Today I attended the Federated Church of Morris. I’ve actually been here many times before in a different capacity — it’s where my district goes to vote (but that’s a different bag of worms to complain about). It also has a reputation as the most liberal church in Morris, so this is where a lot of the believing faculty go, and I suspect most of the registered Democrats in town.
So I was not at all surprised at all of the effete decadence I saw going down in there.
First, the service starts at the odd hour of 9:30 — they just have to be out of phase with the rest of the town. One of the notable things I saw at the other churches was their remarkable punctiliousness, with every service starting precisely on the hour, and ending exactly one hour later. Not the Federated Church; they were a little more casual with their time, starting 5 minutes late, and the service went on for an hour and a quarter. I know, you’re already shocked, but the worst is yet to come.
Unlike the other churches, we were asked to stand once at the beginning (and then, only “if you are able”) and once at the end. I could spend the whole dang hour and a quarter with my butt firmly pressed against my seat (And, of course, the pews were padded, but then that seems to be par for the course here in degenerate Morris). My knees did not get a workout in this place at all.
The pastor is a woman, and the opening hymn even included a line about “Mother God”. The church isn’t even organized traditionally. There was a central altar, and the pews were arranged in the round around it. Or, should I say, since there were 5 banks of pews, they were arranged rather pentagonally…or perhaps [duh-duh-DUUUUHH!!] pentagrammatically.
So, anyway, so far it seems to be my kind of place. Thumbs up on ambience and clientele and hosts. What about the content?
And that, alas, was all too typical. Hymns, prayers, and invocations of some dude named Jesus all over the place; readings from some stodgy old book; a list of prayer recipients we were supposed to remember. Somebody has been giving the pastor lessons in good pedagogy, because rather than lecturing at us, she called for active participation from the audience. If only the interactions had been interesting! We had a blank page in the papers we were handed at the beginning, and she asked us to come up for names for their god — and so people were offering up happy pablum, like “love” and “service” and “parent” and so forth. I was coming up with names that I would not have wanted to utter in the respectful atmosphere of a church, so it’s a good thing she didn’t call on me. I think the nicest things floating around in my head were “nothing”, “ghost”, and “nonsense”, and even those would have been disruptive to use. So I kept silent.
Don’t ever say I don’t know how to be polite!
Unfortunately, despite the well-meaning attitudes of this congregation, all I heard was a lot of mumbo-jumbo. I’m afraid that even the mildest of Christian habits, praising a non-existent god, is as nonsensical to me as going to a charismatic church and seeing people twitching on the ground, chanting “FALAFA DOOBA SHADA BAKA LAKA ZALA FA NA”. It left me cold, bored, and wondering what the heck people got out of this repetitive fantasy. It’s sad. I think they were all good people, but they have this need to dress up humanitarian good-heartedness with goofy old legends, and for some, I’m sure, the goofiness is the point. But I can’t share that view.
So I’m hanging this project up. The Federated church would have been the high point of my experience, I’m sure — these are my kind of people, except for the religion thing — and it would all be downhill from here. There was still our local biblical literalists, the Apostolic Christian Church, and the Morris Assembly of God, and the Kingdom Hall, but those folks be batboinking nuts, and I think I could only get a worse opinion of religion by visiting those. So that’s enough. I’ve had a charitable sampling of local faith.
Also, I’ve got to tell you — church services are goddamned boring. I think that’s how the tediously dull game of football got to be such a big sport in this country — they only had to be less boring than church.