TPD pp125-8: Easy like Sunday Morning

So we’ve reached Sunday Morning at Ashton Community; the congregation is smaller, those who lost the vote having stormed off like small children who didn’t get a cookie, but Hank is much more at ease. We have another run-down of names, and are told that some of the “not-so-actives” turned out as well. Mary plays the piano while Hank leads the singing and total strangers start walking in. Yay, growth!

It took me a moment to realize that “Scion” was an angel, not yet another of the congregation members; he’s in attendance too, as well as Kroni and Triskal. The angels get a badass one-liner:

Signa was sickeningly polite. “I’m sorry, we cannot allow any more demons into the church this morning.”

Burn! No, literally, burn. In hell. Because you’re a demon. Ba-dump pish.

[Confession: My brain isn’t working at full capacity tonight, I’ve just completed about 5 hours of mind-melting homework for an online course I’m taking to beef up my resume.]

We get a nice little reading from Isiah that Hank notes he particularly loves.

“Seek the Lord while He may be found; call upon Him while He is near.”

Is he going somewhere? Because I thought he was supposed to be eternal. I guess in the long run humanity is going somewhere (aka straight to hell), but the passage kind of sounds like He is planning to head off to Bermuda next week so you’d better drop by his office today and make sure you get the signature you wanted before he leaves.

Then we get to this odd statement, repeated by many parishioners: “We were starving [at Ashton United]”. One person saying it didn’t catch my eye too badly earlier in the book, but now two others directly liken their desire for a better pastor to “hunger” or “starvation”. Is this a common metaphor? “I was at Suchandsuch church, but I was starving,” sounds to me like it should be followed by, “so I skipped out early and went to Denny’s”. “Sheep without a shepherd” at least sounds more religious to me, what with the whole “The Lord is my Shepherd” thing.

Side note: there are at least four other churches in Ashton. How big is this small town again? Maybe it’s in the Deep South where the concentration of churches:population is higher.

Alright, here’s where it gets really weird. Mary comes up to her husband and one of the couples he was talking to, starting to introduce someone. She notices the someone has vanished, and seems slightly startled that he’s run off instead of coming up to meet the pastor. She passes on a message from him, however. Hank recognizes the person she’s describing, but the other couple insist nobody was sitting there.

“Praise the Lord!” [Andy] explained, and Hank hadn’t seen such enthusiasm in a long time. “Praise the Lord, there was nobody there. Pastor, we didn’t see a soul!”

Um…. wouldn’t you be a little concerned that your pastor’s wife is seeing things? Or at best shake that off as odd and assume you misunderstood? Why is your first thought “OMG ANGELS!”? Is that… is that normal too?

What am I getting myself into?

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7 Responses to TPD pp125-8: Easy like Sunday Morning

  1. Daughter says:

    Frank Perretti lives in the Pacific Northwest, so most of his books are set in Eastern Washington or Idaho; one is set in an unnamed liberal city that I think is supposed to be Seattle. So there’s a good chance that a small Northwest community like Ashton has only a few churches.

    And yeah, I don’t think Andy would react like that. He’d either think he and his wife were so excited and focused on the service that they missed noticing whoever was beside them, or they’d wonder whether Mary was crazy. (Side note: I doubt that most evangelicals/fundies have *ever* experienced the miracles that are described as routine in so much of Christian fiction. They will often testify about miracles they experience in response to prayer, but those are actual just natural but fortuitous occurrences: e.g., cancer remission, receiving an inheritance just when you need it financially, having a stranger say something encouraging to you when you’re down emotionally. So I seriously doubt that most would conclude that a person they didn’t notice must be an angel).

    • neverstatic says:

      Yeah, evangelicals are primed to see miracles where the rest of us might see good luck or coincidence.

      When I first told my sister I was an atheist, she couldn’t believe I’d deconvert after all the “miracles” I had seen. When I asked for an example of a miracle we had both seen, her best was one time when we had both nearly been in a car accident together. While changing lanes, another car had done the same with no turn signal. They were going much slower than we were, so we were most likely going to hit them or the car on their right. There wasn’t time to stop or go back. Luckily the gap between the two cars was just barely enough for us to squeak by.

      To this day, she’s sure that there wasn’t room for our car to have fit. She thinks that gap was smaller than our car and that us passing through it was a literal miracle, as opposed to an unlikely lucky break.

  2. Daughter says:

    re: hunger. Several Psalms talk about “hungering” or “thirsting” for God, meant to indicate a desire to spend time praying to God and reading or meditating on the words of the Bible. In this context, I think Perretti is saying that Ashton United isn’t teaching the Bible or helping people get close to God, therefore the people there are hungering for God.

    Just realized that I read your post wrong. Five churches isn’t a large number. A college town tends to attract population because the college brings jobs, the arts and other attractions. Even a small college town might have 5K to 10,000 people, so five churches isn’t much at all. And it’s in keeping with its Pac NW setting; a Southern college down would likely have dozens of churches.

  3. Mau de Katt says:

    Following up on Daughter’s comment and your question about “starving at X church.” Yes, in fundagelical churches (aka fundamentalist evangelical), food metaphors are used for the amount of “True Biblical Teaching/Preaching” that is presented at that church. Members also refer to “Feasting on the Word” when talking about “really in-depth Bible reading/teaching” (as long as you come to the proper fundagelical understanding of the passages). It does refer back to those Psalms that Daughter mentioned as well as other similar passages (there’s a chapter in one of Paul’s epistles that uses the analogy of milk vs. meat, referring to one’s “maturity in Christ” and what level of teaching one can properly “digest”), and has taken on almost “magical code word” significance in Evangelical churches.

    It’s also another big dog-whistle about the “Modern Liberal Church” vs the “Real True Christianity Conservative Church” culture war that was and is such a really big deal with Peretti’s audience. So talking about “starving at Ashton United Church” means that the pastor there probably preached about such Liberal things as social justice, equal rights, helping the poor, etc (oh, and also o-called New Age teachings as well, since this was a particularly big issue when these books were written), and not “True Bible-based Teachings” such as heirarchical relationships, anti-choice, anti-gay, anti-feminism, etc. (though those are mostly just implied in Peretti’s writings), with heavy doses on developing or maintaining one’s Personal Relationship With Jesus Christ, and long passages of the Bible plus “proof-texts” thrown in for good measure.

  4. Mau de Katt says:

    Actually, in thinking about it more, the heretical teachings at Ashton United Church focused more on “the self”: self-realization, self-esteem, self-development, etc. I don’t think the progressive social-justice messages were in this book much, though they were and are an “understood” part of what the Conservative churches rail against as part of Liberal Church Heresy.

  5. Mau de Katt says:

    (Though I may be confusing this book with its sequel, Piercing The Darkness.)

  6. Alix says:

    I think one of the things i love most about your deconstruction is that the fundie jargon is new to you – i was raised on the fringes of the fundie subculture, and these posts are a good reminder of just how strange and esoteric fundie jargon gets. I’ll never be able to hear half these things again without doing a mental double-take.

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