Monthly Archives: March 2007

Tuning forks, Iconic Men, and Masculine Resonance

Men, in some ways, are like tuning forks.The citation for heroism for Major Bruce Crandall’s Medal of Honor (see a couple of blogs ago) highlights a peculiarl dynamic that works within a man’s soul, both in crisis charged moments and also over long periods of a man’s life as well.  Consider the following words from Major Crandall’s citation:

While medical evacuation was not his mission, [Major Crandall] immediately sought volunteers and with complete disregard for his own personal safety, led the two aircraft to Landing Zone X-Ray. Despite the fact that the landing zone was still under relentless enemy fire, Major Crandall landed and proceeded to supervise the loading of seriously wounded soldiers aboard his aircraft. Major Crandall’s voluntary decision to land under the most extreme fire instilled in the other pilots the will and spirit to continue to land their own aircraft, and in the ground forces the realization that they would be resupplied and that friendly wounded would be promptly evacuated. This greatly enhanced morale and the will to fight at a critical time.

What’s going on here is something I call “masculine resonance.”  I liken it to a powerfully sounding tuning fork brought near to other tuning forks.  The sonic power of the one tuning fork generates harmonic vibrations in the previously silent tuning forks.  In the case of Major Crandall’s Medal of Honor citation, quoted above, Crandall’s heroism “instilled in the other pilots the will and spirit” to do as he was doing.  Moreover, within the soldiers on the ground, Crandall’s efforts “greatly enhanced morale and the will to fight at a critical time.” 

Such resonance among men is not a purely passive thing, as if one brave man automatically creates bravery in a bystander.  That’s why tuning forks have limited ability to illustrate the resonance I’m talking about.  Resonating tuning forks are, in fact, passive.  But, masculine souls, resonating with the power of other masculine souls, are not.  There is much to masculine resonance which comes from deliberate choice.

Beneath the mild-mannered man is the Superman!You can see this easily when you watch how very young boys relate to older, more overtly masculine males. Young boys will unabashedly mimic masculine characteristics in other males when they admire or otherwise esteem them.  Their esteem gets expressed in two ways — by overt exclamations of praise (e.g. “Wowee! Look at that! Isn’t he the coolest?!”) and by attempts to mimic the male who is admired. So, the young boy seeks to dress like, act like, speak like the iconic male he admires. Entire segments of the toys-for-boys industry capitalize on this dynamic. 

Before there was Superman, there was Superboy!In boys, the “effect” runs in one direction only: from the iconic male to the boy, who endeavors to incorporate the masculine identity of the iconic male into his own masculinity via mimicry. The same is necessarily true when the iconic male is a figure from history, or a fictional character (e.g. Daniel Boone, Davie Crockett, Superman). The boy’s mimicry focuses on things easily reproduced (dress, habits of speech or behavior).

But, this mimicry also works in adult men, from silly costuming by young adult males at a sporting event, to the more sober and serious attachments men make with other men in their professions, avocations, and spiritual loyalties.  The dynamic itself is completely natural.  The mentor-disciple relationship is fundamental for men to grow into masculine maturity, and the most elementary way this relationship works is via mimicry, as the disciple endeavors to appropriate the mentor’s skills, insights, habits of life, and wisdom.

Proverbs 27:17 is often cited as yet another metaphor for the way men affect one another.  Unfortunately, its point is often missed for the simple reason that few people today ever sharpen iron.  But, the wise man of Solomon’s day knew – as we all know – that one never sharpens iron with another piece of iron.  Instead, we apply something harder than iron to the iron blade we wish to sharpen.  We sharpen iron with flint, or granite, or some other crystalline stone.  When the stone and iron come into contact, the iron changes much while the stone changes little.  This would be a fitting picture for the way a mentor “sharpens” his disciple.

Men behaving like they do when united by a winsome leader against a dasterdly foe.When iron sharpens iron, both change.  And, so, the picture presented in the proverb shows us how men in fellowship, men in sustained community, even men in conflict, change one another through the encounter.  It may be for good, or for evil.  Either way, men bonded with one another create corporate bodies of amazing power.

