Church Orgasm, Jell-o and Cheeze Whiz

22 May, 2009

Earlier today, while perusing PhillyChief’s excellent blog (I done casted aspersions ’bout his Chiefs, so I gotta get on ‘is good side), Quantum Flux, in the comment section, made a comment (the comment:  “What next will the crazy holy rollups think up next!? Jesus causing female orgasms?”) which sparked a memory from my childhood.  Well, not actually childhood, more like teenager-hood.  And not a pleasant memory, either (thanks a lot).

One of my good friends (hell, he was my best friend) was a universal deist (again, in high school, I know we didn’t know term, but he viewed the universe as God) who was also a member of a severely fundamentalist Christian church.  During our friendship, I managed to avoid his various attempts at getting me into his church.  Actually, it was his mother who tried to get me in there.

He and I went skiing up at Ski Liberty in Pennsylvania (crappy little ski area, but it was the closest one) on a Saturday.  We got back late, so I just sacked out on his couch.  The next morning, his mom made a big breakfast (home-cured country ham, eggs, home fries, scrapple, toasted home-made bread, home-canned cherry preserves, raw milk, home-made sausage, and fried hominy (and that was for five people)) and then announced that I would attend church with them.

I demurred, insisting that I needed to get home.  She insisted.  I tried to get out of it.  She insisted.  I said no.  She said yes.  I went.  She found a shirt which fit (pink striped), a necktie (wide and striped (1970s tacky)), and insisted.  I resisted.  Futilely.

The church was a cute little wooden building in a grove of sycamore trees.  And attached to the cute little church was a large cinder block monstrosity complete with a corrugated aluminum roof.  The effect created by this juxtaposition was architectural chaos (the Church in the Wildwood mated with industrial crappy).

Inside the cute little wooden church were rows of burnt orange plastic chairs (the stackable ones you find at bowling alley lounges).  The podium was cheap veneer with a giant silver plastic cross.  Behind the podium, on the wall, hung another cross.  This one done in gold-toned plastic.

I sat with my friend and his family about 1/3 of the way back.  I quickly noticed that I was a topic of conversation.  Nothing obvious, but everyone who came into the church looked my way, quickly looked away, and began talking amongst themselves while stealing furtive glances my way.  It was obvious.

A few minutes before the service started, a cute little girl (age, about 5), in a miniature brides-maid outfit with way too much taffeta for a dress that size, came through and handed out Bibles to everyone there.  I opened it and confronted, for the first time in my life, the tortured beauty of the King James Version Bible.  Under the Bible was a stack of papers with the words for today’s songs.  Well, I thought, at least there will be music so it won’t be that bad, right?

Wrong.  The music sucked (and keep in mind that, at the time, my girlfriend was a twice-born and had taken me to Petra and Stryper concerts).  Big time sucked.  The organist (and it was not and organ, but a Casio keyboard set to ‘organ’) was almost competent.  The choir (seven women and one man, all in their 90s (or older)) managed to be 1/4 step out of tune (both directions) the entire time, while still missing the beat by just enough to be annoying. 

The sermon, however, was worth the trip.  The sermon of the day was a discussion of sexual sin.  He (the pastor) never actually said what, exactly, the sins were (other than being sexual in nature), but he breathlessly described the punishments.  Eternity in a boiling lake of blood, eternal heat, eternal thirst (I suspect he had been exposed to Dante’s Inferno at some point).  For eternity.  For all of eternity.

I watched (without being too obvious about it) the reactions of the flock.  Some sat, slack-jawed, following his every move about the foot-high stage.  Some were breathing hard.  Some had a look of joy on their face.  One older woman (she was about 40 (which is, of course, no longer old to me)) actually began panting and, as the sermon reached a climax, she suddenly thrust her clasped hands into her lap, held them there, and shuddered.  In retrospect, I think she had an orgasm (which is why QF’s comment brought this dreck out of the recesses of my mind (again, thank you)).

After a few more songs (still bad), a couple of prayers (including one asking for the death of Tip O’Neil (my first experience with imprecatory prayer)), a collection (I tossed in a dollar (which was a lot of money for an eighteen-year-old)) and a prayer for someone’s grandmother.  Then, out to the Church Community Center for some food and drink.

