jesus

My Religious Roller-coaster Part 4

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After building years of fascination with Catholic ritual into a working knowledge of eclectic Witchcraft and then stripping out the spiritual aspects of the craft in favor of hard-line Satanism, I gave up priesthood of a small group of fellow high school students in favor of attendance at a fundamental Baptist church. This was not an overnight change by any means–the guy who eventually brought me into his church community pestered my friends and I for months of one school year and part of the next.

Pretty much THIS, every day, at lunchtime -- for months.

Keep in mind that we were not only asshole teenagers, but Satanist asshole teenagers, and this guy preached Jesus to all of us–in the cafeteria at breakfast andlunch, in the hallways, if he saw us outside–every chance he got. He totally had Attention Deficit Disorder, and I mean bad. He got detention sometimes for reading the Bible in class instead of doing his work, I’m dead serious. This guy was a sitting duck for pretty much anyone in the school, and even moreso for us. We did everything short of physical violence to this dude for months, I’m sorry to say. And he kept coming back.

Eventually, I tired of hostility and opted instead for simple cold dismissal. I forget why, but one day I said yes when he invited me to his house. That pretty much sealed it for me. He didn’t listen to any ‘worldly music’ or read any ‘wordly books,’ but the rest of his family were normal, except that they really loved God a whole lot. And after talking to this guy’s dad, a church deacon, for hours, I agreed to come out to their church. And while on the surface mixing me with a Fundamentalist church just seems like a recipe for disaster, it really wasn’t. I figured out a few things–that it wasn’t God that I hated, it was saying the same exact prayers and singing the same exact songs week after week during Mass. I was annoyed about things that didn’t make sense, like confessing your sins to another guy or having celibate priests despite the alleged first Pope being married–stuff like that. The church was independent of any other church–took it’s lead from the pastor, not a group of bishops or anything like that–and had strict moral standards, which was one of the things I liked about Satanism.

I still talk to that guy and his family sometimes to this day. That church played a big part in my seventeenth year of life. A few months after I started going regularly, my brother and I got into it over something stupid–we were living together, by ourselves, in New Jersey–and he kicked me out of the house for the second time (which is another story for another day). The church was there for me. I lived with the pastor and his family for a month or two, then with one of the other deacons, before finally moving in with my friend — we had absolutely become friends by this point — and his family for months. We don’t talk as much these days, but they are important to me to this day. I’m friends with the guy and his sister, and his father, on Facebook. I was upset for days when I found out his mother had passed away a couple years back. My life today is different because of them.

Faith Baptist Camp, 2011, much as I remember it being in 1999.

Pretty much what I did for the next six months or so was go to school, go to work and go to church. And I liked it. I joined the youth group. I helped bring other kids into church. Sometimes, I even preached. I took notes in my Bible and cross-referenced stuff. I studied. I crafted sermons just like the pastors, and gave ’em too, sometimes. I had Jesus in my life. I liked it. It was a struggle sometimes, but by and large, I liked the people I was associating with, and the guys at school that still spent time with me despite my changes — well, I can count on the fingers of one hand, the people I still talk to from high school, and they’re most of them.

Right around the tail end of the year, I had a few experiences I didn’t like: half the church completely ostracized one of our youth leaders for a relationship he was having with a woman in the church (they were both single, but not married, and had begun living together), and we’d recently attended a week of meetings at Faith Baptist Camp in Resaca, Georgia. Along with all the stuff you’d expect to hear from an old-school, Fundamentalist church camp, there were a few dudes who actually climbed into the pulpit to preach against things like women wearing pants and interracial marriage. Seriously. My friend even caught hell for the beard he was growing until my friend started quoting the guy verses from Isaiah where it was prophesied that Jesus’ beard would be ripped out. All emotion, lots of screaming, not a lot of measured, rational discourse. Not what I needed to be around as what some call a ‘babe in Christ.’