There are several directions one might explore from these observations, but I’ll mention only two here, and only in brief.

First, masculine maturity arises from a man’s interactions with other men, especially other men who are more mature than he is.  Women cannot shepherd the boy across the threshold of manhood. Only men make other men. Only men can mature, develop, perfect, and hone other men. And this is true for adult men as much as for boys.

A man never loses his need for close, engaged, resonant relationships with other men. The “rugged individualist” notion of manhood we inherit from the last century is a myth that distorts, blunts, and diminishes a man’s manhood.

Second, a man seeking maturity does well to seek out his mentors, to present himself to those whose manner of life and wisdom he aspires to acquire.  He also seeks out the company of other men and chooses well the masculine company he keeps, avoiding those who will misshape him, seeking those whose virtues he’d wish to rub off on himself, cultivating relationships with men whose character support, strengthen, and protect his own character.

The most effective way that men may advance in authentic masculine maturity is through worship of God the Father through His Son, the God-man Jesus Christ, and this worship will shape men most effectively when done in the company of other men.  Our churches today never offer this to the men in their midst, which is probably a leading reason men are as scarce in the churches as they are. 

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Filed under Man, the glory of God, Man, the Savior, Patriarchy

Behind the Partition, Under the Veil

Looking forward from behind the partitionI was fascinated to find an article in the online Wall Street Journal’s “Houses of Worship” feature.  Entitled “Prayer Behind the Partition,” it is Lucette Lagnado’s reflections on an ancient Jewish practice of segregating men and women in the meeting of the synagogue.  Commenters at Mere Comments  show that some variation on this practice is found in many expressions of Christianity, so it is not peculiar to conservative Judaism. 

No one commenting on Lagnado’s essay on the partition draws any parallel with Paul’s prescription of the veil in 1 Corinthians 11.  That practice makes just as much a distinction between the sexes during congregational worship as the partition Lagnado speaks about.  And, contrary to what uninformed pastors and teachers are always proclaiming, the veiling custom Paul imposes on the church is NOT a Greco-Roman practice.  Rather it is a peculiarly Jewish custom which Paul imposes on the Greco-Roman Corinthian Church (and all the other churches as well).  That, it seems to me, pretty well puts the kabosh on the notion that the Corinthian passage is “culturally conditioned” – as if to say “it’s irrelevant to us” because “we’re not First Century Corinthians.”

Men up front and leading, women present and participatingAt any rate, both the partition and the veil give tangible, concrete re-enforcement to the general order of the sexes that Paul expounds in 1 Corinthians 11 and 14, and 1 Timothy 2:  men up front and leading, women present and participating.

Lagnado surveys the way in which the conflict between resurgent Jewish orthodoxy and trendy Jewish egalitarianism shows up in the implementation (or the rejection) of the partition.  While the resurgence of Jewish Orthodoxy does not reduce to an allegiance to the partition, the partition becomes a tangible expression of Jewish Orthodoxy.

For this reason, a woman should have a symbol of authority on her head, because of the angels.

Whatever else they do, the partition and the veil go far to highlight, exaggerate, and manifest the sexual distinctions between men and women in communal worship.  For that reason, both practices are anathema to a secular and religious culture bent on erasing, so far as it’s possible to do so, these very same sexual differences.   

 It makes me wonder if a resurgence of sexual orthodoxy among Christians will be marked by a return of the veil for women in worship.  Modern complementarians’ professions are flatly compromised by their rejection of the cover for exactly the same reasons that egalitarians generally reject the Bible’s ordering of the sexes:  “It’s all culturally relative,” they say.  “We now live in the egalitarian 21st Century.” 

On this point, I give the award for consistency to the egalitarians.
 

