Everyone has heard at least once in their life a joke that starts off with two religious leaders walking into a bar. Typically what follows afterward is something either sacrilegious or philosophical in nature that makes you giggle from your nether regions. It’s funny how much life will imitate art sometimes you know. So Chuck Ochelli and Daniel Louis Crumpton walk into a church…
Unfortunately this is not the beginnings of a joke at all but in fact an actual event that brought me pause enough to ponder writing this little squall about it. I did and so I am. Being no stranger to the rooms of AA and similar support groups I thought that it would be rather interesting to ask one Chuck Ochelli, host of The Ochelli Effect and self-professed pagan, to tag along with me one evening to a recovery program that was designed and ran by fundamentalist Christians. Essentially it is a direct rip off of Alcoholics Anonymous with the chips and twelve steps, only when AA folks say a God of your own understanding, these guys prefer you say Jesus instead. Take that platform and throw it into a mosh pit with a church service and you will have a general idea of what I am talking about here.
So there Ochelli and I were on a Thursday night at dusk sitting in my Dad’s pickup truck, stationary in the parking lot of the local Baptist church. As the people began to file in (couples sure to be wearing matching outfits so people like Ochelli and I knew what was open market and what was not), Chuck took a long draw from his Marlboro as he looked out the window at this mammoth building.
“This is a fucking church?’’ he said through a cloud of exhaled smoke.
“I told you man, it’s more like a movie theatre than a church. When we go inside I’ll have to show you the debit machine’s mounted on the wall for easy, fast, and convenient tithing.” I replied with a faux, righteous smile.
“So…am I gonna get a whole lot of Jesus loves you when we go in there?”
“Not so much. You gotta remember, most of these Christians are addicts or are at least honest enough to admit they are so they aren’t gonna be as annoying as the Christians in denial.”
“Oh. Good. That type of shit is what leaves a bad taste in my mouth about religion.” Ochelli said as the two of us climbed out of the truck.
We both make our way to the entrance where we are each handed a piece of paper to take notes with I assume and pass by the wall of debit machines affixed to the wall. Ochelli’s jaw slightly drops as he sees for himself that I was not exaggerating about our Father’s house having been turned into a modern day house of merchandise. It’s good to know that God has moved past pigeons, turtledoves and first born sons for the more reasonable digital currency as his bribe for good graces. My lack of exaggeration continues to be unveiled as we walk into an amphitheater with stadium seating, multi-million dollar sound equipment with three cameras worth more than anything the local news channel owns and collection buckets on the end of each row. Yes, back when the church was modest and meek they had collection plates but you see nowadays in order to really, truly worship God you have to up the ante and provide the sheep with buckets to toss their jingle into…muhfuckin’ buckets. What makes it so much more tongue in cheek is that these cats running the show (because let’s face it, that’s what modern worship services are, a show) don’t even bother to cover the fact that they are asking for buckets full of money by simply calling it a collection plate; they just come right out and call it a fucking bucket. So as neon lights bounce back and forth from the stage and a full production crew is nestled up in some high rise booth, Ochelli and I find a nice spot to observe and report from. As our asses own our seats we both silently acknowledge that the quality of comfort is greater than any IMAX theatre we have ever been to.
Two folks chosen from the recovery program step onto the stage to read the completely original 12 steps of said program which sounds exactly like those from Alcoholics Anonymous but contain the word ‘Jesus’ so that makes it okay to rip off another organization completely and it not be considered a violation of the ten commandments via theft and all. That’s when the show begins and a band comes storming on stage like a reunion concert by Saigon Kick. The lead singer and guitarists approaches the mic as his band mates find their mark and claps his hands over his head as he shouts into the mic “Let’s give it up for Jesus!”…and this is only the beginning of the love fest that will be tossed at the feet of a deity that for the most part was completely invented by the Vatican, save a few details based on actual people in history.
The crowd or congregation if you prefer all awkwardly clap, hoot, holler and stomp for Jesus but not so much as to be mistaken for say someone at a Marilyn Manson concert. I think there is a very thin line so it must be difficult for a lot of these cats. Realizing that this is probably an awkward moment for one pagan Chuck Ochelli, I take the lead and simply keep my ass firmly planted in comfy seat as everyone else rises for a time of “praise and worship” to let him know it is okay to simply not join in with the obligatorily suggested standing. However I have to admit that the impish side of me did consider for a moment standing, sitting and kneeling randomly to see if Chuckles would follow suit in order to not stand out or draw attention to himself whilst trusting me as his guide into the world of evangelical Christianity. Evidently the joint I had smoked before arriving here had not taken me to the threshold of mischievousness that was needed to perform that act. Ochelli lucked out.
