Going to church with a hangover gives a whole new meaning to the word hell. When I arrived outside the sacred prison whose inmates incarcerate themselves for an hour a week by choice, the minister’s wife, a squat, petite woman who from now on will in these pages will go by the name of the miniwife, was there to greet me. I didn’t ask her if she had a bucket I could bring into the “service” with me (so I could contribute something a little deeper, more visceral, and more pungent than plain old money), but instead asked if she’d seen my wife, who might as well be God’s chosen secretary, her belief is so inexorable and vehement.
“She’s with the teenagers,” the miniwife said. A few weeks ago Jina (my wife) dragged me to a special, separate (dis)service that was much noisier because the whole thing involves a bunch of singing and loud, bad music (Christian rock, anyone?). My silicone earplugs were no match for the explosive, pulsing noise, or even the young pastorbator who yelled at us from a script for half an hour after we’d been subjected to the musical, Jesus-jiving jazz (figuratively speaking). I guess God’s goal is to shatter our eardrums and pulverize the tiny bones in our ears (remember their names? the hammer, the anvil, and the stirrup, right?)
The miniwife’s words were a relief to my ears, as it meant I’d be able to goof off instead of having to pretend to listen and pray and sing along to the ungodly hymns even though I can’t make out the tiny mosquito leg-like letters in the hymnal and am perennially only semi-literate in Korean anyway, and if I sing in English it’ll throw everyone else off, and I don’t want to add to the confusion in the building by promoting such ludicrous nonsense; instead, at those times when my wife does prod me into singing, I usually just emanate a long series of vowels with a more Native American flair. It’s an ecumenical approach to the proceedings–musical camouflage, as it were.
I noticed that one cute girl (okay–sorry for being a sexist bastard; she’s a woman) who used to be in the choir got her haircut and now has a husband in tow. He’s probably already knocked her up; who knows? She may even be bearing the Second Coming. Maybe in a few years I’ll get to be Jesus’ babysitter. Yippee!
I offered the elderly gentleman sitting on my left (we were in the back row since I’m a foreigner; it’s the Korean equivalent of Jim Crow) a cough drop, but he said he already had one, thanks. To his credit, he closed his eyes and started to catch some Z’s during the sermon. My head hurt too much to join him, so instead of working out anagrams, my usual duty, having to read my wife’s inscrutable transliteration of the minister’s holy hallucinations and exegeses of Jesus’ excrement (I’m being unfairly harsh; I don’t really feel that way, but I like the way it sounds; please excuse these little belletristic outbursts), I scribbled down some things to share with y’all, which I’ll transcribe for you now.
Every service leads one across a new frontier in monotony. You become a pioneer of formalized boredom. There is a clock–but it’s mounted on the wall before the balcony, facing the minister so he can know when it’s time to shut the hell up and split with his fellow semi-drag queen henchmen. (The only reason I know about the clock is I’ve turned my head around on more than one occasion to check the time during one of the pastor’s satanically slow, interminable sermons, their insignificance augmented by my dearth of Korean, not that I give a hoot what he has to say about anything, including the weather.)
There’s also a vulture-like closed-circuit TV camera mounted above the equally vulturine (sp?) minister’s head, the beady evil eye of God watching over his well-fleeced flock. I’m not sure what the camera is for, but I’m tempted to shatter the lens some day with a well-aimed slingshot.
I majored in religion and from my dogmatic perspective, it’s safe to say that all religions are equally ridiculous. I can’t pretend to be an expert, but broadcasting one’s belief in an unprovable, untenable deity seems childish in the extreme. It’s like taking pride in an addiction. Granted, religion helps some people–okay, a lot of people–get up in the morning, go to bed at night, and not kill themselves while they’re awake–but in its extremest forms it’s a grotesque travesty unworthy of a sentient being, an embarrassingly flamboyant blunder and collective failure–or even a betrayal of–the imagination, an unconscionable flouting of common sense and the responsibility to question things that is the province of any functioning adult, no matter how sentimental or advanced in one’s arrested development one is in other areas.
I don’t mean to wax melodramatic, but giving up religion may even be a matter of life and death for the whole planet. Can we afford to continue to be so irrational, and on such a grand scale? Is it mentally healthy for people to relinquish the ability to think for themselves, and to believe in things that are quite simply not true? Hmmm. In a world rife with famine, anthropogenic global warming, skyrocketing extinction rates, and rapidly dwindling supplies of fresh water, fish, trees, and arable land, a planet full of jellyfish and deserts, the idea of grown men and women devoting their lives to an activity whose main goal seems to be the nullification of the things of this world in favor of one that doesn’t even exist is worse than wrong–it’s dangerous.
Not that a humble belief in a higher power or what have you is necessarily harmful, as long as you can admit the possibility that you’re wrong. My steadfast position is that nobody knows, including me, and I don’t give a good God damn if there is a God or not, because his, her, or its existence is absolutely irrelevant, and no amount of praying is going to get me any action tonight. Believe me–I know; I’ve tried it, and it don’t frickin’ work, baby.
And not that the serendipitous accomplishment of sexual congress, delightful though it is, is necessarily going to save the world either, but it might alleviate some of our suffering, if only for a moment–and not that that’s a message you’ll ever hear in church, where the only purpose of otherwise-icky sex is to propagate, as if the human race were nothing but one big-ass cattle ranch, which I suppose, come to think of it, it is.
Don’t forget to enjoy your steak! Here at the meat market, our motto is bon appetit.