Christians

Bad party

Imagine…

It’s the dawn of the 90s. I’m a fresh face at uni, and pretty soon I meet an overseas student called Edmund. He’s in one of my English tutorial groups. He seems friendly. He invites me to a party on Friday night at something called the Celtic Club in the city centre. Of course I say yes. My first uni bash! I’m stoked because I have a feeling it’s going to be an absolute cracker.

Party!

Friday night comes around. Woohoo! I get on the bus and go to the city. I find the Celtic Club. I’m ready to rock!

But wait… that’s weird… there’s no bouncer at the door. Decent crowd, though, so that’s a good sign. Half of the people are playing limbo, which seems a little strange. And not a drop of booze in sight. Australian uni undergrads playing limbo at a dry Irish club? Yeah, something’s a bit off. But I don’t really drink much anyway, so who cares? I go with the flow and crack open a can of Fanta.

Everyone at the party is very friendly. Too friendly, actually. You might even say they’re suspiciously friendly. I’m getting so much attention from strangers that I’m not sure if I should be feeling flattered or creeped out. One guy in particular is a very close talker and I’m becoming convinced he’s trying to pick me up. Thankfully, he never makes a move. Eventually the party ends and I go home.

Church?

A week or so later, Edmund finds me at uni and asks if I want to meet some people later that night. To be honest I’d rather eat my own vomit, but I say OK. It turns out to be a church service, only it’s held in a building on campus instead of in a proper church. There’s a sermon, and people are jumping and yelling stuff like “Amen! Preach it, brother!” or “Bring it home! Bring it home, brother!” Everyone is singing their hearts out and swaying around. I can’t sing for shit and I despise OTT religious stuff, so I find it all very repulsive. But like they did at the party, people are lavishing me with attention. I’m invited to a rugby training session…

Sport?

I show up to rugby training. Everyone praises my skills and my physique. It rings hollow because I know for a fact that I’m neither fit nor particularly co-ordinated.

Party!

Another week or two later, Edmund invites me to a second party. I really don’t want to go, but for some reason I accept. Why can’t I seem to say no to people? Anyway, the party is held at a flat in the suburbs this time around, but again there’s no alcohol. I had predicted as much, which is why I rock up bearing a six-pack of Coke. What I hadn’t predicted is that the high point of the party would be participating in a Bible reading. It’s only my second university party and I’m already beginning to think the whole scene’s overrated. It’s definitely not like in the movies where everyone’s drinking out of red cups and all the girls are topless.

I find a chair and reflect on the Bible reading. I’d done my best, honestly. They’d asked for my interpretation of a certain passage and I’d given it, but I could tell that my take on things hadn’t impressed anyone. To be fair, though, I find religious text incomprehensible. It definitely doesn’t speak to me or move me in any way. I just couldn’t give a shit, and I don’t like pretending otherwise.

Someone’s going around collecting money, and partygoers are forking out serious amounts of cash. I don’t know why. At least I’m not expected to contribute (and being of mixed Scotch/Dutch parentage, I’m sure as shit not about to reach for my wallet). As I’m pondering the money angle, the close-talking guy from the first party corners me and sings me a love song. It’s seriously bad. I worry that I’m the target audience, so when he says it’s for his girlfriend I feel very relieved. Then he casually mentions that after he sings it to her he’s going to ask her to marry him. Then he adds something about how he hopes he gets the permission of the church elders. ‘Church elders?’ I think to myself. What the fuck? I mean, those words are scary enough individually, but together they’re absolutely terrifying. And in that moment it finally dawns on me…

Out!

Parties where Bible readings are the highlight. Everyone is disturbingly friendly. And tithing! Boisterous church services. Controlling church elders. Limbo. It’s a cult. 100% guaranteed it’s a cult. And do I want to get tangled up in one of those?

Fuck no.

The next time I see Edmund, I ask him to leave me alone.

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Posted by H.R. van Adel in Personal, 0 comments

The Lord’s Prayer

NB When I was a kid, school assemblies began with a recitation of the Lord’s Prayer. These were generally solemn and serious affairs. By the time I got to high school, for some reason the Lord’s Prayer had been set to music. For me, this stripped away its gravitas and gave it a distinctly comedic flavour.

I went to a private high school for boys. It was supposed to be non-denominational, but our weekly assemblies had a distinctly Christian vibe and some of our guest speakers were disturbingly evangelical. For instance, an ancient missionary guy used to come every year and hand out tiny red bibles before regaling us with a song about the Holy Land. The song was a horrible dirge made infinitely worse by this guy belting it out at full volume, almost as if there was a cash reward for blowing up the PA system. The refrain was a jarring “JERRRUUU-SALEM! JERRRRRRRRUUUUUUUUUUUU-SALEM!” The entire school cringed in collective embarrassment, and there was always an awful stunned silence at the end. No one ever applauded; we never seemed to figure out how to respond. One year some nameless student spoke for everyone when he whispered too loudly, “What the fuck was that?”

Every Monday, we opened assembly by singing either the Lord’s Prayer or the Battle Hymn of the Republic. I always thought the latter was a very odd choice for an Aussie school. We sang accompanied by the school band. Our version of the Lord’s Prayer was an up-tempo rock ‘n roll lite affair that I just couldn’t take seriously. One particular morning as we geared up to sing it, one of the band’s guitarists substituted the usual bland intro with his own improvised grinding/wailing riff. Whether he meant it as blasphemy or parody I don’t know, but it was obviously an unsanctioned move because it drew dark looks from our strict old headmaster. I completely lost my shit. The rest of the song proceeded as usual, with everyone singing along. No one in the peanut gallery seemed to find that guitar intro as funny as I did. Even if I’d wanted to join in – which I never did – I couldn’t because I was practically crying with laughter.

The song finished and I still hadn’t recovered. Then one of the band guys tacked on a glorious, single-note outro on a glockenspiel. I totally lost my shit again. There were a few scattered giggles around the assembly hall as the headmaster did his best to murder the glockenspiel guy with his eyes. The look of outrage on his face was priceless; I was desperately trying to keep my sides from going into orbit. My muffled snorts and heaving shoulders caught the attention of my biology teacher who gave me a verbal warning.

To this day I can’t hear the Lord’s Prayer without cracking up.

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Posted by H.R. van Adel in Personal, 0 comments