By Paige Bernhardt
know Jesus. I've known him since I was seven and I bounced down
the aisle of our Baptist church and got saved. I had no idea what
I was doing but that didn't stop me. Having no idea what I'm doing
hasn't stopped me from doing a great many things.
Sunday and Wednesday night we'd learn about Jesus. He was all over
that "felt board" story-telling thing: walking on water,
healing the sick, teaching the multitudes. Sunday after Sunday in
that same teal robe. Moses and Noah were fine as openers, but Jesus
was the headliner at church.
nights I wasn't in church I watched TV. Friday night was the Donny
and Marie show. I liked Donny and Marie. I wouldn't be exaggerating
to say that at some point Jesus and Donny Osmond melded into the
same person. Which worked really well. Jesus-slash-Donny was a nice
playmate. Someone to talk to and make up games with, as long as
the game didn't require having a physical form and catching anything.
The one thing that set Jesus and Donny apart was that, as I understood
it, Jesus died for my sins and Donny did not.
crucifixion seemed like a hefty price to pay for whatever sins I
had committed by seven. Yes, I had seen the neighbor boy's 'thing,"
but come on, who hadn't?
years later everything changed. I packed up my Bible and my Donny-Jesus
posters and moved to Southern California to live with my mom and
step-dad. They went to this more progressive church out in Riverside.
They didn't sing hymns or tell stories with felt figures. They listened
to bands with electric guitars sing "Jesus is Cooler than the
Devil. Yeah!" The pastor wore jams and flip-flops on Sunday
mornings and said "man" a lot. I found out from these
people that Donny was a Mormon and that meant he was going to burn
forever in the fiery pit of hell. Poor Donny. I guess that's the
punishment for being just a little bit rock & roll.
more friends in California so I didn't talk to Jesus as much. He
seemed fine with it. I'd go out to the beach once a week and witness
for him. The cute boy in charge of my witnessing team was named
Scott. His rippling chest was thinly sheathed in a faded "Daniel
Amos" t-shirt which was then the Christian equivalent of AC/DC.
He had stringy blonde hair and moist blue eyes. He was a "stone
the beach I'd walk dreamily next to Scott as we chatted with the
damned. We'd let them know that the price of their sin was eternal
torment but that Jesus had paid that price for them and all they
had to do was say "Okay, man." Usually they would. Then
we'd all be happy and go have pizza and cokes.
was more distant now, a big brother. Willing and able to save those
drug addicts and hookers and smelly winos, too. A superhero big
brother who sticks up for you so Almighty Dad doesn't kick your
ass all the way around the block straight to hell for the nasty
thoughts you're having about your witness group leader.
Sunday night after church they showed us this movie called A
Thief in the Night. Even though Scott and his gorgeous pecs
were there, I couldn't help but pay attention to the movie. In it,
a nice teenage girl, not unlike myself, had some nice Christian
friends who told her how we were in the "Last Days" and
soon Jesus would call all the Christians home to heaven. They'd
be gone, poof, "in the twinkling of an eye." And people
who weren't saved would have to deal with the moon turning to blood,
frogs, locusts, famine, war and everything else the antichrist lays
on them until they get this one chance: they can be martyred (read:
killed) for Jesus and then they can go to heaven. The nice girl
says, "But I go to church every Sunday. Doesn't that count?"
They tell her to think it over as they skip off to Bible baking
class, secure in their salvation. Well, while she's thinking it
over, it happens. POOF! Blood, frogs, famine, locusts everything
and in the end her head gets chopped off. Scott? Scott who?
I'm curled up in a terrified ball on our early-American style couch,
rust and brown plaid. I'm wondering, what the hell, Jesus? So he's
going to hold back the wrath of Almighty Dad until he gets tired
and then he's just gonna let us have it? Jesus had become dangerous.
mom and her church friend put down their fluorescent painted guitars
and asked me if I was ready to be saved. I thought I was already.
Turns out, just like the girl in the movie, not quite enough. And
I was getting older, building up sins every minute. Considering
the alternative was getting my head chopped off, yes please. Hopefully
this time it would take. Soon thereafter Scott left the church and
started dating one of the hookers we met at the beach. But I was
for sure good and saved.
the end of high school, we moved again. Our new church also had
a band on Sunday mornings and they asked me if I'd like to run the
overhead projector, flashing the words of the songs up on the wall.
Dizzy with the prospect of parochial stardom I said, "Sure."
Plus, the band's drummer, Troy, played football and looked like
an Irish Sylvester Stallone.
this new church they raised their hands and spoke in tongues and
they liked to describe Jesus as the bridegroom. The church being
the bride of Christ. The entire "Song of Solomon" is a
love song from the bridegroom to his bride. Jesus became the pin-up
boy for my blossoming matrimonial fantasies. My ideal man. My own
personal Hans Solo. "The Song of Solomon" (my Jewish friends
will know it as Shir Hashireem)
have you read it? It's pretty
after Troy and I made out heavily a couple of times in the choir
loft, his face pretty much upstaged Jesus' in my mental salvation
peep show. Troy would stare at my back, drumming away, while I flipped
transparencies of "On Christ the Solid Rock I Stand."
Solid rock. The irony did not escape me. I'd pretend to pray while
I dreamt about having sex with Troy. He was in the church band.
How wrong could it be?
Sunday a preacher came and spoke about how you could lose your salvation
by backsliding. Troy and I were supposed to meet at his house after
church for "Bible study." I just knew this preacher was
talking to me. Donny and Scott and Jesus and Troy swam through my
brain in teal felt robes. It was hot. I was feeling dizzy. The preacher
asked people to come forward and get saved. For sure this time.
And people flooded the front of that church like there was a fire
at the back. Troy was staring a hole through the back of my blouse
and my ears rang with "Solid rock. Solid rock. Solid rock!"
My hands shot up and I started praying harder than I ever had before.
me! Save me now! Save me twice! Save me like I've never been saved
before! Do it! Save me! Do it! Do it!! Do it!!! DO IIIIT!!!
I'm no longer Pentecostal, but I am homosexual
I can only assume it worked.
version for easy reading
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