Year of Sundays

Year of Sundays

Church of the Chemically Imbalanced: The Portland Pentecostals

Like a piece of Freshen Up gum: normal on the outside, juicy in the middle.

The first thing you should know about The Portland Pentecostals is that they are rabidly friendly to newcomers. Before we even found a pew, I’d shaken hands with no fewer than ten pentecostilians. Pentecostalites? Pentecostalonians? Oh. Pentecostals. Right.


The second thing you should know is this was hands-down the most diverse church we’ve ever been to. There was a little of everything:

  • pearl-wearing grandmothers in angora sweaters
  • truck drivers with 7-11 mugs and dirty jeans
  • cuff-linked and besuited men with $100 hair cuts
  • proud young black men looking fly in their starched button-downs
  • a mohawked base player with a demonic glare
  • plenty of babies with cute headbands

And, since my daughter is now quite adept at pointing them out to me because she knows how much I adore them, I’m happy to report at least four shiny bald chrome domes were in attendance, including the one I’ve got dibs on.

The third thing you should know about The Portland Pentecostals is that they are certifiably insane.


I’m sorry, but I just don’t have another word in my vocabulary to describe this level of Jesus mania. It’s a good thing this wasn’t the first church we attended because I’d have been scared away from the pulpit for the rest of my life. Not to mention the PTSD!

The music portion of the service consisted of a shrieking, shouting glee club, a mini version of the Foursquare band and the same video game karaoke lyrics as every other big Christian Church we’ve been to. The difference is that The Pentecostals sing loud enough for Jesus to hear them from his ice castle at the Big Dipper.

Note to self: Bring earplugs next time!


About ten minutes into the music, my daughter grabbed me by the ear, pointed to the pew behind us and whisper-screamed, “Mommy, what’s wrong with that lady? What is she SAYING?”

The tongues! They had beguneth!

Stumped by the limits of my earthly vocabulary, I hugged my daughter to my breast and explained that the woman behind us was crazy. I should have taken it as an opportunity to explain Occam’s Razor to her, but it was loud in there and I didn’t want to shout.

For those as clueless as I was about the spiritual gifts, here’s the wikipedia entry:

Glossolalia or speaking in tongues is the fluid vocalizing (or, less commonly, the writing) of speech-like syllables, often as part of religious practice. There are many documented cases around the world and all through history, especially throughout Christian history. The significance of Glossolalia has also varied with time and place, with some considering it a part of a holy language. Others believe that the vocalizations are meaningless, and cite hypnosis, mental illness, and social learning as scientific explanations.


This is yet another instance in which I find myself pulling the “I just don’t get it” card. Because honestly: I just don’t get it. I glanced back at the tongue speaker and noticed she was flanked on both sides by her teenaged children. I sat there trying to imagine how I would feel if it was my mother acting out in public like that. I mean, *I* was embarrassed just witnessing it and I have no idea who that lunatic even was.

Of course, she was one of the LEAST embarrassing victims of the holy show. Joel and I kept snickering about the lanky Jesus geek in the front row who took palm piloting to a whole new level. A level that included jumping up and down whilst sweating profusely, shouting at the ceiling and making what can ONLY be referred to as an orgasm face. Joel assumed he was a chronic masturbator; I insisted his mother had dropped him on his soft spot when he was a baby. When he got up to PREACH, I knew we were both right.


It was at this point in the service that, just like Senior Pastor Steve Hanson passed the microphone to his son, I passed the iPhone to my daughter and let her entertain herself by taking video.

I’ll let the video speak for itself.

“Men will be lovers of themselves!”

“It’s a dirty situation!”

All I want to add about the sermon is that if I saw him doing that on a street corner, I’d throw him a dollar and beg him to spend it on refilling his prescription for mood stabilizers. Please. For the love of God!

After the sermon, the lights went down, the music went up and the Hansons invited the parishioners up to the stage. This is ME talking, so I know no one will be surprised when I draw a raunchy analogy between the pattern at the Pentecostal church and, well, sex. The entire thing is basically an orgy. First they get you all hot and bothered with the music – forty whole minutes is plenty of foreplay to get anyone’s juices flowing. As soon as you feel like you can’t take the “aural” pleasure for another minute, they penetrate you with the sermon and the pounding begins. If you can manage to make it through twenty solid minutes of breathless, sweaty (bible) thumping without smudging your Sears briefs, you’re invited to the pulpit for your community climax, which is pretty much a sweaty, noisy, roiling pit of writhing human bodies. Apparently Jesus is pretty mind-blowing. Some of the girls even CRY.


