Sunday, July 27th 2014
Calvary Chapel of San Diego, Simply Jesus – http://calvarysandiego.com/
Well hello again and welcome to the second chapter in A God Amongst Them. I am your purveyor of insight, wolf in sheep’s clothing and not-so-humble fellow champion of pride, freedom and individuality Citizen C. I’ll assume that in even bothering to listen (or in this case read, as needs may be) to what I espouse from my forays into the dens of insanity, you are much the same. And if not, welcome to the fucking show. Fill your glass and strap in, it could be a bit of a bumpy ride.
This sunny Sunday morning found me driving not a few miles away from my home to a large and sprawling complex, the Calvary Chapel of San Diego, CA. A place I drive by several times a week, but have never had call to bother with before, more than a passing glance anyway. It does dominate the corner I turn to pick up my little girl from her daycare after all. Stark white stucco, usually locked gates to the open courtyard beyond and tall walls lend an almost radiantly intimidating dimension to its boundaries. A massive parking lot to house a couple of hundred vehicles services the Church and its multitudes who, on this particular Sunday had filled nearly every spot. A few Sweet Satan’s in my head and a disparaging thought towards the hot day later produced a comfortably placed spot for my vehicle, a single row away from the open entry-walkway. I smiled and bowed my head in appreciation to the old couple that had pulled out and they smiled and waved, once their ancient orbs gave me the quick one over. A presentable vest suit and well-kept appearance works wonders with the elderly generation, and I find it to be comfortable attire, heat be damned.
My friend and co-worker, a paunchy and friendly yet shy looking fellow I have affectionately dubbed Big Mac (his last name starts with Mac-, I am not a complete prick) waits for me outside the gates. He may look like a hairy Pilipino beach ball but his kind eyes and truly pleasant nature brand him a value and boon to a world so often bereft of both. His dedicated work ethic, positive demeanor and jovial appreciation of my rage filled, uncouth humor ensures him an infernal ally should he ever have need of one. Greater Magic isn’t against the law after all. Neither is Lesser magic for that matter. And as I was to find out later in the day, he enjoyed a damn good Ale or three and apparently doesn’t think I’ll be going to Hell. This, after three hours of in-depth philosophical and theological back and forth at a bar down the street speaks volumes about his character. But that comes later. I shook that big hairy palm, remarked what a handsome fellow he was while bidding him good morning and watched his oft-speechless face drop in veiled surprise as I strolled past him to the gate. He has a swiftness that belies his squat abdominis nature and with a chuckle he kept pace. Interesting that a lot of my friends are cuddly in build. Not that him and I have ever cuddled… but it’s good to know I have the option.
The entryway was manned by two young men in jeans and a t-shirt, smiling and shaking hands to all those coming in and bidding cordial good-days to those departing. After a quick greeting and a slapping of palms (kids these days truly have no concept of a good fucking handshake) we made our way down the sloping concrete grade to the courtyard area. Off to the right was a large, well sized play area for smaller children which was separated from a lawn of decent dimensions, large enough to hold the impromptu game of soccer that a dozen or so older youths were enjoying. All areas with ample adult supervision and secure in location. Points for that at least. Though no matter how many of these positive attributions to the children may garner them, the whammy to wipe the score clean which comes to mind is the indoctrination which takes place within. Mores the pity.
Multiple booths for activities, camps and groups lined the walkway to the main Chapels entryway, a modern style double door of glass. Small pockets of Sheeple were littered (or strewn, as you prefer) around the open area of the courtyard and a large white tent was set up for those wishing to satiate their gluttonous appetite on a repast of donuts, Sunny Delight and other fattening fare of trans-fat chemically laced goodness. My smile was genuine… with amusement, as it passed over the crowd of mindless munching ministered monkeys. Say it with me nine times fast now!!!
After I declined Barry’ humorous offer to rub elbows and powdered sugar with the sweaty and bleating crowd, we made our way inside. A waiting room functioned as another gathering area for those waiting for the service to begin, or as the case was more likely those who just got out. I turned out to be correct in observing that most of the people around were from the earlier sermon which had just let out a little while ago.
I pursued the large assortment of pamphlets and leaflets on the tables near the doors leading to the Chapel, finding little of actual interest, only supportive promotions and activities which one can find on their website. Having picked a couple for posterity’s sake, we made our way within.
