Written by M.J.C
“A time to be silent and a time to speak” -Ecclesiastes 3:7
Jamaal was fifteen and selected to become his grandfather’s official driver. It was an important yet non official position, but one that afforded him access. Unfortunately, it was access Jamaal neither sought nor wanted. He had seen enough just being around his grandfather and the church world most of his life and he didn’t like what he heard and saw.
He was born into a religious family, with his father’s family providing the religious teaching, training, and insight into hypocrisy that would eventually push him away for good. Both of his parent’s were dead. His father died when Jamaal was eight years old of a drug overdose. And his mother died during childbirth with Jamaal.
His grandparents adopted him and raised him in the church. Jamaal didn’t particularly enjoy church nor did he believe what his grandparent’s believed.
It didn’t matter though because for now, he was a teenager and had no choice but to be a participant in the Great Lie, as he silently called his religious life.
Tonight started a two week revival and a city-famous evangelist would be preaching at his grandfather’s church for the next week. Services would be held every night for the coming week, with two services each on Saturday and Sunday – day and night. Jamaal dreaded these events. They were mostly about separating members from their money while the evangelist reiterated that they were all sinful and the only way to get God to even hear their prayers was to give him, the evangelist, money. His secondary message was how sinful women were and are. The church was mostly women, all the ministers, preachers, and almost all the evangelists were men, who preached about how sinful women are, how they cause men to sin and lose their way, how almost all the problems with men and the black community at large was mainly due to women.
Jamaal hated that message and resented being forced to listen to that garbage every week. And now, with the evangelist in town, he would have to hear it every day.
“Jammal! Let’s go!” His grandfather yelled. Jamaal was moving deliberately because he didn’t want to go. He finished tying his tie and exited his room, walked down the hall, through the kitchen, and out to the garage where his grandfather waited in the car.
“I hope the evangelist delivers a good sermon. He wanted me to guarantee him ten-thousand dollars this week but I told him he needed to raise the money. If he preached well and the folk liked him, they’d bless him, I told him.”
Jamaal listened. He rarely commented on these conversations except when he wanted to be a smart ass.
“Besides,” his grandfather continued, “he’s good looking, so that’ll help and his wife ain’t coming so, I’m sure he will be blessed in other ways. He will have his pick of the cows and get all the milk he wants.”
Jamaal’s grandmother had already left for church – she’d go early to help set-up and make sure all the women officers, ushers, and kids were where they needed to be when they needed to be. She was in charge and no one had better cross her. Jamaal admired and feared his grandmother. Just like everyone else in the church.
Jamaal brought his homework, all the kids did, so he could do some while church was going on. The kids weren’t allowed to leave the services and do homework – God was more important they’d been taught and chastised – so they sat in church during services trying to concentrate and do homework.
The evangelist was droning on and on. This was going to be a long goddamned week, Jamaal thought, as the evangelist came out of the pulpit, stood right above Jamaal and demanded that Jamaal standup.
Jamaal was used to this act. Evangelists and preachers would single some person out for extra attention and prayer and focus all the members on that one person. Tonight was Jamaal’s turn.
He hated this and usually avoided this type of nonsense because he was experienced enough to know where to sit, when to move, and when to get out of the main sanctuary.
Not tonight, though. He was daydreaming about a an senior girl he sat next to on the bus to school earlier that day.
“GET UP,” the evangelist yelled into the microphone. The speakers were turned up too loud, as usual, and the music was extra loud and as a result, the evangelist was screaming. And he was screaming at Jamaal while the entire church looked on.
Jamaal was stubborn. And he didn’t like the evangelist because he was loud, his hair was too long, and he had spittle on the corner of his mouth that needed to be wiped away. Or knocked away, either was fine.
“SATAN YOU WILL NOT WIN TONIGHT! GOD IS IN THIS HOUSE AND I REBUKE YOU IN THE NAME OF JEEE-SUSSSS! JEEE-SUSSSS!! The church cosigned and amen’d to the evangelist calling out satan!”
All eyes were on Jamaal.
Jamaal just stared at the spittle that was now flying all over, along with the buffoon’s sweat.
“LOOK AT SATAN! LOOK AT THE DEVIL! HE SEEKS TO DESTROY AND CAUSE OUR YOUTH TO DISOBEY! THE DEVIL IS A LIE! HE IS A LIE! STAND UP! STAND UP! STAND UP!”
Jamaal sat. He had decided that nothing on the planet would make him stand. He hated the moron yelling at him and drawing all the church’s attention to him. He looked around at the members staring at him – they knew he was different but even they were nervous for him. He looked at the other kids and some were laughing and smiling while most just had wide eyes not believing what they were seeing.
Then he saw his grandmother. She knew he was beyond stubborn and normally she’d yell at him. But she was also protective of her grandkids.
He met her eyes and she knew and he knew, Jamaal wasn’t budging.
She got up from her special Pastor’s Wife Decorated Chair That You Better Not Think Of Sitting In and walked over to Jamaal.
“Jamaal,” she said quietly, but loud enough for Jamaal to hear.
“LOOK AT THE PASTOR’S WIFE LET GOD USE HER! GOD IS BLESSING THE PASTOR’S WIFE RIGHT NOW!” The evangelist’s big mouth shouted.
“Jamaal, do it for me. Stand up, baby, and this will stop.”
Jamaal just stared at her. He looked at his grandfather as he sat there in the pulpit in the Pastor’s Chair That You’d Better Not Even Think Of Sitting In and said nothing. His face was impassive, showing no disapproval, approval, or understanding. It was all a show to him.
Jamaal wanted to punch the loud mouth evangelist in his loud mouth.
“Jamaal, get up baby,” his grandmother said again.
Jamaal stood up. He didn’t want his grandmother embarrassed. But he didn’t want the stupid evangelist to think he won, either.
“LOOK AT GOD LOOK AT GOD LOOK AT GOOODDDDD!!!!”
The evangelist moved closer to Jamaal and stared straight into his eyes. Jamaal met his stare and silently told him “to go to hell, loser.”
“WE WILL PRAY FOR THIS YOUNG MAN AND PRAY THE DEVIL AWAY AND PRAY THE SIN AWAY!!”
Jamaal walked out. He knew there’d be hell to pay later, but he had had enough of this nonsense.
It was only the first night of the revival. It was going to be a long week.
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