Saturday, December 31, 2005

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I thought I’d heard it all. And then I heard this:

Me: Hey, mom, which service are we going to on Sunday? (Christmas Day)
Mom: Oh, church is closed on Christmas Day.

Oh no they DIH-N’T.

That’s right. Closed. Church. On Christmas Day. Forgive me if I - the girl who goes to church only a few times a year - asks, do these people think they work for Banana Republic?

Apparently, this is the trend among many of the country’s “super churches”. The massive memberships require hundreds of volunteers, and apparently church officials seem to think that most members would just rather be “home opening gifts with their families” than going to church.

I realize I’m a bit of a hypocrite complaining about this since I almost never go to church. But I’ve honestly never heard anything more cockamamie in my life. So let’s dissect this a couple of ways. Let’s just say that of the church’s 10,000 members only 1,000 show up on Christmas Day. Isn’t it worth it to have at least ONE service (as opposed to the normal four services) for those 1,000 faithful who really want to worship on Christmas Day? And of those 1,000 let’s just say that 100 people have had a really tough year. They’ve lost a family member to cancer and it’s their first Christmas without them. Or maybe they’re contemplating suicide because the holidays are a tough time of year to get through when you’re depressed. Or maybe they’re alone or they don’t have anywhere else to go. Or maybe – and this is a really crazy notion – maybe they just want to celebrate the birth of Jesus. They actually care more about that than any presents they could possibly receive. Surely there are still a few of those people left. ?? Right?? Are there? Isn’t it worth it to scrounge up enough volunteers to have one service to help those 100 people who really, really need it or who really, really want to celebrate Christmas?

Let’s look at it from a business perspective. Take Jesus and Christmas and everything meaningful out of it. If you’re a church official, don’t you instinctively know that Christmas and Easter are THE biggest days of the year for you? The time to shine, the time when the non-regulars like me show up in their special hats and finery to not feel so guilty for not going the rest of the year and see what church is all about? Wouldn’t this be your big opportunity as a church to recruit some new members? Garner some more tithes? Maybe find a few new members that will eventually help you add on another annex and basketball court to the church?

I don’t know, I just don’t buy the whole “we don’t have enough volunteers” thing. For example, when you want to volunteer for the SPCA in San Francisco, you sign something, you commit to working at least (I believe) 12 hours per month for at least 6 months. If you can’t commit to that, you can’t be a volunteer. Period. Sure, church volunteering is very different from walking dogs at the SPCA. I thought about being a volunteer at the SPCA during ad school but after hearing the requirements, I realized I didn’t have the time to commit so I couldn’t do it. Maybe churches should consider something similar. Weed out the people who aren’t serious or ask in advance if they’re willing to volunteer during peak times of need or attendance.

And for those who’ve chosen the church as their profession, I have to ask, don’t they know they’ll be making some sacrifices? It’s kind of like a manager at Macy’s saying “I’ll work every day of the year EXCEPT the day after Thanksgiving and the day after Christmas.” Those are the biggest days of the year and they’re NOT optional. If you want a career in retail, you give up those 2 days. Period.

Maybe this is just an elaborate reverse psychology-type move to get people like me in motion, to help us realize that we want the option of church on Christmas Day. By taking it away, you’ll make me want it more. Aha! You DO care! We GOT you!

Guess what? You DIDN’T get me. In fact, you’ve left me more confused about religion than ever. Church is always open. That’s what I was always taught, anyway. Does sending a DVD sermon to every member via the US Postal Service really compensate for the live service on the actual Day? Even an irregular churchgoer, heathen sinner like me knows that’s NOT What Jesus Would Do if He was here.

Macfisto, my spiritual guidepost…what say you? Anyone?

25 Comments:

Anonymous macfisto said...

Before I get started -- hysterical post. I'm tellin' ya', submit this stuf. It's wasted on just the few.

I apologize in advance for the length. You had to bring up something like thid, dint ya?

My first reaction was, "No fucking way." (You should look for a spiritual guidepost with a cleaner mouth). Closing church on Christmas day is one of the dumbest things I've ever heard of and it makes me wonder what sort of half-assed, fast food church pulls something like that. It's like the
NFL taking off the day of the Super Bowl. It also brings up a lot of stuff about Christmas in general that pisses me off. All the "happy holidays" stuff aside, Christmas is a RELIGIOUS holiday. I'm not sure if I remember this right from 30 years of church and 3 years of seminary, but I'm fairly certain the birth of Christ figures somewhat prominently in our faith. Ya' know, the whole God coming to earth as an impoverished child to grow up and die for our sins. Advent was traditionally a very solemn, contemplative season. Guess this church has jumped on board with consumer culture Christmas.

Thus, I apologize on behalf of Christians everywhere. My church was open on Christmas day, and we would've loved to have you.

On the other hand . . .

I buy clothes about 2-3x a year. I do it when the mood hits or when I realize I need something. Then I rush to the store, wanting to be finished in 30 minutes. I get irritated if they don't have what I need in my size, because I can't be bothered with planning ahead for my clothing needs and it's inconvenient for me to show up another time.

Yes, church should've been open. It's stupid, ridiculously American and, like you said, a bit insensitive to people who need a community of faith on what's a tough and lonely day for some people. But flip it around. Imagine that you're the church and God is the one who wants to attend. And he wants to go all the time, every day. Not because he feels entitled (though he is), but because he really loves that church and attending is one of his favorite things. How often is church open?