An elderly man of priestly bearing smiled at us as we entered and docilely went back to tending his table of Bibles. Begging his pardon, I asked if I might borrow one of his tomes and he merrily responded in the affirmative. I grabbed one for Barry as well and we made our way down the long carpeted aisle towards the front. I looked over the Bible along the way, standard New King Barry Version (of the same style I had actually read in its entirety when I was thirteen) and Barry confirmed that the Church was non-denominational in creed. The Chapel itself is larger on the inside than even the tall walls and high roof give credence to and we settled on the fifth row from the front, center of the room. Cozy as a cannibal at a suicide convention. And interestingly enough, the pews did not have Bibles in their holding racks, only donation envelopes and prayer requests. An accurate indication of what was to come.
I took closer stock of my surroundings and the church-goers filing in, more young than old and as I finished inspecting the Chapel’s four huge aisles of pews and three massive video screens above the stage, a family took residence behind us. Now, Barry isn’t the most socially comfortable of people and we had talked before about, while he enjoys the atmosphere of the church for his personal and spiritual needs, he isn’t an extrovert by any shade of the color. No problem here I told him, I’m here to experience the awe and majesty of Jesus and his amazing grace. So while Barry chuckled aloud at my witty comment, Mr. and Mrs. John Q. Evangelical got situated behind us with their two friends and what I would have to presume was a family member or charge, disabled enough in both body and mind to be strapped into a wheelchair. So, while I had appropriately chosen the spot on our pew right next to the aisle, my choice had the added benefit of procuring in its proximity a poor halfwit lady, wheelchair bound and smelling of urine and Pine-sol. It almost overpowered the cheap aftershave smell (Brut if I’m not mistaken) coming from the fellow behind me tending to the woman’s needs. C’est la vie!
As I jotted notes and ruminated a few minutes longer, people appeared from the right hand of the main stage whereupon there were two amps, an assembled drum kit, keyboard station, two guitars, one bass and three microphones. The musicians and singers took their places, young YOLO looking teenage boys took up the instruments and the two young ladies of the group stood side by side behind their microphones. Nice legs those two. I do love skirts. Rather snobbish and petulantly dainty looking for my taste though. The “fellas” took up their instruments and the lead singer (a plump yet adroitly able guy with a decent enough t-shirt accentuating his chunky chest and arms to give the appearance of a muscles and a fit physique) called out good morning to the congregation and asked everyone to stand for the morning prayer.
It was as clunky, meaningless and full of stumbles as I have come to expect from those my age or younger by way of objective pronouncements and open speaking; no form or thought to his intentions by way of prayer other than the usual nausea of “how good is God” and “we thank him for the miracles of the day”. Too many Um’s, Uh’s and pauses for my orator’s ear. At the end, he repeated the message of the Church, that we are all here to “Grow, Connect and Serve” through Jesus Christ. And with that, he broke into song. A most rousing rendition of “Jesus Saves” with all instruments and backup singers jamming out to the cringe-worthy Christ raucous that has been so aptly labeled as Christian Punk Rock these days. “Punk” rock indeed. Most of the room was singing along, clapping and even a few worship waves showed themselves.
Note: By Worship Wave, I mean the oft seen hand or two raised high seeking to feel the glory of God, asking for blessing, comfort or strength. For reference, see any edition of the Bible, Book of Psalms; 63.3-4, 134.1-2 & 143.6, where it is explained in context. Debate exists between denominations on whether this is an acceptable practice, some seeing it as a form of charismatic effrontery, a practice stolen from the Jews (isn’t everything?) and some even that it gives praise (read: power) to the Lord. Because I guess omnipotent Beings need more of something they should in infinite supply have enough of. Everybody wants a bigger cock I suppose.
From what I could see of the others around me, only myself and the chair-bound woman remained seated. A kindred soul I inwardly presumed in bad taste. Just needs a bath. I blamed Brut man immediately, the bastard.
