It was much more shocking than anything Jerry Springer's transvestites could produce, this agonized description of a perfectly healthy, harmless college affair. For Lisa Marie this was a tale of monstrous sin. She was trembling, but she also seemed somehow ecstatic.
As a born ham, I could understand the feeling: she was the center of hushed attention -- and doing God's work at the same time. This was serious pleasure, a sophisticated, decadent performance oozing masochistic delight.
The S&M got explicit fast: "...and soon after that, I had a miscarriage. No matter how illegitimately it was conceived, I loved that baby dearly," she said, letting her voice hold a long quaver on "dearly," before continuing: "and God took him away from me to teach me His power. I grieved deeply, but I was not alone; God was gentle and patient with me even while He disciplined me." I'd heard this Jesus-as-boyfriend stuff in the odd Christian pop song, but this was much more explicit, rough stuff. The congregation was inhaling it as deeply as they could.
Nobody seemed inclined to quibble about the notion that God had personally killed Lisa Marie's baby. I mean, jeez, we'd just met another baby who'd been born with a severe kidney disorder; from the sound of it, this baby might soon die too. But his affliction was apparently a mere medical disorder, while Lisa Marie's baby had been killed to teach her the wages of sin.
Lisa Marie ended her tale by moving to the recent birth of her second child, "my little baby, my Nadezhda, my Nadya, my hope..." Nadya was being held by the MC, who was apparently Lisa's husband-on-the-rebound.
What was HE feeling as she told her story? For these people, a non-virgin bride is apparently scandalous; then did the MC mind being exposed as a cuckold?
Clearly not. He was basking in the attention, and that attention seemed by far the most powerful reward this crazy church offers. I understood why Mark Twain said bitterly that "rapscallions is what Christian folks loves best," and what that weird verse about "more joy in Heaven over one sinner who repents than 99 of the faithful" really means.
And I saw why these crazy amateur dramatists love their worthless President so much: he sinned like Tom Sawyer, then became upright--the sort of bipolar biography they savor.
Lisa Marie sat down to applause, the first actual applause I'd ever heard in a church -- another touch of the drama club. And the Pastor (or minister, or whatever these cultists call their married, worldly quasi-priests) stood up to do his stuff.
He wasn't the caricature of a Baptist preacher, "Brother Archie" preaching Hellfire and segregation. This was a dapper, controlled greybeard, who read us the story of Saul of Tarsus, the unbeliever and tormentor of God's chosen, who was struck down on the road to Damascus, blinded, blasted off his horse by a great voice asking, "Saul, why do you persecute me?" (I was sure the Pastor was looking at me when he said that line.)
It was a perfect story of the innocent murderousness of America's state religion. God blasts this poor little loony off his horse, blinds him, terrorizes him with roaring from the sky -- and then has the gall to ask, "Why do you persecute me?" No wonder Bush can still play the victim while blasting his enemies anywhere on the globe by remote-control drones: it's in the Bible!
Best of all, this story of the persecutor who comes to God played on that slobbering love of "rapscallions" and their lurid pasts. Saul the persecutor turns into Paul the Christian CEO -- never a dull moment in this manic-depressive's dreamworld.
The sermon went on flattering the congregation shamelessly, to the point of telling them they were "saints." Yup: every petty office slave in the place was a saint. "If you accept Jesus, you are a saint; you don't need to wait for some fol-de-rol to 'beatify' you in some fancy ceremony..." The congregation laughed appreciatively at the oblique slap at my dead Church.