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.
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.
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.