The second song, “Jesus Son of God” received much the same fanfare and participation. It, like the song before it was quite the proclamation to God and his son, sacrifice and love, ad nauseum. But the third song, “In Christ Alone” I actually listened to, trying to feel something other than a sense of fascination and hilarity at the absurd lyrics and my usual dismay at the heartfelt buying into of every goddamned word. One particular verse which caught my ear was;
No guilt in life, no fear in death,
this is the power of Christ in me;
From life’s first cry to final breath.
Jesus commands my destiny.
No power of hell, no scheme of man,
Can ever pluck me from His hand;
Till He returns or calls me home,
Here in the power of Christ I’ll stand.
Let us break it down shall we?
No guilt in life; Really? But we’re all born sinners (though I thought Jesus died for us so we weren’t actually sinners… yet we are?) right? Sounds like an amazing excuse to do whatever the fuck you want, to whomever you wish and not really have to give a shit. Nobody’s perfect. Well, there was that one guy, but we killed him. Supposedly.
No fear in death; Hmmm, I guess this could be taken one of two ways, or both which I feel is more likely. The first that there is no fear in dying and the second in that once dead there will be no fear. I’d have to ask, that if both or only either/or is the case, why the tears and sadness and wailing and prayer that goes into peace of mind for the dying or already dead? Not much of a forgone conclusion from the sound of it.
This is the power of Christ in me; So… no guilt in life, and no fear of death… the power of Christ makes one an egotistical psychopath with nothing to fear. Their actions are above the laws of man and any punishment meted out on this world will be nothing as to the glory of heaven and the reward of his love. I have heard LSD can produce the same delusions.
From life’s first cry to final breath, Jesus commands my destiny; The all-encompassing clincher of religion, a commander-in-chief who guides your actions and has a destiny (read: plan) for you. How could anything be your fault and why would you fear death? Now I get it. Never mind personal responsibility or accountability, Jesus has this shit down pat. The sheer logistics of it are mind-boggling. And I do logistics for a living.
No power of hell, no scheme of man, Can ever pluck me from His hand; Again, one I think that could be interpreted one of two ways but most probably both. Power of Hell, which must mean demons and devils and Satan, and schemes of man which I must attribute to their version of sin (pride, lust, gluttony, etc.) have no hold over a Christian because of Jesus’s love. Thus explained (as I understand it), this must either mean that you can do no wrong and you are always in “His Hand’s” (a frightening proposition) or that such powers have no sway over you in temptation… which is absolute bullshit. Please journey back in your mind to my recanting of the donut table. Anyone who has eaten a bite more than needed to survive is guilty of gluttony.
Till He returns or calls me home, Here in the power of Christ I’ll stand; And so with having no guilt or fear of death, knowing that my path is clear and firm in the destiny set forth by Christ… I shall stand around picking my nose until he comes down and destroys the world in his benevolent mercy (animals, children, whatever) or gets lonely and wrenches me away from my family and loved ones with a more often than not horribly painful and humiliating death.
Sounds like a real treat indeed. Like a poisoned chocolate bar or razorblade taffy.
The next song (yes, most of the damn time I spent in the pew involved being assailed by gospel rock music) was Whom Shall I Fear (Angel Armies). With such amazing lyrics like, “You crush the enemy, underneath my feet, You are my sword and shield, Though troubles linger still” and “My strength is in Your name, for you alone can save, you will deliver me, Yours is the victory.” More of the crushing of enemies, sword and shield pontificating, strength, deliverance and victory… yet apparently with a less than stellar performance as “trouble lingers still”. Aww, say it isn’t so.
But not to be outdone by the fifth and final (for the morning) ballad which took the form of, Oh Our Lord, which in those three short words pretty much sums up the rest of the lyrics rather succinctly. Longing, looking, hoping, clinging, reaching for “a light in the darkness” and “the word of truth”. I hear the Bates Motel has vacancies. There’s your light in the darkness, Mr. Bates will be along shortly with a splash of crimson truth. Who doesn’t like a neon sign?
At the culmination of the rapturous compositions, a final prayer was given by our budding young chub-master. “Yes God… we worship you… you are more beautiful than anything else on this earth,” and the bands time on stage came to a close. The picture I carry in my wallet of my daughter took a bit of umbrage with that last proclamation, but you can’t convince crazy with the truth so I let it alone. A call for the mornings social greeting was asked for, saying hello and meeting your fellow church members and the like, upon which the singers and band made their exit.
