Thursday, January 07, 2010

Eleven Blue Moles Plan A Resounding Active!!

Yesterday evening the Biker and I went to our weekly therapy session, and I found myself regaling our counsellor with the following tale (apropos of what exactly I don't recall.)

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I had an arrangement with my parents the year I was 16. I would, without complaint, accompany my mother to every single one of the crackpot, embarrassing, bizarre, humiliating, excruciatingly awkward religious events she attended, and in return I got to continue to live in their house*. I've gone into the reasons why this arrangement was made elsewhere; the short version is that my mom wasn't going to put up with anyone who was 'possessed by an unclean spirit' using her bathroom.

That any arrangement was made at all was sheer lucky timing on my part. Shortly prior to this my mom had found Jesus, and apparently Jesus doesn't like for people to turn their daughters out in the street. Now I was grateful as all heck to Jesus for the opportunity to continue to sleep indoors, and maybe I shouldn't complain; but to tell you the truth Jesus- who was a great guy otherwise- could not manage his money for jack shit.

Fortunately for him, as long as my mom was around Jesus never had to worry about his credit rating.

The only thing about any of this that benefited me personally was that it got me out of the house, and gave me an opportunity to meet a entire sector of the American public that I never would have known existed otherwise.

One day my mom decided that we were going to go to Las Vegas and see Kathryn Kuhlman. And so it was done. The woman who saved bacon grease until it grew an afro and hoarded boxed muffin mix in case another depression suddenly hit coughed up the wherewithal for a couple of round trip airplane tickets, two event admissions and a sizable 'love gift'...and my dad drove us to the airport.

Kathryn Kuhlman's popularity is difficult to describe to anyone who isn't familiar with 'Born Again' evangelical culture. How she was able to get away with what she did for as long as she did is a testimony to the same American tendency to 'willing gullibility' as was noted by that other giant of the religious community, Aleister Crowley. Weighing in at maybe 70 lbs, standing about four foot nothing, with bad hair and a voice that alternated at random between alto and baritone, you could not call her physically compelling. Her preferred dress was white chiffon. When I saw her she'd added a cape and train, wizard sleeves and a Mary Poppins neckline, all of it edged in scallop.

As she spoke, or rather, declaimed, she would dramatically flow across the stage from left to right and back, taking large measured steps, and then suddenly STOP! ...one arm outstretched! and hold the pose while her garments hurried to catch up with her, face ablaze with fervor. Then suddenly back she'd go as though someone had released a spring, arms fully outstretched and circulating like goldfish fins, and once again STOP! Then dart to the front of the stage full tilt, and STOP! right on the very edge of disaster! The whole time croaking away about Gods heavenly loooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooove for his chiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiildren, and his glooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooorious heeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeealing POW-errrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr.

This show was one well-oiled machine. She had an orchestra. She had a choir. She had soloists. She had costume changes. She also had a crack team of gimps. 'Patients' on gurneys parked around the front of the stage with 'nurses' and 'doctors' in exaggerated attendance, a large coterie of the 'differently-abled'; the whole crowd of them clearly playing roles, slicker than hell. I'm not being bitter here. It was so clearly rehearsed and had been repeated so many times that it looked as mannered as a kabuki theatre production. While whatever passed on stage took place, the folks down in the pit area on the floor ground through their accompanying routine...a nurse suddenly rushing to the side of a patient struggling to get out of their wheelchair...two doctors holding an impromptu emergency consultation while one of the gurney folks showed the first signs of consciousness in years; ushers rushing to their sides and then whispering loudly to one another 'She was blind for 14 years! She says she can see shadows!' and sending rumors up through the crowd**. All clearly cued by orchestral flourishes, key lines, and the ends of songs.

I had been under the impression that we were here to attend a revival. After a short while of watching it,though, I thought 'Oh, OK. This is like a play' and settled in to patiently wait for the whole weird-ass thing to be over.

I was right, as it turns out. This was a theatrical performance, in the same tradition as psychic surgery, the medicine show, and the carnival pitch . It even has a name. It's known as the 'straight healing service'. What Kathryn did was, she got the crowd whupped up, stuck her hand on people, they fell down, and it cost 65$ a head to see her do it.


Meantime Kathryn is healing the halt and the lame hand over fist. A long queue of people snaked down through the aisles and up onto the stage. As soon as she'd stick her hand one one person WHAMMO down they'd go like a sack of crap. The ushers would expertly catch them under the arms and hardly have them drug off before the next one hit the floor. People in the audience were standing and waving their arms in the air, speaking in tongues! Huge ovations went up when the formerly speechless uttered their first words in years! Plane crash victims with both feet sewn to their faces gave eloquent testimony! Cancer patients who'd had their entire brains removed calculated square roots! The crowds went wild!!!!!

