Mad Dad and the Modern Church
I went to church on Easter. The Mad Family – myself, The Wife, The Kid – don’t necessarily have a home church. We like sleep. Technically, I guess, The Wife is still a member of the church she was raised in. But we don’t go there.
We’ve talked about finding a church in our town, and it’s hard because we are lazy. Having to get up on a weekend morning, get spruced up for an hour-and-a-half sermon about “mainstream atheists” (literally, something referred to from a pulpit) just so I can return home in order to take off my Sunday best so I can wear it on Monday to work.
But Easter is an egg of a different color. Most of any discernible abiders of a Judeo-Christian belief system typically find a place of worship to commemorate the resurrection of Christ after three very humid (probably … I mean, how uncomfortable to be dead in that stuffy cave) days in the side of a mountain.
We picked the local Baptist institution. It’s the “mega-church” of Midlothian, Texas. They had four (4!!!) services on Easter Sunday because of people like us that threw a dart and picked the convenient church to attend on a day when the most unbelieving come back into Christ’s bosom.
About mid-way through the service I realized that I was not a man made for the modern church. I’ll give churches some credit without being a total smartass: They’ve attempted to update the proceedings to be as … stimulating as you can get. And I don’t like using the word “stimulating” in reference to the Sweet Lord Jesus Christ.
There are lights. Any church worth its salt has colored stage lights with cues that you’d find in the typical 5,000-seat music venue. You need mood in your religious caterwauling.
The Baptists sure do put on show. The lights, really, were the least of it. They had a six-piece rock band on stage. And this wasn’t the piano-organ-tambourine set-up of your parents’ church. No way. These were young goateed gentlemen that went to a strict religious university, married their girlfriend of six years their sophomore year and had a kid their junior year and then lived with her parents for eight months after graduating with a “Bible Studies” degree until getting a job at the local Christian coffee joint.
There was one guy who I think was playing a recorder (yes, the plastic woodwind-like instrument we all played in elementary school) but he later pulled out a saxophone to lay down a really sexy Jesus tune.
The Baptists institute the three-guitarist line-up, which is TYPICALLY relegated to only certain secular rock groups notably Lynyrd Skynyrd, Iron Maiden and The Eagles. The Baptists, however, could give a crap. They have three guitar players. And you know what else? They don’t shy away from the heavily processed distortion when the crescendo of a very powerful chorus hits. And, it’s worth noting, that all praise and worship songs in the modern church are basically all power ballads from a L.A. metal band circa 1987. Nothing is too fast or too slow. It’s Motley Crue’s “Home Sweet Home” over and over again.
Modern churches are overly casual, and it is this point that throws The Wife for a loop. Children at this church are apt to wear shorts and tennis shoes. One young child had a hodgepodge of athletic shorts, a button-up Hawaiian print shirt and sneakers. He looked like a special-ed kid even if he were attending a Memorial Day barbecue and not church.
Teenage girls wear dresses, but most are inappropriately short. Boys wear jeans and typically a collared shirt. Older (see: aged, middle) patrons also adopt the denim jean and the one polo shirt they didn’t wear golfing that week.
All song leaders in the modern church are the same: They all have goatees (at this point, you can point out a church-going Christian by their facial hair), they wear $150 jeans with that “weathered” look and they wear a $75 button-up shirt that is NOT TUCKED IN. Casual.
For Easter, I assume the Baptists put on a special show. They sang a special song and this guy painted six cardboard boxes. However, he painted it out of sequence meaning once he finished the painting, he rearranged the boxes to show Jesus’ face looking askance and pitiful to the heavens. I believe Paul first brought up the issue of performance art to the church of Ephesus in one of his famous missives.
I’m not trying to be a total fuddy-duddy. I get it. Churches are volatile centers of politics and attitude. It’s stimulation and excess. It’s meant to show the world that the church can put a modern façade on a millennia-old set of beliefs, which boils down to “Don’t be a jerk to others!” Personally, I don’t need finger painting, lights, Lynyrd Skynryd-lite or goatees to tell me this. Mostly because I’m incapable of not being a jerk. I’m perpetually a member of the unwashed.