So while Barry got up and sportingly greeted the persons behind us, I sat tight and continued my notes and entries. My observations of the greeting were that most people tended to sit with those they knew or with whom they were comfortable with, and very little “meeting of new people” was done. I was not acknowledged by the family nearby, of which I was perfectly fine with and after a hasty thirty seconds the congregation sat back down.
A slide show played on the screens above with a loud and gregariously officious voice spouting off the various activities and Church functions which had and were taking place in the months of July and those ahead. Background music flitted in the air and it was all well done and suitably enacted. While it was playing itself out, filling in the gaps I would guess, a greasy butterball of a man (instant imagery came to mind of the child molester on trial in the opening scene of the movie, The Devil’s Advocate) climbed up to the pulpit and greeted the congregation with a smarmy resonance. He called the ushers forward and asked everyone to bow their heads for a prayer. I was too busy keeping my blasphemous levity inside of me to write down verbatim what was said, but I scribbled it down the best I could;
“Oh Lord, we give to you HILARIOUSLY, we praise your name and ask you to fill our hearts with charity and grace. For in giving, we show you our love and commitment to your name and the mercy that it brings. In your name we pray for the strength and guidance to offer all that we can for your great works to continue. AMEN”
… AND PASS THE FUCKING MONEY!!! SKYDADDY NEEDS A NEW SET OF NIKES!!! Or something close to that rang out in my mind. The ushers walked down the aisle for people to put money in the velvet bottomed trays, Barry graciously reached across and took it before the guy dropped it in my lap which he seemed almost ready to do. I will admit that the idea of tossing that shit-can back out in the aisle and the ringing of metal upon the carpeted stone would have been HILARIOUSLY generous indeed. More generous than Captain American-ing back at his head would have been anyway. But kind-hearted Barry caught on and dropped a couple of bills into the tin and passed it along.
After the guilt-trip had worked its magic and the money had been collected, butterball got rolling into a spiel about The AWANA Program. A place for young children to go to become young disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ. In the programs own words which can be found on their website;
“Awana helps churches and parents work together to develop spiritually strong children and youth who faithfully follow Jesus Christ. Our programs offer a proven approach for evangelizing and disciplining kids in the church and community.”
Their slogan? Leading Kids Worldwide to Know, Love and Serve Christ. From ages 2 to 6th grade there is the AWANA Club, and middle school and High School age children can join AwanaYM. The phrase AWANA comes from… where else, the Bible. The first letters of the phrase, “Approved Workmen Are Not Ashamed” as taken from 2 Timothy, 2:15 (New Kings Barry Version) “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” For a more Biblical context and understanding of the complete espousing that the AWANA Program promotes, reading the entire second chapter of 2 Timothy 2 or perusing the AWANA website will give you more of an idea of how truly sickening the program is as far as indoctrinating children and spoiling their potential goes.
Butterball ended his diatribe of “making young disciples of Christ out of the next generation” with a directive for the congregation to pray for these children and all the children of the world to be Disciples of Christ. Much like the previous sermon I had attended in Oceanside, the segment on children got my gut something fierce. Luckily it wasn’t too long and they did not call any children up to be embraced by a leprous cun- I mean enticingly dressed she-pastor. And with that final prayer, moneygrubbing fat-enstein lurched off the stage.
But onward to the sermon, by one Pastor Brett Spross. Now please, bear with me. While I am an intelligent enough individual, well versed in confusing loquaciousness and misleading garrulousness intended to supplant any introspecting thought of the nature of what is being endorsed… the sermon was a hither and thither blather of a story that could have simply been read from the Bible and relayed with meaning and context afterward. Which, as it turns out is the way I wrote my notes during the sermon in an attempt to make it in some way relatable to an audience. But explaining things as was done, alluding to passages not yet mentioned and areas not quoted to provide support for your “Message of the Day” is a truly shoddy way to present your case. Not that anyone around me seemed to be minding, caught in the moment of doggerel and verbiage as they were.
Thus, “We begin at Mark, Chapter 6”
6 And he (Jesus) went out from thence, and came into his own country; and his disciples follow him.
2 And when the Sabbath day was come, he began to teach in the synagogue: and many hearing him were astonished, saying, From whence hath this man these things? and what wisdom is this which is given unto him, that even such mighty works are wrought by his hands?
