Friday, December 29, 2006

The Bad Taste of Christianese

Have you ever eaten Chinese food only to have the aftertaste of MSG-saturated, mystery meat linger on your taste buds for hours? I’ll admit, I’m no fan of Asian cuisine, period. It may have more to do with my mom force feeding us Chop Suey out of a can and my suspicion about the ingredients than is truly warranted, but I usually hit a fast food drive-thru when the rest of my family wants Chinese food.

My avoidance of Chinese restaurants was recently bolstered by a bad experience at one. Similar negative experiences at church now have me wondering if I’ll begin avoiding them like the plague, too. Allow me to explain.

(Note: The churches in this story shall remain unnamed.)

I attended a Christmas play performed by the children at my parent’s church just over a week ago. It was your standard fare of “us versus the world,” evangelical mentality, focused more on what’s wrong with the world, and in this case politically-correct municipal government, than it was with the miraculous story of the Savior’s birth.

I was impressed that the pastor did not get up to preach before or after the play. That was pleasing and quite atypical for an Assemblies of God church. The pastor’s wife, however, felt the need to begin preaching after the show because no good AG service can end without a proper altar call. She went on and on about blood sacrifice, covenant relationship, Jesus’ atonement for our sins ad nauseum. I was disappointed. Why ruin a perfectly good performance by the kids at church—my niece as Angel #2 in the Nativity was a Tony-worthy performance—with Christianese? Did the pastor’s wife really think that people would accept the offer of Christ after a kid’s play??? It barely even touched on the Good News of Jesus!

A few days later, I attended a Christmas Eve Service with my parents at their old church. It wasn’t any better. Instead of a reverent Communion Service, we were surprised to find ourselves taking in a musical performed mostly by puppets. That’s right, I said puppets! It was like Jim Henson meets Jimmy Swaggart, only the latter would NEVER have approved of the music.

We heard rip-offs of everything from Jay-Z to Van Halen. When some long-haired puppets on instruments began performing a song called “Santa Claus” to the tune of Van Halen’s “Panama,” I almost got my girls and left the church. I laughed. I cried. It was the worst Christmas Eve Service ever!

At one point, I turned to my wife and my mother and bemoaned how I missed the Catholic Church. And right on cue, the pastor of the church—I’m not sure of their Protestant affiliation—got up and gave an altar call. Do I even need to question the relevance? Not even an on-the-fence heathen would have fallen heavenward from laughing so hard at the sight of a Sammy Hagar look-alike puppet singing “Santa Claus.”

Thanks to recent experiences at church, I now have the bad taste of Christianese in my mouth. It has lingered there now for days. I’ve tried everything from mouthwash to meditation, but cannot remove the foul flavor from my buds.

Truth be told, I’ll eat at 10 Chinese restaurants before I’ll visit either one of those churches again. I hate Christianese that much!

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