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Filed under Egalitarianism, Uncategorized, Woman, the glory of man

Men are saviors

Lt. Col. Bruce Crandall at his Medal of Honor ceremonyOn November 14, 1965, while I was in the middle of my first semester in college, Major Bruce Crandall was performing feats of valor in Viet Nam.  Forty-one years later, on  February 26, 2007, the White House held a ceremony to award the Medal of Honor to Lt. Col. Bruce Crandall.  You may read the citation of Crandall’s valor by clicking hereThe New York Times ran its report on this ceremony on page 15, which prompted an interesting commentary by The Wall Street Journal’s Daniel Henninger.  In some ways, Henninger gets it, in others he misses a point that is uncomfortable to the spirit of the age. 

HENNINGER GETS IT

WSJ’s Daniel HenningerHenninger correctly sees the occasion of Crandall’s Medal of Honor to provide “a chance to understand not merely the risks of combat but what animates those who embrace those risks.”  So far, so good.  Henninger, then points to the remarks of two officials at the ceremony, remarks which express “values.” 

General Peter SchoomakerFirst he mentions the remarks of Gen. Peter Schoomaker, the Army chief of staff, who spoke at the ceremony of what he called “the warrior ethos.” Gen. Schoomaker said this:  “The words of the warrior ethos that we have today – I will always place the mission first; I will never accept defeat; I will never quit; and I will never leave a fallen comrade – were made real that day in the la Drang Valley.”

Army Secretary Francis HarveyNext, Henninger cites the words of Secretary of the Army, Francis Harvey:  “The courage and fortitude of America’s soldiers in combat exemplified by these individuals is, without question, the highest level of human behavior. It demonstrates the basic goodness of mankind as well as the inherent kindness and patriotism of American soldiers.”

So, Henninger holds up two things for us to discuss:  (1) whether Schoomaker’s “warrior ethos” is worth the inevitable sacrifice that it entails; and (2) whether Harvey’s notion is true, that an American soldier in combat demonstrates the basic goodness of mankind.  I’ve read Henninger carefully, and I can’t tell where his thoughts lie.  His entire column seems to complain that these ideas are worthy of discussion and that they are not being discussed. 

HENNINGER MISSES IT 

So, why are such ideas not being discussed?  Henninger seems to think it is because our doubtful culture hides from such a discussion, because it fears being charged with triumphalism or a martial spirit in the midst of a multi-lateral world (whatever that is).  Yadda yadda yadda. 

Maybe there’s a more basic reason these things don’t get much play in the media, why the New York Times buries the heroism of Major Crandall in a news round-up section, three lines from the bottom of page 15.  Maybe modern folk are uneasy, or embarrassed, or scornful of an idea as old as mankind:  men are saviors.

MEN ARE SAVIORS

Carravagio’s Doubting ThomasIn Western culture, men are saviors for a simple reason:  a man is The Savior, and as such, Jesus is the template for all manhood.  To be manly is to be like Jesus. 

And, Jesus’ identity – like it or not – is defined by his being a savior, one who suffers sacrificially in a war against evil, to redeem, reclaim, and restore his Beloved.  The history of Jesus is the template for all Western literature, which take all its plots from His.  All stories are variations on His story, and His masculinity sets the boundaries of anything authentically masculine. 

But, this notion of men being saviors did not erupt into history with Jesus’ birth.   It was the pattern of masculinity within God’s people for the rolling centuries before Jesus’ birth.  Israel always had a place for the grand and godly woman – Sarah, Deborah, Ruth, Hannah, Esther.  But, none of them were saviors (yes, I know what others claim for Deborah, a claim she expressly repudiates; a matter for blogging another time).  The ones to battle evil, sacrificially, to save a beloved – these were men, and it was to men that God’s people looked for such saviors.

Does this mean that all men actually functioned as saviors?  Of course not.  We live this side of the Fall.  But the presence of the savior in the sexual DNA of men is exactly what allows us to account for the way sin generates the peculiarly masculine spiritual pathologies.

