I 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.
Every 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.
The 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.
Public 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?
A few 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.
I had 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 fox."
On 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.
Jesus 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.
One 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?
Later 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.
My 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.
Toward 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.
In 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 hot.
But 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?
One 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.
Save 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!!!
Well, I'm no longer Pentecostal, but I am homosexual
So I can only assume it worked.
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