Oct 2, 2013

Bill and I Survive the Rapture

Boomer and Bill
When I was a kid in the 1960s, our Preacher, Brother Tyler, was a solidly-built, husky bulldog, not unpleasant to look at.  But he turned into a monster during his three weekly sermons, shouting and screaming until he was hoarse and his brown business suit was damp with sweat, pounding the pulpit so hard that people thought it would break, screaming about how bad the World was and how inadequate Nazarenes were.  But mostly he screamed about the End of the World.

Just look around: evil was more rampant today than ever before in history, with all the dancing and Catholics, and schools teaching evolution, and the Supreme Court banning belief in God. How long could God put up with it? Soon He would beam everyone who was Saved up to Heaven in an event called the Rapture, and send everyone else to the Lake of Fahr.

My boyfriend Bill wasn't a Christian, he was a Presbyterian. Would he be left behind?

Not Brother Tyler

 At the end of every service, Brother Tyler lay in wait at the big red doors, grabbing people and forcing them to shake his hand and lie about how much they enjoyed his screaming. Teens and kids usually sneaked down the Sunday school corridor to the Fellowship Hall and out the back door, but today I stood in line with the adults, allowed Brother Tyler to vise-grip my hand, and said “What if you're a Presbyterian?  Will God take you up?"

Brothr Tyler frowned in surprise at hearing something other than “I loved your screaming!” “No, Presbyterians are liberals -- false Christians.  They don't believe in getting Saved."
“But what if I really like him? Won’t God let him go anyway?”

People were starting to push past us, trying to escape into the parking lot without a handshake. Brother Tyler eyed them hungrily. “Be ye not unequally yoked with unbelievers,” he quoted, reaching around me to grab Dad’s hand. “Tell your little Presbyterian girlfriend she’s got to get raht with God!”
“Bill isn’t a girl, he’s a boy!”

Brother Tyler stared, not certain how to respond.  "Um...a boy, you say?"
“Boomer's being silly,” Dad said, pushing me out the door. “Pretending he’s a hippie who can’t tell the boys from the girls.  Let's go, Skeezix!" (He always called me Skeezix when I exhibited same-sex desire)

Every Sunday, Brother Tyler screamed about some new sign that the Rapture would come any moment now, maybe before this service ended. During the summer of 1969, just after third grade at Denkmann, he mostly screamed about the World’s attempt to slap the face of God by sending astro-nuts to the moon!  They were even planning it for a Sunday, working on the Sabbath, a final dig against God’s Word!

As the moon flight drew near, Brother Tyler screamed that God would never allow Satan to triumph. Maybe the atheist-ship would suffer mechanical problems and fail. Maybe the astro-nuts would get saved and abandon the mission. Or, most likely, the Rapture would come before they  plunged down onto the moon’s pristine surface.

Mom and Dad skipped the evening service on the Sunday of the moon landing – they didn’t want to spend their last night on Earth listening to a preacher scream.  Bill came to my house shortly after dinner, a worried smile on his face even though he didn't believe in the Rapture.  We walked out into the back yard and looked up at the dusky sky, but we couldn't see anybody streaming up toward Heaven yet.

Later we watched the telecast in breathless anticipation, squeezed together on the couch even though it was hot and we had no air conditioning. I held onto Bill tightly, so if I was dragged up, he would go too.

But the spaceship landed, the head astronut bragged about “a giant step for mankind,” and the Rapture did not come.

The next Sunday, the morning sermon was about tithing,  and the evening sermon was about evolution, with no mention of the moon landing  Brother Tyler never preached on the Rapture again.