Cowardice has no meaning, indeed it does not even exist, apart from the premise that men are to be self-sacrificing saviors.  Cowardice abandons a fundamental plank of masculine identity.  Blood-lust has no meaning as a vice, indeed it does not exist as a vice, apart from the premise that men are to be warriors against evil for the sake of a beloved.  Abusing this identity, fallen men love war for its own sake, or they lust for the  heady thrill of destroying the enemies of one’s own self.  Both cowardice and blood-lust are opposite sides of the same coin: a fallen savior. 

Adam dies, in a figure, so Eve may live.And lying behind all these is God’s creation of man, the male, to be a savior. Christ’s sacrificial death for the sake of the Church was foreshadowed in the wound of Adam’s side, from which Eve emerged.  But, the most explicit statement of the savior aspect of a man’s sexuality is the proto-evangelium, the first statement of the gospel, found in Genesis 3:15–

And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.

In retrospect, we find this promise fulfilled in the God-man Jesus Christ.  From Eve’s perspective, however, she knew only that God is promising a savior to crush the Serpent’s head, that this savior will suffer a wound from Satan, and that this savior will be a human male.

And, why a male?  Because, as already foreshadowed in Adam’s “death” which produced Eve, man is designed from the beginning to be a savior, that is, to be so constituted in his maleness as to play the part of the savior – to suffer sacrificially in a war against evil for the sake of a beloved. 

FEMINISM HATES SAVIORS

And, for this reason, a culture imbued with feminist “values” is uneasy (at best) or hostile (at worst) toward men who are saviors.  And, so Major Crandall’s long-delayed honor gets buried at the bottom of page 15 in The New York Times.  If Henninger’s report is accurate, it failed to appear on the front page of any major daily newspaper.

Crandall before anyone knew he would be a saviorI trust that nothing said here diminishes Major Crandall’s heroism.  To say that men are saviors because they are created by God to act in various masculine ways cannot diminish their heroism when it is displayed.  “They couldn’t help themselves” is patently false, as if heroism was a mindless impulse.  Warfare does far more to expose men’s cowardice or blood-lust than their heroism. 

On the other hand, war provides an arena in which manliness may shine.  That is why Major Crandall’s heroism is so virtuous.  Though a fallen son of Adam, he displayed virtue in the sense of its original Latin root:  manliness.  And, like all genuine manliness, it inspires and encourages all other men to conduct themselves as men ought, particularly in an age when manliness is mocked, scorned, and rejected by a culture that hates the notion that it needs saviors. 
 

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Filed under Feminism, Man, the glory of God

Girly-worship, Macho-worship, Godly-worship

In the wake of a men’s room that is an instrumental means for some Christians in Minnesota to fulfill the mission of their church (see the previous blog for details no one could make up if they tried, but somehow some trendy Christians pulled it off anyway), I remembered a blog by Gene Edward Veith that I’d like to expand on. 

Casual, egalitarian, and a little leg — just what a worship service needs these days.In his blog entitled “From girly-worship to macho-worship,” Veith takes a whack at both “kinds” of worship. Concerning girly-worship, Veith writes, “All of those touchy-feely Bible studies, the sentimental emotional mush of the sermons, the romantic ballads to Jesus – these make men squirm. In fact, 60% of the adults in church on a given Sunday are women, and more and more men are staying home.”

Then Veith notes an alternative offered by the so-called “God-men” gatherings, which he characterizes as “ridiculous, going to the other extreme of having a macho-church service, with cussing, violent movie clips, and attempting to create the atmosphere of a tailgate party.” 

Don’t you just hate it when that happens?If you’d like more exposure to this “solution” to girly-worship, visit God-men’s website.  The puzzling photo at the right is their website’s main masthead graphic.  I’m really amazed that they think a fitting icon for their movement is a face that highlights how a zipper-error made at exactly the worst possible moment affects the man making the error.   

At any rate, Veith is exactly correct when he observes that “both femininity and hypermasculinity are both GAY!”  The God-men site puts so high a premium on “style” that the Village People should blend right in to their gatherings.

