Saturday, August 17, 2019

"Ladies, You'll Never Have to Use a Washing Machine Again When You Get to Heaven": I Report on a Funeral Sermon

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"Ladies, just think! You'll never have to use a washing machine again when you get to heaven."

Then the preacher sidled his head around and gave an impossibly cute look-at-me grin to the "ladies" in the church, which was designed to communicate that he thought he was the niftiest thing since sliced bread, and quite the lady-killer.

This was at a funeral. I was there to offer love and support to someone about whom I care very much, and who is a first-rate human being. I would not for the world want to cause her hurt by speaking negatively about the funeral sermon.

So I'll be non-specific and say this was a funeral — again, it was a funeral! The line about ladies and washing machines and the cute look-at-me-head turn were at a funeral! — in a Baptist church.

And for those who have not gone to funerals in a certain stripe of white evangelical Southern churches, it may be mystifying to learn that you're going to hear about ladies and washing machines and heaven and gender all mashed up into one big hot mess if you do attend such an event.

Because that's what much of white Southern evangelicalism is: it's all about how men are special and "ladies" are called to adore them. It's about how "ladies" do the laundry and benefit from washing machines, since a real man could not possibly fiddle with a sissified washing machine button.

It's about how the man standing in the pulpit to tell you all of this is irresistible to the "ladies" because he is by definition a white heterosexual man just like God, and he needs to use his sermon points and his cute head turns to reinforce those points.

And it's about heaven, heaven, heaven, and me and Jesus, and me and Jesus and heaven, where me and Jesus will be together forever in a special little mansion manufactured just for me in heaven: I walk in the garden alone with Jesus and he tells me the sweetest, most thrilling things. And the joy we share as we tarry there, no other has ever known.

Me and Jesus have something very special going on.

Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine. Mine, did you hear!

And heaven cements all of this — heaven imagined in the most stick-figure, childish, Disneyland way possible.

And because my religion and what's preached to me in church never get beyond Disneyland heaven with its mansions in the skies, and me and Jesus and how special I am to Jesus (if I'll only let myself be saved), and about how fortunate I and others like me are to fall into the right gender roles, I live in a very tiny world intellectually and emotionally and morally speaking, and cannot think or talk or make decisions about matters that go beyond the groupthink mentality and rhetoric of my tiny little community of like-minded cultists.

Who are obligated to hammer home the message — at a funeral! — that we are saved and you are not, and if you are attending this funeral and are not saved, we will tell you how to be saved, and how you, too, can one day reach heaven and not have to have a washing machine.

Well, if you're a "lady."

Just come forward after the funeral and Brother Cutiepie will tell you how this is all accomplished.

(Do the churches including the fundamentalist ones wonder why young folks are walking away as fast as their feet can carry them? And is there the slightest doubt about why this mismash of half-baked religious ideas with their anti-intellectualism, their spiritualizing of Jesus and the prophets and removal of the gospel from this world, and their rigid patriarchal gender roles yield votes for the moral monstrosity occupying the White House?)

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