The virtual cornucopia of denominational choices were staggering. My family was Methodist for all intents and purposes so on the two holidays (Christmas and Easter), we put in our dutiful appearances. Our yearly trips to the altar were unchanged until my pre-teen years, when it was unanimously decided by my parents, that I had become "difficult" and needed more Jesus in my life. Heavier and more regimented doses of God were prescribed, and off to weekly Sunday school and Bible camp I went. I quickly learned that questioning the stories told to me from the Bible, was not tolerated and it was considered "rude" and "devil talk". They even threatened to take away snack time, as I called it. I had come to enjoy the crackers and grape juice... and my blasphemous inquires had seriously jeopardized snack time for me.
So bad were my inquiries considered, that I soon found myself being taken to a Pentecostal church for some Extra Strength doses of Jesus. I was called out in front of an entire congregation of people I did not know or recognize. They all gathered around me, put their hands all over me and started babbling and rolling their eyes back in their heads. The Preacher, microphone in hand, was screaming at demons that he was sure had taken up residence in my heart and mind. Quite literally, foaming at the mouth, this man began to hit my forehead with an open palm, screaming," Heal this youngin’!" smacking me on the word, “Heal!”, each time.
It was all quite frightening to my 11 year old self. There I was, feeling fine. I didn't feel sick or possessed. In fact I was quite sure that I was the only sane and un-twisted person in the room. It turned out that they were all waiting for me to pass-out and writhe on the floor like I was having a diabetic seizure. Well, no one TOLD me that I was supposed to pass out. I just kept looking around and wondering when it was going to stop. This went on for what seemed like 10 or 15 minutes, till the preacher waved his arms wildly and proclaimed me "cleansed". Suddenly all the zombified babblers snapped right out of their "trances" and were happy clapping and jumping up and down. I... being on the edge of tears, saw no reason to celebrate. The only thing I gleaned from the entire experience, was that I never wanted to experience anything like that, ever again. So visibly shaken by the experience was I, my parents used it as a tactic to force "correct" behavior from me. Whenever I was not behaving suitably for their taste, they would ask me," Do we need to take you back to the Holy Rollers again?"
Throughout my teen years, I tried praying from time to time. I was of course, ALWAYS disappointed. I would sit in total quiet and listen for hours to try and hear God speaking to me, as so many of the adults in my life claimed to hear God talking to them. Silence was the only promise ever kept. The more I grew and older I got, the more mature I became. I never found any answers in religion, just more unanswered questions., and more semantics, rhetoric and bullshit. Childhood indoctrination never "took" with me.
This was further solidified by the rampant hypocrisy I experienced at home. Many times my Mother or father would end an argument with a screaming fit of rage. Summing up their “do as I say, not as I do”, argument with, "I'm a Goddamned Christian, that makes me right!!" All while pointing the only free finger, in their whiskey sour drink holding hand, directly in my face. I guess it was their rampant, unbridled hypocrisy that I owe a debt of gratitude to. Without it, I may have never seen the true negativity, stifling nature and ridiculousness that is being a “happy clapping” Christian.
This is the first guest post written for my blog, the post author is Aniston, Alabama resident Stephen Burney, an atheist, and one of the more devoted fans of my blog.
"Happy Clappers", as you can tell, is his favorite term for fundamentalists, especially the Pentecostal variety. I had never heard this term before, and got quite a good laugh out of it.
(If you wish to submit your own guest post, read my post on submission guidelines . I would be happy to publish more guest posts in the future.)
Sheldon's note: (2/9/2013), the writer of this guest post, Stephen Burney, is no longer on Google +, which is where I knew him from. I'm not sure if he is still a reader of the blog, since he hasn't commented on the blog in quite a long time, or tried to contact me through any other means.