Bring on the Dancing Horses

From Scripture. A Mixed Media Sculpture of Corset Created from my childhood bible.

Are you in a relationship? Do you have a personal relationship with our Lord and saviour Jesus Christ? Or is it just a casual thing? That was the basic pentecost pick-up line: Do you have a personal relationship with god? Are you ready to let God into your heart? She was raised pentecostal. If you don’t know Pentecostalism, there are two kinds. There are the ones that wear buns in their hair, super long skirts, and turtlenecks in the summer, that’s of course just the women though, the men wear whatever they want—they aren’t total savages. Then there’s the nuevo-Pentecostals, or the Assembly of God faction. They are essentially Pentecostalism’s “cool uncle”. They have long hair, play electric guitars, wear jeans to church, and sing 80s hair band covers of gospels. The common link between them is that they believe in a personal relationship with God, that priests are unnecessary, and that you can get ‘touched by the holy spirit’ through prayer. 

Getting ‘blessed’ by the holy spirit essentially involves gyrating uncontrollably and shouting incoherent gibberish. She would often describe it as “epileptic Jesus-tourettes”.  After an individual had experienced the blessing of the holy spirit, another member would stand up to translate the anointed soul’s fit into English and the congregation would shout in unison, ‘So sayeth Lord’. That is what happens in a pentecostal church. Church is pretty boring for most kids, but she actually enjoyed going to church as a child because it seemed crazy, and crazy was exciting.

For most people, church was something they endured until they were old enough to feel the guilt, shame, and fear required to force them to willingly participate. The pentecostals had a different approach to church. Until the age of twelve, children participated in children’s church. Separated from the adults in children’s church, young impressionable minds were seduced by elaborate puppet shows and sing-a-longs drenched in bible-related propaganda.

Children’s church was like a psychedelic experience. The wildly strange puppet shows contained elaborately themed costumes and relatable storylines like the story of “Sodom & Gamora”, you know the one where Lot’s two young daughters get him drunk, because they wanted to have sex with their own father to help repopulate the earth? A story that she found disturbingly suspicious. The first time you arrived at Children’s Church, the candy was free flowing. The next Sunday you visited however, you had to recite a bible verse to get the candy. Most of the kids just chose random passages to memorize and got their candy. She actually read the whole Bible, making notes, and came prepared with questions. After reading Genesis and Exodus, she had a lot of questions. 

She asked her youth pastor, “You said that God is forgiving, but in Genesis 3:14-19, God curses all women to bear children in pain and to serve their husbands, just because Eve fell for the Devil’s trick.”  The youth pastor’s demeanor changed. His eyes narrowed. A look developed on his face, which is difficult to describe, but it’s the same look that the lady at the DMV gives you when you ask if it’s possible for her to take another photo. It’s the ‘just fucking accept this bullshit I’m giving you and get out of my face’ look.  Afterall, didn’t she want the candy like the other children?  He seemed annoyed, angry even, he mistook her earnestness for levity. The youth pastor said, “Eve’s curiosity was sinful, because we have to have faith in God to get into heaven.” She left Children’s Church that day with the impression that it was sinful to ask questions, and learned that church was not the place to find answers. 

She went back every Sunday hoping to find clarity, instead she found only more questions. She kept thinking about the relationship that she was told to have with god. “God the father. That is how we are meant to see god.” her youth pastor said. “To be obedient servants to God, just as we are to our fathers.” 

That was a complicated topic for her. Her real father had abandoned her as a child. Her stepfather was a nightmare of a human being. She began to ponder that relationship more intensely, after hearing the flood story. That’s when it all clicked for her. In addition to the fact that the story was as implausible as it was ridiculous, it caused her to reflect on the relationship she was meant to have with God. 

The more she read, the more she began to recognize the similarities between the human-god relationship and her family’s abusive relationship with her step-father Craig. “Thou shalt have no other gods before me.” Craig was also jealous. Only yesterday, had she seen him throw an adult temper tantrum, because her mother laughed a little too hard at his friend Ronald’s joke about the waitress with the considerably large breasts. “No meat on Fridays”. Craig too had a series of nonsensical rules. Everyone had to be wearing shoes at all times, even in the house. “God is vengeful and punishes the wicked.” Killing the first born child of the Egyptians. Turning Lot’s wife into a pillar of salt. If you didn’t obey the arbitrary shoe rule, Craig liked to step on your toes with his boots, in order to remind you that you were barefoot. Craig is a dick. God is a dick.

