Sunday Stories: Peace, Love & Understanding at First Church of The Church Before Church

Welcome to the first in a new series of Sunday stories presented by Vol. 1 Brooklyn. Our first story comes via an excerpt from badbadbad, a multimedia novel by Jesús Ángel García.  More info can be found at this website or this Twitter.


From his shrimp-like curl on the altar floor, the Reverend asked, “What is the first step to happiness?”

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Standing tall now at the lectern, he proposed in today’s Sunday story a ban on the sale of sex toys within the city limits and a rezoning of kink clubs or “any establishment with explicit intent to arouse prurient behaviors” two hundred yards or more from schools, churches, ball fields and shopping malls. The city was a suburb.

Inspired by the Holy Spirit to shore up “natural bonding in the conjugal bed,” the Reverend worked with civic leaders at Bliss U and in the city council to draft a bill to “expel perversion and encourage sanctity in sensual union. I’m no prude,” he said, his radioactive hair peach-bubbly in the track lighting. “The pleasure of relations between a man and his wife are a gift from God, an organic outgrowth of a caring, committed relationship consecrated by the church and supported by communities of faith.”

My stomach churned. I leaned forward in the back corner pew.

“But ‘sexual enhancement devices,’” the Reverend said, “and ‘adult entertainment’ undermine this spiritual bond while distorting physical, psychological and emotional clarity.” He removed the reading glasses from his scarecrow nose.

I was sure I’d throw up.

He wiped the lenses with a gold-stitched kerchief.

I’d aim for the collection basket.

“What man wants to lie with a wife,” he said, “who ‘knows,’ as the Scriptures put it, an e-penis in the same way she knows him?” He stepped back from the lectern, stared down the congregation. “Tantamount to adultery.”

I belched into my hands, upchuck rising in my throat.

“What wife,” he said, “wants to serve a so-called man who soils his psyche with images of other women in unspeakable acts of degradation? If thoughts carry the same sinful weight as deeds, then this, too, is adultery.” He put his glasses back on, licked his finger, turned a page in the supersize KJV.

I glanced at my watch.

“The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak . . .”

While the Reverend catalogued the wages of flesh sin—AIDS, impotence, abortion, divorce—I itched my crotch through a pants pocket, felt a migraine coming on.

“Is there a message?” The Reverend framed his damp pink face with large hands. “Is there meaning in the madness?” They looked like wings sprouting from his chin as he gazed child-like at the ceiling fan. “Most assuredly,” he assured us. He was beardless Uncle Sam with Hollywood teeth. “It’s up to each and every one of you to see it, believe it.” Dramatic pause. “Vote on it.”

I snuck outside and puked in a potted hibiscus. The Reverend’s voice shot through the vestibule speakers: “This legislation is designed to aid our community in its war on weakness of the flesh. There’s no greater joy,” it said, “than public service that reconciles lust and greed, the empty desires of free will, with faithful adherence to God’s law. In Jesus name, I urge you to fear not! Contact the mayor and council members with your support.”

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The Reverend bent down low, pretending to mark the floor with a pen lifted from his breast pocket. He sat crosslegged on one side of the imaginary line.