The Most Overlooked Part of the Easter Narrative

•April 21, 2011 • 44 Comments

ZOMBIES!!!! We all know the Zombie Jesus story, but a whole crapload of dead people were reanimated just after Jesus H. kicked the can. They took two days fighting their way out of their tombs before running amok within Jerusalem. It’s right there in Matthew 27.

51 At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook, the rocks split 52 and the tombs broke open. The bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life. 53 They came out of the tombs after Jesus’ resurrection and went into the holy city and appeared to many people.

Zombie mini-apocalypses must happen often enough in that part of the world that they’re not even worth recording. Come on! No one else even mentions it! I gotta hand it to whoever wrote the book of Matthew for having the foresight to include this enlightening event in the most infallible book ever written. If it hadn’t been for him, we’d only have one zombie stumbling around on Easter Sunday.

We’re not given a lot here, so let’s see if I got this straight.

Friday.

  • Jesus yells and dies
  • An atomic bomb of Jesus Juice rips through Jerusalem, causing an earthquake and a fucking curtain to be torn. OH. MY. GOD.
  • Zombies with halos wake up and start scratching at the walls of their damaged tombs

Saturday.

  • Zombies still trying to get out
  • Those that are out are wreaking havoc en route to Jerusalem
  • No one can repel zombies because it’s the fucking Sabbath

Sunday.

  • Ta-da! Zombie Jesus is back playing hide-and-seek and cooking fish at a campfire
  • Hordes of zombies, awake since Friday and undoubtedly hungry, finally descend upon Jerusalem

It took most of those zombies two days stuck inside their half smashed tombs before they could get out. Two days! While Jesus is out on holiday playing the last level of Doom III, a whole bunch of generally nice undead are stuck inside their graves scratching and moaning and breaking fingernails just trying to get a breath of fresh air. And brains.

This couldn’t have gone unnoticed. There have got to be a bunch of freaked out caretakers scared shitless because half their crop is trying to escape through damaged tombs. Did it make any difference that these zombies were holier than others? My guess is no. By the way, how could they even be holy if they haven’t accepted Jesus as their own personal savior? Something is amiss.

Back to the point. It’s Friday and you’re a caretaker of one of these graveyards. You’ve got a ton of cleanup to do after the earthquake and to make matters worse, a bunch of smug, holier-than-thou zombies are further damaging your tombs in their escape efforts. What do you do? Shit, they didn’t even have shotguns back then! I, for one, know when to get the hell out of town. I’d high-tail it out of Jerusalem, shrieking like a little girl all the way.

But, I have to assume that the general population of Jerusalem was more manly than me. These people get so pissed off at little things like someone having to work on the weekend, that they’ll fucking throw stones at you UNTIL YOU DIE. No, these people didn’t run. The caretakers are dutifully stuck to their job cleaning up the mess wrought by the explosion of the atomic J-bomb.

I don’t know how they’re defending against the zombies. We do know that none of the undead made it to the city until Sunday, so the graveyard workers must have been doing something right. My guess is they were busy throwing rocks like they were correcting a crowd of gays. It probably works pretty well for a while. These Jews have good throwing arms. But it can’t last long. They soon have a little bullshit called Sabbath that they can’t get around.

Good, observant Jews can only repel the undead until sundown on Friday night and then they have to twiddle their thumbs for a whole day, praying that the zombies are as holy as they say they are. Holy enough to remember the Sabbath.

What happens on Saturday is anyone’s guess. From my experience, the undead don’t have much concept of time. They’ve been underground or in caves for weeks and months, rotting and decomposing. How are they going to know what day it is when they wake up? I don’t want to question their dedication to their religion, but I’m guessing they don’t give a shit about this particular Sabbath. I bet they kept on clawing through the rubble of their broken tombs and digging out of their graves. It’s the caretakers of the graveyards I’m concerned with.