3 Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary, the brother of Barry, and Joses, and of Juda, and Simon? and are not his sisters here with us? And they were offended at him.
4 But Jesus, said unto them, A prophet is not without honor, but in his own country, and among his own kin, and in his own house.
5 And he could there do no mighty work, save that he laid his hands upon a few sick folk, and healed them.
6 And he marveled because of their unbelief. And he went round about the villages, teaching.
7 And he called unto him the twelve, and began to send them forth by two and two; and gave them power over unclean spirits;
8 And commanded them that they should take nothing for their journey, save a staff only; no scrip, no bread, no money in their purse:
9 But be shod with sandals; and not put on two coats.
10 And he said unto them, In what place so ever ye enter into an house, there abide till ye depart from that place.
11 And whosoever shall not receive you, nor hear you, when ye depart thence, shake off the dust under your feet for a testimony against them. Verily I say unto you, It shall be more tolerable for Sodom and Gomorrah in the day of judgment, than for that city.
12 And they went out, and preached that men should repent.
13 And they cast out many devils, and anointed with oil many that were sick, and healed them.
This story tells the tale of how Jesus came back to his hometown of Nazareth, a little farming town of approximately fifteen-hundred residents, one well for water and having no mention whatsoever in the Old Testament, after he had already worked many miracles in the lands beyond. Examples of miracles given during the sermon were the casting out of demons from a man (Matthew 8:28-34), calming a storm on the Sea of Galilee (Mark 4:35-41) and the resurrection of a twelve year old girl (Luke 8:40-56).
Note: This was not the first time Jesus had been back to Nazareth. One year prior he had returned and the town had cast him out and away which is described in Luke 4:16; “Jesus came to Nazareth where He had been brought up, and was His custom He entered the synagogue on the Sabbath and stood up to read, and the book of the prophet Isaiah was handed to Him and He opened the book and found the place where it was written, ‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me because He anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor, He has sent Me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set free those who are downtrodden, to proclaim the favorable year of the Lord.’ And He closed the book and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed upon Him and He began to say to them, ‘Today, this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” After which, the congregation was upset and fell into fits of rage, whereupon they brought him to a cliff to be thrown off, but by all accounts he simply passed them by and walked on his way unmolested. The lesson being that sometimes, a “prophet” can be unwelcome in even his own hometown. But that, you know, it is completely appropriate to walk into someone’s place of worship and read a prophecy from their Holy text and declare yourself the motherfucking bee’s knees! Sweet Satan maybe I should try that!!!
But this time around, despite healing a few ills Jesus was not able to perform any “mighty works” and the people there knew him as Jesus the son of a carpenter and brother to three other children from his family. To them he was simply Jesus. This reflection of the scripture was promoted for contemplation that “Familiarity breeds contempt.” And that although the town had heard of the great works of Jesus, they simply did not see him as wonderful for they knew him personally, from the time before he was “amazing”. They had no use for him or his “miracles” as they had already heard about the stories and simply knew what he was all about. Good for them I say. Kindred spirits of a sort that don’t “believe” a person who simply flips to the part of a book that suits them, quotes it and exclaims, “AH HAH!! Thus I am come!”
Relating this recital to current times, Pastor Spross called upon the everyday occurrences of spouses and family members in that we sometimes take for granted their presence. We get used to having them around, feel we know everything they are going to do or say and simply write them off as another absolute in our lives. A “Nothing new here, I’ll carry on with my day,” type of malaise.
But most especially for your children, this contempt through familiarity must be avoided at all costs. For one must “be above-contempt and consistent in faith”, proving a love in Christ will always bring you back to being a good person. This was followed up by a story about how he was raised by Christians and how his father ,a Pastor was “A godly guy”. Then of course came, “Even though he messed up sometimes, he pursued the Lord and it was ok.” From the pastor’s tone and underlying inflection, I caught the same tone I’d heard before in others recalling childhoods of adulterous, drunken parents that weren’t always the best of people. But that is simply my feeling and perception from his external presentation while relating the story of another “Godly guy”. “God does not want extremes” and “As Christians we need consistency” rank heavily of the usual denouncing of wrath or depression and consistency in the context given simply seemed to be another turn of the phrase constant reinforcement. Which in my experience is only needed when one has to learn something and maintain a level of familiarity with it. If it were natural and easily adhered to, like natural love or lust, constant indoctrination and reattribution would not be necessary. But then, Christians are made not born.
