Monday, November 29, 2010

Black Jesus

          I've always been entertained by things that seemed bizarre to me. Even if I'm the butt of the joke, I will still laugh if there's something perverse involved. This interest in all things odd started at an early age, thanks to Princess Toadstool (my Mother). She used to do this very strange thing and invite Barbie (my sister) and me to sit on either side of her and she would begin to sing. First of all, Princess Toadstool probably has the singing capacity that of William Hung. I think volume is on the top of her priority list in terms of vocal technique. How so much noise comes out of someone the size of a lawn gnome is a mystery to me. Anyways, she had a very interesting choice of song. She always sang the same one. It was a Christian Gospel song called "Deep and Wide". Before she began, she would take a big deep breath in as Barbie and I tried to contain our laughter for what was to come. She would wail out the first word "Deeeeeeeeeeeeeep" while simultaneously she would stretch both her arms out in front of her as far as she could. And then when she wailed "and WIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIDE" she would abruptly open her arms as hard as she could and whack us both in the face. Some people would consider this child abuse. Barbie and I just considered this a good time. I'm not sure why we got so much joy out of this but neither of us could stop laughing every time she did this. And Princess Toadstool wouldn't stop; she would just keep going and going and going because she also was aware of how happy this made us. Good times.  
            That nightly occasion was the closest Barbie and I ever came to having a religious experience with my Mother. Her mother (my Grandmother) is Catholic and the only thing I understand about Catholics is that they’re permitted to swear uncontrollably which left Princess Toadstool to give us the remainder of the household religious education. We never went to church. Besides her rendition of the gospel “Deep and Wide”, my Mother Princess Toadstool made 2 other important references to God. The first thing she told us was that God can see everything including behind our ears which is why we must take care to thoroughly wash that area of our bodies. When she told us this I assumed that the same must be true of the perineum. Secondly, she made it very clear that God looks like Aunt Jemima. I don’t like pancakes very much but sometimes I’ll put syrup on my chicken wings; this is something new I’ve discovered since moving to Texas. Her reasoning on this ridiculous comparison was Princess Toadstool felt that it would be funny if all of the horrible racists, murderers, and supremacists died, went to heaven, and had to face the Black woman who’s on the front of the syrup jar. She felt that this would be their punishment for being so evil because surely Ms. Jemima would never let them through the pearly gates. I wonder where I get my sense of humor?

      One time Princess Toadstool told me that she wanted to become Buddhist. I’m assuming that this had less to do with their relentless commitment to a higher being and more about being surrounded by Asians who, like her, are munchkin-sized. Oddly, my home town is very religious. It's often referred to as the "Bible Belt". Most of my friends called themselves "Christian" which to me meant that you talked about people behind their backs as opposed to their faces and you weren’t allowed to watch “Sabrina The Teenage Witch”. On a few occasions I went to church with friends if I had happened to sleep over on a Saturday night. This experience was very difficult for me because at that age I had a very difficult time controlling my own imagination and/or laughter. The entire time sitting in that pue I couldn’t stop rewriting the lyrics of church songs in my head and changing the words to dirty ones. I had no idea that in the future I would ever have to face this again, voluntarily. I was wrong. Very wrong.  

         As an adult, the idea of going to church immediately gives me a full onset of diarrhea. This is not good considering my self-diagnosed IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome). So when I was offered by one of my co-workers here in Texas to join her weekly visit to Baptist church, I was hesitant about going. Not to mention, every time that I enter a religious sanctuary something very strange happens to me. I remember a few years ago I rubbed up against one of the branches of a fake tree in my friend's church and I began to spontaneously bleed profusely in the middle of prayer. I took this as a sign that I was not welcome. But somehow I managed to conjure up enough courage to enter a Christian establishment. After all, Jesus is supposed to be accepting of all people. I figure that Jesus was raised Jewish and I know for a fact that the Jews secretly LOVE the half-shvartzers! But this wasn't just any regular church; it was a Southern Baptist church. I have to say, I was mildly excited about it. The idea of a bunch of crazy Southern Black people all crowded together in one place screaming, hooting, hollering and wearing large hats had QUITE the appeal somehow! But, for the fact that I hadn't been to Church in a long time, I was not fully prepared for not only the Texas experience of a church, not to mention the BLACK experience of a Church, not the mention the 2010 version of a church! I was not emotionally prepared to see what I witnessed that morning at the Concord Missionary Baptist Church of Texas.