The band played what I believe was modern day praise and worship and the lyrics to the song appeared on the mega screens before us so we could sing along and feel some sort of invasion by the Holy Spirit into our bubble guts. As always, somewhere in the middle of each song, the band would start playing all low and shit for the lead singer to get real close to the mic and speak real soft and effeminate.
“Dear Jesus, we love you lord. You are just so great lord Jesus. We love you so much and we give you all the glory, all the praise and all the honor that your name demands. Jesus you are just so super cool and we really think it was great that you allowed yourself to be tortured to death to cover our sins which include but are not limited to stealing a snickers bar from the local gas station. If it weren’t for you dear Jesus, all of us would have to spend an eternity in a pit of darkness, burning flames, torture devices with wailing and gnashing of teeth for stealing that snickers bar oh lord. So thanks for that. Bang up job for saving us from that because we really wanted that candy bar and its caramel goodness demanded a human sacrifice and all because your dad has a little bit of a temper and all. So we lift up your name Jesus. We lift it up so very high and compare how holy we are to other people by how many times we name drop you in a conversation because you are risen dear lord. Oh yes, you are risen.”
The way it comes across the sound system is very revealing to me in more ways than one. It comes across the mic, into the speakers and across the crowd in a way that I don’t think most Christians ever catch. While you imagine the soft and subtle whispers of the mic, the “Oh thank you Jesus. You rock oh Lord, your staff is the only one I want to lean on because it is oh so holy and righteous and I am nothing in the wake of your afterbirth…” please allow me to commentate.
The modern day delivery of the Christian message has really boiled down to the emasculation of men. You have an entire religion that basically says that homosexuality is an abomination and they are pretty sure they are not going to budge on that issue; however on Sunday mornings or at any other worship service a shit load of men are going to sing praises to a Jewish guy with great abs about how much they love him, want to embrace him and how much they think about this man within a given day to prove how holy and righteous they are…just not in a gay way. Does this shit make any sense? I mean, I am not gay and I don’t have any gay skeletons hiding in my closet but I also don’t feel that being gay determines one’s worth in the eyes of the Divine. Simply put; I don’t give a shit what your sexual proclivity is nor do I think that the God that created you really gives a crap what you do with your naughty bits and another consenting adult’s naughty bits either. That being said, I find it rather odd that an entire swath of people would make such a staunch stance in regards to such a thing when what they are doing each worship service is essentially promoting the loving of a man to a whole lot of other men. I mean it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to listen to one worship service to determine that every “praise and worship” song is about falling in love with the idea of a Jewish carpenter that had a dad who was into human sacrifice and all.
I am no expert psychologist but you can’t tell me that when a man has to endure that for hours at a time, and then goes home to his wife that some fucked up conversations aren’t going to happen in the bedroom. How in hell is a man supposed to make love to his woman while keeping in the forefront of his mind this carpenter guy that remained celibate and just so happens to see and hear everything his followers see and do is in the room with them and is completely cool with that? Charles Manson might start to make sense if this is something we are expected to accept with faith and little fact. The entire concept of a Christian invitation is for the primary role of submission for all people primarily and secondarily the confusion of sexuality for the male populace. Now I might be wrong on this…but I doubt that I am. You will hear in fundamentalist circles all the time how much this or that guy really loves Jesus and thinks about him all the time, wants to be just like him, look like him and in a lot of cases wears bracelets reminding him of what Jesus would do in any given daily situation because he loves him so much…but this has nothing to do with homosexuality or the skewing of masculinity because loving Jesus and calling yourself his bride is supposed to be all spiritually interpreted and not to be thought in any way that a fundamentalist Christian male has willingly become the bitch of Jesus Christ. Give me a break.
The modern idea of falling in love with Jesus serves two very messed up purposes. One is that the men must be in love with this fictional character and do their best to emulate him according to the dictates of the church while figuring out how to love him in a not gay way and the second is that women can never be satisfied with the man they find themselves with. After all, we are called to love this guy “Jesus” above all else, and if you are a woman then how in the hell is your husband ever going to match that of a perfect man that never messed up, no, not even once? Can you imagine the pressure of having to constantly be compared to the Son of God or walking in on your wife kneeling down in prayer knowing full well that she is actually praying to a thirty something year old Jewish guy who just got off an ab rocker for forty days and forty nights without getting jealous?
