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Sunday, August 2, 2009
Going Steady With Jesus
One of the most disturbing aspects of growing up a Jewish teenager in the 1970’s is being thrown to the lions, theologically speaking. It was the era of The Jesus Freak, Jews For Jesus, “Godspell” and countless bad musicals trivializing God and his many prophets, etc. If you were young and Jewish the Jesus vultures chased after you like you were so much potential carrion.
Here’s a basic rundown of what I had to endure during the Disco Deity Era: One afternoon I walked up the alley to the market and a VW bug with three hotties drove by. They pulled up and flagged me down, a hot chick leaning her head out the window. “Hey! Hey guy, can I talk to you for a second?” calling me with a smile on her face. I can’t believe my good luck! “Okay, what’s up?” “Did you know Jesus Christ loves you and He’ll save your soul? Do you want to be saved?” Oh shit, she saw my yarmulke. “Ahem, I-“ “Here”, she pulled out some crummy pamphlet. “Here’s something you can read today. We’re having a teen rally this Saturday, and-“ “Shabbos!” “-we’d like to see you there, tee hee”, the girl driving the car giggled. “Go ahead, take the booklet!” “No thanks”. I walked away. “Your loss. Bye! Jesus loves you!” They finally drove off. It wasn’t His love I wanted.
If there’s one thing I can’t stand to this day it’s Jehovahs Witnesses marching into Jewish neighborhoods during Passover and the High Holiday Season. As if the entire Jewish population is supposed to toss aside their faith on a holy day. Many was the time you’d see them from your living room window marching up to your front door and they’d ring the bell over and over again. I would sit on the sofa and just wait for those idiots to turn around and leave.
One of the worst places for Jesus brainwash was in Westwood Village by the UCLA campus, one of the hottest hang-out spots in the Seventies. Saturday nights were bad. As my brother and I went on our way to the movies some smelly, stringy-haired hippie yelled at us, “Excuse me sir, are you ready to be saved?” My brother stopped dead in his tracks, and turned around and said, “Listen, you moron, I’m sick and tired of being preached to, why don’t you take your religious bullshit somewhere else? People don’t come here to be bugged, okay?” “Sir, I sense some hostility in you. As a formerly member of the Judaic tribe”, the crazy hippie whines, “I’ve found Christ, and want to share my gift of eternal salvation with you. As it says in Romans 33:7”, he cracked open a thick, greasy Bible. “We don’t follow the New Testament”. “I understand your anger, once I was a lost lamb in the land of Canaan. As it says in the book of Matthew, Love your enemies and pray for your persecutors, so I will pray for you as Christ did for Pontius Pilate”. He shut his eyes tightly and spread both arms out in the iconic crucifix position, his fingers trembling as he did so. “No one knows the Father except the Son, and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal Him", he bellowed. Everyone walking by stared at this foolish apparition and a couple of girls giggled. “Offer the wicked man no resistance, and if anyone hits you on the right cheek, offer him the other as well.” I tugged on my brother’s arm, and nodded for us to hightail it while little Savior was still reciting scriptures with his eyes wide shut. “For behold, I, God, have asuffered these things for all, that they might not suffer if they would repent; But if they would not repent they must suffer even as I; Which suffering caused myself, even God, the greatest of all, to tremble because of pain, and to bleed at every pore, and to suffer both body and spirit—and would that I might not drink the bitter cup, and shrink”, he continued. “Do you hear me, brothers?” He opened his eyes to find no one in front of him. We were off eating bagels on Broxton Avenue.
Sometimes I wonder if any of these proselytizers have kept the faith since then or if they treated it like a passing fad. Religion was a fairly trendy thing at the back end of the Sixties because many felt they had a lot to repent for. Perhaps that was the most annoying aspect of the Jesus craze: once one fuck-up was saved they assumed everyone needed salvation, but we just didn’t give a damn. And we still don’t.