Friday, June 17, 2011

My Fake Conversion

Let me share with you the story of my fake conversion. Last September, I took my evangelical girlfriend to the Penola Assemblies of God, a church that had been receiving much praise in the Christian community. According to rumours, members of the congregation had found themselves anointed with oil, and golden powder had rained down during worship.

From the beginning of the service it was evident that this was not like other churches I had been to. We were made to recite a prayer expelling a large variety of evil spirits. The standard ones were there, like lust and jealousy, but joining the fray were the spirits of laziness, of the love of money, of false gods. There were many more, covering every possible human inconvenience. The focus of the sermon was how unworthy, sinful and generally disgusting we all were.

During the service there was a great deal of shouting and speaking in tongues. At the back of the room, an old friend of mine was waving an Israeli flag and singing "Jeeeesus". I knew his marriage was falling apart (or at least the quality of it), and I was quite upset to see that he had thrown himself into the church, as opposed to throwing his wife out of the house (of course things are more complicated than this, but that would have been the most emotionally satisfying result). I was so upset that I began to cry.

The congregation, seeing my tears during this time of open prayer, decided that I must have just given my heart to Jesus. They surrounded me, placed hands on me, and continued to speak in tongues and call out things like "that's it, give up". They didn't look like giving up until I gave them some indication that they had succeeded. They persisted for the better of part of ten minutes before I conceded with a nod. They were very happy with themselves.

One thing I learned from the experience was that during the sermon, my girlfriend had actually been quite embarrassed. It seemed that having a skeptic around while all of this extreme behaviour was going on caused her, momentarily, to see herself through my eyes. I appreciated her candor. I suspect this same phenomenon is the reason she stopped inviting me to church.

I now refer to this as "bursting the group think bubble"; something I think will come in very handy in the near future.

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