It seems they’ve got two options: Do you sit around on Saturday as instructed by the big guy, all the while glancing furtively out the windows across the yard to make sure the undead are still underground? Or do you risk breaking the Sabbath by either repelling zombies or running like hell? I’m assuming, of course, that it is considered work to kill the undead. I have no proof of this. These poor saps are backed into a corner. It’s either death by zombie or death by zealous law abiding Jew. I sympathize with these guys. I really do. Jesus had a bad weekend. These guys lived through hell and couldn’t do anything about it.

Again, we’re left with scant information. We’ve only got two verses of absolute truth to deal with, and we’ve got to fill in the blanks. The main fact is this: zombies are slow. We have to calculate the time it took for them to stumble out of their burial sites to the epicenter of Jerusalem on Sunday, where they “appear” to “many” people. We all know what that means. Zombie fucking apocalypse, man.

I suck at this type of calculation, so I’m going to have to rely on divine inspiration. I wouldn’t be writing this shit if God wasn’t speaking to me, now would I? Here’s what happened. A lot of those caretakers took the high road and observed the Sabbath. They died. A few more ran like hell. They died too. The first rule about Sabbath is that you don’t fucking run on Sabbath. Zombies get a pass. They shuffle.

The rest of the caretakers? Those that could tell their story? They climbed trees or roofs on Friday night and sat shivering in the cold until Sabbath was over. Zombies can’t climb trees. A lot of those guys lost family. They must have felt like Noah, who was ridiculed for building a boat when there was no water. They were laughed at for high-tailing it up trees, only to see their mockers overcome by a slow-moving wave of brain-eating zombies. Holy and generally considerate brain-eating zombies, but there you have it.

Sunday morning must have revealed a massacre, but it’s overshadowed by Zombie Jesus’ game of hide-and-seek. The passage is so focused on that particular zombie that they completely forget to mention the destruction wrought by the roving gangs of holy undead. Instead, they soften the blow by saying, oh, those brain-devouring hordes were just “appearing to many people.” Such an understatement.

We’ll never know the death toll that weekend. We’ll never know what happened to these holy zombies. Did they start their own religion and eventually float into the stratosphere like Zombie Jesus? Did they get wiped out by a bunch of zealots throwing stones? Will they accept Zombie Jesus as their own personal savior so they won’t have to go to hell again? Did they reintegrate into their previous holy life as if nothing had happened, as if such a thing were possible? We’ll never know.

This Easter, don’t get caught up in all the hubbub about eggs and crucifixions. Remember those who took a stand against the undead. Those who weren’t afraid to back down from reanimated corpses, except for, well, a short time while they hid in trees. Sometimes you have to fight. Sometimes you have to run. And sometimes, the best thing you can do is to hide your ass from zombies and zealots. It’s about survival, people. Protect yourself from brain-devouring zombies. Especially Jesus.

A Bottle of Wine and an Incoherent Post

•May 15, 2008 • 4 Comments

It’s been a while since my last post, so I’ll just see what comes out here in this rant.

Several things have been becoming more apparent to me in the last few months that I thought I’d mention.

I think my attitude towards religion is rounding out a little. I’ve read other experiences of deconverted individuals who often go through a time of backlash at organized religion, but before long many of them come to terms with the fact that the underlying cause of most weirdness is just human nature. I think that I’m getting near, if not at, that point.

It’s not that I am accepting any particular type of religion. I haven’t found Christ, if that’s what you’re wondering (though I think he may be hiding under the sofa).

It’s rather that I’m getting past that initial shock of finding out my core beliefs growing up were false, and that I’ve got to figure everything out from a fresh perspective. That initial shock has lasted several years. As I have found personally and through hearing others’ stories, this ordeal can often turn someone into what you might call a Fundamentalist or Asshole Atheist. That’s not who I want to be. I don’t want to trade one sort of dogmatic fundamentalism into another.

I think the asshole phase is something that a lot of us deconverts go through. Can you blame us? Growing up and being taught that the core of your being is something you find to be a lie is tough. No wonder many of us turn into assholes bashing religion.