And the crème de ’le crème? That “We have to give grace to God and that we need room for growth to allow Jesus to fix our contemptuous ways.” A completely contemptible notion in this “humble” Citizen’s opinion. Though, I will make known a small addendum I find at the bottom of my fifth page of notes, scrawled in red ink that the message of “We should not be bigoted towards those we love,” is an admirable and agreeable sentiment. But then, those of us who take responsibility for our own prejudices and actions find the means and strength to change that which does not serve us and those we cherish, rather than pray for guidance and read a fantastical storybook. So soon the similarities and congenialities diverge it seems.
A few quotes I noted during this part of the sermon that are worth mentioning but do not require much comment are;
“Expect transformation in your life through the spirit of the Lord.” How fucking presumptuous and entitled can you get?
“There was no opportunity for Jesus to show his miracles in Nazareth because of the constant contempt of the unbelievers.” Nobody would buy his fucking bullshit. And he even had the home court advantage.
“Your faith is central to ministering and those without faith cannot perform works of healing.” I would have to take from this that there can be no “power” of healing (in any form) without the power of Christ through believing. Apparently the rest of us just have vast, dark closets and bulges in the rug.
It was upon this time that Sin was spoken of. Great googley-moogley here we go!
“Jesus’s mission on earth was two-fold; To destroy Sin and to build Faith.” Yes, the mission parameters were referenced in that order. Break it down, build it back up. Kind of like losing the fat and building the muscle. You can see where this is going. Heave-Ho Christian Soldiers!
This could be seen quite plainly in the later verses of the above quoted Book of Mark, Chapter 6 where Jesus calls to him his disciples and sends them forth in pairs. He instructs them to take nothing with them and empowers them with the ability to heal and cast out demons. Wherever they are first let into, stay there until they are done. Preach and call for repentance of sinful ways and to those who will not hear or have you, shake off the dust from your sandals at them. (This gesture was originally something done among Jews after they had traveled through pagan lands and returned to their borders or home. A silly act of decontamination, entreatingly enough now done by Christians to the Jews or anyone else who turned away from the “Good News” of Jesus. If only today’s Christians would use this gesture in full context, which has the added significance of putting an end at attempts to evangelize further with those who have rejected the Gospel.)
But in reference to the plans of Jesus where his Disciples were concerned, I have to imagine that the actual conversation went a little something like this;
Jesus: “Everyone gather round. Look here. Things in Nazareth didn’t turn out so well, and I’ve given it a good run but some people have trouble believing that I’m the Son of God and Prophet spoken of by Isaiah in times past. Motherfuckers that they are. But I’ve got a plan see? Leave all of your money, food and goods with me, yay even your second coat and pick a partner. This will be your road buddy. Yes, Judas you can have a staff to remind you of the comfort I bring in the night. In fact, staves for everyone! You will go out among the towns and villages throughout the land and preach the word of God and of me, his Prophet. Don’t worry, I’ll pass over some of my J-juice so you can have power over unclean spirits and heal a few ouchies and booboos when people ask you to prove that I am who I say I am. Everyone is so entitled these days. Bastards!!! Now I’m not saying it will be easy, I mean you saw how these assholes from my hometown wouldn’t give me the time of day, but this is all about faith and believing in the improbable and unprovable anyway right? And we’ve come this far together haven’t we? No more questions now, God commands this and you are being put to the test.”
The Twelve Disciples:
Peter: “Yeah, ok.”
Andrew: “That sounds totally reasonable.”
Barry (Son of Zebedee): “Sure thing J-Man.”
John: “Yay God!”
Philip: “I like this plan.”
Bartholomew: “It’s cool, my second coat has lice.”
Thomas: “I ate a large lunch anyway.”
Matthew: “Woohoo, SANDALS!!!”
Barry (Son of Alphaeus): “Dust in yo’ face BITCHES!”
Thaddaues: “Hehe. He said Sodom.”
