Sex and evangelical American religion have a lot in common: Both are weird and personal; both inspire prescriptive, reductive public dialogue; and both are used as conduits for ecstasy, punishment, comfort, self-satisfaction, and pain that can turn into pleasure. When I was a teenager going to music festivals for the first time, I’d watch crowds of people throwing their hands up and feel like I was back in the mega-church where I grew up, a congregation in the tens of thousands that boasted a decent house band and a massive worship center I called the Repentagon. Recently, I disturbed myself by realizing that the name I’ve said more than any [...]
Previously: Parts one, two, and three.
Like many of us, I was a miserable and angst-ridden adolescent, and the way the Church of Scientology had divided my family in half seemed like just another teenage burden. It wasn’t until I was in my early twenties that I realized with surprise that my family’s history in Scientology gave me pop culture cool points, that it was a factoid I could deploy to make me instantly more interesting to just about anyone. While occasionally useful at parties or when trying to impress dudes, talking about the church also felt like treachery against my father, still a faithful church [...]
Will is a 26-year-old guy who lives in Seattle and works in higher education. Every week, he tries to read at least one book and watch one movie. His hair has been black, blonde, blue, auburn, and mallard-colored. He’s lost around 60 pounds in the last 18 months, and his father was once nearly attacked by a tiger.
Jia: Good morning Will! Thank you for talking to me on this nice Sunday, taking time out of your day of worship.
(Will had just made it clear to me via email that he is not a virgin for religious reasons.)
Will: Haha. Actually, where I grew up — 30 miles [...]