By Chevonne Harris–
Cocaine is a helluva drug and religion is a heck of a weapon.
During a rerun of the Oxygen reality show Preachers of L.A., the usual Wednesday night white noise got my attention when one of my favorite cast members, Pastor Jay Haizlip was shown getting a tattoo. To the ordinary voyeur this may seem like typical reality show foolery, but if you’re a Baptist girl like myself all too familiar with the do’s and don’ts of church etiquette, you understand that a man of the cloth inking his body on national television is a kind of a big deal.
As someone debating my first tat (which ironically would be a bible verse), the episode got me thinking. While Leviticus 19:28 plainly states, “Ye shall not make any cuttings in your flesh for the dead, nor print any marks upon you: I am Jehovah,” I’m not quite sure the good Lord was saying an inked arm is an automatic lockout from heaven. Funny thing is, depending on the preacher you ask, it very well could be.
Now before I get too far in my rant, I’ll admit I’m a regular churchgoer and for the most part adhere to the teachings, traditions and beliefs of the doctrine. But there are those moments, moments I’m forced to crack open an eye during Sunday prayer and give the bishop the side eye. Why? I’ve found that oftentimes the church has this clever way of twisting the Word of the Lord into the word of whatever is on the preacher’s mind in that moment — coercing us unsuspecting churchgoers into doing some pretty interesting things.
Take “shacking up” for example, the act of unwed men and women living together (think newly married Deitrick and Domonique Haddon). Seen by Saints as instant fornicating and wall-to-wall, unmarried humping around, it wasn’t until recently I learned that my imaginary boyfriend and I could in fact co-habit, sexless of course, without worrying about eternal damnation. In all fairness it’s worth noting that holding off on sex while sharing a bedroom with your boo is easier said than done and can easily lead to legit sin, but for those of you dying for a roommate and have enough discipline to keep the chastity belt locked, you’re technically in the clear.
And then there’s the fashion. Remember that pesky Waco, Texas preacher who banned his female members from wearing weaves to church. As someone raised in a traditional Baptist church, I’ve seen way too many times men of the cloth attempt to impart their styling preferences on women, all apparently in the name of the Holy Ghost. From covered heads and knee lengths skirts, to stockings in the summertime and the sanctuary being a no-pants zone for ladies, when did the lines of spiritual advisor and fashion guru become so blurred?
The Bible is a tricky tool and not the easiest summer read, especially for the newly-saved. While it does hold the keys to our salvation, when used irresponsibly it’s also a hypnotic-like tool used by hooping and hollering preachers to influence the minds of unsuspecting parishioners. Scary stuff if you ask me.
While I’m all for pastors offering practical words of wisdom to their parishioners, somewhere between Genesis and Revelations, I missed the memo that my decision to nix the stockings, ink a body part or co-habitat with a male companion have impaired my chances of meeting Saint Peter at the pearly gates. Yes I know as Christians we’re tasked with walking the road less travelled, but I have to second guess a road paved by the man asking me to throw an additional $10 in the collection plate. Bottom line folks, know the word for yourself; or at least find a good Bible app with Cliff Notes.