Swine Flew

I do respect people’s faith, but I don’t respect their manipulation of that faith in order to create fear and control.

~ Javier Bardem

I got a tweet this morning from a friend alluding to the recent swine flu outbreak in Mexico City. Things could get ugly.

The first thing that sprang to my mind, however, was a certain Christian punk rock band from the late-80s-early-90s called One Bad Pig and their 1990 release Swine Flew. These guys were the shit, if you will, in the burgeoning Christian rock scene of that era. CCM Magazine described their performances as “kind of like a carnival/revival run amok.” I saw them in Fargo, and CCM ain’t kidding; there were plastic kiddie pools filled with whipped cream, chainsaws and Christmas trees, and lots of smashed instruments . . . all the props that accompany radical evangelism. Since I hosted the local Christian music radio program at the university I attended at the time, it fell to me to convince the activities board to foot a portion of the bill for an OBP concert in our mid-sized, northern Minnesota town. Being the reluctant but nevertheless ham-fisted proselytizer of all-things-Jesus, I pitched the event as an outreach to the seldom-represented, hurting and searching youth of the city. Souls would be saved and, perhaps more importantly, Bemidji would be sufficiently RAWKED!

They not-so-respectfully declined.

I wrote recently about how memories can trigger very specific attitudes and emotions, and the images that flooded my mind at recalling OBP make me a bit queasy. Above, I referred to myself as a “reluctant” witness for the faith I espoused at the time. I believed in reaching the lost, but I always felt there should be more emphasis on building relationships with people before broaching topics such as sin and divine forgiveness. But one tends to get caught up in the excitement of spreading the Word, and bands like OBP gave us more than enough ammo to fire massive, debilitating broadsides against the Enemy.

For example: Back in those days, at the urging of a friend, I spent a week as a camp counselor at a Full Gospel youth camp. The leader was a local pastor who spewed hellfire-and-brimstone preaching with effortless precision. His goal? To empower a generation of warriors for Christ, by any means necessary. Think Jesus Camp and you’ll get the right picture. Our job as counselors was a simple one: scare the hell out of the kids.

During the final evening’s service, time was set aside for skits or songs that each group of kids had put together during the week. This was our opportunity to evangelize, to demonstrate how we’d go about delivering the radical message of salvation. As a result of the week’s indoctrination, my group of youngsters determined that there was no better way to evangelize than to point out just how depraved society had become. So, I whipped out my OBP CD and picked a song that summed up the camp’s collective attitude about the world . . .

You’re A Pagan – One Bad Pig
For those of you viewing this in a reader, the audio player might be at the bottom of the post . . .

Feelin’ low, smoke a joint.
Cuss real loud, make your point.
Rock n roll’s all you play.
Always getting’ your own way.
Where you goin’? Where you been?
Your cruddy heart is full of sin.
In the words of Kenneth Hagin,
Face the facts, you’re a pagan!

Chorus:
You’re a pagan, with a capital P!
You’re a pagan, full of i-dol-a-try!
You’re a pagan, that is what you be!
Theres no fakin’, fry like bacon,
You’re a pagan!

You’re a man who’s out of shape,
But before that, you were an ape?
In eons past, you were a worm.
Not long before, you were a germ.
Where you goin’? Where you been?
Your cruddy heart is full of sin.
Like Charlie Darwin and Carl Sagan,
You’ve evolved into a pagan!

Chorus

Sunday morning, go to church.
Every Monday, fall from your perch.
Wednesday prayer, fill your cup.
Every Friday, throw it up.
Where you goin’? Where you been?
Your cruddy heart is full of sin.
Hear the charge that I am makin’ . . .
There is no doubt, you’re a pagan!

There’s me in my Zubas, fat and sweating, thrashing and head-banging, surrounded by a brood of kids screaming the chorus with me. Needless to say, we were a huge hit.

And then I moved to the back of the tent, becoming a spectator, and something in me clicked. It was perhaps the first time I’d observed these types of events with a discerning eye.  I had been cynical in the past, but not in a way that led to any honest reflections.  On that evening, I felt an unease as I watched these precious kids being coerced forward to receive their “personal prayer language“, a fringe benefit the Bible promises to Spirit-filled believers that will make their prayers more effective; when one prays in their personal prayer language, even though they cannot understand their own utterances, they are somehow more in tune with the Spirit within them, the very Spirit of God, and convey directly to God the deepest cries of their own renewed spirit. Without it, according to the camp director, the kids would be ineffective as Christians, so pressure to “get it” was great. At one point, to demonstrate just how this prayer language worked, he asked his son to come up and pray in his prayer language for the other kids to see. When he failed to utter a single syllable that didn’t make sense, the pastor, his own father, chastised him and sent him back to the altar to get prayed up. The young boy had tears in his eyes as he lowered his head and walked away.

