I Hate Halloween.

Halloween is a stupid holiday. Not for all of the reasons that church people hate Halloween, it being “Satan’s Holiday” and all. I could care less about that. I hate Halloween because it just seems like a bogus, stupid and irresponsible holiday. Here are some reasons I hate Halloween.

1) It’s just a weird holiday when you think about it. Here we are as a nation celebrating death and darkness. Yeah, I know you can dress up in “positive costumes” all you want, but the basis behind Halloween is death, dead and dying people. Yes, we are celebrating the dead. Gotta love that.

2) Adults trying to take over Halloween as a chance to party and scare the shit out of people, mainly little kids. Hey, listen you attention-seeking assholes, if Halloween is for anyone, it’s for kids. And I don’t care who you are, if I am walking my six-year old around and you jump out of a bush to scare him (or me for that matter) I will beat the crap out of you. Two years ago we had a guy in our neighborhood that hid in a bush and would reach and grab you from behind just as you went to get some of the candy on his porch. What a dickhead.

3) Adults trying to make Halloween sexy and adult-oriented even around little kids. Last year we had one of our neighbors boyfriends (he is a 45 year old man) dress up as Dracula (I think) and then he had handcuffs on his belt and he was carrying a riding crop. Yeah… real kid friendly… a sadomasochistic vampire. Gotta love it! Then you have some women dressing as a sexy Minnie Mouse or Snow White and then walking their kids around. Nothing says its a kid holiday like low-cut outfits and fishnet stockings with your booty hanging out. (Not that I personally have anything against that around me… but just not around the kids.)

4) Finally, the church has to try and use Halloween as a way to reach people. The church down the street tonight will host “The Judgement House”. It’s encouraging the community to come out and discover their final destination. Now that sounds inviting. The opposite alternative is the now entrenched idea of a Harvest Celebration. You can call this “Halloween Light”. You still get the costumes (positive ones only please) and the candy, but none of the scare. The only positive about these events is the occasional dunk tank where you get to drop the senior pastor into a tank of freezing water (sign me up three times for that one).

So overall, I hate Halloween. Of all the “holidays” it is my least favorite. However, Christmas is gaining ground to make it a close second.

THe Cost of Caring

Tonight I went out with friends from work. And in the end, as I drove home, what I realized is that I really just care way too much about people.

As I sat, and talked and listened and learned about people, I found myself wanting to reach out, wanting to know more about them and what makes them tick, or seeing twinges of sadness in their voice and wanting to make them happy. I would observe them from across the tables and think “how are they really doing”. Beyond all the alcohol induced laughter, when these folks get home at night are they really and truly happy.

Indecision

The picture on the right is a screen capture from a video I saw today featuring a rather spectacular motorcycle crash. It’s from one of those X-Games competitions where these ballsy guys jump from these enormous ramps vaulting themselves 50 feet into the air and along the way perform flips and tricks that seem to defy gravity. However, the young man in this picture is about to find out that gravity is very, very real.

If you watch the video you will hear the commentators describe how this stunt took a dangerous turn. They show in slow motion that the rider had a moment of indecision in the middle of the trick. As he launches himself in the air, he is prepared to do one trick (a superman, which entails grabbing the seat of the motorcycle while stretching out behind) but then in a moment of doubt he tries to regrab the handlebars but can’t reach them. At that point you can see him stretch and try to grab the seat again but by that time the bike was out of reach. In that very moment, you can almost observe this young man seriously try his last and only option – learning how to fly.

But fly he doesn’t, and in the end gravity takes it’s toll on his body as he comes crashing to the ground. Fortunately for him the end result was reportedly only a broken femur.

Any way you look at it, indecision is a bummer. Make a decision one way or the other, but if you hesitate, the choice may be made for you. Either way you slice it, you have to live with the consequences. And you can’t expect a miracle to bail you out.

You had to be there (I guess)

The next two or three posts will be change of pace posts…. nothing too serious. Just some short observations.

OK, so here’s the first one.

Am I becoming that old guy that thinks he’s funny but he’s not?

That’s my fear. You know the guy that says a joke in the midst of a group of friends or co-workers and noone laughs, so he tells it again, and no one laughs the second time.

God that sucks.

Help me Jesus.

Yesterday I was reading one of my favorite blog writers and came across something that really struck home with me. Jenny from Steeples and People was describing why she was no longer wanting to attend her small group. Here’s what she wrote:

But I guess I’m just tired of spending two hours a week being one of two badasses in the group, trying to push boundaries and bring up new ideas and ways of looking at things that don’t involve the usual Christian platitudes and Sunday-School answers. I’m not interested in dealing with a group where thought-provoking discussions are shut down.

And for me that’s the crux of it. It seems that in the churches I attended over the past several years, as progressive as they were or thought they were, pushing the boundaries or challenging the status quo wasn’t allowed. In these particular churches, the ones that felt they were in fact challenging the old ways, new ideas were often shut down. Christian platitudes and Sunday-school answers became a way for all of us to communicate each weekend. Often they were couched in “cool” terminology or venacular (skateboards, soul patches and tattoos included), but they still were the same old ways of doing things with window dressing applied.

