If you find the above image cute and comforting, this post will offend you. Tough.
First off, I have to admit I cannot be objective about Christianity. For some years as a teenager I was involved with a group of Christians in a theatrical package of Baptism of the Holy Spirit, healing, speaking in tongues, denouncing Satan and driving out demons. This, of course, is far from a representative sample of Christian belief and activity, and many Christians would thoroughly disapprove of the Pentecostalists I knew, disapproval being something Christians have down to a fine art. At about seventeen I had begun to shed the load of guilt and sense of mission and superiority that I had been encouraged to carry around, and inclined to the calmer, more impersonal atmosphere of Taoism and Zen, but I still cannot read anything concerning Christianity without gulping back gouts of un-Taoist bile. I felt so cheated by the Christianity I had been involved with and so foolish for accepting it so uncritically that I could not contemplate it without my blood pressure rising. Still can't. Only the other day on the train I started reading Silence and Honey Cakes by Rowan Williams. I realised by the time we were half-way to Leicester that I had been busy scribbling exasperated notes in the margins but couldn’t remember what Williams had actually said. Very, very unfair of me, that, and I will start again on Honey Cakes when I calm down, but as I admitted, it is not easy for me to be objective about a religion for which I have conceived such a visceral loathing. What I loathe is the Christians' conviction that they have been privileged to receive a revelation that we, due to our blindness, stubbornness and hardness of heart, perversely deny ourselves, and it is their duty to communicate this to us by erecting flip charts and lecturing at us in shopping precincts, or knocking on our doors when we are enjoying solitude, or publishing hair-raising accounts of visits to hell, or urging us to shun or boycott any person, book or idea that does not uphold their views, or singing scout-camp type songs outside the local library on Saturday afternoons, or being nice and kind to others with the ulterior motive of bringing them to a Life in Jesus – a life that evokes in me a sense-image of being stuffed into a dusty drawer and suffocated with a hanky smelling of TCP and rosewater.
Here behold Jentezen Franklin, a Pentecostal preacher who is a big crowd puller in the United States. None of your men with comb-overs and mud-coloured macs lecturing in the market square here, no warbling choruses of 'Kumbaya'. JF fills whole stadia with his all-singin', all-dancin', all-praisin' youth-oriented mega-gigs. Here, in perhaps the least offensive of many Jentezen Franklin videos on You Tube, he gives us his take on the story of Adam and Eve, designed to appeal to the youth market: Adam was a hunk, Eve was a babe, and the pair of them were at it like nobody’s business all over the Garden. OK, there’s no scriptural evidence for that, or chapter and verse for Adam’s six-pack, but myths get reinterpreted. (Not that anyone there takes the story for myth – it happened in the flesh, dude.) Franklin’s etymology is well screwed up (woman derives from 'womb + man', for Christ's sake) and I wonder about his choice of vocabulary too: he says Adam was ‘cut’ – does he mean ‘ripped’? Or did God make Adam a Roundhead? If so, how come Adam's progeny had foreskins that had to be lopped off? Did foreskins... evolve? No, squelch that thought immediately, he musta meant 'ripped'. Well anyway, Adam was all man and Eve was all woman, and just listen to the roar of approval when J.F. announces that there is no confusion about what a man is and what a woman is. (Who was confused, anyway?) Notice the shocked delight, hands clapped to mouths, as he elaborates for his young audience the wank-fantasy of the horny pair bonking one another silly in the beautiful garden. Note especially the tone of his remark ‘I don’t understand all that same-sex marriage stuff’ which manages to sound at once amused, dismissive and superior, and invites the audience to share the amusement, dismissiveness and superiority. He doesn’t know it, but he is trivialising the deepest feelings of about one in ten of his audience, kids mainly, who are forced by pastors, peers and parents to chuckle along with the rest of the herd. ‘I don’t understand all that same-sex marriage stuff.’ We know you don’t, Jentzy, but, come on, imagination? Empathy? ‘…humani nil a me alienum puto’? I admit there’s a dark, primitive little patch of my brain that refuses to believe heterosexuality is possible, but I recognise it as a dark primitive little patch, and override it. Try doing the same thing.
So Pentecostal Christers are pro-sex after all? In a pig’s arse they are. They can only approve of sex if they are allowed to dictate whom you may desire. A boy may not respond to Adam’s six-pack, or a girl dream of Eve’s womanly curves. ‘But beauty has its own laws', says Camille Paglia, 'inconsistent with Christian morality’. Boys and girls so inclined will continue to desire in the only way they know, and be made miserable unless they escape the psychic prison of those Christians who are still, in Alan Watts’s words, ‘Bible-bewitched prudes’, the sparks of the Hell they all love so much dancing on the edge of their field of vision. Curiosity, different thoughts, different desires and appetites: all these will send you to the Lake of Fire, so shun them, suppress them, conform to obedience and blandness, and know that by keeping your nose clean you are doing His will.