Veith’s solution for girly-worship and for macho-worship is this:  “Try TRADITIONAL WORSHIP. Especially liturgical worship. It works for both men and women. And the focus is on the true God-Man, not you in all of your pathetic gender confusions.”

This is what I wish Veith had unpacked for us.  But, since he didn’t, I’ll give it a go.

First, I’ll set aside the notion of “traditional” worship as a question-begging concept (not that Veith was question-begging; but many who use the term are).  As one of the commenters at Veith’s blog observed, “In what way is today’s ‘traditional’ different from yesterday’s ‘contemporary’?  … How old does a particular style have to be in order to be traditional enough?” 

It’s a good point to raise, for most of what would pass for Totally Traditional in evangelical Protestantism today was utterly brand new 100 to 150 years ago.  To test this idea, I have just now grabbed two old, dog-eared hymnals off the shelf, one Baptist, the other Methodist.  I have opened each one ten times randomly, and written down the earliest death date for composer of either the music or the lyrics of the hymn randomly selected.  Here’s what this random selection generated as the death-dates:

  • Baptist hymnal:  1806, 1873, 1876, 1879, 1895, 1907, 1915, 1928, 1932, 1952, 
  • Methodist hymnal: 1817, 1836, 1868, 1876, 1900, 1907, 1918, 1911, 1913, 1936.

I’d wager the farm that any of the hymns selected randomly from either hymnal, placed in a worship service with any order of elements you please, would generate the “feeling” that the worship service overall is “traditional.”  But, as you can see, “traditional” is a very relative notion.  The farther back in time you go, the less “traditional” these hymns become, becoming instead utterly contemporary.

So let’s dispense with the notion “traditional,” and look more closely at “liturgical.”

And, here, we have another problem – at least with contemporary, broadly evangelical Protestants, most of whose spirituality runs back to the very anti-liturgical Anabaptists, no matter what denomination they inhabit today.  Add to this the pathetic catechesis among Catholics, Lutherans, and Anglicans concerning their historically liturgical mode of worship, and you get what we have today: a culture in which liturgy is utterly opaque, even with those who are accustomed to it.

Ashes to ashes, dust to dust. As I write this, we are in the midst of Lent, a season the Church has observed somewhat over 1600 years, possibly since the First Century.  It begins with a custom centuries older than that – the imposition of ashes on the head of one who repents of his sins.  Yet how many Christians know the custom?  And, of those who know it, how many know how deeply its roots go back into the Bible’s notions of genuine spirituality? 

From many, oneHere’s a Liturgy-for-Dummies definition of liturgy:  Liturgy is that collection of common actions and words which unites an assembly of individuals into a corporate whole, so that they worship as a single body rather than as a happanstance assembly of individuals.  The liturgy is stable over time – that is, it does not change appreciably through the centuries.  And, its primary goal is enable the united individuals, the corporate body, to offer worship as a body to God the Father, through His Son Jesus Christ, in the power of the Holy Spirit. 

One could unpack this definition over many scores of pages, but I’ll stop here to point out the immediate implications for liturgy as a “solution” for girly-worship and macho-worship (here, think God-men tailgate parties or Promise Keeper pep rallies):

Ancient custom, ancient uniforms1.  With liturgy, the worshiper’s “tastes” are irrelevant.  The point of a liturgy is NOT to satisfy the lusts of the crowd. 

2.  With liturgy, current fashions are irrelevant.  All other things being equal, the best liturgy is the oldest liturgy, and that usually means that it is centuries old.  Liturgy, therefore, does not make the slightest nod toward current fashions of any sort.  Indeed, it may insist on things which are so out of fashion that they seem positively alien (such as women covering in worship, or vestments that originated in the Fourth Century). 

