaming since before I was born.

The pastor's behavior was horrible. If I'd been a parent of one of those girls, I hope I would've torn him a "third eyeball." Really, it may be that no one in the congregation "confessed" to lustful thoughts. It may have been all the pastor. Why can't men like him act like adults and take responsibility for their own sexuality?

When I was a teenager, during the Reagan years, I used to sit in church and think about sex all the time. So I guess the AoG doesn't corner the market on Jezebels.

Paul said...

I also remember the '60s all too well.

The AOG is not the only church with a problem. In the days when women were first invited to distribute communion a woman I know was thrilled to be asked, proudly walked up to the altar only to hear a visiting priest proclaim, "What is that whore doing on the altar."