Following is the first installment of my recollections and notes on Bethel. They are from my personal viewpoint, and are not intended to be a comprehensive overview of what Bethel is “all about” or any such thing. They are more of my personal musings. I was only at Bethel for little over a year, so my experiences may by few, but I am a perceptive person and I will try to recall things as clearly as I can – of course, within the context of my own opinions. This is not a chronological story, just whatever hits me at the moment. Hope you enjoy.
Oh, the joys of living at Bethel. Don’t get me wrong – at the time I enjoyed my year at Bethel, sort of. In some ways I loved it, in other ways I hated it. I hated the things you all are very well aware of – the bureaucracy (commonly mistaken as theocracy) the corporate-mindset, the abundant self-righteousness, and worst of all, constant reminders of wasted lives.
There are men at Bethel who went there right when they turned 19 and never left… and never got married… and have no experience working outside of Bethel… and are anal as hell. These brothers are the ones who have an obscure but secure position. They might be the department overseer of the shoe-repair, for instance. Or they might be in charge of keys… yea that’s right, keys – all the keys of a Bethel complex may be in the hands of one man – a man whom ultimate trust is given, and for a reason. They are usually Bethel Elders, but do not typically take the lead in handling matters. This is because they have absolutely no conception of youth, energy, ambition, ego, independence, or fun. Their name is either Bob or Bill.
100% of the Bethel family is required to attend breakfast. There are all sorts of stories of young guys who were perpetually late and what happened to them in response, but for the most part, no one is overly anal about it. Unless, of course, you have Bob or Bill as your table head. The slightly younger Bob or Bills will be on you like Stalin, making a scene out of your lateness which you were trying be nonchalant about. On the other hand, the slightly older Bob or Bills (perhaps in their 50’s) may very well not give a shit. They wouldn’t say that of course. And although these slightly older Bob or Bills may be anal retentive in some matters, they are likely to display complete apathy in other matters. Thus, your Morning Worship experience becomes a perpetual state of ambivalence.
On any given morning, Bob (or Bill) will attempt to engage in the most mindless and uninteresting conversation with any willing ears. The two persons closest to him may trade days when they offer themselves willingly (lol) and allow him to go on and on about how back in 1978 something extraordinary happened that for some reason doesn’t sound extraordinary anymore. And everything is a process. Before each meal at which he heads, he meaningfully deliberates whether he should pass the food to the right or to the left. If there is a guest at the table, he will pass to their side, “in their honor.” During his oration, he can be seen tapping the hard-boiled eggs with his spoon, breaking them, peeling off the shells with his thin, spindly fingers, placing the yolks on a saucer to his left and eating the whites. When the saucer gets to have about 3 or 4 egg yolks on it, he will then slide it down to Brother-FUCKING-CRAZY, who will then devour the yolks judiciously. This is a loving arrangement, because one likes yolks and the other likes whites and all are satisfied with no waste. He also has little concept of tact, and does not realize it is not cool to grab the waiters as they walk by, handing them an empty dish that wasn’t picked up for ten seconds. After all, we only have 25 minutes to eat; gotta make every minute count.
Just before lunch Bob or Bill can be seen in the locker-room, leaning over the circular hand-washing sink-basin with his shirt off. He has a terry cloth in his hand which he wets under the streams of water in the basin and then applies said cloth to his armpits. He repeats this little bird-bath process until his armpits are squeaky-clean, then puts his somewhat-dirty shirt back on, and returns to the dining hall where his tuna casserole and ice-berg salad await him.
He is the butt of jokes but is blissfully unaware. The ones who make jokes about him could very well be younger Bethelites, but just as often are older ones. For instance, an old-timer with a hunchback and the last name of Rippley (no kidding), notorious for nearly running over Bethelites in the hallways on his motorscooter and for eating whole garlic cloves during breakfast, comes into the bathroom, and while he is taking care of his own business, cracks jokes with some other old timer. Conversation turns to Bob.
“Bob, bob… master of all the keys to Bethel, all the keys to Bethel… except one!”
“Hehe, what’s that, Rippley?”
“The key to wedlock… yep” says Rippley.
But Rippley is another story. What some young Bethelites find hard to accept is that their fate at Bethel is inextricably tied to what Bob or Bill thinks of them. So they may try to secure their future by sucking up, perhaps going so far as to share their egg yolks at the breakfast table, or offering the last bit of orange juice to him. What they soon realize is that Bob or Bill is fickle, and will forgive and forget, not because it is the right thing to do, but because he doesn’t have a good memory. Neither will sucking up do any good, because all other people are one entity to him, as he no longer has a concept of individualism. He is the wheel in a cog, and happy to be one.
This is Bob (or Bill), your table head.
The Bethel Life, Chapter 1
PLEASE, PLEASE, continue to post more of these!
Thanks for an insiders look at the most holy.
I do have a question regarding Bethel. Were you there, or do you know, how Bethel reacted to 9/11? I've heard conflicting stories.
O.K. that was totally depressing!!! I can see why someone would jump out a window!
Very cool! Anxious for the second installment!
Christ going to bethel sounds worse than being DF'd
I wonder how many fall away after having been to bethel
Bill is fickle, and will forgive and forget, not because it is the right thing to do, but because he doesn’t have a good memory.
lmao... perfect forgiveness!
He can forgive AND forget without ever knowing he did either!
I shared your other story about Bethel and the hanging of pictures with an ex-bethelite turned apostate friend of mine.
He told me to ask you about 34 Orange.
Thanks Danel! Looking forward to chapter 2.