3.  With liturgy (excepting the leaders of the liturgy; see below) the sex of the worshiper is irrelevant.  This was the point Veith made in his blog:  “It works for both men and women.”  My own personal observations (and the observations of many others I’ve consulted) suggest that when men and women are equally informed about what liturgy is, how it “works,” and why it has such power to unify, focus, and deploy individuals into a coherent worshiping body, the men, rather than the women, develop a zeal for liturgy rarely found in women.

There is a sexual dynamic in worship, and this is spelled out in 1 Cor. 11 and 14, and in 1 Timothy 2.  The men are up front and leading, the women are present and participating.  In their participation, women should not overturn the order of the sexes, so they are covered in the assembly (1 Cor. 11) and they do not teach or exercise authority over men (as in judging the prophets in 1 Cor. 14; or, arguably, by pulpit ministry, 1 Timothy 2:12ff).   

What shows our current Christian culture to be so upside down is that Paul’s standards are exactly reversed:  women are up front and leading while men are merely present and participating, and that with notable reluctance to judge by their attendance.  If we are, supposedly, worshiping the masculine God one finds in the Bible, this ought to show up in the worship service in some way.  Instead, we find women leading men to sing Jesus-is-my-boyfriend” songs.

Worshiping with the saints of all agesLiturgy isn’t a panacea, of course.  George Bernard Shaw’s witticism that there are three sexes – male, female, and clergy – was aimed at the very liturgical Church of England of his day.  Though liturgy would ordinarily enhance and strengthen the order of the sexes, this does not entail that the officers of Christ’s Church are faithful stewards of their responsibilities in worship, any more than a military commision entails that the military officer will acquit himself in a manly fashion as he leads his men.  But, as the military is riddled with custom, ritual, order, and … yes, liturgy … that serve to support and maintain the order wtihin the army, so also does the custom, ritual, order – yes, liturgy … of the Church support and maintain the sexual order within the worshiping assembly.

As a solution to the raging war of personal tastes, as a bulwark against the fashions of the world invading the sanctuary, as a way for male and female to worship together in a genuine unity of word, action, and purpose, the ancient catholic (note the small “c”) liturgy of the Church is unsurpassed.
 

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Filed under liturgy, Man, the glory of God

The Gospel in the Men’s Room

NOTE CAREFULLY:  In the following conversation, the words attributed to “Christ’s Family Church” are Really and Truly the words on their website, as you can confirm by going there yourself (until they decide to take them down; and after that Mother Google will still remember them).  All these direct, complete, and unexpurgated statements from Christ’s Family Church’s website are speaking  about the matters discussed in the following conversation.  And the photos are real photos taken in a Real Men’s Room that really and truly looks like the photos.  If you think I can make this stuff up, I wish you’d put in a good word for me with the producer of Comedy Central. 

And now, on to our main attraction …

Christ’s Family Church in Hastings Minnesota wants you to do a bit of spiritual daydreaming.  Here’s how it worked for me.

Christ’s Family Church: Imagine… if you will, walking into a men’s room, where the first thing you see is a pair of chrome hubcaps on the wall. You look around and see a clock made of a rotor and brake pads. There is a huge 1989 Pennzoil sign mounted above a towel dispenser.

Moi: How about this? 

Oil changes in the men’s room?  Why not?

Am I imagining things correctly?  I hope you don’t mind my imagining the Penzoil sign as advertising oil changes.  I mean, like, oil changes in a men’s room.  Kinda funky, huh?  And for any kinky visitors (present company excepted, of course), it signals some double untundra stuff too.  But, hey – it’s a men’s room, right?  They’ve been known to host some pretty funky stuff. 

And, yes, I know how to spell “double entendre.”  It’s just that “double untundra” is what I thought people were saying all through my boyhood, and it’s stuck.  So don’t go writing me any snotty comments correcting my spelling.  I like my spelling better.  It doesn’t look so revoltingly French.

So, okay.  I’ve got this picture of a men’s room in my head, rotor and brake pad clock and Penzoil oil change  sign.  What next?

Christ’s Family Church: As you step into the room you can’t help but notice a framed painting of a Renault Racer, a parking meter mounted on the wall, and a “No Parking” sign above the toilet.

