I spent the first 20 or so years of my life in the Church of the Nazarene, a hardcore fundamentalist church that was against everything, from rock music to Roman Catholics to wearing short pants. AND required us to go to church three times a week, carry a Bible everywhere, pray before meals (even in the school cafeteria) and try to win the souls of our friends, classmates, and perfect strangers.
I complain endlessly about the draconian rules; the utter absence of art and literature; the tedium of Sunday school class; the preacher screaming about God's hatred three times a week; . But I also remember having a lot of fun. Finding loopholes in the rules, or ways to ignore them altogether, was a never-ending game. Protesting worldly evil was exciting.
And the homoerotic activity was constant. There was as much, or more, hugging and fondling going on as in any gay bar in the world.
Here are 20 Nazarene grabs, gropes, bulges, boners, and sausage sightings, plus a few guys that I just crushed on.
They told me incessantly that my destiny was to marry a girl. But Brother Hanson married a girl and then got out of it through a "divorce." Of course, he couldn't be Minister of Music afterwards, but that was a small price to pay for the freedom to live with a boy.
We weren't supposed to even set foot inside a movie theater. But when a cute boy named Gary invited me to a movie, I had to make a choice. The first of many spiritual crises in my childhood.
Sometimes we had guest singers, usually all-male groups that pretended to be brothers, lest anyone suspect. When the Sanderson Brothers became our summer camp counselors, I found an ingenious way to get a Sausage Sighting.
No Premarital Kissing.
Or sex, either. This was fine with me, but it left the question of what sex involves. One year at Manville Camp, an older boy named Marty was happy to demonstrate. Definite bulge, maybe a boner.
Not even in physical education class or "in the guise of folk dancing." Except at Washington Junior High, we had a required dance every Friday afternoon. In eighth grade, I convinced a black-haired 7th grader named Brett to dance with me and psych out the teachers. Bulge.
The Bible Missionaries were even more conservative than Nazarenes, and thought of us as heretical libertines. I thought it was quite a coups when Micah the Bible Missionary Boy accepted an invitation to my house to fight a common enemy, "evil-lution."
A week every summer of deadly-dull Bible studies, sports, and endless screaming sermons. But when our junior high Sunday school teacher, Brother Dino, became our counselor one year, I saw him naked in the shower. Major Sausage Sighting.
The Prospect List.
People who came to Sunday school or church, even once, were put on a special list. We were supposed to call, write, or visit them regularly to invite them back and try to win their souls. It rarely worked, but one summer I managed to befriend Frank, a boy my age who went to the Catholic school. Bulge.
If we went to college at all, it had to be Olivet, the Nazarene college on the prairie, where all of the boys were training to be ministers, and all of the girls, to be their wives. While we were visiting during a prospective student weekend, a ministerial student named Rick, kissing his girlfriend on a couch on the other side of the room, became obviously aroused. Boner.
The Altar Call.
At the end of most services, the preacher invited those who needed to "get right with God" to come down to the altar and kneel, whereupon members of the same sex would grab, hug, and hold them to help them "pray through to victory." I got a lot of hugging, groping, and bulge-viewing that way, but I especially wanted Phil, the President of the Youth Society, the cutest and coolest boy I ever met. But he never went down. I had to get him to sin, so he would go. Bulge.
The Youth Minister was expected to be young, just out of seminary, and cool and attractive enough to keep teenagers interested. Brother Barr was big, with broad shoulders and gigantic hands, and a gigantic Mortadella+ swinging around every time he moved. His wife was tiny. His hand could almost fit around her waist. Some of the older boys speculated about how they could possibly...you know... Bulge.
When you grow up in a fishbowl, scrutinized and judged by the entire congregation, you typically turn into a teenage wild child, staying out late, breaking all the Nazarene rules, and leaving a score of romantic conquests in your wake. So when I asked out Verne, the Preacher's Son, I was shocked that he accepted. Sausage Sighting.
The International Institute.
Every four years, an International Institute was held for select Nazarene youth, to teach us how to win souls for Christ worldwide. There was very limited sightseeing, but I managed to sneak out of the dorm, go to a bar, and dance with a Swedish leather boy, breaking eight rules at once. Bulge.
Getting strangers to accept Jesus Christ as their Personal Savior was easier in theory than in practice. I was too nervous to try most of the time, and when I did try, with the gay waiter at Olivet, he had heard the spiel a hundred times before. And I didn't even get to see his bulge.
After the Sunday evening service, the Nazarene Young People's Society held a special party called "Afterglow." It was supposed to be a soul winning device: kids who would never accept an invitation to church might come to a party. If they didn't mind sodas, snacks, and stupid party games. Few outsiders came, except one night, Danny, a tall, thin string bean wearing very bulge worthy tight jeans. Bulge.
The Jump Quiz was the Nazarene sport of Bibles and butts.
The object was to get your butt off your chair fast enough to answer a Bible question. I didn't have a very good record, but when I was a freshman in college, the preacher asked me to be the Jump Quiz Coach. I had to coach a whole team full of cute guys.
During the summer after my freshman year, the church asked for volunteers to build a new Nazarene church in Colombia. I had dropped out by that time, but I wasn't going to turn down a free trip to Colombia. And I met Marco the Gay Cannibal.
The Alabaster Box.
Nazarenes were expected to give 10% of their pre-tax income, minimum, as a "tithe." Additional offerings often took up another 10%. Plus you kept an Alabaster Box on your shelf for spare change. Brother Byron, the Church Treasurer, was responsible for accumulating and calculating the money. And, years after I left the church, I dropped in to find out why he never married.
The Church Organist.
We sang all the time in the church, mostly dour funereal hymns from the Victorian era, accompanied by either a piano or an organ -- all other musical instruments were suspect, or downright Satanic. The Minister of Music was always male, but the pianist and organist were always female. Any boy who expressed an interest in becoming a church organist was ridiculed. Even the Minister of Music's son, a cute teenager named Jake.
Nazarenes hated Catholics. Innately evil, brainwashed idolators who would kill you as soon as look at you. So how did the family react when my niece married a Catholic guy? How about one who had a beard and tattoos, rode a motorcycle, played a guitar, and had the biggest bulge I ever saw?