That deep-seated fact that many of us have grown up in fundamentalist environments aimed at telling the world the “good” news and converting your neighbor never really leaves you. It’s always going to be there, right below the surface. Trying to convert others to your viewpoint because you think yours is the only way to go is no better than what the fundies are trying to do. Plain and simple. It’s hard to suppress that inner evangelical asshole.

The theory that seems to be growing in my mind lately is one of the good and bad of human nature. As my fiance points out, there are often times that my arguments against religion sound very much like the arguments the religious use against the nonreligious. I no longer find that strange. I think it’s just human nature.

I used to get upset when the religious tried to rail against atheism because of the atrocities caused by atheists in the past, all the while ignoring the facts that the religious mindset has caused countless atrocities. Yet, the same argument can be used against the religious when stated by the atheist.

You end up getting into the same old debates about how “Oh well, they weren’t a true Christian,” or that “They didn’t understand the responsibility of being atheist,” and so on. When it comes down to it, neither the belief in gods or the unbelief in gods has a great track record for supporting humanity. Claiming to believe in a certain god or denying beliefs in all gods isn’t enough, by any means. There has to be some other belief (whether innate or conscious) to be an active member of society. To be human. To be humane. You don’t need a god for that. Though, if some people think they do, then so be it.

Sure, certain versions of each belief system always tend to be more humane, but there are so many types of beliefs in gods or without, that it all just boils down to human nature. Religion or nonreligion proves to magnify human desire and endeavor. It provides a central focal point around which social circles can congregate. I hate to say it, but religion is almost like a necessary evil.

We’re social animals, and religion often gives the social cohesion and in-group separation that people are looking for, albeit unconsciously. It gives people who need it a sense of purpose and wellbeing in life. Not everyone needs that constant assurance that religion can give. Many people don’t mind being told what they want to hear. And there are always those types of people that want to be martyrs, whether their cause is for or against a god.

And it is hard to find the same sort of social group outside of the socially acceptable and binding version of religion that’s so prevalent today, with their accountability groups and social events. I guess in a way, religion is able to overstep that awkward boundary and bring people together in situations they normally wouldn’t find themselves in. Although, this really only happens in the more touchy-feely, Promise Keeper types of groups. Y’know, the ones that are trying to turn men into pussies?

Where am I going with this? Hell, I don’t know. I just drank nearly a full bottle of wine because my fiance is in bed already and I can’t get to sleep. But besides that, I think I wanted to try to get a few of these thoughts on paper. The farther along I go in my journey, the more I realize that it isn’t about religion, as much as it is about rational thought and healthy skepticism in all aspects of life. I find myself appreciating philosophy, psychology, art, and all sciences much, much more.

I’m still very much atheist, yet I’m finding that this term really only applies to religion. There’s so much more to life than identifying oneself on purely religious terms. So anyhoo, I think it’s time to hit the sack. Hope this entry wasn’t too incoherent.

Introduction to a Nonbeliever

•March 23, 2008 • 19 Comments

I wrote the following at the request of a Christian friend at Love Life, Embrace Risks, and Live for Eternity, to portray the viewpoints of an atheist for a Christian audience:

I am an unbeliever.

However, I am not “unchurched”. I have known the power and love of the church firsthand and had attributed it to my personal relationship with Jesus Christ. I was raised in modern Baptist home with loving parents and a life rich within the church. I was saved early on and until I reached the age of twenty-five, my life was devoted to living for Jesus and spreading His Word and love.

Yet, I have rejected the church and the Bible, notions of Jesus, the Christian and Jewish God, Heaven, Hell, and an afterlife. You may ask why.

My journey was never intended to draw me away from the Christian faith. Rather, I made it a goal of mine to become closer to who Jesus truly was so that I was able to serve him better. I made an internal pact with myself and God that I would see this line of questioning through to the end. I had anticipated coming out the other end with a much closer relationship with God through Jesus.

However, my quest began to show me, slowly at first, then like a tidal wave, that there is nothing unique about Christianity; that, instead, it contains as much (and as little) truth as all other religions, and that the things I thought were truths were far from it, that the power of the church and things attributed to God and Jesus were actually of a more sublime nature, more akin to the social cohesion obtained through the common human experience resonating in all ancient texts and mythologies.