“Oh no honey, don’t let me stop you from getting down on your knees while you visualize the perfect male specimen that just so happens to be the Son of God and owns everything including my wife’s adoration and praise; I’ll get the kids off to school myself while you and Jesus have some alone time. When I am done with that I think I might need to get down on my own knees before the very same guy you are having a mental affair with and confess the sins of my jealousy while I pretend that act will look nothing like a promo poster for NAMBLA. Praise the lord!”
See what I mean? Now make no mistake that if you bring this concept up to fundamentalist Christians they will fight you tooth and nail over the idea that the “love” they have for Jesus is different from the “love” mentioned anywhere else or by anything else; but please do not hesitate to follow up said response by asking what the statistics are for divorce among Christian marriages. No matter what the reply to that question is (the honest number is more than sixty percent, by the way) you can instantly shut that shit down Negan style by responding “If there is even one instance of a Christian divorce, doesn’t that make Jesus a homewrecker? Now take that and extrapolate it out to more than half of the marriages purported to be bound underneath the name of Christ and his so called church and explain to me how the message of the church isn’t traumatizing countless lives with their iconic representation of a perfect man used to justify one or the other parties from their ultimate selfishness?”
I think what I am really trying to convey to you is that the whole idea of modern Christianity is going to cause some problems when it comes to the realm of love, sex and marriage. Most organized religions will do that and the reason is because the second chakra is found in the sex organ area and that particular chakra just so happens to be the first one you can unlock before ascending upwards and into enlightenment. The church can’t stop your energy from starting at the root but they certainly can attack its progress through the most creative and powerful chakra where sexual energy can be harnessed and it appears to me that this form of mind control did not come about by mere chance. So next time you find yourself in the company of fundamentalist Christians take the time to ask what sort of “pillow talk” is acceptable in the bedroom while Jesus listens; then try not to snicker as you hear them justify adultery, covetousness and mental homosexuality partnered with polygamy and polyamory in a few verses from a collection of books approved by a gaggle of Vatican servants that just so happen to ever forget mentioning that the most righteous of men in said Bible have so many side bitches they aint got time to get caught up in the static of just one or two. Say what you will about Mormons and Muslims; but at least they don’t try to cover over the idea that God had no condemnation for his chosen people to lay more pipe than roto rooter.
After the band finishes whispering into the mic about how much they love Jesus and how he saved them from being created in God’s image; filthy, sinful, disgusting and broken, then comes the testimony from the guest speaker. This wasn’t so bad this particular night. I knew the speaker personally and at least took solace in the fact that his story of recovery was true and genuine. It was after his speech was done that things began to get more bizarre and commercialized again as the head “preacher” took back to the stage and asked for everyone to bow their head with their eyes closed; a ritual I never join in on. You see, I read the Bible and understand it without the interpretation of other men and what it has taught me above all else is that one should never hide their face from God. Therefore when addressing IT, I never do.
After the “preacher” manages to get a few folks to raise their hands following his not so subtle threat of burning in the caverns of hell if they don’t, Ochelli and I watch as those particular people are thrown into a bait and switch and asked to come to the front just to show everyone who happens to be there how humble, meek and pride less they have magically become by listening to a sermon with three points and a poem pulled straight off the internet.
When the ritual of getting an emotionally stirred up person to recite what you say under the illusion of salvation is done, the “preacher” invites anyone and everyone to come to the altar and pray for…well…whatever. Ochelli at this point is watching intently as his foot uncontrollably shakes up and down with what I imagine is the conviction of the Holy Spirit. I can sense that he feels the spiritual draw this ceremony has over others is quite enticing and I half imagined he would rise to his feet and find himself bowing down at the altar in due time. If that had been the case I would have done absolutely nothing to stop his choice due to the fact that I can see a certain sort of merit in humbling one’s self from time to time for something perceived to be outside of an individual. However all of these thoughts were tossed to the wind as one of the attendees ( a rather cute brunette in yoga pants) took to the aisle and headed straight for the altar where the band reemerged with low, muffled “I love you so much Jesus’s”.
As I watched the brunette approach the alter I grinned from ear to ear as she went down on her knees like a feline and prostrated herself before the Almighty to probably ask forgiveness for wearing an outfit to church that left no curve of her body to the imagination. From my lips I had no power to restrain the words “Oh, thank you God. Thank you so much Jesus.” From rushing out. Now Chuck Ochelli is blind as the proverbial bat so I don’t think he immediately made the connection of yoga pants and my uncontrollable outburst of praise and worship. The fact that my worshipful utterance was drawn out by the beauty of the female form was enough to get me kicked out of this place and asked never to return; therefore I would need to batten down the hatches and play nice like a good Christian.