My stomach sank.

I’ve wondered over the years if this event wasn’t the beginning of my doubts about these particular aspects of faith I knew. It at least set in my mind an image that didn’t jibe with the notion of a loving Heavenly Father. And it’s the image that came to mind when I received Kat’s tweet this morning. No sweet melancholy, that’s for sure . . .

[photo credit]

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21 thoughts on “Swine Flew

  1. This post hits a very deep chord within me. I consider myself a victim of fear-based theology. I carry with me the wounds of that upbringing in a doomsday, fatalistic cult (Jehovah’s Witness). I wrote a post about their particular brand of fear-mongering about 4 months ago . If you care to read it, you can find it here: http://gwenalisonwonderland.blogspot.com/2009/01/losing-my-religion.html

    I don’t have anything against organized religion as a whole but, like that wonderful quote you included in the beginning of your post, I can’t respect those who use the faith of people to manipulate them and control them with fear. That is spiritual abuse and it leaves wounds that never go away, especially when you do it to children. Very thought-provoking post, as usual.

    • They are similar, in that both are gibberish, but tongues are meant to be interpreted . . . they are a direct message from God and for the benefit of the entire body. The PPL is not meant to be understood . . . it’s God talking to himself and therefore beyond our comprehension . . .

      At least that’s how I see it . . .

  2. Ugh, the personal prayer language. I know that feeling, that “Um, this isn’t what Jesus did” feeling, and the disappointment. Our last church was not like that but every once in a while someone would start the “speaking in tongues” crap and I would just tune out.

    How cool that you linked me in your post! 🙂 I have a post about this swine flu epidemic that I’ll try to get up today. After the math test…which awaits me no matter how many delaying tactics I employ!

  3. I was in Campus Crusade for Christ, and Fellowship of Christian Athletes in high school. My parents weren’t Christians but I wanted so badly to belong and several of my friends were. I didn’t travel the exact path that you did, but I traveled through the neighborhood. Things weren’t right. I ultimately chose to move on to a new neighborhood.

  4. My light clicked on several years ago when I took part in a “medical mission” to Honduras. We set up a medical clinic in the middle of the mountains and offered free services–the catch was you had to attend the evangelical service prior to receive access to the clinic. We saw an average of 900 people a day in this little makeshift clinic. These people just wanted medicine: tylenol, eye drops, and something to kill the stomach worms. What we made them endure to get that was absurd! These are a people who live on about $12 a month—the rich ones. Some of these people walked for two straight days to a clinic in the middle of the mountains just so they could get a bottle of tylenol. And the “team” praised themselves for all those poor souls brought to Christ.

    It is truly scary what some people do in the name of the lord. My faith is pretty solid—but religion scares me. (Sorry to ramble incoherently. I usually check myself before diving into discussions of politics or religion. I guess you caught me in a weak moment.)

  5. I attended one of those camps when I was twelve, but it wasn’t as intense. I really wish Christians would realize that the best way to shine isn’t to beat the hell fire and brimstone, it’s so much easier than that. The best way to influence anything or anyone is simply to live it. If you want to show anyone a way of life, I think the best way to do that is to live it. Just simply and quietly live what you believe. The people who are truly intrigued will see it and wonder. Like you said, getting to know someone before you decide to influence their beliefs only makes sense!

  6. i was raised in a very conservative denomination in a small town (in minnesota!)…..at 42 i’m still trying to figure out where the hell i fit spiritually — i just keep feeling it’s not any of the places i’ve been…

  7. I never received the “gift” of glossolalia. Often I’ve uttered jibberish, but only in English. The church said I had some inner sin that needed to be cleansed. I actually believed that at the time. What a fool I was. I’m glad those days are behind me.

  8. I think it is time for you to work on a book about “At the edge’s of Christian Rock, beyond Stryper, Amy Grant and Pat Boone”. I had no idea just how many Christian bands there were. Put me down for a copy!

  9. I grew up in that camp–missionary boarding school is pretty much all Jesus Camp all the time. Now I’m pretty sure I’m just one of OBP’s pagans. Since I’m going to fry, it’s a good thing I like bacon.

  10. I went to see a Stryper concert in high school one time. I think I was trying to score. I didn’t and I thought Stryper was really, really cheesy.

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