The details of my deconversion are long and winding, full of twists and turns, and I’m working on piecing together the tale in its entirety. But let me first get a few common misconceptions out of the way.

Accusations

1. You never were a “true” Christian.

Yes, I was. If you doubt the commitment I had to Jesus, I am writing a more longwinded version of my conversion, my Christian life, and the circumstances that caused me to leave the faith. However difficult it may be to understand that a believer could stop believing, it is true. I’ve got plenty of family and friends that would stand behind my life as a Christian.

2. You left Christianity due to sin.

My deconversion began with the simple request to know God more. The journey carried me through the various Christian beliefs, until ultimately finding no god at the end of the tunnel. I knew that in order to attain a closer relationship to God, I would need to remain pure of thought, mind, and deed. It was probably the most sin-free time in my life.

3. You are angry at God.

This one is hard to explain to someone who believes that beyond a doubt, there is a God. Let me try: I am as angry at the Christian God as you are angry at Zeus. The concept of God, while not foreign to me, is utterly lacking in substance. I can’t be angry at what I don’t believe exists, no matter how much you disagree.

4. You are angry or have unresolved issues with the church.

This is utterly false. My childhood in the church was fantastic and unbelievable. Most of my social life was inside the church and there was a never-ending fountain of fun things to do, lessons to learn, and spiritual “truths” to behold. The same goes for college.

If I have any underlying tensions with the church today, it is due to the dogmatic approach to scripture, the absolute assurance that the rest of the world wants what they have, and the willingness to assert those beliefs onto others unquestioningly.

5. You’re exaggerating your previous claim to Christianity.

Nope. I’ve got plenty of family and friends to vouch for me on that count.

6. You’re lying.

Come on now, really? I know this is posted on the internet, a veritable treasure trove of truth, but in this article, I have strived to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.

7. You are unhappy or bitter.

Absolutely false. While I struggled through the deconversion process spiritually and emotionally, today I am more spiritually fulfilled and happy than ever. To assume that a lack of beliefs in Jesus causes unhappiness and bitterness is to ignore the overwhelming evidence to the contrary.

8. You’ll be back to Christianity, there’s a lot of people praying for you.

Ten years ago, I was certain that I would never leave my faith. If I were to make such a promise now that I would never leave my non-faith, that would mean nothing. But, now that I am able to read the Bible and see the faiths of man for what they truly are, I very much doubt that I will be returning to any faith, at any time. Those prayers, however much in earnest, have had no affect.

9. Your life has no meaning without Christ or the hope for heaven.

I’d prefer to think exactly the opposite. The fact that I know this is my one and only life to live causes me to make every moment worthwhile. While I don’t doubt that there was a time I questioned this very topic, I now see more meaning in my present life other than waiting for some future reward or trying to convert others to my belief system.

10. You are arrogant for not recognizing the creator.

On the contrary, I consider myself rather humble in this sense. I know that I am a speck of dust on a speck of dust on a speck of dust in an infinitely (or finite, we’re still looking into that) expanse of universe. I don’t assume that there is a maker of the universe, of supernovae and galaxies, of relativity and of quantum mechanics, who was greatly interested in the animal sacrifices of ancient Jews, or the sexual life of people today. That is what I’d call arrogant.

Assuming Too Much

The details of my decision are too many to name here. I won’t go into exactly how or why I came to this my worldview today, but I’d like to get a few things off my chest seeing as how I have a Christian audience.

The terms “godless” and “atheist” are unnecessarily looked down upon, and a lot of that comes from the portrayal of unbelievers in religious circles hammered in by religious texts. We are frowned upon by most organized religions. Most unbelievers tend to keep their unbelief quiet in order to not disturb the peace, and because we don’t adhere to a central doctrine commanding us to tell others of our beliefs.