The more she read the bible, the more she realized how much god was like her abusive stepfather. “Are rainbows really god wanting to apologize for the great flood? Or is it a threat?” she thought. Why else would he show it to the world everytime it rains? ‘Remember that time I murdered the world by drowning them in rainwater?’ Craig had a similar threatening promise, if he didn’t like what you were saying, he’d show you his belt. ‘Remember that time I whipped your ass so hard you couldn’t sit down for 2 weeks? 

She poured her thoughts into her Lisa Frank journal:

“Like any abusive partner you’re always calling god, and he can’t be bothered to answer, and if he does answer you, he just makes you look crazy. If you think about it, the rainbow is really just god’s version of shitty apology flowers. He’s supposedly this all powerful being with the capacity to create infinity out of nothing and the best thing he can come up with to say sorry for killing everyone you know, is the same thing they use on Lisa Frank stationary?”  

Lisa Frank, the gift every girl got, that no girl ever asked for. “Why would we take God back?” she wrote. He can turn water into wine. #whyIstayed 

The parallels are too obvious to ignore. Each time her family would go through a traumatizing ordeal with Craig, her mother dragged them out of the house in the middle of the night shouting, “Put everything you want in a bag now! We’re leaving and we’re never coming back…”  She would choke back tears as she shoved half-naked Barbies and days of the week panties in a trash bag lamenting the loss of her Lisa Frank journal which is definitely under the sofa somewhere and will likely never be recovered—only to return a day after Craig sweet-talked her mother for five whole minutes. 

When she heard that Noah had to hastily build this giant fucking ark because god was losing his shit on the world and Noah’s having to make last minute choices like: Do we really need Zebras? Then a few days later, god comes knocking on the ark in a nice suit, carrying a rainbow and a box of Russell Stover’s:

“I’m sorry about destroying the entirety of civilization. I had a lot to drink for those 40 days and 40 nights. It’s been crazy stressful at work lately. My son keeps begging me to become a human, and I have no idea what the holy spirit is doing half the time. Somebody told me he was pranking motherfuckers by making them flail around speaking in tongues… They’re both making me look bad, you know? I just wanted to apologize, but honestly you know that I am the light and the way and you need me. I love you, no one else loves you, like I love you. I know I murdered your extended family, but you know your brother never liked me anyway. Your family was always worshiping those false idols just to spite me. Let me make it up to you though. I promise I’ll never hurt you again. I got you this cute rainbow. It has all the colors that you like…  Come on, let me back into your heart. I love you… don’t be a bitch.”

She was 12 years old when she finally realized there was no god. 

The congregation sang “Our God is an Awesome God.” She sang too. Swaying her arms in time with the rest of her pew. The songs were her favourite part. Then everyone sat. The preacher preached, “Homosexuality is an abomination. The bible says that God burned Sodom because it was a sin then, and it’s still a sin now.” The congregation shouted “Amen”. Her heart began to palpitate, and she shifted nervously, because on Saturday, she had definitely gotten aroused by that Herbal Essences commercial where the lady moans in the shower. The preacher said, “It’s a sin to even think homosexual thoughts.”

As she twisted anxiously, her brother stood abruptly in their pew. He began to shout unfamiliar and peculiar linguistic phrases as the elder members of the church looked on in amazement. She too was amazed, at how completely full of shit he was, she knew that he was pretending and was terrified that she might get in trouble as well, for just being adjacent to his blasphemy. She glared at him through the side of her eyes as his false fit subsided.

As she waited patiently for the elder members to chastise her brother. She felt ashamed. His lack of faith reflected her own failings as a follower of the pentecost. Why doesn’t she ever feel moved by the spirit? Why doesn’t god fill the emptiness inside of her? Most nights she cried as she prayed. She thought she might be evil. Is this why she felt so different from her peers? Her family? The other members of her church? She prayed that God would save her mother from Craig when he beat her. She prayed that God would bring her father home. She prayed that God would make her feel better. Not so lonely and lost. She prayed, and prayed, and prayed. Why doesn’t God answer her? 

On the other side of the cathedral, another church member rose. A nameless brother of the Pentecost, he turned and looked toward the heavens, arms raised in rapture, and translated her brother’s rubbish tongues into English: “And the Lord said, I am the light and the way. Thou shalt have no other gods before me. Whomsoever denies me, will be denied a seat in my kingdom. So saith the Lord. Amen.”  “AMEN”, shouted the congregation. She turned to her brother, astonished. He looked down with a grin. That’s when she learned that she wasn’t broken. She never felt God in this church, because God wasn’t there. There was nothing wrong with her at all. Everyone else was just full of shit. 

Published by Naomi

M. Naomi Fuqua is an Art Educator and Multidisciplinary Artist from Houston, Texas.

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