See part 1.
So there I was, at this Christian retreat, a getaway where I got away from my crazy life. My memories of most of it are less clear than of my mad life, possibly because I was there more to escape and less to find a solution. And of course, I’d just gone from using meth for a year to not using, which meant issues with holding my attention for more than a few minutes at a time.
The place was a huge camping site, where we all stayed in little chalets rather than tents. (Thank their giddy god for that small mercy. I fucking hate camping.) Most of the time was spent moving from one makeshift church service to another, in huge groups of gleeful grinning goons. Their perpetual manic happiness was made even more disturbing by me being half asleep the first day, as I felt myself drifting off while being dragged along, a reluctant clown swept along by a sea of zombie clowns.
For someone who grew up Roman Catholic, this was an altogether different experience. Each service had a preacher, but this wasn’t organised like a Mass, and the main focus of each meeting seemed to be more about everybody’s participation, in prayer and especially in the worship, where worship really meant singing and playing musical instruments, or just making a mad fucking raucous in the name of Jesus. In between gatherings, I’d hear people reminisce about previous worships…. “Now that was a great worship. One to remember!”
The first few meetings were a bunch of different preachers, and the guy who took me there kept telling me about the main preacher, the leader of their bunch of churches, who was yet to appear. It was almost as if he were anticipating the appearance of Christ himself.
Eventually the main preacher dude showed up, and had a lot to say. He needn’t have though, because he could have saved a lot of words if he just repeated this one line over and over again: “Build the church”. That’s the gist of everything he said… Build the church. Build the church. Build the church. Yawn. Oh gosh, he’s still quoting some Bible verse and talking about building the fucking church. Blah blah blah build the church yada yada ding dong build the church. And then the happy people get to what they really want to do… The worship.
Sometime on the Sunday afternoon, I finally felt something during the worship. A feeling rushed through me, an energy, an exciting, exhilarating, almost palpable sensation. It was almost as if as if I could raise my hands and touch god, and I was feeling the power of the holy spirit! Except I wasn’t. A little voice in my head, not a meth voice because it would be two years before I heard those, but my voice, a voice of reason, spoke to me. It stated bluntly, “This is not god”. I recognized the feeling all too well. It was the feeling of endorphins, or maybe dopamine and serotonin. I was being swept up by the group euphoria, swept by the psychological group dynamics of a group of believers all high on Jesus. Just for a few sweet moments I felt what they felt. It was a pleasant feeling, but after all, I wasn’t there to trade one high for another.
Having seen through the group delusion, having felt it and understood that these people were addicted to a worship-induced high, nothing supernatural or spiritual but just another chemical reaction in their brains, I was disappointed.
For the remainder of the day, I went through the motions. I asked questions about their beliefs, which they interpreted as a genuine interest to be one of them, although I knew then that I could never be. They were keen to explain it all to me, thinking they had succeeded with another brick in building the church, thinking they had a new member of their crazy cult.
To be honest, I found their message quite simplistic and dreadful. In their religion, all one has to do is accept Jesus as one’s personal saviour, and all sin is forgiven. As simple as that… But all who do not accept it are doomed to eternal torture. (Even those born in remote areas who never heard of this particular strain of evangelical Christianity. And all those who happen to profess equal belief in all other religions.) I thought of that poor girl from part 1 who took a bullet to the head. She didn’t even use drugs. Her only fault was to fall for the wrong man, and become trapped in a relationship with an abusive monster from which there was no escape but death. So I said what they wanted to hear… I repeated the meaningless words and stated that I accepted Jesus as my personal saviour. I could have fucked with them and renounced Jesus, accepting Satan, because I knew then that none of that shit was real. But what for? It was easier just to go along with the ride, so I could get out of there and go home.
My life was pretty fucked up, but to be honest, even now if I had to choose between that awful lie of a Jesus high, or a meth high, I’d choose meth. Of course there is no such choice and I choose life and reality, not drugs and not delusion.
Maybe somewhere, in some parallel reality, there is an incarnation of me who didn’t see through the lie. Maybe he is happy now. He didn’t go home, get back together with Megan, and have the wonderful son that we had two years later. He lost out on so very much. He didn’t see through the simplistic false promise of eternal life, didn’t learn that the same lie is often used as a placebo for addiction recovery in 12 step programs, and didn’t grow in strength and character as I have. Maybe he’s a Christian blogger now, and all of his writing is polluted with that same empty promise, that god knows what’s best for him, and that he will live an eternal life in Heaven. Maybe he got to ignore and forget all his problems because he is “not of this world”, and likewise forget all sympathy for those who do not accept the poisonous Christian message. His writing will be more popular than mine, because such writing appeals to that desperate need to believe and reinforces it, just like the shared frenzy of the worship reinforces the Jesus high and convinces the participants that what they feel is spiritual. Such writing is always popular, and each post receives dozens of likes, if not more. I am so happy not to be that guy.