Carlos A. Rodríguez popped up a tweet that invited his 57K + twitter fan club to comment as follows …
Side Note: Yes, Carlos is religious and I’m not. To be clear, I’m not having a pop at either him or anything he has said. As the founder and CEO of The Happy NPO, his passion is to honestly help those that need help, and for that we should applaud him.
To be wholly clear, he is opposed to Christian Nationalism, Homophobia, Racism, and Sexism. Regardless of our beliefs or lack of any belief, these are still all values we can and should embrace. I might not personally agree with the God stuff, but for the actual things he does to make the world a better place, I wholly support him.
His tweet surfaced some truly crazy and weird stuff that flies under the banner of “Christianity”.
Let’s dip into that …
10 Samples of The Worst
What follows is just a random sampling of the responses. It also comes with some additional comments from me. While these are some of the really really bad church services, it is not the full story, there is much more that can be found under that initial tweet.
- Women Must Submit to abuse
Sadly something akin to this first one is all too common. I also well remember well respected pastors explaining that women need to submit. The church I once was part of even had the practise of women covering their heads as a sign of “submission” … tweet …
A sermon on Ephesians 5 where the pastor stated, “Wives you must submit to your husband’s will in all things and just trust he follows the will of God.” Every women who I know heard the sermon, went home and cried. There was no concern for those experiencing domestic violence.
2. Strangers can F**k Off
Some churches are welcoming, and some are not. Within the church (cult) I was in I remember the pastor once tossing some guy out, not because he was in any way disruptive, but simply because he did not like him. When you are a gullible kid, as I was at the time, you go along with stuff like this and don’t tend to question it, or think to yourself “This is not what Jesus would do” … 3 tweets ...
Yesterday I visited a fundie church who was (understandably) concerned when I pulled in with my car magnets promoting freethinking/atheism/humanism. In the parking lot the macho-men security team shouted at me a lot, also mocked me for wearing a COVID mask to protect them.
He boasted they already are “spiritually immune”. When I asked if they are “spiritually immune” to all illnesses, nobody had an answer. He said that stuff was the pastor’s area, he just does security. [Then don’t bring it up in the first place.
Or think for yourself for about 5 seconds to realize you are not “spiritually immune” to all illnesses]. Bad church in other ways, but that hostile experience was awful. The next day they called the cops on me, and the detective listened to my explanation for being there (I am an atheist activist who visits local churches, never disrupt them, and invite them to a personal discussion later). He was very satisfied with my side of the story.
3. Kidnapping for Jesus … literally.
One strong desire many churches have is to reach out to convert others. Think door-to-door (Yes I got roped into stuff like that), think tent crusade (yep, another tick). Interestingly enough, nobody every actually converted and joined the church via any of this … ever. It simply created an illusion of doing something. This next tweet is a rather extreme example of a church in the 70s doing a bus crusade …3 tweets …(I’ve also popped a wikipedia link to the book the tweeter references, it was not in the original tweet)
When the local Baptist Church bought a bus and drove around neighborhoods kidnapping us children playing outside. (Said we didn’t need to tell our parents) then once we were held captive, told us that Easter Bunny and Santa Claus didn’t exist. I was 8. My little sister was 3.
Hard to believe that a church could be so irresponsible, right? What a shock! When I included the Grace Baptist bus in my book (Devil in Dover), I made sure to check the accuracy of my memory with my four brothers and sisters – who were also kidnapped. True story.
Happened in mid-70s, when parent supervision was looser. I guarantee it happened to a lot more kids everywhere. But the bus ministries thought coercing children onto a bus without parents’ permission or knowledge wasn’t kidnapping because they were doing it for Jesus.
4. Holding people hostage
Life events, Birth, Marriage, and Death are events that people generally attend regardless of their actual beliefs. They are also not really in a position to walk out if weird stuff starts happening. Inevitably, some leverage that because they lack empathy and basic human decency. I’ve seen this done at a wedding. The example we have is this …tweet …
MY dads funeral. Pastor talked about himself the whole time. He had an “alter call” and demanded people come stand by my dads OPEN CASKET. When no one was going up he said “I don’t care if you hate me I’m not going to the reception. I can stand here all day!”