The drink was weak iced tea, with pieces of mint (dried and re-hydrated in the tea) floating in amongst the ice cubes.  The food was saltines, cheeze whiz (no, I am not kidding), a Jell-o and marshmallow salad, a Jell-o and fruit salad, and a Jell-o and fruit salad with nuts.  I had a couple of crackers.  No Jell-o.  No cheeze whiz.  No iced tea.  Just crackers.

Which actually summed up my reaction to the entire church experience in my friend’s congregation.  On the way home, his mom positively gushed over the music, the organist, the sermon.  I kept a straight face.  Crackers.

That was the first time I ever went to his family church.  It was not the last.  I had one more run-in with all of them. 

Crackers sums it up nicely.


  1. Ummm…this is probably not what you wanted people to focus on…ummmm…but, uh, what the heck is scrapple?
    (Sorry, but I’m a big fat guy and food that I haven’t heard of intrigues me.)

  2. Scrapple is meat scraps (mostly pork), seasonings and I think maybe cornmeal mixed into a brick shape. You then cut off slices and fry it.

    What the hell is it with church food? Always shit that requires the least amount of work like jello. Oh if someone is REALLY inspired they may open a can of fruit cocktail and dump that in the jello and perhaps spoon in some cool whip for Ambrosia. That was one of the things that made my mom stop going to church (lucky me). She got tired of making trays of lasagna and baked ziti for those stupid functions when everyone else was just bringing Saltines and jello. Then the ladies would treat her like shit because she showed them up. Ah, the love and community of church.

  3. OK, thanks. I haven’t decided yet whether it sounds really yummy or really nasty. Is it a regional thing? I’m from reason-forsaken Oklahoma and have never heard of it.

  4. Revatheist: Welcome to the atheosphere. And thanks for stopping by. Philly almost has it right: scrapple is all the unused parts of a pig (and if you’ve ever been to a pig slaughtering, that ain’t much), put it in a big cauldron with plenty of water, and boil it for a couple of hours. Then strain (disposing of the solids), add cornmeal, spices and lots of salt, heat until it turns solid. It can be dusted with cornmeal and fried (Maryland style) or as a thick pudding (Pennsylvania-style). I much prefer the Maryland way.

    Philly: Well, of course the ladies got mad at your mom: by actually putting some effort into church, not just going through the motions, she was being holier than thou.

    Revatheist: It is a German thing. Especially MD and PA. I haven’t seen it too many other places.

  5. Please, don’t knock Jello. It’s got a lot going for it as a multi-purpose food. Serve it with Kool Whip and it’s a dessert; serve it with mayo and magically it’s a salad. And, best of all, I have never ever heard of the image of Jebus appearing in a bowl of it.

  6. Because jello has a transient shape, whereas a Cheeto, Dorito, or similarly tasty confection has a fixed shape.

    Mayo and jello?

  7. Nan: It is actually much closer to a description of god(s): it has no set paramaters, it is endlessly adaptable to any situation, it has no fixed shape, it is amorphous, it has absolutely no nutritional value, and, when mades witht vodka, can cause delusions and erratic behaviour.

    Philly: I agree. Mayo? I always wondered what that white crap was in the fruit and Jell-o salad. Bleah. I’ll stick with crackers.

  8. We used to call Jello “Shivering Liz”, maybe that’s what happened to the lady you observed, too much Jello.

    Where my wife went to church in Alabama ‘dinner on the grounds’ was a pretty big deal and you ate very well. I always went when they had that.

    I meet a lot of tourists who express disappointment with American cuisine, and I recomend to them that if they really want to try the good stuff, get a paper and see which church is havinging “dinner on the grounds” or some other thing, or even if a volunteer fire company is having something. I’ve seen some of these people later and they’ve told me it was some of the best travelling advice they’ve ever gotten.

    Not for nothing was the aftermath of revivals and other religious venues which decried “pleasures of the flesh” called the “Chatauqua syndrome”.

