We worked one Sunday not too far back and A. got there a little late because he had to drop off his daughter off at church on the way to work. She goes to church near our shop at this place, which I have also written about before in past blog incarnations:
There is a female preacher at either this church or some church associated with it (A.'s descriptions of the church politics surrounding the folks at the above place of worship are downright byzantine) who preaches a variation on health & wealth theology that I have not encountered before. A. and I have talked theology in the past (it's Memphis, and we've worked together a long time, so Godtalk eventually just happens), and we both roughly know where the other stands with regard to health & wealth. A. has a loose institutional connection to faith but he is more or less a believer in a health and wealth theology, at least he is a man who is hedging his bets. He doesn't go to church much anymore but he sends his teenage daughter and he hopes that her religious actions and faith combine with A's faith without much religious action to eventually bring about financial and health blessings for their family. A.'s wife has been ill for years and they live in the hood without much money. The shop's manager had to buy A. glasses so that he could read the scales at work accurately a few years ago and one of the first things you notice about A. is the significant number of teeth he is missing. The man can't really hide from his poverty. His wife doesn't work because of her illness but has been unable to get on disability, so their family (I know of at least 5 living in their apartment) survive on Andrew's $14 or so an hour. Anyway, according to A., this lady preacher at A.'s daughter's church preaches a three tier system when it comes to health and wealth. There are those that don't have faith in God. God will not bless them, though they may get blessed by demons or get "natural" blessings not connected to divine intervention. Then there are two tiers of the faithful. For most of the faithful, the vast majority, if you have real faith then God will bless you with wealth and health - if your faith is sufficient in degree and sincerity anyway - in other words, if your faith is the really real type. But then there is the "higher" tier of believers. This lady preacher teaches that there is a remnant of prophets who, despite their faith in God's blessing, God holds back his blessing in this life upon them - they believe with full and sufficient and sincere faith that God will bless them, but God does not bless them. According to A.'s daughter's preacher, these are the holiest of the saints/believers. God uses them basically to test the lesser saints - if they have complete faith and God won't bless them, then why should I believe that God will bless me? God uses these "perfect" saints who he refuses to bless to test the lesser saints, in order that they might be worthy enough to receive the blessing.
I find this construction of health & wealth pentecostalism absolutely fascinating - I've never heard of anything like it before. The perfect in this theology are almost like a Bodhisattva in Mahāyāna Buddhism, except that in this theology they don't seem to choose their status as beings who defer their blessing in order that others may be blessed. In this form of health and wealth, it seems the most holy are, as it were, cursed in order that the less holy among those who believe can be blessed. I've long admired this little church for its architecture and now I find that the theology taught there is so interesting. I asked A. if there was any concrete expression of these tiers among the faithful, if there were persons in the parishes where this is taught who are recognized as being among the holy elite God refuses to bless. He told me that there were, mostly old ladies who were poor and often in ill health who had been known to have lived holy lives. Indeed, the preacher lady who teaches this theology is poor herself, and walks with a cane. What an anomaly in the health and wealth paradigm. I told A. that I want to meet this preacher lady sometime, and he told me he will introduce me. I'll report back after that happens.
So bossman has me help him on the computer from time to time, even though he is only three years older than me and should be perfectly capable of basic computing. He still gets all sorts of invites from various social media sites, and these often involve a former lover wanting to connect through pixels. Bossman is not so keen on this as he was, to the surprise of all, married earlier this year, ending, at least for now, his rather stellar career as a player. He grew up in an old money - lost their money - made their money back elite Memphis family, which once, via his grandfather's side, owned the largest number of slaves in Shelby County. His parents are "Evangelical Christians" of the sort where faith and class are seamless and indistinguishable, and bossman was sent to one of the better upscale Christian schools in town, where he managed to have a run which later left him bragging about how many good Christian girls' abortions he paid for during his high school tenure. Anyway, all things being equal, he's as good as a boss as I've ever had (it's his father and senior management at the parent company who are the overt brutes), and time spent with him is never uninteresting. He asked me this week how it was he had the energy for all these women in the past, and I reminded him that cocaine may have been a factor. My first review on the job, nearly ten years ago now, involved my supervisor, who was then a colossal drinker of the several quarts of cheap vodka per day variety, sitting right next to bossman, who started doing lines any time after lunch. So, here we are at about 3:45pm, with two guys sitting opposite me with paperwork that critiques my every move for the past 3 months, one of them slipping off of his chair repeatedly and with heavily slurred speech, and the other chattering a mile a minute and looking around frantically and half standing up every ten seconds. I almost packed up to move back to Minnesota that evening. I'm glad I didn't though.
Bossman has married this nice petit-bourgeois professor lady who teaches sexuality in women's literature and such things from what I gather to be something of a Foucaultian perspective. I like her more than I thought I would. The joke among some of us who know them is that she married bossman as a part of her research on human sexuality. In years past bossman used to take me with him, now and again, to showrooms in various places across the country when there was need to do an install of a fixture that required some knowledge of how the fixture is made or something involving a tool. He also liked to parade me around as the "authentic worker" to salespeople who'd never met a manufacturing worker before - maybe this was supposed to give us a competitive edge against our competitors whose high end products these salespeople didn't associate faces with. Sometimes he even had me show them pictures of my kids, yeah, pretty cute kids, though the whole thing did leave me feeling like a zoo animal taken on tour, I suppose. He had his usual women in every city we went to - some were girls he knew from high school (they were all wealthy so many of them, it seems, got out of Memphis and went to more "serious" cities), some from his days as a snowboarder in Aspen, some were just clerks at the showrooms we displayed in. It was a sight to behold seeing him in action. Sometimes I'd get left at the bar with the company card when he went off with a conquest in a cab. It could've been worse.