Growing up in an isolated apostolic sect, you get a front row seat to some pretty bizarre and fascinating scenes. There was always lots of dancing as the pastor’s wife pounded away on the old piano and his daughter danced around with the tambourine, lots of pulling people to the front to have the pastor hit them upside the head whether they wanted it or not and lots of falling down. So much falling down. Maybe that’s why I still to this day can’t see someone fall without laughing, the more flailing the better. I was born into a society of people who cheered one another on as they flailed and screamed and rolled around on the floor in their ankle length skirts and perfect cinnamon bun hair.
As a side note, it was at church that I first noticed the plight of the rhythmically challenged middle-aged white man.
Some nights when we’d arrive to church there was a different energy the air. People got super excited when we had a visitor because it was pretty rare. This may be hard to believe, but people were hardly pounding down the doors eager to be told that they were bound for eternal damnation. That sometimes doesn’t sit so well with folks that just wanted to show up, sing some hymns, learn a little about Jesus and go home to tuck the kids into bed. I never understood why, we were just trying to help, and no kid was ever scarred by hearing in great detail what happens to flesh when it burns, right?
Anyway, those nights were extra special. On those nights we’d learn all about demon possession again. You could almost feel the electricity in the air as Brother Danny would scream for an hour and a half about Jesus casting demons into pigs, all the while breaking every two minutes to wipe the torrential sweat from his face and the dripping spit from the microphone.
As he’d begin to close, Sister Kathy, his wife, would begin to pound as softly on the piano as she could manage. She tried her best though, and we all enjoyed it. He’d begin the standard pleas to come to the altar, to repent your sins. You know, it’d been an entire 6 hours since we’d done so at Sunday school.
I was never sure how it happened, but somehow that night’s guest always ended up being dragged forward, completely of his own free will. The prayer would start innocently enough. He’d be anointed with oil, Brother Danny would ask the church to pray and BAM! Our guest was splayed out on the floor, held in place by four of the church’s strongest men, one on each arm and leg. Now here’s the fun part. We’d get to sing and pray and cheer our friends on as they beat the young man with bibles until he was literally vomiting and seizing and threatening to kill us all. He didn’t mean it though, that was the demon talking.
Eventually he’d stop fighting and repent and we’d all cheer and celebrate and dance and fall down again.
By this point he’d have vomited out all of the demon, so he’d rest for a bit before a bunch of the guys would help him out to one of their trucks. I always thought it was super nice of those guys to make sure he got some safe after such a stressful ordeal, but I never understood why it took so many guys to escort him home or why they were so excited to do it.
None of those guys ever visited a second time, though. Pretty ungrateful, if you ask me.