During the crisis that was my Mother’s dating life, she became involved with a man named Ron who was extremely religious. Ron was a very devout member of the Pentecostal Church and longed for a family who maintained similar views. Within seconds of uttering this desire to my Mother, our entire family suddenly became firm believers in the Pentecostal faith.
For the few of you who don’t know, Pentecostal’s believe in feminine modesty. Women are strongly discouraged against wearing make-up, cutting their hair, using deodorant or perfume, or donning a pair of pants. They are also very adamant about accepting Jesus Christ as your personal savior and will give you a baptismal like it’s a free coupon for a box of scented dryer sheets. But probably the most intriguing characteristic of those entrenched in the Pentecostal faith is their tendency to speak in tongues. If you’ve ever heard of someone described as a ‘holy roller,’ it is likely they were talking about a Pentecostal.
I know this might be hard to believe, but my brother and I generally liked being a part of the Pentecostal church. For one thing, the majority of the parishioners refrained from using birth control, so there were always tons of kids around for us to play with. For another thing, church was exciting. Who needed a television set or video games when you could simply attend the Wednesday night service?
Church services always started off quiet enough with the organ playing and parishioners quietly whispering greetings and shaking hands. But among the kids, there was a kind of electricity in the air. Half of the time, we could barely contain ourselves. We knew that if things went well, it was likely we’d see some crazy ass shit.
Reverend Bud would begin the sermon slowly and thoughtfully. He preached the wonders of God’s love and the importance of attending Church regularly. Although this was typically the most boring part of the night, we (the kids) used the time wisely. We’d make faces at each other over the pews or give random people the finger behind our Bibles. The purpose of our antics was to simply keep ourselves occupied until the adults starting yelling, “Amen!” and “Praise God!” It was at this point, we would swivel around in our seats and keep our eyes glued to the front two pews. This is where the action usually started.
When Reverend Bud’s preaching reached an end, the organs would suddenly blare and everyone would hop to their feet. The singing and the clapping would swell to a crescendo and the children would titter excitedly in their seats. The fever and shouts of religious undulation would continue until the crowd worked themselves into a literal frenzy and then…
Sister Ruth, an older woman with long silver hair, would collapse onto the ground in the front row. Experiencing her own special brand of religious ecstasy, Sister Ruth would wriggle and writhe on the Church floor until her skirt hiked up over her hips to reveal her panties. Farm Animals. Sister Ruth’s panties always had pictures of farm animals on them.
Of course, this was the jackpot the children were all waiting for. A small tremor would vibrate through the crowd as the kindly children from the front pews would whisper to the kids in the back exactly what farm animal decorated Sister Ruth’s panties today. Sometimes, it was frogs. Every once in a while, we’d see little blue lambs. Often, there would be kittens and dogs and little yellow ducks. The single time we saw cows, we had to bury our faces in our Bibles to hide the fact that we were laughing our asses off.
At this point in the service, the adults would collectively lose their fucking minds. They’d hop around in circles, screaming. They’d hysterically cry and hold their arms up towards the heavens. They’d gyrate around on the floor and speak in some unintelligible language: Bugga bugga boo! Oh, I love you Jesus! Yada gabba doodle boo boo wak!
It was fucking awesome!
Life doesn’t get more exciting for a 10 year old kid than attending a service in a Pentecostal Church. We went to Church every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday night. On Sundays, we would be in Sunday school. On Saturday, we’d attend Church picnics or other related events. It got to the point where we were at Church more often than we were at home and we didn’t mind one fucking bit. Not only were we surrounded by friends, but at any second, there was a distinct possibility that someone would become possessed by the good ol’ Holy Ghost and feel compelled to shout at the ceiling, “GABBA GABBA GOOOOO!”
The Holy Ghost was so fucking cool. It made the adults look like idiots!
At one point, my Mother decided that I needed to be baptized. At first I was a little nervous, but the other kids who had been previously baptized assured me that it was no big deal. According to them, everyone would just go down into the basement where they had this big bathtub/pool sort of thing set up. Then Reverend Bud and I would go out into the middle of it, pray a little, and then he’d duck me under real quick. When I came up out of the water, I was supposed to hold my hands up and pray some more. Afterwards, everyone would come over to hug me and congratulate me. Piece of cake.
The day of my baptismal went almost exactly like this, except the kids had forgotten to relay to me one very pertinent piece of information: the water in the tub was fucking freezing. When I came up out of the water, hands obediently raised in the air, my teeth were chattering from the cold. The tub was also under a vent and the air conditioning was on full blast, so when the breeze hit me, my entire body started shivering uncontrollably.
“Look!” someone finally yelled, “V has got the Holy Ghost!”
I didn’t have the Holy Ghost. I was just fucking cold, but such a jubilant cheer burst forth from the crowd that I felt I had no choice but to go with it.
“GABBA GABBA GOOO,” I hollered tentatively, “BA BA BOOGA BOOO!”
The crowd went nuts! People start dancing around in circles and thanking God Almighty for giving me the Holy Ghost. A few women collapsed by the front of the pool, weeping with joy. Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed my friends pumping their fists, laughing, and egging me on.
“WACKA WACKA DOO! OH ME OH MI!” I screamed some more.
Reverend Bud’s voice vibrated through the room of parishioners as he demanded that everyone take heed of the miracle they were witnessing. On cue, I screamed some more gibberish. At one point, I think I accidentally chanted the word ‘Nigger’ once or twice, but no one cared. After all, I was speaking God’s language.
Eventually, things died down and I was free to escape into the playroom with the other kids.
“That was the funniest thing I’ve ever seen!” they insisted.
“You forgot to tell me the water was so cold!” I laughed.
“Oh, but too bad for you! You missed Sister Ruth’s panties!”
“What were they this time?”
“Pigs!” they chortled, “Sister Ruth wore pig panties to your baptismal!”
“Goddammit,” I pouted, “I guess when you’ve got the Holy Ghost, you miss all the fun.”