I challenge believers to open their mind to the overwhelming fact that nonbelievers can be good people in no need of conversion: ones that are completely happy, spiritually fulfilled and generous towards humanity without the need to subscribe to a certain personal relationship or set of rituals or beliefs. We don’t all want to be Christians, nor do we have the same relationship that you have with Yahweh. If we make you queezy, ask yourself why you may believe negatively about unbelievers, or why you may look down upon them for not knowing the deeper truths you may consider yourself to hold.

I view religion (or personal relationships with Christ, if you prefer) more as a construct of social life built out of primitive fears and superstitions, mixed with the intrinsic nature to want to be good. There are other ways of fulfilling that goal without resorting to beliefs in deities and afterlives. Some people fill that gap with an overwhelming obedience to an interpretation of God and Jesus through the Bible, and I can understand why because I’ve been there. The spiritual highs that are attained through acts of worship can be adequately described in terms of psychology and neurology (albeit dryly). I no longer fool myself into thinking such experiences are the cause of a higher power, and somehow that makes the experience of life on Earth all the richer for me.

I can’t speak for all unbelievers, just as no Christian can speak for all others qualifying themselves as Christian. I know that there are atheists born again as Christians, and I know there are Christians born again as atheists (myself included in the latter). This all seems characteristic of the human experience, so I am unable to speak for all.

I am an atheist. But that is only the beginning.

PRK – 3 Months Later

•February 18, 2008 • 20 Comments

I had my three month post-PRK followup the other day. At this point, I was able to read the 20/15 lines with each eye individually. Sweet!

However, the right eye is still slightly behind, but it seems to be catching up. When I cover the left eye, I can tell the right eye is slightly out of focus and slightly ghosted. I attribute this to the right eye being drier on average, and the doctor agreed. He said that it should clear up in the months following, and scheduled to see me again in three months.

While I was at the office, the doc gave me an eye exam with the normal lens-flipping machine. I was kinda surprised when he said that my vision was best without any lenses. I know that’s what I was going for with this whole surgery thing, but it’s something else when he pulls them machine away and says my eyes are good enough that lenses can’t make it any better.

I still get halos and slight starbursts at night that are worse when my eyes are dry, but they’ve decreased in the last month.

I’ve weened myself from constantly using eyedrops, but I still put them in every three or four hours. They’re especially dry when I first wake up, and usually put in the drops first thing in the morning.

I’m really happy with my vision today. I was finally able to out-read my girlfriend when looking at a chalkboard menu across the room at a restaurant the other day. I’m excited for the next couple months to see the right eye catch up and the halos and starbursts disappear.

PRK – 8 Weeks Later

•January 16, 2008 • 5 Comments

Eight weeks have passed since having my eyes peeled and zapped. I would say that the left eye is pretty damn close to the acuity I had with glasses/contacts. All ghosting and double vision has retreated from the left. It has slowly improved since three weeks ago from pretty good, to pretty damn good.

The right eye still exhibits a minor amount of ghosting and not being able to quite focus past that blurriness. It’s a little frustrating that it isn’t caught up to the left eye, and it seems to have lost its position as the dominant eye for the time being. I have a feeling that it will heal fully, but it’s just taking longer. I attribute this to the fact that it is drier on average than the left eye.

When I use both eyes together, I forget about the fact that the right eye isn’t quite caught up, even though they don’t quite focus together. I have no trouble reading books or computer screens anymore and go through most of the day not even thinking about my eyes. I am still using the preservative free drops several times throughout the day, but in a much smaller quantity than I did a few weeks ago. That’s a relief. Those things are expensive.

At nighttime, there is still a significant amount of halos and starbursts accompanying external lights. It actually feels like it has increased since three weeks ago, but I think that’s only because everything else has gotten so much better. I don’t think it has actually worsened.

They say on average, it takes a good three months to realize the full benefits from PRK. I’m nearly two thirds to that point. Here’s what I hope to achieve in the next month:

  • Zero ghosting in my right eye
  • A return to the normal focusing ability of the right eye
  • A return to the dominance of the right eye (not because it’s better, just because I’ll know it’s normal again)
  • A balanced focusing ability when using both eyes
  • Less dry-eye feeling
  • Reduced starbursts and halos at night

I am happy with the PRK surgery and recovery so far. I would recommend it to those who can’t do LASIK or don’t want the flap complications, but you have to appreciate the fact that the recovery will take a while.