After the initial service we all broke up into several small groups depending on our ailment. You have over-eaters, codependents, narcotics, depressionists, alcoholics and internet addicts among others that meet for an hour to talk about how messed up they are. Once in the group of my choice, Ochelli and I sat across from one another in the semi-circle and it was time to listen to everyone’s story. Now if there is anything I learned from AA it is that you should probably shut the fuck up for the first 90 meetings before even daring to speak and just listen. So that is where I am in my head space as I go into this room. Now it was not lost on me that these guys are Christians so they have an alternative agenda which happens to be the evaluation of my soul and the endeavor to become a member of their church so one day…when I am ready…my pockets will also praise the Lord with the sound of coin blessing the bottom of the collection bucket. As we enter a fellow we have come to call Uber-Christian was speaking. We call him that because he is the perfect image of a German national socialist, blonde hair and blue eyes to boot. Like the Nazi’s, he too has a Bible in his hands.
He tells the story of being tempted after 14 months to go and buy pain pills. Allegedly this cat goes with his Christian sponsor to do a drug deal and after he pays his money he suddenly feels convicted by the Holy Spirit and leaves his stash on the table for others to claim. At the moment this revelation came forward I had no choice but to look up at Chuck with the expression only he would understand which would scream: “Are you hearing this bullshit, dude?”
It only lasted a second but it was enough for the two of us to agree that either this guy was straight up lying or he had caught the truth and tossed it on the ground underneath a pile of deceitful football players like the pigskin truth it was. Let me explain; you see there is no way that someone with a painkiller addiction is going to make all of those steps which culminated in paying money without munching on a few of those pills himself. If you have justified yourself through that many steps you are not going to suddenly stop your path after paying to turn the pills down…you are gonna pour milk on them and have some breakfast and that is all there is to it. As high as this guy piled the horse shit, Ochelli and I decided to show respect and not call him out for the sake of observance. When Uber-Christian was done speaking, the gentleman beside me began to talk.
Now this guy was clad in blue jeans and a striped/squared shirt which I believe were held in place by suspenders. He gave his story and within it revealed he had only been sober one day from a 20 plus year addiction to meth. I am not being judgmental but practical and when a person says they are on meth I take an inventory of my shit so I know when the meth person has hit me because a meth head will steal from themselves if themselves happen to be nodding off from a fix of the crystal. It isn’t that they are a bad person; it’s just that the nature of their addiction involves taking a whole lot of shit that doesn’t belong to them. I think that while they are doing such things they convince themselves that the shit they steal happens to be theirs at the time of the taking.
After he and a few others speak the group is “prayed out” which means Chuck and I are free to roam back to the sanctuary for free coffee, pizza and cookies if we so desire. I leave Ochelli at the coffee station in order to do recon on the yoga pants chick (needed to make sure she could drive which would indicate to me that she probably isn’t illegal) and find out what vehicle her daddy bought for her because after all she was clocking me when I dipped my hand in the baptismal pool in order to bless myself before the crowd wanting to see new believers dipped in water. Oh how I longed that on this night, Yoga Pants would have been invited into that pool. Who could pass up a baptismal ceremony like that, right? Alas, she was not and after my recon was done I came back in to find Chuck still at the coffee dispensary.
“Now what?” He asked.
“Now I think I am about to go talk to that guy over there that is coming off of meth. Do you think I would be wasting my time?” I asked. Not because I needed an answer or if I would have obeyed when I did ask.
“Alright then.” Ochelli responded.
On the way to the restroom I scribbled down the title of a few books along with a vitamin regime that makes transitioning from detox to sobriety easier. Once I had taken care of business in their movie theatre restrooms I made my way to the country meth man and the Uber-Christian. I crouched down and gave one of my hand mandalas as I apologized for interrupting. It was only a moment later that Chuck Ochelli moved to stand behind me like a spiritual Chewbacca to my Han Solo; adorned with a Walking Dead T-shirt and all.
“Hey fella, I didn’t catch your name but mine is Daniel. I heard what you said in the group and I just wanted to help you out a little with your recovery if you don’t mind.” I said.
