One of the most disgusting bible stories is when Jesus made mud out of spit and anointed a blind man’s eyes that he might see.
Gross, right. But here we are in 2022 and spit is a thing — in church.
Before I get into this, let me say that — among the bible’s miracles, this is probably the nastiest and the one any reasonable preacher or pastor would avoid. I mean, healing the sick might be a good thing. Maybe feeding multitudes of hungry people. Even something not found in the bible, say, housing a bunch of homeless people. Any of these might be something cool to pull off.
But no; instead we get spit. Ick.
This past Sunday (January 16), Pastor Michael Todd of Transformation Church in Tulsa, Oklahoma (where I live, now. Ick), preached a sermon entitled “Receiving From God Might Get Nasty.” During this sermon, he summons a young man (later identified as his brother — as if that makes a difference) to the stage, spits on his hand, then proceeds to rub it all over the young man’s face.
Ick, ick ICK!
Ostensibly, Todd was pointing out that instructions from god can be unorthodox and may look messy to observers. I also want to point out how this church, like many others, are emerging from lockdowns and quarantines — so I think this may have been intended to fly in the face of liberals and non-believers.
Let me stop here and say, emphatically, there is a thin (actually, nonexistent) line between faith and foolishness. In this era of life-threatening, life-changing sexually-transmitted diseases — coupled with the fact we’re still in the throes of a deadly pandemic — sharing bodily fluids is a sketchy proposition. Even if this was his brother, even if he took HIV, HPV, and COVID tests, the risk to health is huge, here.
Honestly, even if it were Jesus, I’d definitely hold of on the spit. Because nasty.
The salient point, here, is that churches are feeling the pressure of the Information Age. People are questioning the need for any formal spiritual framework and are leaving churches and avoiding religion like the plague (pun intended). I have said on numerous occasions that anything that cannot withstand a google search is not worth believing.
Which is one of the reasons I’ve ditched christianity. But I digress.
When you see the video of this train wreck, you can hear the gasps in the audience. And if you go to the interweb and search, you’ll find utter disgust among detractors and believers, alike. I think you’d be hard pressed to find anyone who thought this was okay. Even Pastor Todd, himself, has taken to a video message, apologizing for the extremity of the sermon “device.”
Under this pressure to compete with social media and live-streaming video, churches are going to have to become more “edgy” to capture the attention of people — especially younger ones. In addition to this shitshow, there is a pastor, Christ Penelope (no, I didn’t make up that name) in South Africa, who has taken to farting in the faces of his congregants, claiming to release the Holy Spirit through his flatulence.
What I’m saying is, this is not a random occurrence. This is a test. Like Esther Rolle’s character, “Florida Evans” in the Norman Lear sitcom, “Good Times,” where she exclaimed “Damn. Damn. Damn!” upon hearing that her husband, James (played by John Amos), was a litmus test for the use of profanity on network television. Now, you hear just about every cuss word beside the “f-bomb” on network television.
So now we have spitting and farting as sermon devices. Contemporary churches already have rock-concert ambiance, complete with fog machines, laser-lights, big-screens, and earth-shaking sound. Pastors dress in the latest designer gear. Churches have onsite gourmet coffee. I shudder to think of what might be next — live sex shows or cakes baked over human feces, à la Ezekiel, maybe?
Christianity is dying. But, in it’s last gasps, it’s doing all it can to stay relevant. And it has proven that it’s not above summoning the ICK factor to do so.
Derrick Day is the author of Deconstructing Religion. He is also one of the co-hosts of the Heretic Happy Hour Podcast and the host of The Forward Podcast on the One Institution Media Network. More recently, Derrick is a contributor to the new book, Before You Lose Your Mind, published by Quoir.