I’ll update this blog again when I hit the three month mark, unless there’s a drastic change between now and then.

Huckabee’s Theocracy

•January 16, 2008 • 3 Comments

I ran across this link today in which Mike Huckabee blatantly wants to

“…amend the Constitution so it’s in God’s standards rather than try to change God’s standards so it lines up with some contemporary view.”

How on earth is this man still in the race after expressing his thoughts? Is the evangelical arm so strong that it can suppress the outrage this should have created?

This is, of course, a huge breach of church and state separation, but how can anyone vote for a man so out of touch with the public? Millions of people in this country aren’t his brand of Christianity and yet he blatantly disregards all of them in one fell swoop.

And who is going to do the biblical interpretation for his constitutional amendments? With such diverse interpretations coming out of many different languages of the bible, there’s no way to reconcile the viewpoints into something feasible.

I would have thought that America would be sick of a leader who purports to talk to an invisible man. And yet this man has a strong following, despite his whacked out worldviews.

Resurrection Life Church

•January 6, 2008 • 51 Comments

Inspired by Hemant Mehta‘s book, I Sold My Soul on Ebay, I decided to visit a local church this morning. Resurrection Life Church is an evangelical, charismatic megachurch in Grandville, Michigan. I chose this church to visit first mainly because a friend mentioned that they’re into the whole speaking in tongues thing. I’ve really wanted to see firsthand what could possibly induce such trance-like states in white middle class suburbia.

Although I didn’t witness any speaking in tongues this morning, it was an amazing experience that I won’t soon forget. It has reaffirmed and strengthened my belief that all religions are man-made and filled with superstitious absurdities. Granted, this probably isn’t the message they’re trying to get across, but the point couldn’t have been made any more plainly.

The pictures below were taken with my cellphone after the main service. Sorry for the graininess in the photos, it’s just a cellphone and I was trying to be discreet so Jesus, or one of his followers, wouldn’t smite me.

The Terminal

ResLife Entryway

This is no ordinary church. It’s interior can best be described as a hybrid of a mall and airport terminal. I was immediately overwhelmed by the grandiosity of the entryway and walkways. Maybe grandiose isn’t the word. How about unabashedly commercialized? Either way, the effect disposes of any notion of a place of worship in favor of a fun place to hang out with like-minded people.

Cafe in Church?I’ve read the story in the Bible about Jesus throwing out the moneychangers in the temple courtyard, but apparently ResLife never got to that chapter. Around every corner, they’re selling something, either at one of many coffee shops or a bookstore to rival any Waldenbooks.

Seriously, I felt exactly as I do when walking through an airport terminal. They even have the same kind of signs hanging from the ceiling indicating where certain things are located so you don’t get lost. It’s a good thing too, because I may not have otherwise located the massive auditorium.

Did I mention the five thousand wide-screen plasma TVs they had all over the place? And when I say all over the place, I mean all over the place. I think they’re adopting a policy of not leaving any wall-stud bare of a high def TV. Each and every one was turned on and showing… showing… hell, I don’t know. But I imagine that whatever it is must justify the spending of tens of thousands of parishner’s hard-earned dollars. Ol’ Satan must be shaking in his spiky boots at the lengths these people will go to in order to flex their collective biceps in his direction.

The Game Hall

More Pool Tables than a Pool HallLuckily, if you get lost in baggage claim and don’t make it to the worship service to flail your arms around, there’s another section of the building I’ll just call the game hall. In itself, it’s larger than most churches I’ve been to and houses at least fifteen awesome pool tables. And not second-hand scratched up tables either. These were very nice and obviously expensive billiards tables. While I’m no good at playing pool, I occasionally go to a local pool hall and shoot some nine ball with friends. This church far outdoes my local pool hall in number and classiness of pool tables. And it appears to be free and I’m guessing there’s no smoking allowed. I think I may have found myself a new place to shoot pool. The only thing missing is a bar…

A Bar in ChurchOr maybe not; could that be? Yes, apparently they also have a bar (of sorts) within this massive game hall. Unfortunately, I don’t think they’re gonna serve any alcohol besides maybe a little communion wine. Next time, I’m totally ordering a Blood-of-the-Savior Smoothie. I hear it comes with a tall rusty nail right in the glass!

