As the actor who played an airline pilot on The Bob Newhart Show once said, it’s unnerving to have the name Jack when you fly a plane for a living since people greet you by saying, “Hi, Jack!”
Which reminds me: I once knew a guy named Jack Offerman, whose girlfriend liked to give him hand jobs.
(Pause for rimshot drum roll.)
Now that I’ve got that sophomoronic puerility out of my system, let’s get down to monkey business. Last Sunday I found my wife-enforced church duties had suddenly been extended–and without warning (which is, I guess, what suddenly means, but repetition is the spice of monotony).
After we sat through the church disservice on the floor of the balcony, the pastor invisible to me from my vantage point near the rear wall, his droning voice still audible over speakers despite the plexiglass barrier that separated us from him and the rest of the seated flock, who were temporarily silenced from bleating as they were treated with more apocalyptic razzmatazz, and I diverted myself by making faces for the rambunctious two year old who always attends these dysfunctions, each of us swinging one end of my scarf for the Holy Ghost to jump rope with, I took a break to go get a pastry at a bakery and sit down for a cup of coffee in a cafe while Michael Jackson posthumously sang “Take Me to the Place Without No Pain.”
I assume that Michael finally succeeded in reaching such a place, and that the hysterical buffoons at the church who go in for all that fire-and-brimstone crap are wrong, despite the allegations that the late pop singer was a “kid-napper.”
Not that they’re apt to be right about heaven either. Unless you’re an exceptionally dedicated meditator or a robot based on a Charles Bronson template, nonexistence is where it’s at painlessness-wise. Life ain’t no place to be if you don’t want to hurt ever again. At least in my experience, it’s a major part of the package, not that it has to be that way. (I know that a large part of my suffering is self-inflicted–if not all of it– despite the title of this entry.)
When I returned to the church to join the rest of the Sunday school teachers, one of the other ministers, who runs the class, chided me for being late, then said he was joking with a smile, in a passive-aggressive display of hostile pacifism (maybe he’s a Jesus-Yahweh hybrid; say what you like about them, but they do get great gas mileage–and serve a multi-billion dollar industry).
I took off my shows with a perfunctory bow of disingenuous apology, then went and sat down next to my wife and four children she was helping paste together little Jesus-themed dioramas using scissors, paper, and glue-sticks.
Afterwards the pastor guided the children, who averaged in age about five, in his usual flamboyant aerobic dance moves that are meant to infuse them with the message of the savior on a subliminal level. Again as usual, most of the kids were non-responsive, although a few of them made phlegmatic attempts to reproduce his gestures or parrot the cheerleading nonsense he himself was parroting (a place where the parrots lead the parrots–where are all the pirates? That’s what I’d like to know. Oh, that’s right! They’re the ones pulling the strings on the parrots’ beaks and wings).
He then led them in a slide show depicting cartoons of key religious historical figures and narrated a story from the New Testament I was unable to follow since it was in Korean. The characters on the screen were colorful, and Jesus, the star of the show, had glistening, doe-like eyes that were much big for his face, as if he were high on the drug of the kind of universal love promoted by Hallmark greeting cards and refrigerator magnets.
Once again as usual, the pastor showed a slide of this gentle, misunderstood martyr on the cross with closed eyes, crown of thorns intact, beautiful bright red blood flowing from wounds inflicted by foolish mortals. I’ve always thought that making children feel guilty for the execution of a man who died two thousand years before they were even born is an especially insidious gesture, and when this kind of thing is repeated enough–as it invariably is in these “make you feel like shit just for being alive” types of evangelical (no)fundamentalist Christian churches–it boils down to brainwashing–or brain-boiling.
Anyway, this nicer-than-thou, spineless schmuck who’s also an incurable control freak, and counts my wife among his numerous victims, asked me if I could join him and the rest of the teachers for lunch after the programming of the youth had finally come to an end. Since I have a bare-bones social life, I’d been looking forward to going to the cafeteria and maybe having a nice conversation with one of the members of the flock I just slagged a few paragraphs ago.
But since I’m also a spineless schmuck myself, whose testicles are on display in a museum in Kentucky in which Adam rides a Tyrannosaurus Rex and Eve alights a pterodactyl, I gave in without even trying to think of an excuse, figuring if I didn’t I’d never hear the end of it when I got home.
That meant having to sit on the floor some more and torture my back as we all ate our shiny steel bowls of noodles and kimchi. Hardly anyone said anything.
(To be continued)