Hey lovers, two things: first, sorry I’ve been a delinquent. Work has been shitballs crazy and also I have seasonal affective disorder and every December I stay inside and hate myself a lot. Second, I was a guest on The Blake Wexler Show. Get it for free on iTunes so you can hear the evidence (and learn about this blog’s origin). Okay here’s a post.
I attribute a lot of my weirdness as a kid to my strong religious upbringing. That said, holy hell am I glad I wasn’t homeschooled, because those creepy little fuckers have the social skills of divorced dads at laundromats for the first time. It’s like no one told them not to walk up to people and smile vacantly until they talk, because no one did. (If that offends you because you were homeschooled and your mother always said you’re perfectly normal, remember: she owns a life-size crucifix.)
I didn’t find out just how close I was to being a Duggar until 2007, when Jesus Camp came out on DVD and everyone I knew who saw it asked their ex-creepo religious friend if hardcore evangelical Christians really are that kooky. My revelation didn’t come necessarily from my answer (“yes”), but from the fact that I was everybody’s ex-creepo religious friend.
Good thing I never went to a Jesus Camp. Wait, hold on. I totally did.
For the heathens out there, VBS stands for Vacation Bible School. It is the place pop songs go to die in agony and kids go to get the Satan spirit-fingered out of them while everyone else is at a water park or something (I don’t know how summer works). Every year, once real school gets out, parents or annoying kids drag their kids or parents to church for a week or two to learn about how god loves them so much that he Marvin Gayed his son so Jews can’t get into heaven anymore.
Then everybody does crafts and sings and hates being there. Well, okay, it’s just the godless or soon-to-be godless kids who hate it—when I still thought it was all true, I loved VBS. I was that irritating kid who raises his hand after every single teacher question, even if it was “did you know that you’ve completely ground away my will to live?” (“Yes! Next question!”)
I was big on volunteering, too. Need help putting chairs away? No but I’ll do it. A King David for the Friday play? I’m your tubby blonde star. Someone to cover up your affair? I’m no first stone-caster!
My main VBS contribution was also my nerdiest. I ran the projector.
Starting at age 11, when we moved to a new church that played songs too new for the hymnbook, it was my job to switch out lyric sheets on a ’70s-era overhead projector made of green plastic and cancer fumes. I feel weird typing “projector” over and over, because this was no ordinary projector. It was evil. Not once in seven years did we ever replace its child soul-powered lightbulb, clean it, or turn it over to the Museum of Shitty Technology That Offends All Five Senses. I’m gonna call it Apollyon, because that’s the coolest demon name in the bible.
Every Sunday and every day of VBS, I faced off with Apollyon in what can only be described as the clearest visual representation of the downward trajectory of my faith. At first I took the job so I could be in the front pew, soaking up every word of the Word. As time wore on, though, I stayed so other people wouldn’t see me spacing out or trying not to laugh at the song lyrics.
Laughing? At praise songs? How cynical is this guy? Well, feast your ears on this and tell me:
“Hungry I come to you for I know you satisfy/ I am empty but I know your love does not run dry… I’m falling on my knees/ offering all of me.” If you hear that as anything other than “I want to suck Jesus’s dick,” you are a Mormon.
So, to bring it back to VBS, by 2007 I was a rebellious, moody, atheistic teen who wanted to get the hell out of Illinois and church forever. But since I was just the right age to make sure the kids didn’t glue their eyes shut or murder the weak among them, I was conscripted as a VBS “volunteer.” Joy.
Oh, quick major setting detail I forgot—our church was 90% Chinese. Combine the conformism and fear of evangelical Christianity with the conformism and fear of Asian-American culture and you get just the right atmosphere to let outlandish shit slide. Case in point? The song that made me quit VBS forever, “Go Go Savior.”
Plenty of pop songs get butchered in modern churches—it’s a simple, easy way to connect with the prized younger audience. Every American church had its own version of Hoobastank’s “Crawling in the Dark” in 2002. (If I just brought that song back into your memory after years of repression, I am so sorry.) “Go Go Savior” is a whole different monster.
“Go Go Savior” is a word for word rewrite of “Greased Lightning” and the most cynical Christian cash-in since indulgences. I don’t remember the lyrics, except that “greased lightning! Go greased lightning!” was replaced with “Go savior! Go go savior!” and all references to pussy wagons, chicks creaming, and getting lots of tit were purged in favor of descriptions of Christ’s love. Our church bought it and played it for children because apparently none of the people in charge had ever heard “Greased Lightning” before.
There I was, at Jesus Camp, listening to a recording of a children’s choir bleating over synthesized guitars to the tune of a song about getting your dick wet, feeling Apollyon spread tumors around my throat and lungs, when I realized: I don’t have to do this. I’m not the weird almost-homeschooled kid anymore.
That night, my Jesus Camp days ended. It took me a few years to get that I had just replaced weird religious kid with weird angry kid, but at least I finally broke ties with my old phase.
Fuck I hate Hoobastank. Why did I make myself think of them.