         First of all, I don't understand why they don't have extra Bibles in Church! I mean, they say that God is the author. And church is the House of God. So why there aren't any spares of his own book in his own house is beyond me. Anyways, I ended borrowing my roommate’s Bible which ended up being in my favor considering that it allotted me time to study the names of the chapters in the car on the way there. I don't understand why preachers yell out random chapters like PSALM or SAMUEL or LIL KIM; can I just get a page number please? So my co-worker picks me up and I get in the car and we're running VERY late which made me very nervous because the last thing I want is to look crazy in church. Normally it brings me great joy and pleasure to stand out but in a religious setting I just wanted to blend in, lay low, hold in the laughter, and take copious notes so I could write about them later. Apparently our tardiness was not a problem though. See, I forgot it was a BLACK church which means that you are looked upon as culturally out of place if you show up to anything on time. So we got out of the car in a very full parking lot and made our way in with the rest of the community which was just as late as we were. So I walk through the door, shake some lady's hand and I feel a sigh of relief because I've realized that she had not yet detected me as a non-believer, otherwise known as Lucifer. That morning I made sure I was dressed in most Christ-y looking attire possible which basically means I made sure not to iron anything and decided to forego the eyeliner and clear nail polish. So we walk in to sit down. And I realized something. Churches are not the same as they were when I was kid. Times have changed.......

          The choir had already begun to sing and many people had been seated at this point so I very gingerly went in and sat down. My co-worker had to do "Communion" which I had no idea what that was yet. But basically she sat in the Orchestra and I was in the Mezzanine. I composed myself, put my Bible on my lap, and looked up to enjoy the festivities. I was completely overwhelmed with what I saw. Let me tell you, I thought it would be a few people on stage singing in robes and an old lady on the organ with some happy Black people clapping along. I was wrong! It was so much more; this was a full performance! It was the weekly Matinee! And not only that, a performance with late seating! Even better. There were lights! So many lights; with dimmers and spotlights and different color specials. There was a full band with drums and a horn section. There must've been at least 40 people up there clapping and singing and hundreds in the audience. They even had a stage with a background set! They had bushes that were trimmed down to the shape of very large letters like oversized chia pets. It read: WE GROW PEOPLE! Is this a church for midgets? (I'm sorry that was mean...."little people" that sounds less offensive) My mother should've come, she'd fit right in! And the real kicker was this. There were camera men!  At least 4 of them. They had video cameras that displayed every moment live on not 1, not 2, but 3 video screens above the choir in real time. There was a soundboard and a program. This wasn't Sunday service, it was a football game! I thought to myself "I needed to bring popcorn". But then I realized I could just buy some at intermission. I've never seen such a spectacle. I tried to calm myself down so I could absorb everyday detail. Somehow, in between my being totally captivated and my never-ending sweat I managed to jot down a detailed record of the events. So here's the running order of the program:

ACT ONE: Follow The Bouncing Cross
       The choir sang a song which was great because the words were very easy to follow. I though it would be fun if they made it like a Disney movie where you follow the words on the screen with a bouncing ball; in this instance a bouncing cross, halo, or Jew would be more appropriate. Anyways, I was so insecure about looking crazy that I was quite relieved once I realized I could catch on quickly The song went: "GOD IS AN AMAZING GOD! GOD IS AN AMAZING GOD! GOD IS AN AMAZING GOD! GOD IS AN AMAZING GOD! GOD IS AN AMAZING GOD!" So that was the first verse. The second verse went: "GOD IS AN AMAZING GOD! GOD IS AN AMAZING GOD! GOD IS AN AMAZING GOD! GOD IS AN AMAZING GOD!" At this point I'm thinking alright already! He's amazing....I get it.  So is Cinnamon Toast Crunch!

ACT TWO: Cue crazy Black woman singing and running around aimilessly
         This lady came out wearing red (Black people LOVE red) and she sang a song by herself. She was lovely! And then the chorus started to sing back up; or as I call it, Black up. Now as I said, not only was I watching it live from my seat but I could also watch it 3 times over on the video screens above me. The lyrics to this song actually had more than 5 words repeating over and over so this time they were displayed on the screen so we could follow. IT'S A SING-A-LONG like Disney! Just as I had hoped! I did not participate on account of the fact that I was trying to not draw any attention to myself and also because I was completely enraptured and slightly traumatized by the event and was too busy gawking. Then randomly people started standing up one by one (mostly elderly women with hats) and they would raise one hand up and sit back down. I'm not sure what all that was about. Maybe they were confused and thought they were at Bingo. And then it got better! The lady in red started perspiring (Black people sweat a lot!). She started shaking a little and her head starting moving back and forth like one of those bobble-head things that you put on the dashboard of your car. I think she "caught the spirit" which means she momentarily went batshit crazy. She also started a brisk run then stopped which is understandable; she was in heels for Christ's sake!