And all of a sudden Kathryn stretched out one scrawny arm and everything HUSHED.

The whole place-silent. All eyes on her.

She swept to the very edge of the stage, faced 'A' section, stretched out one arm like a flagpole and announced "SEIG HEIL!"



















....naw, I'm fucking with you.

She stretched out one arm like a flagpole and announced "FEEL THE POWER OF GODS LOVE!"

And every single person in 'A' section went down like they'd been scythed.

EVERY SINGLE PERSON.

She suddenly darted across to stage right! Stuck out her arm toward 'C' section and shouted "FEEL THE POWER OF GODS LOVE!"

Every single person in 'C' section hit the floor.

I'm seated in 'B' section, center floor, with my mom on one side of me and her best friend on the other. We are standing up praising the Lord with our arms upraised. Everyone around us is speaking or singing in tongues, moaning, swaying, crying, laughing...

Kathryn sweeps to the center of the stage, and out goes the arm. She's pointing at us. 'B' section falls silent.

Kathryn Kuhlman shouts "FEEL THE POWER OF GODS LOVE!"



And everyone in 'B' section goes down like dominoes.
Every single person.
All of them.



Except me.


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Now imagine for a moment that you're a 16 year old girl who's been told that she is literally harboring demons. I showed up at this event carrying quite a burden of guilt and shame and fear. And lest you think I had my mind closed, know that I did not, not this early on; I was all for Jesus and love and forgiveness and God. I thought that a lot of what I had already seen was sad and embarrassing, but there was enough sincerity floating around to keep me hoping that maybe I was just missing something and that eventually I'd 'get it'.

And I did. As I was standing there, all alone, literally in the middle of the auditorium, glancing around...slowly putting my arms by my side...slowly sitting down in my seat...my mom shooting me dirty glances, her best friend shooting me dirty glances, people looking away in embarrassment...I finally got it.


These people were all nuts.


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* instead of at the Perry Center Home for Wayward Youth, where my cousin was currently being raped by the staff and her fellow inmates.


**How obvious was it? When the program was over and we were all filing out, the 'doctors' were helping stack up folding chairs.

8 comments:

  1. Catholicism was never that much fun.
    Brilliant piece of writing, you transported me there!

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  2. Anonymous2:53 PM

    What a show! I grew up watching Oral Roberts on my grandmother's TV. Fortunately none of my relatives were interested in revivals although I would have enjoyed the music. Remember Christianity was created largely by committee. Royce

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  3. I yearn for you tragically.

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  4. I never had the opportunity to see such an happening in full. More then 15 years ago Billyboy Graham was still alive and had a tour in Germany. In this truely catholic town in an arena he could be seen on telly, the master himself staying in Frankfurt - and people were told to come forward, touch the screen and feel - whatever. Maybe static electricity.
    Try to understand what it feeds to the people, obviously it satisfyes a need, but I can not figure it out. So you must have felt like alone under beasts, a little like the person in the asylum who tells everybody she'd be here by accident, a true mishap ... The fascinating thing is that it works, it is possible to make the single rational being act like a crazed maniac, without guilt and all. "Sieg Heil" is pretty well in this connection: "Volk erhebe Dich, Sturm brich' los!"

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  5. "and nooooowwww here's DDDDinooo at the PIAAANnnoooo!!!" Was dino there that night? We (my whole family) used to watch her on tv and mock her. My baptist preacher father especially loved the whole dino part.

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  6. Hendrix: thats one of them there self-cancelling thingies, that is...'fun' and 'religion'...

    Royce: Oral Roberts university was funded in large part by my mom, I'm sure.

    Vicus: yearn for me joyfully, the way I yearn for you. *blows festive party horn*

    mago: google translator tells me that "Volk erhebe Dich, Sturm brich' los" means "People will exalt you, storms break off" ...the meaning of which isn't altogether clear to me in this context, although it certainly beats "Dirty Canadian underwear on fire in a bag on your front porch". In any event, as an American, I would like to apologize to the Franconians as a nation for inflicting Billy Graham on them.
    Sorry, Franconia.

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  7. ...sorry, JOY!
    Sadly, I do not recall Dino at the piano! I remember Kathryn attempting to sing 'How Great Thou Art', though, which rendered out as an occasional, mega-amplified basso croak "...THOU AAAAAAAAAAAAAAART...." so yeah, Dino didn't have a chance.

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  8. It sounds as if you yearn for me hornily. You are not alone.

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