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.