Besides the approximate six hundred plasma TVs in the game hall alone, there were a few huge projection screens in the far corner of the game hall. Several rows of chairs were laid out in the hopes that the pool-playing youth would stop long enough to watch the pastor ask for more money before returning to their game of eight-ball.

My Church can Beat up Your Church

ResLife AuditioriumI managed to follow the river of righteousness to the main worship hall. This room was just as I expected: Stadium seating but with the sanctity of pews; huge enormo-screen monitors above the podium; a section for the band and an elevated stairset for the choir. Initially I found myself up on the balcony, but I couldn’t stand being in the nosebleed section so I moved to the floor level about ten rows back. I wanted an up-close view of the action.

And video cameras, oh my! To the right side of the stage was a man operating a thirty foot contraption with an attached camera that allowed for those fancy flyby zoom shots on film. I think I watched that guy more than the actual service, sadistically waiting for him to slip and skim across the heads of the first ten rows of Christians. He never stopped moving!

The left side of the stage had a shorter camera arm that zoomed in and out on the band, giving you those close-up shots of the musicians that make you feel like you’re watching Jay Leno during a commercial break. During the worship service, there were several other cameramen walking through the aisles getting nice up-close shots of people at their most holy. All that was missing was a program that automatically photoshops a glowing aura around the heads of the faithful. You’d think that kind of thing would show up naturally on film, but I didn’t see any. Must be the cameras.

Understanding Ted Haggard’s Sin

The monitors all had a professionally designed graphical countdown to worship. When the clock struck zero, the band and choir were all in place and in walked the worship leader. All cameras focussed in on this guy, who had more charisma, and let’s face it, studliness, than any pop star I’ve seen. With his wavy blond hair and rugged five o’clock shadow (at 9:30 AM) and dashing, caring smile, I now understand the fall of Ted Haggard. If the founder of New Life Church had this guy leading worship, I could totally understand how he’d feel the need to experiment. Hell, I’m straight but now I think I’m gay for this guy. At least I know Ted Haggard has found a cure for homosexuality, in case I ever feel the need to bat for the other team for a while.

A typical song-singing service ensued for the next twenty minutes. This had the expected it’s-great-to-be-loved feeling – the only difference being the greater amount of people swaying around and waving their arms about. I watched with eager anticipation, but never saw anyone go nuts and start spewing off gibberish or speaking in tongues. Pity.

I couldn’t bear the thought of singing something I didn’t believe and observed the phenomenon instead. I wondered if people really considered the words they were actually singing. All that Jesusy stuff just seems so far fetched and archaic that I found it amusing. And as much as I willed it, the long arm of the camera on stage right would come straight towards the congregation, only to swoop dramatically upwards just before knocking a few out cold. Damn! So close that time!

Sieg Heil

After the singing came to an end with a forced feeling of guilt and redemption, a pastor came on stage with a large box full of prayer requests and fasting requests (fasting requests? oooook?). He rambled on for a moment about the importance of everyone praying to God regarding the contents of that box. He was going to have the congregation all pray towards the pile of requests, assuming God already knew each one of them individually. But really, if all it takes is a “God, help all those that wrote shit down,” and not individual prayers, can’t we just go ahead and get it all over with “God, help everybody everywhere” and be done with it?

And here’s where I had my first brief moment of horror inside a church. The pastor said “Now stretch out your hands towards these requests and pray with me.” I kid you not – Everyone in the congregation immediately did the Heil Hitler sign with outstretched arm, palm down. It caught me entirely off guard. At first I chuckled inside but then had a moment of absolute horror as I imagined what kind of influence these people were under, and that I was in the minority. That momentary fear faded into an uneasiness, realizing that it wasn’t quite the same, but still. It. Freaked. Me. Out.