As in most social organizations, even progressive churches fall quickly into a pattern of embracing the “path of least resistance”. Whether it pertains to church structure, order of services, styles of worship, church practices, policies, or theological principles – it doesn’t seem to matter. Pastors and church leaders like things the way they are… and apparently so do the attendees. All churches eventually settle into a rut and where I am from the definition of a rut is “a grave with both ends kicked out”. What used to be “revolutionary or cutting-edge” becomes “stale and common-place”.

And why is this you ask? Because of what Jenny says… churches aren’t willing to push the boundaries or embrace new ideas. My experience (broad but of course limited) has shown me that most churches start with a flurry of vision and flounder into myopia.

A few examples of how churches refuse to “push the boundaries” (with details to follow in another post):

1) Lack of women in ministry.

2) Worship music is overemphasized.

3) Messages are too long and not interactive.

4) Church structure is

I think I am ok with that now. Honestly, I guess it doesn’t matter if I am ok with it, but it matters to me that I am ok with it. Know what I mean? I used to get really unnerved that people were going to church and just didn’t seem to “get it” like I “got it”…. whatever “it” may be at the time. But I had some experiences a couple of weeks ago that changed all that for me… a sort of epiphany or two that I will share at some point I am sure. But for now, whether you go to church or not, or are a pastor or not, or an evangelist or not, use super-scriptural-spouter language or not… I am ok wth you. And if you don’t go to church anymore, drink lots of beer, cuss, gamble or root for the Eagles (sorry inside joke)… I am ok with you too. Or if you are a combination of any of the above, I am ok with you also.

But let’s say you are a combination of the two, go to a church with really cool music, have an awesome pastor that speaks amazing messages each week and have one heck of a children’s ministry… it still doesn’t mean I am coming to your church. That doesn’t make me wrong or you right or vice-versa. It just makes me, me… and you, you.

I guess we will just have to live with that for now.

My Church is the Centerfold

In my previous post I referenced “The Door” magazine – a liberating piece of journalism for many of us trapped in the “ins and outs” of evangelical Christianity in the 70’s and 80’s. One of the magazine’s features was a section called “Truth is Stranger than Fiction.” It featured snippets of bulletins, ads or promotional pieces that the editors found to be, well, in our venacular, evidence of pretty Stupid Church People behavior.

We used to laugh at all the stupid things those “other” churches were doing, yet were so blind to our own “strangeness”. I remember thinking and hoping that I never would print an ad or promote an event that “The Door” might mock someday, and as a result, I begin to view everything through that lens.

While serving at a church as youth pastor sometime around the mid-eighties, you can imagine my surprise when I opened up the pages of my favorite magazine and found my beloved home church, Sagemont Baptist, the focus of my favorite section, “Truth is Stranger than Fiction”. (Click on picture above for a better look) Here it was, the church of my youth being laughed at by readers all across the world. Although I was no longer attending there or even living in the same town, the shock of seeing my church in print in this section where I had laughed at others so often was sobering.

I liken the feeling to the “J Geils Band” song “Centerfold”:

My blood runs cold
My memory has just been sold
My angel is the centerfold
Angel is the centerfold

No longer sweet, innocent and pure… my angel, my home church was now a laughingstock.

OK, OK… I know it wasn’t that big of a deal. And I am sure if my pastor saw the magazine and the way his event was mocked, he might even have gotten a chuckle out of it. But it goes to the point of why the “Truth is Stranger than Fiction” existed. Here’s how “The Door” explained this section of their magazine:

…we were amazed at what has been printed, produced, written, or marketed in the name of Christianity. The lengths Christians have gone to get people into church, or to “spiritualize” their lives, or to enhance their Christian experience is almost beyond belief!

And that’s what makes each entry so funny.

This is not presented to demean or belittle those included here, but perhaps Christians should consider the impression these ads, articles, and stories give to the non-Christian world.

When I look back at past issues of “The Door” and see all the crap the church has been involved in peddling over the past 30-40 years, I too am amazed. What’s even more astounding is how the church still peddles crap, creates gimmicks, works the angles, and utilizes manipulation to get people into it’s doors or “win” people to Jesus. If there is ever an argument against evolution, the church certainly makes the strongest case… because it’s not really doing anything differently than it did 30 years ago.

No the church is pretty much the same. Sure, most of the “hipper” evangelical churches have removed the denominations from their names. The most radical don’t even have “church” in the name, but instead use names like “The Gate” or “Crossroads” or “Mosaic”. Nothing else has really changed. Lets face it, the real reason we go to church is for the “upfront” people anyway…. we like the music or we like the way the pastor preaches. That’s the way its always been and thats the way it always will be. We go to church because it (or they – the leaders and services) make us feel good.

We like the social events the church provides. We like the hokie tie-ins to blockbuster movies. We enjoy the “Outdoor Extravaganzas” of our time. We like our church just the way it is.

And what’s wrong with that you say? Nothing. Absolutely nothing. I just think we should be honest about it. At least I should.