So when, at the end of the year, when events conspired to send my back to my mother’s home in Rochester, NY in 2000, I didn’t seek out another Fundamentalist church. I went back to what I was comfortable with — not Satanism, but eclectic Paganism with a bit stronger worldview than Gardner and Buckland’s ‘Harm None’ philosophy.

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May Reviews

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Zombie Bitches From Hell by Zoot Campbell takes an atypical, if not completely new, take on the zombie apocalypse—only women become zombies, and they’re vulnerable via the ovaries instead of the brains—and stirs in the usual survival-fight plotlines, resulting in a decent afternoon-killer of a novel. It’s confusing at times—at one point in the story, a little girl becomes part of the survival party without any mention of the rest of her family or why she was brought along, and Campbell doesn’t make full use of his characters; at least once, the aformentioned little girl isn’t even mentioned in a major scene, and later, she’s used in a manner that would have had far more impact had she been better developed. I’d never unleash a novel on the world in this state, but it does get points for not being so bad I had to put it down unfinished.

Hero by Wrath James White and J.F. Gonzalez throws an elderly black civil rights activist into the direct path of a mixed-race hospice nurse with a psychopathic hatred of African Americans. Those familiar with White and Gonzalez will probably expect a bit more graphic nastiness than Hero provides. It’s still plenty disturbing, however—reminiscent of Stephen King’s Misery, though antagonist Natsinet is anything but activist Adelle’s Number One Fan. While not as over-the-top as other works by these authors, this seamless collaboration packs in enough torture, dismemberment and murder to satisfy any discerning appetite.

While I find the novella to be Brian Keene‘s least fulfilling storytelling medium (I eagerly anticipate his every novel and have enjoyed every short story and comic he’s written, though), The Cage feels most like a complete story of the ones I’ve read. A lunatic gunman walks into an electronics store at closing time, wastes two of its eight employees, and locks the other six up in the back room. He retrieves them one at a time, leaving the rest to wonder what’s going on at the front of the store—until it’s their turn, of course. Cage is part of Keene’s Labyrinth mythos, though I’m not going to spoil it by mentioning which of the Thirteen the story involves. As with every Keene novella I’ve read, it left me wanting more (which I guess is more of a compliment than a complaint), but at least it read like a complete story, while a couple others I’ve read seem more like part one of a novel that would be seriously badass if finished.

Genital Grinder by Ryan Harding is a collection of eight stories most would consider “torture-porn.” Prefaced with an introduction by veteran splatter author Edward Lee, Grinder is by no means in the same category as the thought-provoking but sadistic works horror fans have read by Wrath James White, Jesus Gonzalez, Richard Laymon and the like. For the most part, this collection is gross for the sake of being gross—and if you expect anything different from a book called Genital Grinder, I say the blame lies with you rather than the author. A notable deviation from this theme is the final story, First Indications, which I honestly didn’t quite grasp. The rest of the book did exactly what I was hoping it would when I cracked into it, though—it entertained me for a few hours and made me damn queasy in the process. I particularly enjoyed the references the stories made to events taking place in preceding stories, and the recurring characters Von and Greg who appeared in several pieces. If I had to pick out one standout piece, it’d be Development, which actually did have a storyline and possibly the least gratutious gore of the whole book.

Quarantined by Joe McKinney follows Detective Lily Harris and her partner, Chunk, as they investigate a mysterious death inside the walls of superflu-contaminated, quarantined, San Antonio. When the detectives uncover the secrets behind the murder, the novel turns into not only a police procedural but also a survival-escape story. In many ways, Quarantined reads like a protoype for McKinney’s Dead World zombie novels (walled-off southern Texas city, disaster outbreak, police protagonists), but this standalone novel takes place in a different world and doesn’t feature any supernatural elements at all—it’s conspiracy-driven, rather than a fight for survival against a physical threat. As usual, McKinney offers a compelling story drawn heavily from his experiences as a San Antonio homicide detective and disaster response specialist.

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