Sunday, April 20, 2008

Mean-Spirited Church Rant

I know I probably shouldn't be blogging this, at least on a Sunday, at least on a sunny Sunday afternoon when the woodland birds are chirping sweetly through my screen door...but I just have to rant here, folks
Rant #1: This one's been building up for a long time. It concerns the front lawn of a church I pass by every day on my way to work -- a church that shall remain nameless, but one of the larger churches in Outer Podunk. (I'd love to post a photo of what I'm about to describe, so you can get the full aesthetic effect, but it's probably not a good idea for me to be leaning out of my car snapping photos during rush hour.) Directly in front of the church, facing the highway, is a large wrought-iron archway, flanked on one side by the American flag and on the other by the so-called "Christian" flag. The archway reads: "GATEWAY TO CHRIST." On the other side of the arch are two church bells, which I assume are mementos from two congregations that merged to form this one -- faintly reminiscent of two Liberty Bells -- surrounded by evergreen shrubs.

What does this mean? I'm serious. What in the hell does any of this mean? Symbolically speaking, it's a theological trainwreck. I can only hope that it really doesn't mean anything other than some unfortunate member bequest to the church. As in, "Dear God in heaven, please don't let Mrs. Sunderquist donate her tatted Precious Moments tapestries to the church sanctuary."

Rant #2: Good news: We hear from Mama Wolf of the Children Raised By Wolves, who'd been evicted, and moved to a trailer park in the next county. More good news, or so we think: The children are going to church now. "What church is that?" asks Fellow Traveler. "I dunno," quoth Mama. "Somebody came around with a bus and asked if they could take the kids to church. And I said yes, because I could use a few hours to myself." Fellow Traveler: "How could you just send your kids onto some strange church bus when you don't even know what kind of church it is?" Mama: "I dunno. They, like, brought the kids back." (True quote.)

Fast-forward a week. Fellow Traveler gets another call from Mama Wolf. First Mama, unsurprisingly, asks for money; could we lend her some cash, if she gave us some of her food stamps to "hold" until the first of the month? Or could she borrow our Paypal account information so that her husband can buy some model cars (not for the kids -- for himself) off the Internet? After receiving a resounding NO on both counts, as well as a warning that FT lives with a mandated reporter, Mama asks us if we'll go to church with the oldest son -- because the church he attends (whatever church that is -- the one with the bus that brings him back) has the kids in a contest to see how many other people they can bring to church with them. Other children are worth two points; adults are worth five points. The kid who earns the most points wins a paintball gun. Mama Wolf and her husband will not go with the son, because "We don't believe in religion."

The entire issue of Mama and Papa Wolf aside...what the hell -- what the ******* hell -- kind of church would involve kids in this kind of contest, with this kind of reward?

Probably the kind that doesn't want Fellow Traveler and me adulterating its "family values" with our presence.

I feel better now. My molar enamel has worn off a little, but I feel better.

14 comments:

Ruth said...

oh my, that is thoroughly effed up!

PK said...

damn. that's the only word i can think of to say...

Sheryl said...

A paintball gun? Geez, when I was a kid, all the fundamentalists gave away was a frisbee for bringing the most kids to their vacation Bible school.

I won that. I was like...eight or nine, and totally didn't understand what they were all about. It was just something free to do for a few hours during one week in summer.

P.S. an after-thought said...

The baptists in our town encourage the kids to bring others by giving points of some kind. At least they are encouraging that; I doubt it is ever mentioned in our church. However, it does bring up some issues for me.

Our former youth director used to take the kids to paintball matches, wars, whatever. I thought that was really odd, to say the least.

I've always cringed at church names or church signs that sort of imply some sort of short cut to God or imply his extra blessing. Or perhaps those that imply that other churches don't have the right stuff. Some things I've read on the web have implied that certain branches of the American Christian church don't have a sense of church history, so that is probably part of the problem.

stinuksuk said...

It's beyond -
I can't even say!
But I do know a local Methodist church that has a Treasure Chest of little prizes and stuff, that a child can pick an item from if they bring a friend to church.
Bribery in church? It goes beyond all sensibilities and what kind of faith are we teaching our children?
Or am I totally behind the times?

Purechristianithink said...

Paintball guns? Nice. Must be the First United Macheavellian Assembly of Chirst.

Diane said...

It's ok to encourage inviting people to church, but not for POINTS, for G*d's sake. (or heaven's sake.)

One of the kids in my former youth group got a terrible eye injury in paintball (at another event, not thru church), so I have opinionof about this.

Sheryl said...

Back in the day when I was a youth minister, I refused to take the kids to a paintball place, despite both the kids and their parents beggin for it. I couldn't in my mind make the leap from proclaiming Jesus as the "Prince of Peace" during worship to "Lets go shoot each other for fun!" right afterward.

Rev Scott said...

Paintball rocks. That having been said, I'm totally with you on this. What the fireplace are these people thinking?

Crimson Rambler said...

Reminds me of the "Confraternity of the Blessed Sacrament Girls Drill Team." I'm not kidding. Saw them, in Massachusetts at a Memorial Day parade years back. Marching in below-the-knee skirts, twirling white-painted wooden rifles.

KINDA SURREAL, I thought at the time.

Gene said...

Onward Christian soldiers...
"Look! There's a non-believer!" *bam* *splot* (2 points)
"Alternative lifestyle at 3 o'clock!" *bam* *miss* (that'll cost ya come judgment day)

Un-be-lievable.

jadedjabber said...

That is unbelievable! I can hardly believe it. Points for people? Saving souls for the Lord?

Donna said...

When I was eleven, my brother and I rode the bus to Bible Baptist Church in Savannah, GA. I can't remember why, but it's probably because they knocked on the door and my mom thought she could use a little time to herself. Oh, and they brought us back.

Anyway, every week there was a contest between the girls and the boys: who had brought the most money, by weight. They had a couple of giant plastic buckets on a balance. So we'd all pack our pockets with pennies every week to try to win the contest. That's all I remember about that church, which is pretty darn sad. Fortunately, the next year, my friend Sara took me to the Lutheran Church of the Ascension, and I haven't been the same since.

Jeff Greathouse said...

I have seen numerous oints systems and numerous rewards. The best prizes was from a particular baptist church in alabama - they gave out some BIG prizes.