Friday, October 19, 2012

Discomfort In The Pew

This particular preacher was quite a character. He liked to preach with the mic off, because he knew he could — and would — project to the back of the balcony without amplification.

And this particular listener was in his early-20s — just old enough to see with absolute clarity through the skein of some 2000 years of received wisdom. A perilous age, especially for men.

The preacher was going on and on about this truck he'd seen in some convention centre somewhere — this big truck, this monster truck, shiny with chrome and powerful beyond all reasonable measure. But it was in the showroom. It wasn't there to do anything, just sit there and look impressive. This truck looked like it could move mountains. But nobody bothered with even starting the engine.

And was this not the perfect metaphor for the Church — even our church — here, today? We look so good, but when are we going to start the engine and demonstrate what we can really do? When are we . . . .

Etc., etc.

The listener had his hands clamped on the pew below him, to keep from standing up and walking out — or worse. All that sap, running through such a green tree. He was tempted to spring up and ask, “Why? So we can have more suburban churches?”

Suburban churches — no, that wasn't quite what was bugging the listener.

“So we can keep killing art with our 'message'?”

Here we go, now we're cooking.

“Look at our bookshelves.”

Preach it!

“Look at the movies we make. Look at what we've done to rock 'n'rollAre we to do that with every vibrant thing on this planet?”

Yeah, well. I stayed seated and kept my mouth shut. Friends had dropped similar neutron-bombs of indignation in their family churches, and it helped to recall the unanticipated fallout zone of embarrassment that followed.

I asked myself different questions. Like, “Why get so worked up? If people want to shower and dress up for this sort of thing, why piss in their punchbowl? Why not, instead, take the hint and stay home?”

So that's what I did. Until I didn't — because every home is haunted . . .  

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