Note: Some of the following is true, some is exaggeration, and the rest is an outright lie. It is loosely based on my experience in a charismatic church. This ministry was prosperity based. I finally realized that the preacher didn’t give a hoot about anything except extracting money from the congregation so he could enjoy golfing in the gated community in which he lived.
I approached him about some volunteer work that I was doing at a bakery operated by Charleston County’s Vocational Training Program. This bakery was called Delicious Delights and was located only a few miles from our church. The employees had mental disabilities. I told the preacher that the bakery was in desperate need of volunteers from the community. The preacher told me forcefully and emphatically: “We’re not interested in that kind of stuff!” He practically threw me out of his office.
His wife was just as bad. I missed a sermon where she jumped up and screamed “If you don’t support George Bush’s wars you’re goin’ to hell!” My daughter heard that and was astounded and disgusted.
I used to go to church but the preacher and I didn’t exactly see eye-to-eye on matters of scripture. I would hang back after the service was over because I was always asking questions about the Bible, mostly about stuff in the Old Testament. I asked if Noah had to scurry around grabbing up two all the flies, bugs and bacteria and such. How about the snakes and the mosquito larvae and all the little lizards a whippin’ and a whoppin’ their little lizard tongues every which way? What about the fire ants and all the little bitty ticks and tapeworms and such?
Mark Twain asked all of these questions and more in an essay that was included in his monumental work, “Letters from the Earth.” He questioned the inclusion in the Arc’s cargo manifesto of flies carrying micro organisms responsible for plague and disease as well as the numerous parasites that survive in human hosts.The preacher never seemed to have any real explanation for my questions and, one Sunday afternoon after the service, I asked him whether Adam and Eve had belly buttons. Anyway, he got kinda flustered and told me that I needed to take all this stuff on faith. Then he asked me if I really wanted to sing in the heavenly choir. I had heard him refer to the heavenly choir before and I didn’t really know what that meant so I asks him what exactly is the heavenly choir. He said that we get to sing praises to the Lord for all time.
Now I was even more confused because I had also heard him say that there was no need to worry or sleep in heaven, but somehow the idea of singing 24/7/365 for all time didn’t strike me as a great way to spend eternity. In one of his short stories Stephen King suggests that hell is repetition.
I went into a reverie after he explained it to me. Homer Simpson does that a lot. You know…that’s when your mind wanders while you form a visual image of the situation before you. Anyway, as my mind started wandering, I was oblivious to everything else. I fell into a dreamlike state. Images whirled all about as I pictured this mass of departed souls up there floating around wearing all sorts of fancy robes. Red robes, blue robes, green robes, purple robes…as far as the eye could see, nothing but millions of departed souls singing and carrying on.
I imagined a scene where St. Peter was tapping his baton on the podium and he hollers: “Okay, that’s good enough for now. Take a five minute break and get ready cause next we’s a gonna sing How Great Thou Art for another hundred years but this time we’re gonna stand on our left foot instead of our right.” I then pictured the bass voices way, way in the back grumbling amongst themselves. “What the heck is going on here,” said one disgruntled choir member. “We gotta stand here singing these songs over and over while the Muslims get 21 virgins. Are you sure we’re in heaven?”
By the time I snapped out of my vision I was standing alone on the church steps. The preacher was gone and the parking lot was empty except for my wife and kids who were patiently waiting in the car for me to snap out of my daydream.
I also have a problem understanding the bumpers stickers on beat up cars that announce:”My treasure is in heaven.” That opened up another can of worms for me because why would you need treasure if there isn’t any place to spend it? I don’t think there is a Walmart in heaven but I could be wrong. I have plenty of folks who thought Walmart is as close to a real church as we can attend here on earth. If there is a Walmart in heaven, do souls get trampled at Christmas trying to get the limited supply of the latest heavenly gadget that will help them to keep up with the dead Joneses? If you wind up spending you “treasures” on wide-screen TVs, I-Pads, and Sub Zero refrigerators do you get a low-interest credit card? What if you max out that credit card? Is there a debt-collection agency that steps in? So many questions, so little time.