The Jesus Orgy


Make text smaller Make text larger





Now, I've gone to black churches and gospel concerts throughout the South (to hear stirring renditions of "This Little Light of Mine" and "Will the Circle Be Unbroken" and to reflect on the comparative dead-dullness of the thousands of bar mitzvahs I've dozed through), but yesterday's service was of an entirely different caliber. It was by far the most overwhelming revival experience I've ever witnessed, straight out of Levi-Strauss or something: just five minutes into the service and everyone was howling and shaking and praising the Lord at all volumes. Then all these women offered "testimonies" that were considerably juicier than any AA sob story I've ever heard: I used to hit my kids and yell at my husband until Jesus, you let me in; now I'm not angry about anything. Jesus cured my lower back pain and now I run marathons. My son was so shy he wouldn't speak until he learned how to pray.

Everyone cheered and shouted at the end of every speech; I had no idea how to react to anything. I couldn't process some of the weirder Salem-witch-trial moments. Many people actually seemed possessed, for example, flailing on top of each other in crucifix-configurations. Limp and unspiritual as ever, I kept thinking I should call an ambulance from my mobile, accepting that I was missing the point. In addition to being the only white person, I was also the only one in the room who didn't collapse on the floor by the end of the four-hour spirituality orgy, though the matronly woman next to me actually grabbed both of my shoulders and pulled me to the floor with her, planting about 400 pounds of soul directly on my now-bruised left calf. Theo led the choir of four convulsive women, but, as the room kept filling with shouts of "Merci, seigneur!" and "Oh, mon cher Jesus!" and so on, we never actually got to the second verse of any song.

What a magnificent voice Theo has, though. I was proud to be her guest. I kept watching her shaking, her lips vibrating in silent prayer, and I finally figured out what happens to all those maple-pecan danishes she inhales twice an hour at the caf (I'd been irritated that a 40-year-old could have three kids, five pastries a morning and a significantly better body than I did at age 16): she was just self-incinerating up there. It was amazing to watch.

So, of course, all these moving observations bring with them a new anxiety: everyone expects me back. Theo's heartbreakingly cute four-year-old refused to alight from my hip until I promised I'd return the next Sunday, and every member of the choir extracted similar vows. I was solemnly introduced to everyone there, received endless "que le bon Dieu vous benisse" salutations, was cajoled into distributing my number and was generally welcomed into Jesus' inner chambers. I felt guilty that I had schlepped out there more to satisfy my usual anthropological/journalistic curiosity than to climb any higher mountains. I'm not sure I can commit to four hours' worth of spirituality orgies every week, though I realize I'm the one missing out.

I reflected on these new problems in the French Connection on Regent St., where I bought three fab new skirts.

Still, in this postgraduate abyss, I am becoming increasingly anxious for some spiritual structure. I miss institutional affiliations already. Yesterday afternoon, I received a group e-mail wishing me l'shanah tovah, and I realized that Rosh Hashana had come and gone without my even knowing it. Even in college I'd made efforts to attend at least one breezy service per holiday. So I called my convert-mother to tell her how shitty and aimless I felt that I hadn't even willfully skipped the ceremony, and she confessed that, since they'd shipped their kids off to school, she and my dad hadn't much bothered with religious events themselves. She was characteristically consoling: "Oh, sweetie, just dip some Granny Smiths in honey and it'll be the same as having wasted a day in temple."

Never one for details, my mother. Hard to imagine her pulsating on the floor of a Salvation Army off Camberwell Green.





Make text smaller Make text larger

Comments



MUST READ NEWS

VIDEOS



Subscribe to our mailing list

* indicates required
Neighborhood Newsletters





MOST READ

MOST COMMENTED