Even though I was raised Roman Catholic, my family was not overly religious. Sure my mom made us go to church on Sunday and yes, I was an alter-boy (please refrain from the sexual molestation jokes – I was a fat kid, the priests weren’t into me). Looking back, I feel like any of my religious activities at the time had more to do with my Italian heritage and South Philadelphia neighborhood than any feelings about faith or God. By the time I was in 6th grade (11ish), I had pretty much written off Christianity, but I kept it to myself until I was in high school.
While I spent most of my “family time” with my Dad’s side, my mom’s sister held a special place in my heart. She was (and is) very independent, odd, and a DEVOUT Catholic. It didn’t seem strange to me at the time, but as I got older, my Aunt became more immersed/dependent on the church. The summer that I turned 12 she told me she had a very special birthday present for me (she usually indulged my obsession with electronics). Since my birthday was at the end of the summer, I was left waiting almost the entire 12 weeks for my gift. At some point I found out it was on a specific date, so I knew we were going to a place. Finally the day arrived and my Mom volunteered to drive the three of us. We were in the car for what seemed like hours and finally we pulled into a very pleasant looking place (farm like in appearance – open fields, barns, etc) and then I spotted the ENORMOUS WOOD CROSS.
My exact words: “Oh Shit”
My mom pulled into the parking area and this place was packed. We were late, but I could see kids everywhere. They all had purple and blue shirts on with crosses on it. I could tell that they were not the Catholic flavor of Christian that I was familiar with which made the situation (in my mind) even worse. I shot a nasty look to my mother and she communicated with her eyes that she had no idea what was going on. Knowing how her sister operates, I believed her. My aunt was already out of the car and pre-introducing me to these creepily polite kids. I walked up and exchanged pleasantries (translation: I was a total jerk to them) and they invited me into a retrofitted barn. I walked behind them looking back to see if my mother and aunt were following (I didn’t want to be abducted into their cult) – as I passed the massive barn door, I saw a stage.
My exact words: “Get me the **** out of here”
I am a music snob now and I was a music snob then. Christian rock did not exist in my mind as a viable musical genre (it still doesn’t). I see my mother and aunt peering into the door (they being the only Italian looking people in the establishment besides myself, everyone else looked like they walked off the set of “Children of the Corn”), I start to walk back to them and my aunt holds up her hand and says “just give it a chance”. “No.” She says: “You might like it since you love music.” I say: “That’s exactly why I won’t.” I could see that I might have cut a little too deep on that last line so I relented and sat down. The Children of the Corn started telling me about the clown that was about to play and I nodded and thought of better times. The guy comes on stage and is rocking 80’s era Richard Marx quaffed hair and even has the pierced ear with long dangling earring. Opening chord rings…
I sit through three songs. The Children of the Corn are swaying and holding hands. The musician is singing about his deep Jesus Love…. I walk out. My aunt looks at me with disappointment, as my Mom has this amused look on her face – no doubt she enjoyed my suffering at the hands of the uber-Christians as cosmic retribution for some other act of defiance. As we walked out of the barn, a tall lanky looking fellow stops us, “Aren’t you enjoying the show?” My aunt starts to engage this man in conversation, trying to explain away my “unexpected” bout of good taste. Soon enough they start passing bible quotations between each other. I look at my mother, who is equally ready to get the hell out of this nightmare (although she would never admit it), and she politely reminds my aunt that we are leaving. My aunt who I now know is exacting her own revenge on me continues to chat away with this fellow until he turns his attention to me.
“Didn’t enjoy the show?” I will admit that during my pre-teen years I could be a rude little snot. I considered my silence at that point an act of extreme restraint. I looked at this tall bastard and said “This is not a show, it is a membership drive.” He just looked at me, I am sure thinking I was destined for a life of sadness. My mother and aunt did and quickly escorted me to the car before I could inflict further damage or embarrassment. The ride home was very silent. In the 12 weeks leading up to this “surprise”, I bragged and taunted my sister as (to my knowledge) she wasn’t included (I assume she didn’t need to go because she didn’t “reject the church”), so now I was stewing because I would have to tell her what went down.
We walk into my grandmother’s (who was watching my sister): “How was it?” she asks as she flipped through a gossip magazine. “Christian Rock Concert.” She looks at me and starts laughing hysterically. She was right to laugh – who gets tricked into going to a Christian Rock Concert? Me. That’s who.
(I don’t think the dude was Michael W. Smith, but he was trying his best to be him)