With the knowledge that most of these people would welcome and encourage anything that they thought hinted at Armageddon, I think my initial fear was more justified. Jesus Camp, anybody?

The Ten Thousand TV Drive

The first part of the sermon was a call for alms. A good five minutes were spent on the benefits of giving to the church. Plastic buckets were then handed through each of the aisles so we could all empty our pockets (which I fervently passed on).

I could hardly contain my disdain at the audacity of this preacher to get up and ask for more money. Are you kidding me? The amount you guys spent on plasma TVs alone could feed an entire third world country for a decade. The freakin church itself was big enough to house a third world country of its own.

This place was nothing more than a glorified social club with a crackpot worldview, perpetuating an arcane religion and misleading hundreds for its own glorification. If it sold itself as a social club, I’d have no problem with people giving their own money to aid in its plasma TV drive. But it doesn’t. It guilts people into giving their hard earned money for its own benefit, all the while preaching the benefits of helping others. How contemptible.

Perpetuating Superstition

The stage then went dark as they moved things and brought out a stand for the pastor. During this time, the jumbotrons showed a couple thirty second announcements of upcoming events. It was a cute girl who must have aspirations of being a news anchor, but it ensured that there was not a dull moment in the service. They must think we have the attention span of a bumblebee.

The pastor then went on with his preaching. Summed up, it hit on the following points:

  • Your body is holy
  • Treat your body with respect in life and in death
  • Burial is the way to go out. Cremation is for pagans and should stay that way.
  • Tattoos are bad
  • Cremation is really bad and Christians shouldn’t do it. I mean, God can still resurrect you, but you gotta make it easy on him. Don’t cremate yourself.
  • Homosexuality is bad
  • Pagans are bad
  • Did I mention cremation yet? Because it’s bad. In fact, the polls show that more and more people are getting cremated, and this is just evidence that they are leaving Christianity and becoming pagans.
  • I’m hoping the rapture is right around the corner, but you shouldn’t live like that. prepare yourself to die rather than be raptured
  • And by the way, if you come back tonight at five o’clock, I’ll give you my top ten reasons why cremation is bad

This guy seriously went on and on about the evils of cremation, I couldn’t believe my ears. I came here for the speaking in tongues and all I got was a guilty feeling for wanting to donate my organs on death and have my body turned to ash. His reasoning for the anti-cremation rant was a tendancy towards superstition; that although God can still resurrect a cremated body, you should have yourself buried to show that you believe you’ll be resurrected. I’d say it’s laughable if it wasn’t such a blatant disregard for the life-giving benefits of organ and tissue donation.

And boy did he mention pagans a lot. I didn’t know paganism was such a prevalent force these days. You’d think he’d focus on more dangerous religions, like fundamental Muslims or *cough* evangelical Christians.

Edit: Nothing was mentioned in the sermon about organ donation. That was on my mind because last night I just renewed my license and organ donation registration.

I assume since they’re against the destruction caused by cremation, that they would feel equally as queasy about donating parts of said body. It seemed implied from the sermon that any destruction of the body God gave you is heretical. It’s sad to think that such a viewpoint is probably held by those four thousand or so people in attendance.

Life Lessons

Resurrection Life Church, or as they like to call it, ResLife, is the first evangelical and charismatic church I’ve visited, so maybe it’s just as absurd as all the others.

It lies just a few miles away from Grandville’s other megachurch: Rob Bell’s Mars Hill. I now have a much greater appreciation for the direction that Rob Bell is taking his church. Mars Hill is a very low-profile megachurch that is much more liberal in its beliefs. More importantly, they are honest and virtuous in what they do with their money and have some very specific ministries that are supported, whose goals are to help people while here on earth, rather than trying to convert them through pressure.

I’m definitely going back to this church. It’s like a freakin circus in there, and I have to bring a few of my friends so we can all laugh. Or cry.