Moi:  Hmmmm.  I can imagine the Renault.  But “No Parking” above the toilet is … well, you see, every time I try, I get this picture of my father-in-law, of blessed memory, and “no parking” is not what comes to mind with him and a toilet.  It’s kind of dissonant, dontcha know? 

How about if I imagine a related receptacle.  You said it’s a men’s room, right?  Unlike my house, Real Men’s Rooms have these very manly wall whizzer thingys. Will this do?

The Essential Men’s Room Appliance

Christ’s Family Church:  The wall tile is done in a black and white checked flag motif.

Moi:  Uh oh.  I wasn’t thinking NASCAR.  Okay.  How about this?

Whizzing on the checkered flag?

‘Cept I can’t shake the idea that I’d be whizzing on the checkered flag.  There’s gotta be something deeply Freudian about that.  Do you think it’s safe for a guy to do on THAT wall what those guys in 1 Samuel 22:25  were doing?

Christ’s Family Church:  … centered on the back wall is a picture of a Ziegler Cat Motorcycle.

Moi:  Awwwwlll right!  Ya know, last week I went to this goody two-shoes luncheon with a gaggle of lavender scented, purple haired … well, they are supposed to be pastors, you see.  But they were so pink and poofed that at one point, I just had to escape to the men’s room for a breath of something other than Fruit-passion Potion, or whatever they’re slathering at the men’s hair salons these days.  I mean, these guys would make Metrosexuals look butch.  

And, wouldn’t you just know it!  The first thing  I see as I walk into that pansy-pants men’s room in that foo-foo-a-la-mode bistro was NOT a Penzoil oil change sign.  It was a vase of pink hibiscus and the odor of Sultry Nights blended with the raunchy aromas of various intestinally produced sulphur-oxide gases.  Blech. 

Give me the sight of Penzoil oil change signs and the sight of sweaty bikers with 55-gallon beer guts hanging over their black leather belts any time.  Okay, at your suggestion, I imagine this:

Chariot of Fire, no doubt.

Will this do?

Christ’s Family Church:  And the center piece of it all is a black, masterfully air brush painted partition wall, complete with flames that look so real you might get burned if you stand too close.

Moi:  WHOAAAOOOooooooo!!!  Outa-freakin-sight, Dude!  I’ve wanted something like that in MY bathroom ever since I saw Mel Brook’s Blazing Saddles!  But, I couldn’t warm up to the Western Motif and a saddle just doesn’t work as a toilet seat. 

But, Chariots of Fire!  Or, better yet, Thrones of Fire.  Now we’re talking!  No wonder there’s a No Parking sign above the toilet.  It’s not for parking.  It’s for riding the flaming jets into the sky!  How about this?

Flames on the door to the flaming throne room.

Christ’s Family Church:  Where do you suppose you are? The Old Brickyard at the Indianapolis 500?

Moi:  Well, that’s a sorta tame possibility. 

Actually, I was thinking this might be the first bathroom make-over done by Thomas Kinkade after he’d been released from his slavery as the sex toy at the last National Joint Convention of the Neo-Nazi Bikers and the Diesel Dames Fuel-injected Tea Society. 

Christ’s Family Church:  Nope! You have just entered the men’s room at Christ’s Family Church!

Moi:  Well, I’ll be gobsmacked with an oily bicycle chain. This is a joke, right?

Christ’s Family Church: Does that come as a bit of a surprise? 

Moi:  A bit of a surprise? Like I said … gobsmacked am I.

Christ’s Family Church: We hope so, because part of the mission statement at CFC is to “proclaim God’s reconciling love through Jesus Christ to neighbors, co-workers and friends.”

Moi:  Let me get this straight (if that’s possible, given the images you’ve gotten  me to imagine) … You actually have a men’s room like this?  In your church?  And that’s how you accomplish your church’s mission? 