He was dressed like a 50’s mobster. Made little kids cry saying “Do you want to go to hell?? If you ever want to see Rich again you better come up here!” One of my kids, crying said he wanted to go up. Preacher made him say the Lord’s Prayer into a microphone. I was so pissed.
All you can really say when faced with this next one is WTAF.
I sincerely hope he ran hard and fast, and never ever went back … tweet …
I took my kid for a kids program in a local church in a neighborhood in WA -after the national anthem the “ facilitator “ came to me and told me to take my kid out and bring him on Sunday when there are more kids of his kind ( Black ) ..,,,, my kid was 2 years old .
6. Christian Nationalism on Steroids
While Jesus might have said “My Kingdom is not of this world”, there are way too many who disagree … tweet …
Guy showed up dressed just like George Washington and went on to teach, in character, how the United States is a Christian nation. Ended the service with his wife singing “God-bless America” while people raised their hands in worship.
7. The Marriage of Church and State
There is no ducking the observation that right-wing politics has successfully corrupted many evangelicals. The following is yet another common story these days. I love the fact that she tagged them in her tweets so that they get to see their corruption being exposed … 2 tweets …
The last time I ever attended @mybaysidechurch in #Bradenton, #Florida when Pastor @randybezet STRONGLY alluded that the congregation should vote for #Trump, as he was the candidate that would preserve #ReligiousFreedom.
He didn’t have to say the words out loud, as he threw enough dog whistles to the congregation to make it very clear. The voter guide flyers sitting at the welcome area by the @ChristianCoali straight-up said that #DJT would preserve religious freedom and #Clinton wouldn’t.
8. Learning to Speak In Tongues
This next one concerns somebody learning about speaking in tongues at a Reinhard Bonnke crusade. When I saw that name I thought, “Hey, I know that guy, I’ve also seen him”. So here is what was reported by the tweeter … tweets …
Became a Christian at 15 and went with my youth group to a revival in OKC. He was a high profile evangelist to Africa, a German guy named Reinhard Bonnke, and he had, what I can only rightly call Body Guards of Holiness, one of which embraced me and whispered the following:
“Hi, son,” he whispered, “I remember when I couldn’t pray in tongues, too,” he said. This was after the 2 hour sermon to a crowd of thousands in a downtown arena, and after an altar call, in which he asked everyone who felt the call of God to come to the ground floor and receive the Holy Ghost. Shuffling down nervously and expectantly, a friend and I went down to the very front. Neither of us had prayed in tongues yet and believed this could be the moment. Everyone waited while he explained what we would do: on the count of three scream:
…. Hallelujah Hallelujah And we would all receive the Holy Spirit by the gift of tongues. He counted to three and it could’ve shattered glass. My friend and I stood silent and a little at home- we’d been through healings and revivals before- but then the whisperer appeared.
With a goon on either side, the thin older man with white scruff and a smoker’s voice emerged from a door beneath the stage and began healings, the Benny Hinn kind. His goons would catch the elderly women as they fell seizing in that ear drum shattering room. Then he saw me…
The whisperer, the Body Guard of Holiness, approached in a full tuxedo with his goons. This is when he embraced me. His face with pity, he grabbed my shoulders and pulled me to. He started: “I remember when I couldn’t pray in tongues, too, and then it started out with baby talk..
He said, “ I talked like a little baby: goo goo ga ga,” he whispered, “and the Lord gets you and gives you your special language.” It was loud. Shrieking and convulsing surrounded this moment. I took in each whispered word while witnessing, over his limp shoulder, chaos but familiar chaos. Then he asked, still embracing me, his goons on standby, “do you wanna give it a shot?” “”I don’t think so,” I said, “I just don’t feel it,” and then he prayed for me in tongues, his tears falling and dampening my shoulder. This lasted 5 whole minutes…
And then he let go. Him and the buff guys drifted into that seizing world, a ghost ship in a sea of frightened on-lookers of a terrible miracle. 20 minutes later I found my friend and we found our youth pastor. We walked to the bus silently, went home, and never talked about it
9. Permitted Sex Acts
So there was also this tweet …
Sunday school class in high school played a James Dobson video in which he described, in detail, the sex acts that were and were not allowed before marriage.
