I just got back from spending the majority of Easter at a Southern Baptist church, as part of a “Send an Atheist to Church” charity fundraiser. The people were incredibly friendly, and were quite the gracious hosts. As I had expected, this service was a far departure from last Sunday’s more-or-less traditional-style Lutheran service. This particular service was far more…musical. It reminded me of some of the contemporary services that started popping up at my family’s church when I was very young: coffee, singing, a live band, and a sermon tossed somewhere in the middle.
I personally don’t make a habit of listening to Christian music, so I’m typically surprised with the language used when I catch clips of it here and there. So today, I was a bit taken aback to hear what was essentially a full concert. Let’s take a few lines of this one, for example (which was performed at the service):
“He is jealous for me
Love’s like a hurricane, I am a tree
Bending beneath the weight of His wind and mercy”
Now, having seen the wake of a number of hurricanes in my life, I do not typically describe them as merciful. Particularly to trees.
Here’s a few more lines from another song that was featured:
“You are our one desire
You alone are holy
Only You are worthy
God, let Your fire fall down
Let our shout be Your anthem
Your renown fill the skies
We are here for You, we are here for You”
To give you an idea of what that song was like live: the background screen on stage featured the lyrics played over a fireball.
A flaming hurricane of love and mercy. Right. Got it.
None of the other songs were nearly as…unsettling…as those two. They mostly just reminded me of a particular episode of South Park. And again, the people in the congregation that we met were all incredibly friendly. It was just the music that I found to be a bit off-putting. Well, that and the sermon; where the preacher-dude tried to cover the debate over the universe’s origins. That was just a little bit painful to watch. Overall though, it was hardly overt science-bashing; just blind faith promotion. It was a sermon, after all. He also went into a long metaphor on puppets and strings that I found to be a bit silly, in particular in how he tried to incorporate free will into the mix.
We all apparently only get to choose what we tie our metaphorical “strings” to, but beyond that choice we are all just puppets. I suppose you could say we are all slaves to our value systems, but then are we really being controlled? If you can change your mind about, say, the ethicality of eating meat, then isn’t that relocating a “string” at will? Or if you don’t want to go with that interpretation, is it really a good thing to be so rigid in your thoughts that you are completely non-malleable? That seems to promote willful ignorance and cognitive dissonance on a…oh right. Sermon. At least it was thought-provoking, which is more I can say for many that I have heard.
Anyway, the experience overall wasn’t all that bad at all. It was certainly a far cry from some of the mundane services I grew up with. They clearly have a tight-knit church community that contributes and volunteers around the city, which I always see as a good thing. They also have what is essentially a coffee shop outside of their sanctuary, which I thought was a particularly cool layout idea for a church.
We wound up having a pleasant lunch with a few members of the congregation, making all sorts of nice small talk. As of yet, we haven’t run into any people associated with any of the churches that have treated us negatively. Over the two services we’ve been to so far, we’ve just had a number of kind and civil conversations. I’d like to think that this will hold out throughout the course of this project, but I’m at best cautiously optimistic.
For those spending the long weekend with family, enjoy the time. For all the rest of you heathens, there is a new Game of Thrones episode tonight. I’m pumped.