This is a joke, right?  I mean, I’ve heard of Christians in catacombs, but I don’t recall that they invited anyone down there, except other Christians.  But, you proclaim God’s reconciling love through Jesus Christ in your motor-oiled-thrones-of-fire men’s room?  You invite your neighbors, co-workers, and friends to your Men’s Room?  For evangelism

Christ’s Family Church: The men’s room is just one of the many ways this church is trying to accomplish this mission. As Pastor Paris likes to say: “We are willing to go to any lengths, use any means necessary, to bring people closer to Christ.”

Moi:  If this is an example,  … well, the mind boggles at what else you’re doing in order to go to any lengths. 

Just curious … are you members of the Metropolitan Community Churches?  I’ll bet some of them would think your Men’s Room is slicker than calf slobber.

Christ’s Family Church: Our men’s room gives members a reason to invite people to church. That is what CFC is all about; reaching those who have become disenchanted with religion but are searching for a relationship with Jesus Christ.

Moi:  I just have to ask.  Do they “find a relationship with Jesus” in the Men’s Room?  Do you, perhaps, hold church in that men’s room?  Leaving aside the spiritual implications of the setting, it’s kinda small, don’t you think? 

Or, is your ministry designed exclusively around small groups?  If so, does that mean you invite the female visitors to your church into your Men’s Room?

Christ’s Family Church: A visitor in attendance was so moved that she returned later in the week with a guest from Tulsa who took photographs and was very excited about a concept so outside the box.

Moi:  Yessiree Bob.  So at least one woman got in there and was “moved.”  This isn’t meant as a double untundra, right?  I thought not.  Still.

So, she took photos in the Men’s Room.  This will get you a citation for disorderly conduct in most locales, at a minimum.  No wonder she was so excited.  Cheap thrills.  How many of her woman-friends ever got to do a photo essay of the inside of a working Men’s Room?  I’ll bet she’s already contacted Oprah. 

Christ’s Family Church: When you come, you may want to stay for a cup of freshly brewed latte or espresso of your choice and experience God in a unique atmosphere.

Moi:  You guys have really thought this through, haven’t you?  Coffee (even when it’s called a latte or an espresso) is a powerful diuretic.  It makes you want to go … to the Men’s Room!  What a concept!!  And, even women can go there too, from what you’ve indicated already.

But why, then, do you call it a Men’s Room?  Why not “Family Room” like in the malls or airports, where either men or women, and children too, can use the facilities?  Or have you called it a Men’s Room because of the decor? 

If so, it’s a really affirming and nice thought in this day of feminized Christianity.  Everyone gets to use the Men’s Room!  How affirming for men. How egalitarian for women!

All this, and Jesus too!  I didn’t notice him anywhere in the photos, but maybe I just don’t know what to look for.  Is he, perhaps, that rather imposing figure on the bike?  I notice that this picture is inside the flaming throne room.  Or is he somewhere in the various dispensers on the walls? 

Jesus in convenient metered doses.  There’s a thought!  The sinks have loads of possibilities:  “Wash your sins away here!” and you could have the Sinner’s Prayer written on the mirror with industrial-strength crayon.  Over the towel dispenser: “Wipe your sins away here!”  The sinks could also serve as baptismal fonts, unless you guys are the dunking kind.  How about “Let the Holy Ghost breath new life into you here!” over the electronically-timed hot-air hand-drying appliance?

 The possibilities are almost limitless!
 

UPDATE ON NOV 1, 2007:  Checking back at the church website, I find that the amazingly outrageous pages are now gone.  Past their shelf-life, I suppose.  I also notice that you cannot retrieve them via Mother Google, so someone at the church may have had some misgivings when it was posted in the first place, and set the robots.txt file so that search-engine spiders wouldn’t archive these particular pages.  I notice further that the domain names are different for most pages now.

Anyhow, if anyone questions that the idiocy reported above never actually happened, I did find one other blogger who preserved the text of those pages in his blog.  You may verify that Christ Family Church did indeed tout their gospel-men’s room by checking it out here.

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