… and that leaves me wondering what is allowed, Handjobs, over-the-clothes frottage, heavy petting, and how exactly did he work any of this out?
The correct response to that happening is of course once again … WTAF?
10. Fear as a weapon
This next one is also way too common. It is very blatant emotional manipulation – fear is being used to scare young kids into falling in line … tweet …
Southern Baptist around ’82. Started the service by literally naming almost every religion besides Christianity and shouting they were going to hell. The big finish was Jews and Catholics.
Ended the service by predicting Russia was imminently going to invade Texas, stand Christians against a wall, ask if we were Christian. If we were they would execute us. I was 11.
These days rinse and repeat, but instead of Russians it is Democrats, or just simply “them” or similar.
Did I personally ever see any wild and weird stuff when I went to Church?
As a teen I was involved in what could best be described as a cult, so yes, very much so. Being Pentecostal, Speaking in tongues was on their menu along with various other supernatural claims.
Casting out demons was also popular with the pastor. Since this happened on a regular basis I would often wonder why it was the most devoted who had these demons being cast out again and again.
I also recall one guy being publicly shamed because he had dared to listen to Madonna.
There were two services on a Sunday and Sunday school in the afternoon – everybody was expected to go to it all. There were also two prayer meetings during the week, and everybody was also expected to attend those as well.
Services could be long, usually at least several hours long.
Nobody had a TV … literally nobody. There was no official rule on that, instead it was simply expected that you would not have one.
One odd twist was that the pastor had a bit of a leaning for exaggerating and crafting fictitious yarns as part of his sermons. I recall a period in which he was experimenting with totally made-up stories. For example, when talking about the death and resurrection of Jesus, it involved Satan being delighted that Jesus had died. In his story Satan decides to celebrate by having a picnic with his favourite demon, called Demona, and so he proceeds to craft this yarn, improving it over time and rolled it out on a regular basis. To be clear, for those unfamiliar with the bible, he was totally making all of this up. Folks just nodded along. I guess it made a change from the more traditional very familiar, and to be frank rather dull bible stories.
One other item that is also important to mention was the deep hypocrisy in play. The pastor would often “minister” to a regular flow of women, both single and married, late in the evenings in his church office long after service. It was only after I left that I discovered, with evidence, that he was f**king them all. For a guy who was also big into preaching holyness, the rampant hypocrisy was truly powerful in this one. He eventually ended up running off with one of the wives abandoning his own wife and two kids, and she in turn abandoned her two kids.
At least no kids were being abused.
Oh wait. Yep, you got it. The Youth Leader was at one point arrested and sent to jail for sexually abusing several teenage girls. I recall that when this was announced the pastor explained that he had been forced to announce it by a judge. I remember thinking that if that judge had not ordered that, then it would have been covered up. It left me wondering what else had been covered up.
In some ways I don’t regret being involved in it all for a couple of years. It opened my eyes to what really goes on in places like this, and also inspired me to become both a skeptic and critical thinker. Over time doubt slowly became my best friend, then blossomed and flourished. I recall being utterly astonished, after I had left, by the realisation that I no longer believed any of it because there was no credible evidence for any of the claims being made.
Honestly, you don’t see it when inside, and simply make excuses in your head for all the weird stuff. Once outside you begin to appreciate just how deeply you had been emotionally manipulated and conned.
Some might indeed find inspiration, comfort, and meaning within the embrace of belief. Many others however encounter intolerance, xenophobia, racism, and also a great deal of weirdness, so much so that it motivates many to very wisely get as far away from it all as quickly as possible.
Do you seriously ponder over the reason for the rapidly rising demographic called “none”, so called because they tick the box labelled “None” when asked what religion they are associated with?
There are many reasons.
Some have thought about religion a great deal, find absolutely no credible evidence for the claims made, and so they no longer believe. Others however have supped the chalice offered by those that claim that the “Love of Jesus” is in them, and discovered that it contains a rather foul tasting and rather toxic brew, so they spit it out and quietly walk away.
Honestly, who can blame them.
If you have any examples of “Worst Church Service ever attended” please do feel free to drop a comment and share.