Simon: “Will you be grading on a curve? I’m not a good test taker.”
Judas: “You mean you’re a fucking idiot. We know.”
Verily, a circle jerk and a few Hallelujahs later the six pairs traveled forth to do the bidding of a rabblerousing charlatan and heretic (to the Jews anyway). He was quite simply the next best thing since unleavened bread. I think my fictional accounting is about as accurate as what was printed in the Bible. Proof that it’s not? Buehler…? Buehler…?
According to the lesson being endorsed from this story, “Jesus urged his disciples before leaving that they should not shift into doubt, for it is evil as unbelievers are evil.” A direct quote from dear Pastor Spross. Doubt is evil. Unbelievers are evil. For references on what the Bible says about non-believers, just type into any search engine the phrase “non-believers in the Bible” and read the verses for yourself. Everything from not receiving them into your home, nor offering any greeting whatsoever (if you do, you take part in their wicked ways) to labeling all of them as doers of abominable deeds and of course ultimate judgment of being cast into lakes of fire are there for your consideration. Dozens of them of various degree.
In bringing all of the aforementioned together, the height of the sermon and the tales told are those to promote the action of ministering to the people, to go forth and bring others to faith. “But as Jesus said to his disciples do not go out alone, I say to you that you need others to minister with faith. And this power comes from Jesus and from God, the sufficiency which he provides.” This was supported by quoting the following;
As the good Pastor proclaimed further, “Spiritual work requires spiritual power.” And this power is provided in the form of;
Act 1:8 : “But you shall have power when the spirit of God comes into you.”
Raped by a ghost. And it probably won’t even buy you dinner first. Maybe a little ruffied wine but that’s it. Just an Almighty pain in the ass.
But perhaps the most disturbing addition to this “go out and minister” avocation was the quick analogy given of two types of people. Both are going on a plane trip and while one plans for every eventuality and catalogues and packages everything neat and orderly the best they are able (you know, like a responsible and accountable adult) the other simply tosses a few things in a bag and steps out the door (you know, like a boundless bundle of idiocy). Now dear reader, which one do you think was promoted to a station of admirable action? Why yes, the latter option.
As it was put so obtusely, “The person who plans out their faith is in error. Faith requires you to just get out there and do it. Don’t worry about the little things. Be faithful, share the word of God and he will take care of the rest. Sure, some may not listen but that’s not your problem. God will sort it all out.” Because who the fuck needs a change of underwear, a toothbrush or box of matches? God’s got me covered! Because we all know how much God has “covered” don’t we.
And with that a bowing of heads was asked for the final prayer, which I paraphrase with as much of the quotes as I was able to record;
“Dear Lord, we find it difficult to accept that no one here would reject you, but as there always are, I am sure there are unbelievers among us, and we ask that you give them faith and truth in your name. We ask that you give us faith and truth to become your disciples in all things so we may bring souls to your kingdom. Send us out among them who do not believe so we may cover them in your embrace. In your everlasting love, Amen.”
*I did indeed have the feeling he was talking directly to me, as I did not see anyone else in the room who refused to stand, bow their head or pray. Such attention? For me!? Ego boost. If you can’t be a good example, might as well be a horribly warning.*
Right before the last prayer was said, the band members and singers had come back on stage and took up their positions. Once the Amen had been completed, they struck up another rendition of Jesus Saves with a vast accompaniment of clapping and singing. A group of teenagers in the front row were even crying in (apparent) rapture and putting both hands to use in the Worship Wave. Though, one of the girls had her palms up instead of the customary down, so it just looked like she was weeping while holding onto an invisible pair of overly heavy testicles. Don’t worry young lady, I’d cry too.
Thus ended the sermon at Calvary Chapel of San Diego. Big Mac patiently waited a couple of minutes while I finished my note entries and we collected ourselves to return our books. The same old codger was there and after thanking him while handing him back our books, we took our leave.
As you no doubt realized, this was one of those (as their motto states) “Simply Jesus” congregations that adds the modern twist of upbeat and catchy Christian music to their Worship rather than the usual Hymnals. Appealing to young and old alike but obviously creating a flare of energy for the adolescent crowd, and the AWANA program catching the kiddies young they certainly have a handle on getting the hooks in young. Or as one statement put it on the AWANA website, “Planting the seeds of Christ early.” Two years old early by all accounts. Which as it happens is how old my little mademoiselle is at the time of this writing and I cannot imagine having her in attendance and being spoon fed the “God is Great, He is All” nonsense with her applesauce. Fuck. That.