ACT THREE: Black man talks very loudly
         So I really needed to settle down after all of that singing. I really could've used an intermission. I think I'm going to write an anonymous letter of complaint. Anyways, after those shenanigans finished, a man came on to the stage. His name was Mr. Pastor Man. Strange name. He talked for a long time. He started by talking about the movie “Inception” starring Leonardo Di Caprio, in a theatre near you. I'm not sure what the relevance was because I was too busy following the visual references on the screens above me. They displayed pictures from the movie while he was talking. I couldn't believe it! It was so weird. Preachers have visual aids? He went on to talk about "growing people" which was the theme of his sermon and would continue to be for the next few weeks because background sets don't change themselves. This is show business after all. And then it happened. "Turn to JEREMIAH...." he said. And of course even after all of the intense 5 minutes of studying the names at the tops of the pages in the car, I couldn't find it. I began sweating! I knew that I would be found out! I knew people would be staring at me, they would see me fuddling through the pages clearly not knowing what I was doing and the entire community of Dallas would know I wasn’t truly one of them! And then I would be crucified; like Jesus! But then! I was saved! Not by Jesus but by the video screens! See nowadays you don't have to flip through your borrowed Bible to read the quotations. They just simply display the passage right there on 3 video screens. It's E-JESUS! I stopped sweating and my diarrhea subsided. So I calmed down and just paid attention to Mr. Pastor Man. The thing I couldn't help notice about Mr. Pastor Man is that he began his sermon in a normal vocal register and slowly began an increase the volume as he went on. I'm sure the elderly people in the nosebleed seats appreciated it. However, I got great seats (probably because my co-worker had connections). By the end he was screaming! And of course my self-centeredness made me think that he was yelling only at me! "I'M SORRY MR. PASTOR MAN! I'M SORRY I REWRITE THE WORDS TO GOSPEL SONGS IN MY MIND AND MAKE THEM DIRTY! PLEASE FORGIVE ME!”, I wanted to proclaim! Somehow, I restrained myself. I missed the end of his speech because I was distracted by a young boy in the row in front of me who was eating Skittles. I LOVE SKITTLES!

ACT FOUR: Snack Time
        As much as I thoroughly enjoyed the festivities up until this point, the next part of the performance was the show stopper, literally! I noticed that they had a very large table in front of the stage with a white blanket over it concealing whatever was on the table. All of a sudden a whole bunch of men and my co-worker (the only female) were standing in front of the table. They had white gloves on. A camera, a stage, and a bunch of Black people with white gloves on. My guess was a Michael Jackson tribute, but I was wrong. It was something called Communion. Up until this point I didn't understand why there wasn't an intermission; an opportunity to stretch our legs and get some snacks. But I found out that's what Communion is! They instructed us to stand and they unveiled the table which had many platters with snacks on them. Each of the men (and one woman) went down the aisles even all the way up to where I was in the mezzanine and passed us a refreshment. I told the man he passed my row that I wanted a hot dog with ketchup on the side and a diet Snapple. He seemed confused. It turns out that we all had to eat the same thing; like on an airplane. When we received the snack we were instructed to sit down. It was a small plastic container which reminded me of Dunkaroos. It had two compartments kind of like when you buy yogurt that has granola in a separate container on the top. Except the top part had bread and the bottom part had grape juice. I didn't have breakfast that morning so I was ready to dive in. I peeled back the lid but then stopped myself. I looked around and noticed that nobody else was eating. I assumed they must've been on the Atkins diet. I figured out that I was supposed to wait until everybody was served their snack before I could get my vitamin C for the day. Oprah said that once 3 people are served at the table it's okay to start. I thought that was the rule! I mean she's Oprah for Christ's sake! But I decided to be patient. I dissed the big O. After all, it was my first time there and I wanted to make a good impression. I didn't want people to think I was some kind of fatass. So as I was waiting, I looked up and I saw the most amazing vision ever. Jesus; times 3! There he was on the video screen! "I didn't know Jesus did film?" I thought to myself. I must say he was very convincing in the role of himself. He's also incredibly thin; don't forget the camera adds 10 pounds (He's giving me a run for my money, he's a Mediterranean Jew so he's almost as Brown as I). So finally everybody had been served and I ate the bread (rather dry I must say) and then took the shot of red Alize, I mean grape juice. I have to say Communion was delicious! I was very sad when they came around with a collection plate for the wrapper. I was sad to let it go. I really wanted a souvenir.

