I’m not sure how much longer it could have gone on. Brother Haste’s home was obviously an unhappy one.
He had fought a war against his daughter for wanting to marry a black man. He scoured the Bible, looking for any passage that might make it a sin for her to marry who she loved. But God had taught that girl about love instead of hate, and she was able to see love in everyone. She really truly didn’t care what the man’s skin color was. She loved him, and they were married.
Haste fought that war as hard as he could, and finally all he had was that at one point a woman is told not to marry a man from a different tribe than her. See, you guys might not see this, but God doesn’t give a fuck what color you are. He doesn’t care what color you marry, and He doesn’t give one heap of shit what color you live near. The Bible never demonizes one race over the other. God doesn’t care what color you are, and I bet He is totally shocked that is important to any of you.
God created all races. Made all races kings and queens in their land. Gave them all strength and wealth. He granted wisdom to their leaders. He met them all in a way that would make sense to them.
God is not a racist.
His people shouldn’t be either.
Haste didn’t want his beautiful daughter marrying a black man, and that’s where I saw the first real signs of darkness in him. But it was growing. None of us saw it, and those who did kept their mouths shut. In the end, at the first vote for Brother Haste the vote had been a no. He was not to be our pastor. But a woman on the committee demanded a new vote be made, and after talking to her friends and pulling a few favors, she got him voted in. The man never should have been there in the first place. Never should have preached a second sermon to our congregation.
If he hadn’t, then he would have ended up in a different section of the country. I never would have met Destiny. The rage I invoked in her for years never would have been put there at all. She would have lived somewhere else, found a different boyfriend, and been happy. She would never have spent her young life plotting revenge against the boy she loved. Destiny would never have been mine.
But the vote was cast a second time and it all went for Brother Haste. I think that was the first sign of the Devil that I witnessed at Harmony. But that is not mine to say. The woman who pressed for him was a very good woman. She was smart, holy, and she felt led to act as she did.
But Haste went bad. It all went so fucking bad.
I was headed into Harmony to tell the pastor I was moving churches and why I wanted to go to Dixon. I got to his secretary’s door and knocked. It was open, and I went in.
She was gone.
I went to the adjoining door and knocked. I went to walk into the pastor’s office but was greeted by his secretary. She was right against the door and would not open it any further than a crack. She put her hand on my chest and gave me a firm shove out.
“He is not well,” she said. “Brother Haste is not well. He has a headache. He can’t see you. I can take a message. You can’t go in there.”
When she slipped out of the door, the light had been off. They had been in that room in the dark.
I walked out of the building with confused thoughts and feelings. This was the man who had brought me up in the Lord. He was also in the dark with his secretary. I realized that not too long ago he had bought a house way out of the city. It would take almost an hour to get to the church. His wife could no longer just walk across a lawn and be at his office.
I kept moving, got into the car Arthur had loaned me, and I drove out of there.
I went back to Harmony three years ago. The chapel has all the familiar signs. Blue pews, beautiful dark wood trimmings. I didn’t get a look at the altar but I assume it was still the same one. But they had added a coffee bar. They had a youth wing with a pool table and furniture for the youth to sit on and hang out. The room the youth met in seemed more like a coffee house.
I don’t care how they spend their money, and I don’t care how they worship. As you all can tell, I am no one to judge. I will tell you that none of the old guard still go there. Faith has most likely passed on. Brother Justice and Brother Hoss go to a different church by now. Harmony is still there. There are still people who worship there. But everything that used to be was destroyed by the lust of Brother Haste and his secretary.
I told my mother that I went to tell of my church attendance being switched, but I would have to go back later because I wanted to talk to Brother Haste about it and I didn’t get a chance to.
“Why? Was he not there?” Rose asked.
“Well, when I got there I thought he was having a meeting with the secretary, but when I knocked on his door, she came out. She shoved me out and said he had a migraine and that he could not come out and could not see me because he was unwell.”
“Really?” Rose said. “Tell me exactly what she was wearing. Tell me again what you saw. Did she look disheveled? Did you hear any noises before you knocked on his door?”
I answered the questions as well as I could, then walked out of my mother’s house knowing what was going to happen.
It was months later. I was dating Destiny when my mother called me out to her house. When I walked in, Brother Hoss was sitting in the living room. He stood.