Well, shit, now I feel like a self-righteous prick. That would have been a nice zinger to end with, if not for the fact that I'm not always "open" myself, by a long shot. Guess we all keep God waiting more than we should. It's a good thing he/she is patient and forgiving.

1:39 AM  
Anonymous Nancy said...

First, welcome back from your holiday trip. :-)

Second, I am not a religious person myself, but even I see the insanity and hypocracy behind this idea. Many religions complain that people have forgotten the "Christ" in Christmas as it is, doesn't this make that argument stronger? Let's give people a day off from church to stay home and focus on the materialistic elements of the holiday? Whaaaaa?

Also, there's so many people that connect with a church because they are without family and friends. The daily church services become an opportunity to hang on to a very essential element of life: connectivity with others. There will be nowhere else for them to go on Christmas. I strongly believe that the whole POINT of organized religion is to create and maintain that community so it's there when people need it. What other time would they need it more, than the holidays?

Hey, I think you're on to something with that reverse-psychology thing. Now for the first time in years, I have the sudden strong urge to attend Christmas Day services...

7:12 AM  
Blogger Shopping Diva said...

You're back! Yea! We are happy to see you - even if you are spiritually bankrupt!

I think the church thing is INSANE! I think of myself as a fairly modern girl but the mega-churches scare me. My brother and his family go to one here. They asked us to go when they "gave their children to Christ" so we could be witnesses. On the way in we could purchase CD's by the band, mocha lattes, and clothing. We sat down with 3000 people and watched the Pastor (I don't even know if they call him that! It's something.) come out through fog while Elvis's theme played. Then the band kicked in and everyone started dancing. The only solemn moment was the giving of the children, which really creeped me out - in my opinion, God is bigger than me and he's already got 'em! Then a bunch of people I have never met "laid hands" on my neice (who was VERY ill at the time, she almost died, but she is fine now) and pushed us out of the way in the process.

It was a freaky experience. The "Pastor" is a VERY charismatic and charming guy. After watching this I could see how the Antichrist could take over the world. I told my brother that if his church served beer, it would be a great place to take a date! He wasn't amused and we have not been invited back. It was closed on Christmas so my brother and sister-in-law had her family over for a *air quotes* Christian *air quotes* holiday. We were not invited.

They know I am going to Hell!

8:50 AM  
Blogger mabel said...

I belong to a great church. I am being serious. It is not a mega monstrosity and we had services on Christmas Eve AND Christmas Day! OOOOOH AAAAAH! I am sickened by the whole silliness that is the mega conformist churches. It is just running a church by poll. I can hear the planning team now, "It shows that people aren't really liking the whole commandment thing, perhaps we should call them suggestions..." Please people! My MIL and FIL are catholic but they pick and choose which catholic principles they will follow! WTH? Why go to church? What exactly are you accomplishing if you just do what you want anyway? Bunch of hypocritical freaks! I go because I would like to be a nicer, kinder to all kind of person. I want my children to feel like part of the bigger picture. I believe in God, salvation, redemption, and forgiveness. (Thank goodness, I need forgiveness daily, and not just from God!) I do not think that belonging to a church means I am in any way better than or "more saved" than anyone else! How can you be "more saved" any way?

On another note, Happy New Year Brownie!! I hope you get everything you want and deserve this year!!

12:10 PM  
Anonymous Dr. Zin said...

You mean the drive-thru was closed too? Heaven help us.

2:57 PM  
Blogger concha said...

after years of seeing the mona lisa in history books, i made my pilgrimage to the lourve. and on that day in paris, a sign stood outside the lourve. it said "8.50 euro every day except tuesday." the lourve is closed on tuesday. it was tuesday. we were leaving that night.

i feel your pain.

4:42 PM  
Anonymous Ryan said...

I think you're making this up.

12:56 PM  
Anonymous MetroDad said...

If not for a wedding or funeral, I'm embarassed to say that I don't think I've stepped into a church for services in about 10 years. Your post got me thinking about how long it's been. I'm going to Hell, aren't I?

Awww...shoot. Oh well.

Happy New Year, RBrown. Hope you had a grand time in KY. Looking forward to hearing any good stories!

9:32 AM  
Anonymous crazyvirgo said...

Laziness. Bullshit. Hypocritcal.
There's a few words that describe this phenomena. I, too, am not a religious person, although I think of myself as spiritual and a beleiver. Yet, this is EXACTLY why i don't subscribe to organized religion. Doesn't add up.
Thanks for calling them out, RB. I agree with macfisto. Submit this somewhere. It's wasted on your bloggy.

11:42 AM  
Blogger V said...

Haha....nice post. And I, for one, know that it must be true. My dad was a minister when I was young, now my mom is. But back in the younger days, my mom would forcefully boycott both Christmas eve and Christmas day services. Yup...the good preacher's wife would work tirelessly to make sure there was neither to interupt the family time and traditions.
Now that she's the minister, she has both. With the kids out of the house, I guess there are very few "family tradition" arguements left. I wonder if she realizes the value now that she's an empty nester.
But....I have to say, as a kid who had to go to church EVERY stinking Sunday, and many days besides, I always was very happy about my mother's fight and success at keeping us home on Christmas. It was my one bloody day off from preacher kid-ing.

7:23 AM  
Anonymous bitemycookie said...

fucking hysterical.

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