When you grow up Pentecostal, pool days look a little different. First of all, you have to wear a whole piece swim suit, or if you have on a bikini, you have to cover it with a t-shirt. Second, only one gender at a time in the pool to avoid “mixed bathing”, because look how it worked out for David and Bathsheba when both genders had access to the same body of water at once. And third, the pool games have a little more variety.
Most kids play chicken, or Marco Polo, or dive for weighted rings and sticks, and we did those things, but there was a whole other level of play that we had that non-pentecostals just can’t fully appreciate, which included full-immersion water baptism, impressions of shouting styles of those we observed in the Sunday service, and being “slain in the spirit.”
For all you not-pentecostals, when someone is “slain in the spirit”, it means that they have gone to the front of the church near the altar for prayer, and someone (usually the preacher) prays for them with emotion and fervor, and places their hands on the person’s forehead, and then the person sometimes falls back as if some invisible force (the power of God) has knocked them to the ground. It was a somewhat regular occurrence in my church. The person would stay on the floor, praying or hearing from God, until whatever time God was finished speaking to them. Because most of the women wore skirts to church, there was always a stash of dark-colored linen coverings somewhere near one of the front pews so that the person on the floor could have their legs covered.
There was one evangelist in particular who would come to our church a couple of times a year and pray for people, but instead of touching their forehead with his hand, he put his whole Bible on their face. It wasn’t a small Bible either. It was one of the biggest ones I’d ever seen. Sometimes the Bible was open and pages were splayed on their forehead, other times it was closed which would make the force of impact significantly higher. As a kid I was always terrified and a little intrigued, silently wondering if people fell down because they felt the power of God, or if they were afraid of the concussion they’d get from the huge leather brown Bible coming towards their faces.
It wasn’t just at our church either. There was a preacher on TV who was a little famous for this type of prayer— Benny Hinn. He was usually dressed from head to toe in a white suit, and had a thick head of grey hair. He carried a towel or handkerchief in his hand (along with his microphone) to wipe the sweat from his brow while he ministered. Sometimes on the televised services, you could see people come to the altars in their wheelchairs, crippled, who would later stand up and walk across the stage healed from their orthopedic issues after he prayed for them.
We would get “prayed for” at the side of my Aunt Laurie’s pool, and then fall back into the water, or shout ourselves into the water, or baptize each other, until Aunt Laurie told us that we were making fun of the Spirit moving and needed to repent. The way we saw it though, imitation was the highest form of flattery, and we had nothing to be ashamed of. We didn’t stop because we were ashamed. We stopped because we were afraid we’d go to hell if she was right and The Spirit agreed that we were making fun of Him instead of flattering him with our imitation.
Anyway, you need to know all of this so that you understand why I loved the meme I saw on social media this week so much. It’s a picture of Benny Hinn in his white suit, having just swung his white jacket, and the man nearest to him was presumably overcome by the power of God he felt emanating from Benny to the degree that he was in the process of falling out, or being slain in the spirit. The caption: “Don’t forget…This Sunday is Benny Hinn Day! Everybody, fall back!”
Y’all. I can’t with this. It brought me so much joy. I have never been so thankful for daylight savings time. It was summer afternoons at my Aunt Laurie’s pool all over again. I decided to bring joy to Helen Keller, John Wayne, and my dad by taking a screenshot and sending it to them too.
Helen Keller responded with the only thing that could’ve one-upped my stolen meme: “I named one of my chickens Benny Hen.”
Mic Drop. Score one for Helen Keller.