  9. I’m from the upper Midwest. Squares of lime jello with a dollop of mayo sitting on top were standard fare at church suppers and in school cafeterias. Once in awhile there’d be visual evidence it was supposed to be a salad (shredded carrots floating in it); once in awhile the white blob would turn out to be either Kool Whip or Dream Whip. (Never ever actual whipped cream). If there’s fruit mixed in, the white stuff is probably Kool Whip.

    My own standby for when I have to do a dessert fast for a group event involves apricot jello, buttermilk, crushed pineapple, and the ubiquitous Kool Whip. Classic white trash cooking.

    (((Billy))) your description of jello as a potential god is enough to make me doubt my Pastafarian faith. If you’re not careful, you’ll morph into the next Oral Roberts. 😉

  10. Sarge: A neighbor of ours gives us coupons for a roast chicken dinner from a Byzantine Catholic Church up in the township. The food is really good. Salty, but good. Yeah. Fire company and church dinners tend to be highly caloric, highly tasty, and a really good value.

    Never heard of Jello referred to as ‘shivering Liz.’ That’s just weird.

    Nan: And we mock the southerners? That’s just. . . bizarre. And I have never even heard of apricot Jello. Weird.

    The flexibility and ubiquitousness of Jello, the fact that it can be all things to all people, does equate nicely with the personal god(s) of Protestant Christianity.

  11. I think you have to go to one of dem dar hi falootin’ establishments to get exotic stuff like apricot jello.

  12. Philly: (((Wife))) has never heard of it, either. I guess we live sheltered lives.

  13. I have read that what we now call “Jello” (usually unflavored or colored) was mainly a staple of the very wealthy as the cuts of meat from which it was a by product were expensive. In fact, the number of gelatin molds a household possessed was an indication of how well off you were.

    Same with chicken. To eat a young yard bird was an event of luxury or sacrifice.

    Maybe these are ta traditional/cultural holdovers of giving ones best that turns out to be not such a sacrifice today?

  14. Sarge: Traditionally, gelatin was made by mincing (for, literally, hours) the cartiladge from cow or pig joints. Bleah. For much of the historic world, unless there was a religious proscription, meat meant pig. Bacon, ham, cured sausage, smoked sausage, bladder sausage, sousse, scrapple, you name, it was eaten. Usually cured or smoked, rarely fresh as there was no refrigeration. You just cut off the mould and cook it. The only time you had chicken was when your egg layer keeled over of old age. And the only time a village had beef was when a milk cow stepped in a chuck hole and broke her leg.

    Oddly, much of what we consider ethnic food (pierogies, halushki, halupki, keilbasa, pasta with tomato sauce) was primarily peasant food. After all, they were ones who had a good reason to leave the old country, right?

    So if gelatin desserts were a sign of great wealth, do they think that they are fooling either god(s) or their fellow parishoners?

  15. The guy I used to train horses for was always loath to kill a young bird but it Was The Thing To Do if a person of importance (well-to-do relative, local big wig, parasite…uh, preachers) came a-calling. Fatted calves were out of the question as most calves in his neck of the (literal) woods certainly weren’t fat in the first place, and were to be put to other uses. Only after that would they become a commestable.

    I think now most people provide the jello because it’s cheap and easy, and it’s always been there, anyway.

  16. PS: Ate some good scrapple and mush for breakfast the last two weekends. Cooked over a camp fire it seems to be even better than at home.

  17. All this talk of church food, and especially Jello is making me… what’s the word? Not “hungry”… Oh, right – “Slightly ill.”

    Welcome, and although it’s certainly not personal, as an atheist originally from Texas, I am obligated to say – “We don’t cotton to no Okies around these parts.”

  18. Perhaps that could be the new Christian diet. All you’re allowed to eat is jello and Saltines. You’ll never eat! Eventually you’ll have six-pack abs, like Jesus.

  19. Postie: Do you know what happened when the Texas Aggie moved to Oklahoma? Improved the average IQ of both states.

    Philly: Many of the men in the Bible-belt already have six-pack abs. From six-packs of Bud.

    • I find that perfectly believable, and I’ve been pointing out similar things to the Aggies in my family for years.

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