Between the AWANA Program (or A.K.A. Advocating Worship Among Non-discerning Adolescence), early call for HILARIOUS generosity by Mr. Moneyrolls McTouchMyJesusJanglies, and the overabundance of ridiculously phrased J-Pop music, it was not a discourse I really appreciated or felt much interest in. As far as my role of observer went in any case. The sermon was, as earlier related very hodgepodge and not nearly as organized as my review of it gave cause for one to think.
I am sure you have heard (or read as the case may be) the hypocrisy evident, as it always is, in much of what was recited from scripture and recounted into everyday experiences. And while the annoyance factor of the call to ministering certainly lends evidence to the obnoxiousness we often find ourselves assailed with in public discourse or in advertisement, any physical detriment presented seemed to be minimal. But once again, this I feel is more do to the fact that they are not by law allowed to force their dogma on you, rather than any sense of empathy and compassion for those unlike them.
The fact that I do not respect and cannot to any degree advocate what is being championed in the sermon shared today is neither here nor there, but I will admit that they can and should be allowed to believe in what they wish. As long as it does not affect me and mine or those who do not wish to be bothered with such fantastical proclamations; whether they be Atheists, I-theists or even Theists of another stripe. But sadly, this is not something that believers can allow to continue unopposed. Constant preaching and pushing, poking, prodding and begging and pleading are what is reinforced every Sunday (should they choose to go only once a week) and the encouragement to be an insufferable annoyance is paramount. But such has always been their way and as the basic tenants change little despite denominational doctrine or Bible edition quoted, I suspect these axiomatic “truths” will hold firm, at least until the flocks abandon in droves rather than the occasional lost straggler. But any progress is indeed progress of a sort, and just as a boat that springs a leak becomes more compromised the further it edges towards the waterline, so does Christianity require more and more pumps and buckets to say afloat. I do not think the last gasp will come when the boat has finally sunken beneath the waves, but when those who are adrift in the water find they cannot swim without their floatation device and scrabble ahold of one another, fighting for positions of temporary safety atop their once “beloved” brethren only to drown them in the process.
But the afternoon was not all dross and nonsense. The three hour dialogue at the Oggi’s Bar and Grill down the street immediately following our departure from Cape Craz- I mean Calvary Chapel between Barry and myself was infinitely more enlightening than the sermon. Especially since he hosted and snagged the tab. Amazing ales, decent food, great conversation and chasing away a patron or three with a few half-hearted Hallelujahs and blasphemous Hail Satans! It was most definitely a needed reprieve. And I do so enjoy one on ones with intelligent, thoughtful and wise individuals, whether they be God-fearing or no. At his request, I did not record our conversation verbatim but I will say that his personal views and beliefs are among the more interesting (and respectable) that I have heard from a Christian perspective. Considering he is twenty years my senior and was once an atheist himself but not titling himself among the “Born Again” crowd, we agreed on more things philosophically and morally than we disagreed. Though, I’ll clarify that this is probably due more to my own personal preferences and inclinations than any real relatable inferences between the philosophy of Satanism and him as a Christian. But several of his opinions were interesting avenues of approach regarding subjects that I had not previously meandered down, and hearing a lucid and rational accounting (as much as it possibly could have been) of his faith without the scripture, verse and undue hullabaloo thrown in was a pleasant change of pace. It was my pleasure to converse with him at length and I find it an agreeable revelation to know that he is among the score I have met amid thousands that can not only hold his own in debate, but keep things amicable in the process. A proper gentleman and scholar as far as I am concerned.
And that is going to conclude this review of the Calvary Chapel of San Diego. As always, this Citizen wishes you the best in your dark endeavors and thanks you for coming along with him in this, another of adventures in being A Spy in the House of God.
And in the event that Barry ever comes to read or listen to this review, I’ll sign off with this favorite phrase that signaled the coming of our last round;
“BARTENDER!! ANOTHER ALE FOR THE YOUNG AND THE CONFUSED!”