Monday, July 17, 2006

Karaoke For Jesus

Harrigan invited me to church with her yesterday, and, even though I'm a proud agnostic, I'm really glad she brought me along. Harrigan has a profound interest in the Big Questions and it's nice to have someone to share my on-the-fenceness with, because Pat Robertson's Christian chatline turns out isn't a very good listener. We went to this sort of ad hoc non-denominational worship get-together called "The River", maybe thirty or forty people in an auditorium doing a friendlier, homier version of that stuff you see on every other TV channel Sunday morning. There's cookies and coffee and new rock-and-roll hymns, so we're not in Anabaptism anymore.

The River brings church into the late-twentieth century, because the service starts with everyone getting all psyched for the Holy Spirit with Christian rock music. Okay, finally I can rant about Christian rock music. First off, The River band — well, has there ever been a Christian rock band that was good? I'm not talking about gospel singers or artists who use Christian imagery to explore larger themes like the value of art or love in life. I mean a bunch of stick-up-their-butts teenagers who condescend to the heathens by diluting both rock-and-roll and the Word of God into sterile spiritual pablum. Jesus, lest you forget, was an anarchist in his time — that's why he was crucified — and I'm a little sad that his cause became co-opted by the power-hungry and the ranks of mediocrity. So I get what The River is doing, projecting the dullest of dull lyrics onto the stage so the whole flock can sing along in a choral community, where our one voice will defeat your self-doubt, but I wish they wouldn't encourage people to be satisfied with this puny, off-key praise for God. I don't buy for one second the people swaying with their eyes closed and their arms in the air, because the sense in the room is less ultimate benevolent force of love in the universe and more battle of the bands.

They were still better than Creed, so that's something.

So I should mention at this point that I did have one moral qualm about going to church with Harrigan, and that was that it couldn't be very right infiltrating this community and treating its members like some anthropological study, and it also seemed like a betrayal to give them the benefit of the doubt that they really were coming to God. They're together in a way that makes them content and gives them meaning, and shouldn't my inherent (and, I might add, well-placed) skepticism detach itself from their visceral reaction to The River? Well... no, and it pains me the way I'm jealous of Harrigan's admittedly unfalsifiable self-assurance that God exists and she has a relationship with Him. Life, and I believe that if God does in fact exist, then He's pretty proud of me for using the brain He so generously gave unto me, isn't necessarily about being happy, especially in conflict with being right. I want to interrupt with, "So God exists? Convince me." Not prove it, just convince me. "And convince me that God is all-powerful and all-knowing and all-loving." Because, really, if you can't do that, than how welcoming is your community really? And — here I maintain that what the believers call "faith" is a possibly selective interpretation of one's own experiences that aligns with that belief — if all you can say about God is how He changed your life, then what good is the community of others at all?

Anyhoo, we're singing — well, everyone else is singing — and for the most part, looking like they've just spent four hours at a Phish concert, and it's not very good but I suppose there's nothing keeping you from being both filled with the Holy Spirit and tone-deaf. The sermon was some dude named Kevin talking about submission, and his argument... well, he didn't have one, but if he did, I'd have to call it unfocused. What he was trying to say was that spiritual fulfillment and peace comes through submission to God's will. Unfortunately, not being a prophet, Kevin didn't have access to God's will so his examples mostly focused around submission to man's will, and that should've killed his argument. It didn't, because people who unfailingly believe in God aren't exactly prone to finding the flaws in a logical argument.... just saying. Like, every Christian rock song — every Christian hymn, in fact — reminds God how totally amazing He is. Guys, He's God — He's already aware that He's great and you're a mere bug in His presence. Don't need to tell him.