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Burnett's Urban Etiquette

Monday, September 18, 2006

Eric Cartman was Right...Again

If you've been reading this blog for more than a minute then you know my wife and I, in an effort to keep from becoming full-fledged heathens, have been hunting for a church to attend - basically since we moved to South Florida last fall.

The fact that we haven't found a church to attend permanently might suggest that we're either too picky or not exactly sure what we're looking for. Maybe it's a combination of both. Maybe neither.

You may recall from past blog postings that we visited a church, where the pastor gave a chat that I swear I heard in a hippie pot circle once in college (I wasn't in the circle - I hate hippies; I was just passing through). That was the same church where a dog was strollin' up and down a pew (church bench for you civilians). There were others, like the place where people attended the service in wife beaters and flip-flops and beach gear.

For the record, this isn't one of those deals where we're looking for the church where everything's pristine and the minister tells us everyone's perfect and makes everyone sing Kumbaya. On the contrary, we're just looking for a little practical guidance.

That being said, there are some old school traditions that just can't be replaced. And one of my favorite old school church traditions is singing the old-fashioned hymns, the ones our grandparents and great grandparents knew by heart. In my case, my pops was a preacher, so I heard these hymns at home and every weekend in church. What can I say? I love 'em.

It is ironic, 'cause there's no way I live up to the standards set in some of those old gospel hymns. Nevertheless I find them inspirational and soothing.

So knowing a little of my pet peeves, you may find some cruel humor in the fact that the church we visited yesterday was full of hippies. That should have been my first red flag. I've never seen so many hippies in one place in my entire life - except for maybe that pot circle I observed in college or my old neighborhood back in Milwaukee.

The second red flag was the music. They didn't sing any of the old hymns. It was pretty much all new stuff. In fact, during a 40 minute singing session before they even got to the sermon, virtually every song they sang had an 1980s soft rock vibe.

I'm not hatin'. If soft Christian rock is how you get down, knock yourself out. It just doesn't move me like the old stuff.

Anyway, I didn't know these tunes and couldn't relate. But the singing portion of the service was long and there was no end in sight. So - God forgive me if this sounds sacrilegious - I started daydreaming. And one of the first thoughts to enter my mind was that this reminded me of the Faith Plus 1 episode of South Park, in which evil (but often funny) Eric Cartman schemes to get rich and famous by founding a Christian rock band named Faith Plus 1. When his band members Token and Butters express skepticism, Eric explains to them that all they have to do is take '80s romance/rock tunes and replace "baby" with "Jesus" in the lyrics. And voila! You now have a Christian rock song.

I'm ashamed to admit that as I shifted to keep my feet from falling asleep I tried the Eric Cartman create-a-church-tune theory in reverse. I substituted "Jesus" with "baby" in virtually every song during yesterday's service. And you know what? It worked!

Consider these snippets: "I need you in my life (baby)..." "I feel you all around me (baby)..."

Seriously, by inserting "baby" into each song in multiple places I had just made an album's worth of '80s-esque romance/rock tunes.

I am not recommending this as a habit, especially if you are trying to stave off heathenry, as am I.

But give me some old gospel tunes. I don't know who's writing this new stuff. But I'll take Fanny Crosby any day.


  • Don't know what to tell you here, champ. I haven't been to church regular in 25 yrs. If I did go, the only church I think I could attend is over north of Tampa, Florida where my childhood friend is the pastor.

    Sounds like you were at a Unitarian church--the kind of place that caters to ex-hippies and former free-lovers. Good for recruiting war protesters; bad for hearing good gospel choirs. It sounds like you grew up in the church, but the only reason you went (other than Dad browbeating you into making a good impression for the flock) was because of the music. My suggestion is that you buy a couple of gospel records and listen to them on I-Pod during the hymnal portion of the service.

    The sermon is up to you. My personal feeling is that once you learn how to read, going to church for "spiritual instruction" really becomes a meaningless exercise--church then becomes this place you go every Sunday to hear/sing gospel, look at girls all dolled up, and fall asleep during the preacher's speech.

    By Anonymous Big Daddy, at 2:53 PM  

  • Well, I agree with half. I like the newer tunes, but the last church we attended had approximately 45 minutes of praise time (aka: singing) before the message started. I thought I was a crazy heathen for finally leaving that church. Glad to know others find it annoying as well.

    Good luck in your search.

    By Anonymous SnoBug, at 6:06 PM  

  • You could come to Flatbush. The people who live across the street have apparently turned their living room into a church. From about 2PM to midnight last night they were praising Jesus in the way that only several loud speakers, open windows and a small room filled with maybe 8 people can.

    I move in 2 weeks. *ohm* I move in 2 weeks. *ohm*

    But seriously - there's nothing wrong with being picky about a house of worship. If you can't feel comfortable there then how are you going to connect with whatever higher power it is you're trying to convene with? I say be picky. Be picky until you find what feels like home. No god would want you sitting through something that didn't feel right.

    By Blogger Melissa, at 7:34 PM  

  • Man, the last time I was in a church and it wasn't a wedding or a funeral was about 1968 or 9. Haven't missed it, but it's cool if yer into it. And you're right about the new music. Soft pop gospel is "of the devil". Gimme that old timey hillbilly shit any day, but only for a short time. Low tolerance for that stuff. Have to move on. Thing is, can't think of anything more glorious than an aria from Puccini cranked as loud as the thing will go, or the sound of Jimmy Pages fingers goin' a thousand miles an hour only to slow to hit that classic blues beat, or my mothers eyes and smile as she looks up at me when I've been over to visit. That's where God is.

    By Blogger Fathairybastard, at 2:06 AM  

  • Being of the catholic persuasion one of my favorite (new) songwriters s Bernadette Farrell.

    On the other hand, I have been to a number of Baptist churches (what you might call Black baptist churches) and I was uplifted by the music I heard there as well.

    By Anonymous og, at 7:24 AM  

  • Go Fanny Crosby. Mind you, there's plenty of really good stuff from Graham Kendrick, Keith & Melody Green, Matt Redman, & others whose names I, unfortunately, can't remember, but whose lyrics I can - & they don't work if you substitute "baby" for "Jesus".

    All the best in yr Church hunting.

    By Anonymous bronchitikat, at 12:10 PM  

  • Methinks God does have a sense of humor! :-)

    By Blogger Manola Blablablanik, at 2:33 PM  

  • yo-
    you hate hippies? hate is a strong word, did used to live in Riverwest though. Is that where the venom came from?

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 11:34 AM  

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