Written by Myron J. Clifton
Notice from the author: This short series about Jamaal and his struggles with his local family church – which was written last year – was so well received that it remains one of the most popular series on Dear Dean. At the request of numerous readers I have decided to revisit Jamaal and his church friends, preachers, and colorful church members.
Before I continue the story, I am re-running the original story so you may reacquaint yourself with Jamaal and his Church Stories. The new material will immediately follow the conclusion of this original series.
“Therefore Love is the Fulfillment of the Law” – Romans 13:10
Jamaal was tired. Church lasted until eleven-thirty, and then his grandfather lingered and talked to members and the loud mouth evangelist until midnight. They stopped for a doughnut on the way home and then finally made it home around twelve-thirty. Jamaal never finished his homework and had to be at the bus stop no later than seven-thirty. His grandfather wouldn’t drive him to school, preferring to sleep in after a long night at church.
Tuesday was going to suck, Jamaal thought as he dozed off after one in the morning.
At church the next evening, Jamaal was in his grandfather’s office as the loud mouth evangelist, a couple other preachers, and his grandfather discussed business before church started. Jamaal had learned to fade to the background and not be noticed, not speak up, and just listen and watch.
The loud mouth evangelist was talking about sex.
“I knew I was gonna screw her the moment I placed my hand on her head and blessed her with the oil; her whole body was shaking and — I know one thing about church women –” he continued, “when they shake when you touch’em with oil, they’ll shake later on when you touch’em with something else!”
They all laughed and the loud mouth evangelist told more detail of his late night activities. Soon, each of the other preachers talked about their own conquests of women members of this church and other local churches.
Jamaal listened in disgust. Conversations like this were standard and he hated hearing them talk about women he knew in the church. Nice women, who were sincere in their devotion to his grandfather and to God. Normally his grandfather laughed and cracked jokes, but tonight he started to speak. Jamaal listened closely.
“Back in my day,” his grandfather started, “I could preach all night, and then screw all the rest of the night. I could do revival preaching for two straight weeks, as long as there were pretty women in the church, I’d preach every night.”
“You know Sister Willoughby?” His grandfather asked to the group.
“Sister Willoughby?” One of the preachers asked, incredulously. “No way, pastor!”
“Yep. Got her a few times. She hasn’t always been as holy as she pretends to be now!”
They continued on like that for another thirty minutes before it was time to start church.
Jamaal learned something that night and it confirmed what he had long suspected about his grandfather/Pastor.
The combined choirs of three churches were singing and they were on their fourth straight song. Choirs in black churches can sing like no other groups on the planet. And they will sing numerous songs, like tonight, that can last upwards of an hour.
The choir director and certainly some of the male singers were gay, and everyone knew that there were many gay men in the church, but no one talked about homosexuality. Except for the preachers.
Jamaal was bored and thought that he should be doing his homework, but he just sat there tired.
Finally, the loud mouth evangelist got up to preach. He said he had a special message for the “fornicators, liars, and the worst of the worst sinners in the world – the faggets!”
The gays – which he pronounced as “gazzzzess”.
The loud mouth evangelist preached about the evils of being gay and how God would smite them all and that God had sent “the AIDS” to show the gays and the world that God was not happy and sin needed to be punished and gay people needed to repent of their sins TODAY and cast out Satan that had given them a lying spirit that made them believe they were gay.
“Nobody is born gay, no matter how much the world tells that lie,” the loud mouth evangelist droned on.
Jamaal needed a break and some fresh air so he walked out just as the loud mouth evangelist was calling on any gay person to “Come to the throne of God and have your demons cast out tonight.”
Jamaal could still hear the evangelist as one of the visiting preachers approached him outside.
“Hi,” the preacher said. He was Rev Johnson from a church just a few miles away. He was perhaps thirty or so, a sharp dresser – most of the preachers were – and he wore a gold chain with a big gold cross at the end that hung down the front of his tight shiny grey suit.
“Hey.” Jamaal replied, hating the fact his peace was broken.
“What, you can’t shake a preacher’s hand?” Rev Johnson grabbed Jamaal’s hand and shook it vigorously.
Jamaal was annoyed. He shook back just a little. Jamaal had large hands for a young man. Soft too.
“Boy, you have some big hands!” Rev Johnson said. He had stopped shaking Jamaal’s hand but he still held his grip.
“You know what they say about big hands, right?”
“No, sir” Jamaal replied, while gently pulling his hand back towards himself.
Rev Johnson didn’t let go, though. He was staring into Jamaal’s eyes.
Jamaal stared back and gently tugged his hand again, but again Rev Johnson held tight.
“They say, young man with the big hands, that big hands mean big other things. I’d like to find out if other things are big. When you gonna let me find out?” Now Rev Johnson’s middle finger was rubbing the palm of Jamaal’s hand. Hard, like he was scratching him.
Jamaal yanked his hand back, this time freeing his hand from the older preacher’s grip.
Jamaal looked at Rev Johnson with confusion and anger, and then walked back into the church where the loud mouth evangelist was praying over young men, saying he was going to “pray the gay away.”
Jamaal just shook his head. He shook his head a lot at the sermons he heard these days. Things he hadn’t really paid attention to when he was younger – what kid did? But now that he was older he was able to discern some of the not-so-hidden messages the preachers talk, or yelled, out. And he noticed how they’d quote the bible out of context, or mix up passages, or sometimes even invent passages that weren’t even in the bible.
Jamaal liked to read and had already read his bible end to end three times. He liked the poetic nature of much of the writing and he had come to understand that a lot of it was allegorical or a story with a lesson to be learned, and not necessarily real history. But his church taught that the bible was the absolute word of God and thus absolutely true and accurate history.
That way of thinking was dumb, Jamaal realized. He kept those thoughts to himself, though.
It was again close to midnight when church ended and, once again, his grandfather lingered to talk and they stopped for a snack so, as with Monday, Jamaal resigned himself that he would not get enough sleep and not finish his homework. Again. He would need to make it all up before Friday, he thought. Maybe I can do it tomorrow night, he lied to himself.
As they pulled into their garage, Jamaal’s grandfather put his hand on Jamaal’s shoulder.
Uh-oh, Jamaal thought. What now?
“I know you heard some stuff in my office before church tonight.”
“Yeah,” was all Jamaal could muster. He wanted to go to sleep.
“I let you be around me around all the preachers because I know you can keep my trust. You can, can’t you?”
It was more a statement than a question.
“Yeah,” Jamaal replied. Bed was right through that door, he thought. Jamaal told himself: Don’t say anything to prolong this conversation.
“Look,” his grandfather went on, “everybody likes to screw. Everybody. Sometimes wives don’t do what they should, so men go get their milk somewhere else, because there’s always free milk from a cow willing to give it up. You just have to go get it. It’s the easiest thing in the world because women are loose and a little sweet talk goes a long way.”
Jamaal was quiet, but he was listening.
“Don’t tell your grandmother. All it would do is hurt her. I never screw any woman who doesn’t want to screw.”
Jamaal thought that last sentence sounded…current. He didn’t want to talk or listen anymore. And he didn’t want to think about facing his grandmother again in the morning, knowing what he now knew.
“Don’t forget. Keep your mouth shut,” his grandfather’s said, as he opened his door to signal that the ride, the church day, and the oddly worded “confession” was over.
Tuesday sucked, Jamaal thought, as he finally lay in bed just after one – fifteen am.
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