I only wish I was kidding.

After the service, I wandered down to retrieve my son from Sunday school and encountered the following plaque on the wall outside the nursery. Just TRY not to be disturbed by it. I dare you.

And I'M the lost soul...

With that fresh in my mind, we joined the pastor and his family in his office for a friendly chat about The Portland Pentecostals. The Junior Pastor seemed oddly normal. No jumping or head jerking or grunty faces. Just a firm handshake and an introduction to his lovely wife and two gorgeous daughters. I couldn’t help but wonder, was it all really just an act? Or was this simply a man in the throes of a post-coital hangover? I’ll never know.


What I did know was that I needed a cigarette.

And to hug my babies tight.

Comments read comments(19)
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Jayne Dough

posted August 7, 2011 at 9:22 pm

Yeah. That’s why I hang out with (unprogrammed) Quakers.* And beginner’s meditation nights at The Movement Center.

One is super loud & demonstrative, while the other is very quiet with all the action in one’s inner world. Basically, it’s like the difference between extroverts and introverts, only exaggerated.

(*Unprogrammed Quakers sit in silence, sometimes all meeting long, until someone feels “led by the Spirit” to say something from their deep, inner place of connection to The Great Mystery/ God/ whatever. Programmed Quakers, on the other hand, have singing, preaching (various people rotate), and their silent [“worship sharing”] segment is much shorter.)

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posted June 8, 2011 at 4:15 pm

the plaque is about steve’s wife’s brother. he was born severely retarded. he died in a padded room

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posted May 10, 2011 at 6:15 pm

Holy moley-that video gave me a headache! Seriously-how did he not pass out from lack of oxygen? Did he breathe during that tirade? I get the message he was trying to put out there-but that delivery doesn’t work for me. Obviously it does with some people, but I don’t get it.

“He’s normal now” ??? WTF?? That’s just wrong.

Hope the Sunday School was more sedate.

Thanks so much for the video-I’ve wondered if Pentecostal services were really like that and I guess they are . .

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Faraway Reader

posted May 9, 2011 at 10:45 am

Holy hell, literally. I can totally picture it and it scares me, lol.
Great post Amanda and I love the no holds barred honesty. Sigh, I really just “don’t get it” either. Anytime I have seen footage of the writhing and screaming business I call BS in my head.

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Joel Gunz

posted May 8, 2011 at 12:58 pm

Love it, Rachel!

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J. L.

posted May 6, 2011 at 11:35 pm

I posted the wrong video… this one is a little easier on the ears. If you delete the other comment it’s okay by me.

You really have just seen the tip of the iceberg, that guy was a small fish in an ocean of crazy
I’ve met this guy

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J. L.

posted May 6, 2011 at 11:31 pm

I have to say, you haven’t seen anything. This was pretty tame from what I’ve seen.
Yes, I’ve met this guy…

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Rachel R.

posted May 6, 2011 at 8:54 pm

One thing you may not know about me: I used to be a consumer of horror movies. From the ages of nine until 16, I didn’t watch much of any other movie genre. That is why I can tell you in my horror-movie wisdom that your video is straight out of dozens of horror movies. Usually, it’s with a low-angle shot, so the pastor looks like he’s sweating and writhing while looming over you. These scenes are usually considered a “normal” part of the movie where there is a break in the dramatic narrative, but it’s still a horror movie, so it has to maintain a certain tone. Nothing is truly normal in the horror movie realm; even “normal” is unnervingly crazy. I’m glad that I wasn’t there with you. I could have gotten flashbacks to nights curled up on the couch with popcorn and one eye on the basement door.

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Adam (Twitch)

posted May 6, 2011 at 8:46 pm

How horrific. Joel wasn’t exaggerating in his post when he was quoting the junior Hanson with the “God-ah”, and the “Lord-ah”, was he?

Oh, and “He is “normal” now”?!? That is just awful. What about all of the “we’re all of god’s children” BS that people say all of the time?

That has to be one of the most disturbing things I have ever seen. I would have been running double time towards the Sunday school classroom to grab my little boy after seeing that plaque.

Thank you for the reassuring photo at the end of the post to let us know that your children are safe and recovered safely from the church.

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