ACT FIVE: Commercial Break:
         I know I sound crazy but I promise to you I am mot making this next part up. I swear on the Bible I borrowed from my roommate. On the video screens they played a commercial that was advertising a Male Christian Fraternity that meets every Saturday morning. First of all what's a male fraternity? That's like making an advertisement for women’s tampons, not to be confused with male tampons? HUH?! Anyways, it started with this man (who for some God forsaken reason was White, what ever happened to representation?) he slowly was putting on a full medieval metal dominatrix looking fighting suit complete with sword and shield. And this booming voice played through the speakers "COMING OCTOBER 10TH.....MASCULINITY AS YOU'VE NEVER SEEN BEFORE...MALE FRETERNITY SESSION EVERY SATURDAY MORNING AT 7...PREPARE FOR TOTAL DOMINATION COMING TO A CHURCH NEAR YOU!!!!" The commercial finishes and there's a silence in the room. Normally at this point I would get what I refer to as the "church giggles". When you laugh incredibly inappropriately at a time when you don't want to and the more you try to stop laughing the more difficult it gets to control. This did not happen. Have you ever seen something so funny that you can't even laugh? This is what happened. I was shocked, appalled, and so horrified that I was completely frozen in its hilarity. There's no way this was real. As I watched the insanity unfold on the video screen, all I kept thinking was, “I swear I wrote this shit.”
ACT SIX: That's so gay!        
          I noticed that from time to time a phone number was displayed on the video screen that said "Text questions to 214....". I thought to myself: Texting in the house of God? Really? Is Ms. Cleo here? Will she answer the questions? I found out, what happens is that people text their questions to a computer and then Mr. Pastor Man comes out at the end and answers them. The questions were about the sermon and came from people in the audience and perhaps at home from the live feed. The questions were generic as were the answers until he got to the last one. The questions was "There are many openly gay pastors. WHAT KIND OF GROWTH IS THAT?" As Mr. Pastor Man read this question there was a hush over the crowd and he looked uncomfortable. This made me nervous. A large amount of angry Black people is not funny. I slowly sunk in my seat which also helped to suppress my 3rd onset of diarrhea that day. My small intestine cannot handle church. But I do recall that there was a phrase he used in his response that went something like "Homosexuality is a sinful practice!". The pastor finished his response and I was still alive and had not pooped myself. I survived undetected. I guess I have E-Jesus to thank. 
ACT SEVEN: Jesus anyone?        
            The last and final act of the show was very exciting! The white-gloved people removed their gloves and surrounded us all. This was it. They were going to capture us and never let us leave! It was a full on take-over. I could feel it. This turned out to be true but not to the extent that my imagination had taken me. In fact, it was a takeover but a voluntary one. Each of the men in suits with red ties held out their right hand in gesture for anyone to come and they would take them into a room and except Jesus into their heart. It's all a conspiracy. I think they take you with a big smile their face, they greet you and probably lure you into the room by offering you more delicious Communion which quite frankly I would not be able to resist. And then they take you to the DUNGEON OF DOOM and hook you up to a lie detector machine to find out if you are something horrific like a homosexual, a Jew, or God forbid half White! And then if you fail the test they put you into a magical machine which turns you into Denzel Washington which sounds scary now but might be a good idea if I retire or go to Germany.

EPILOGUE: Chicken and waffles

        So even though I really wanted a second helping of Communion, I knew that I needed to be thankful that they didn't kidnap me so I did not press my luck any further and left immediately. We went to where any respectful group of Black people would go post-church, the Waffle House. Our server's name was Trickadeshakeshiapropeesha. I didn't recognize half the food on the menu so I decided when in I ordered this lovely thing called grits. It looks like rice and tastes like sin! It's almost as good as Communion. I had 3 cups of coffee which was very silly considering my IBS. I couldn't resist. I knew I had to stay awake because I had MUCH writing to do.
       So that's it. That was my day of Lord. I'm pretty sure Jesus and I are BFF's now. It was wonderful. Somehow I made it out alive. The aliens didn't brainwash me. However, next time I will be sure to bring one of my White friends as my protector. It might be nice to see something White in church besides the gloves.


1 comment:

  1. Hi there,

    I came across your post on an image search of "Jesus". Your writing is excellent, I laughed my ass off! I just wanted to say, keep up the good work.

    Church confuses me too,