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By Maggie Rowe

"Do not shit on my class," he said. "You may not come in here and take a shit on my class." Yvonne stopped singing and looked up in shock at our instructor: legendary singing coach Leonard Jack, a genteel stylish 80-year-old man dressed to the height of fashion -- for a homosexual in the 1930's. Leonard came to every class wearing ballet slippers, whisper thin nylon socks, and perfectly tailored dress pants, which he would hitch up when sitting - to display his delicately argyle-laced calf. For the ladies.

Leonard Jack continued, "You are singing horribly. You should know better than to come here and shit on my class." Yvonne blinked back tears and put on a brave smile. Her fierce Puerto Rican pride would not allow this irate little ballerina octogenarian to see her cry.

After class, one of the other students asked Yvonne what she thought of Leonard Jack. "Joo know, everyone thinks he's so fucking brilliant. This Leonard Jack. Well, joo know what? Joo know what? I think he's a pendejo. What he said to me in there? That was totally -- I mean, Leonard Jack fucked me up the ass….Literally." There was silence as we all thought -- I wonder what she means by that…exactly?

Maybe it was a translation thing. Because if Yvonne were talking to a Puerto Rican she probably would have said something like "Leonard Jack fucked me up the ass. Carajo." And in Spanish the word carajo doesn't really mean anything -- it's just an expletive. It's used for added emphasis. You know, like we say, "Dammit." "Leonard Jack fucked me up the ass. Dammit." And when you think about it, a lot of people use the word "literally" that way. So Yvonne wasn't really that far off.

Like all the people in the church I grew up in, Calvary Valley Baptist, used the word "literally" like that.
They taught me that all that stuff in the Bible literally happened. It was history. Like Mt St. Helen erupted in 1980. Or John Glenn was the first man in space. Or Thoroughly Modern Millie won best musical in 2002. The Bible, I was taught, was like that.

Take the story of Lot's wife who turned into a pillar of salt when she looked back on the city of Sodom. This is a fantastic metaphor, right? It serves as an interdiction against excessive mourning, a warning against becoming consumed by the bitterness of regret, drowned in the salt of grief. But that's not what it meant to the people at Calvary Valley Baptist. What it meant to the people at Calvary Valley Baptist was that Lot's wife looked back over her shoulder, saw the city of Sodom, and turned into a pile of salt. It wasn't a question of what it meant. It was true. Literally.

So when youth pastor Dale would say, "God is your father in heaven," he didn't mean anything by that, it wasn't a metaphor expressing some aspect of the human experience. It just was. God was a Big Cosmic Parental Ego in the sky. Like my Dad -- if he had made the world and had a lot more responsibility.

Youth pastor Dale would talk all the time about how our Heavenly Father was just. "The Lord is known by his justice." "The Lord will shepherd his flock with justice." "The Lord's justice will not tolerate the wicked." And what justice meant…well you had to figure it out.

But luckily you had help -- The Bible, which was the absolute Word of God.

It was true.


And the Bible has many examples of God's justice. There is, of course, my favorite, the story of the Great flood, of Noah and the Ark.

I was in a play at Calvary Valley Baptist when I was 10 about Noah and the Ark called…100% Chance of Rain.

I played the narrator and I started off the play by saying, "The Lord saw the wickedness of man was great on the earth and that every intent and the thoughts in his heart were continuously evil and the Lord was sorry he had made man and he was grieved in his heart. And The Lord said, 'I will wipe out man whom I created from the face of the earth. From man to animal to creeping things to birds of the sky.' But Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord. And God said to Noah, 'Make for yourself in ark. It's gonna rain.'"

Then came the opening song where we all danced with rain slickers and umbrellas.

Now the Lord was unhappy with the people on earth
They were not what they ought to be and not what they're worth
They were bad and ugly and mean as could be
So the Lord wiped them out as you will see
It's gonna rain, rain, rain
It's gonna rain, rain, rain
100% chance of rain!

So just to go over this. Basically God had told the people on earth to do certain things and they tried to do them but they were imperfect so it came out different than they intended so… God drowned them -- wives, children, parents -- All of 'em. Just wiped 'em out. All except one family.

Scientists, or as we called them "heretics" or "lunatics" estimate that at the time of the Flood, the population of the earth was fifty million people. And according to the Calvary Valley Baptists, with the exception of one family, God slaughtered them -- fifty million people by dropping water from the sky that filled up their lungs until they asphyxiated. That's just what happened.

It's true. Literally.

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