“Jesse, it is nice to see you again.” He shook my hand.
“So nice to see you, Brother Hoss. Can I ask— Did you just happen—” I looked at my mother, who seemed to be positively beaming, and I knew what was happening. “Why am I being brought into this?”
Hoss turned to my mother, who at that moment looked terribly worried and terribly fretful. Then he looked at me. “You didn’t tell him why he was coming over here tonight?” Hoss asked her.
“No, I didn’t tell him. I didn’t know you would want me to, if I am honest. I don’t see how it matters.”
“What is this about?” I said.
“I want you to tell Brother Hoss here what you saw at the church the other day,” Rose said. “Just sit down and tell him.”
“I am dating Destiny,” I said.
Hoss looked at me and nodded. He looked upset, but I could tell this was not going how he wanted it to go.
“Why is this happening over here? Why can’t I have this conversation with Brother Hoss alone at my house?” I asked Rose.
“I was told you wanted it done over here,” Hoss said.
“Shit, I don’t care where we talk, but you are always welcome at my house, Brother Hoss,” Shadow said.
“You watch your mouth, mister,” Rose snapped. She was bright red. The idea that a curse word had passed my lips in her house with a deacon present would be a thing she would talk about for a while. “I just figured we could have this talk at my house because we would be more comfortable here. Your house is so small.”
“Big enough to fit me and Hoss,” Shadow said. “Don’t know who else really needs to be here.”
“Well we are all here now,” Rose said. “We will sit here in the living room. Maybe Brother Hoss can lead us in a prayer.” She was already bowing her head.
“I am dating Destiny,” Shadow said.
“Listen, if you don’t feel comfortable here, we can go somewhere else,” Brother Hoss said. “It doesn’t matter to me if we have this conversation here or in my truck. I know you and Destiny are dating. I know things ended badly at Dixon for you. I am truly sorry God has challenged you like this. But what I need to know is very important. I wouldn’t ask you to betray your girlfriend if it wasn’t.”
It was Mumble, Rose, Brother Hoss, and I. He asked me what I had seen. Asked me when I had gone. He asked me what had been said. Then he nodded and leaned back.
“Have you been hearing this sort of thing anywhere else?” Rose said.
“I’m not going to talk about it, even if I have. None of that needs to pass from me to anyone but the deacons and God.”
“Of course,” Rose said. “We do not want to meddle. I just had heard a few things and I wanted you to hear what Jesse had to say.”
“Jesse, thank you very much,” Brother Hoss said. “I know of a few good churches I can recommend if you are looking for a place to worship that is not Dixon or Harmony. I can see where this is going for you, and I just wanted to let you know that if you want to get in touch with me, I can help you.”
I walked him to his car.
“Brother Hoss,” I said, I felt like a little boy looking at this mammoth man. “I didn’t touch that woman. I didn’t have anything to do with her. I don’t know what they are saying, but it wasn’t—” I burst into tears and he laid a big hand on my shoulder.
“We all know it wasn’t you, Jesse. Everyone who really knows you, knows you would not have done that.” He rubbed the back of my neck as I stood before him, head bowed, and he sighed. “Find a way back to God when you can, Jesse. You are important to him. He wants you with him.”
“I have broken up two churches now.” I sobbed.
“You have done no such thing. You have been in the presence of sin.” Hoss patted my head. “Look, if you need a list of churches let me know, and if you ever need me for anything—even if you just want to talk—find my number. It is not hard to find, and I will make time for you.”
I was woken up the next Sunday by Destiny. She came into my room and dropped into my bed sobbing. After I got her calmed down, she told me what had happened that night at church.
Her father had given his sermon, called for new Christians just like always, and then called his entire family up to the front of the church. “We had no idea what was going on, but when we got up there, he said he needed to make a statement. Said it was his last night as pastor of the church,” Destiny said.
“He told us all that he has been sleeping with his secretary, and she is leaving her husband and he is leaving his wife, and they are running off together. This was the first my mom was hearing this. The first any of us were hearing it.
“It was so embarrassing. It was a nightmare.”
I hugged her and held her while she cried.
God had watched as two churches I went to burned down around me. He had turned me into a betrayer of the girl I loved, and I had nowhere to go.
This chapter is from Reality of the Unreal Mind, Vol. 3: The Keep.