Country Meth Man was still wringing his hands and nodding incessantly as he cordially accepted my invitation to continue. I pointed out to him two books I regularly recommend to anyone attempting to fight an addiction; Depression Free Naturally and 7 Weeks to Sobriety by Joan Mathews Larson which contain a mountain of helpful tid-bits to beat withdrawals and what not when coming down from any chemical dependency. Both Chuck and myself could sense the asshole of Uber-Christian slamming shut as the visible signs of his teeth grinding shined through his jowls. With a micro second I observed that Uber-Christian was eyeballing my necklace which happened to be an OHM medallion, the bindhi on the forehead of my hat and the leather armbands I wore which have several sacred symbols embedded in them.
“Excuse me!” he exclaimed with a violent forefinger.
I casually rolled my eyes to meet his knowing full well that the spirit of religionism was rearing its ugly head to meet me. Once he saw that he had my full attention by the locking of eyes he continued.
“Excuse me, but are you a Christian?” Uber-Christian asked.
Now here is a dilemma that I sort of figured would eventually come up with my presence at this place. You see I was offering up help from books other than the sixty six approved by the pope and this is a big no-no in Christian circles unless the book you recommend happens to be one suggested by Joel Osteen or Joyce (Jack Nicholson as the Joker) Meyers. The fact that I was going outside of the bible and I happened to look a little modern Hindu caused all sorts of red flags in this guy’s Christian alarm system to go off. So I had to make a split second decision. Would I engage this asshole in a theological debate and tear him a new asshole by proving Jesus never existed using the bible itself and forcing him to go home sucking his thumb or maintain my focus of actually helping another human being? Ochelli shifted his weight from one foot to another as I allowed a long and uncomfortable silence to sit right there in the middle of we all.
“Yeah…” I said, breaking the silence “…I’m a Christian.”
Afterwards I continued to explain the essentials of vitamin supplementation to Country Meth Man while my eyes stayed transfixed on Uber-Christian. Just to add that extra bit of ‘fuck you’ I quoted several verses regarding God’s people perishing due to lack of knowledge. When I was done, Ochelli and I topped off our coffee and convened a short distance away.
“What the fuck was that about? You were trying to help that guy, what was blondie’s problem?” Ochelli asked.
“Well I imagine that because I look a little different and speak outside of the canned Christian terminology the Uber-Christian was going to try and shoot me down as a heretic. I guess the advice he was giving was little more than simply letting Jesus do all the work and when somebody came along with stuff you could sink your teeth into… he felt a little threatened.” I responded.
Ochelli nodded as he gulped his coffee down.
“That’s kind of like being a medic on a battlefield. You come up to a guy with his guts hanging out and try to patch him up and the Christian asks if you prayed to the right God before stitching his wounds. That’s a little messed up don’t you think?” Ochelli asks.
I simply nod in agreement as Uber-Christian summons by way of head nod to his body guard that comes near to attempt a listen in on the conversation. She is the red headed leader of this particular shin dig and has the authority to kick out whoever she deems un Christian. The whole ordeal forced me to smirk, refill my coffee and leave the establishment with Chuck in tow. The two of us then proceed to walk around our local Wal-Mart while we discuss the events of the night in between picking and choosing what may be for dinner.
Granted, Chuck Ochelli and I are spiritual guys; we still have a space in our minds that is open for what the fuck debates regarding worship, the direction of worship and the object and intention of worship. Going to a fundamentalist church was little more than a science experiment and fun mixed with the attempt to find young, firm and lonely fucked up cuties that might in due time be saved from the salvation of the church and delivered into our dogma free arms. What we found there was the truth of the church; and that is that the followers of Jesus Christ don’t really give too awful many fucks about actually helping people because the most important thing was to get numbers in salvations, baptisms and twelve steppers in the church rosters. So will the two of us go back? Absolutely. Where else are two bachelours tired of being pulled through the ringer of branch monkey bitches going to find chicks needy enough to finally drop the notion that gravity always wins going to score? Maybe we can still do a little bit of good in that environment; and then again, maybe…just maybe…we might bring home a woman that sees fit to scream out our name rather than the name of Jesus during coitus.
“Are you a Christian?” was the ultimate question asked of me and I have to say the answer is yes. I believe very much like Buddha, Krishna and Yeshua in that when I see myself in the mirror I know God does indeed exist and doesn’t really care about names attributed to It. The idea that I would be blocked due to dogmatic cock measuring by Uber-Christian weighs very little with me and it is my hopes that in future ventures there Chuck Ochelli will still stand by my side as a guardian pagan and assist me in undermining every bit of filth and false foundational truth the church has to offer. And also…we might get some codependent strange if we are slick enough.
A SONG TO PLAY US OUT…