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A Month of Sundays
June 22, 2007 9:03 AM   Subscribe

A Month of Sundays. Seattle's The Stranger sends 31 writers to 31 houses of worship.
posted by monju_bosatsu (98 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite

 
If there were a special edition of the OED which included the word "LOLXTIANS," it would have a picture of this post next to it.
posted by nasreddin at 9:07 AM on June 22, 2007


What the hell is Baha'i, anyway? Do I need some of it in my life? I'm a sinner, yes. I feel bad. Will Baha'i help? Will hands be placed upon my person? Will there be genuflecting? The casting out of demons? Or, will there be "affirmations"? Singing? A donut?

Oh, screw me. No, wait, screw you. Look, you don't have to go there to make fun of them you know. And making fun of Baha'i... they have got to be the least pushy religion ever.

But I guess it's nice that they're all WTFBAHAIBBQ in addition to LOLXTIANS.
posted by GuyZero at 9:18 AM on June 22, 2007 [1 favorite]


The one people many would probably be most curious about" (SOUND WARNING) didn't even make their list of 31. Chickens!
posted by spock at 9:19 AM on June 22, 2007


Oh I missed the punchline - he didn't even get there. That is some reporting, Stranger-man.
posted by GuyZero at 9:19 AM on June 22, 2007


Ha ha ha! Those people's beliefs are different than mine! Ha ha ha!

Man, they must have needed a lot of lattes (fair trade coffee, organic milk from the local CSA) to fuel that much hipster snobbery.
posted by schroedinger at 9:21 AM on June 22, 2007 [1 favorite]


The mosque one was kind of funny. Pretty meh-tastic.
posted by a robot made out of meat at 9:24 AM on June 22, 2007


I picked up The Stranger last week because their cover talked about this article. It sounded pretty interesting -- there are some very normal-seeming (from the outside) churches around here, and some scary-seeming ones (like the Mars Hill one), and I'd like for someone to do the legwork for me on determining which ones are actually scary.

Turns out the article sucked entirely. Reporting so lazy it doesn't deserve the name, with hipsterness as the excuse for laziness. This article, which ran alongside, was at least thoughtful.
posted by gurple at 9:29 AM on June 22, 2007


Dan Savage posted a letter he recived from a pastor on the stranger's bog.

As much as I love Dan Savage, sometimes, I kind of hate him. I understand the point he's making, but at the same time, there is no point in denying that the entire reason for the feature was to laugh at what other people believe. I'd rather seem Savage & co spend time doing what he often does on the Slog and in Savage love when they out the true hypocrites, but making fun of others for the sake of having something to print seems pretty useless, and, in a way, almost desperate for attention.
posted by nuclear_soup at 9:29 AM on June 22, 2007 [1 favorite]


Wow. I'm definitely not a fan of organized religion but it feels like the writers were almost encouraged to hold outright contempt for the places they were visiting. I have a hard time with that, especially as a former journalism major. I mean, a few weekends ago I had to hang out with a bunch of fundamentalist relatives and I turned it into a photography project. It's not necessary to show your own hatred for people you don't agree with in order to show that they're crazy. Sometimes all you have to do is record them being themselves & let people make up their own minds.
posted by miss lynnster at 9:29 AM on June 22, 2007 [1 favorite]


This morning, though these words were bent to a belief I don't buy, I could see the life in them, in greetings that met a stranger more than halfway, an acceptance of disorder in ritual, and the most diverse Seattle crowd I've seen outside a bus. But I ducked out at the end of the service, declining further fellowship in a mild antisocial and nonreligious panic.

Excellent summary
posted by a robot made out of meat at 9:30 AM on June 22, 2007


This reminds me of the Mystery Worshipper section of Ship of Fools.

The mystery worshippers tend to write better summaries than the one in the Stranger, mainly because they're mostly all Christians and are familiar with what they're seeing, but most people on the site tend to dislike fundamentalists so it can get a bit snarky when the worshippers find themselves in one of those places that like to toss snakes around.
posted by pandaharma at 9:34 AM on June 22, 2007 [1 favorite]


The Washington City Paper has been doing this for years. They also have a rating system.
posted by Pollomacho at 9:36 AM on June 22, 2007


You are Included and Loved and Forgiven—and so are You, and You, and You. We all are! This gets Obnoxious. At the end, everyone takes Communion, which I am scared to do because I don't want to accidentally turn Christian, so I wander out of the room for a moment.

Wait, isn't this, like, the best thing about Christianity? (Well, maybe not the Forgiven part, but still.) What a complete fucking douchetard. I want to become a Christian just to spite his contrarian hipster ass. Fuck this article.
posted by hifiparasol at 9:45 AM on June 22, 2007


The thing about religion is that it is doublespeak for organized hate.

The religious genuflect in sweeping tones of morality and personal redemption, but it is in rhythm with exclusion.

Stop wasting your life; if you get your head out of the clouds and look around, you'll see the real world is right in front of you.
posted by four panels at 9:54 AM on June 22, 2007


Did you all give up around three or four in or something? Yeah, a lot of these have an noisome HURF DURR JEEBUS motif, but some were very personal, sincere and touchingly written. Disgust with how a modern church contorts the act of worship into a Harley-ridin' red meat extravaganza; confusion over revisiting (and almost involunarily engaging in rituals from) a familiar place from one's past; sincere discomfort and questions about cultural appropriation; panic at one's inability or unwillingness to come to terms with a belief system alien to one's own.

Decent post, I say. Thanks, m_b.

[NOT JESIST]
posted by cog_nate at 9:55 AM on June 22, 2007


This is awesome. I miss The Stranger so much.
posted by freedryk at 9:56 AM on June 22, 2007


The thing about religion is that it is doublespeak for organized hate.

The religious genuflect in sweeping tones of morality and personal redemption, but it is in rhythm with exclusion.

Stop wasting your life; if you get your head out of the clouds and look around, you'll see the real world is right in front of you.


I just turned 14 too! Capitalism, is, like, brainwashing you, man! Fuck those mindless consumer sheeple! Hey, dude, want to steal one of your dad's Bud Lights out of his fridge and break some windows? That'll show the Man!
posted by nasreddin at 9:58 AM on June 22, 2007 [7 favorites]


Reading Dan Savage's response to the Pastor's letter, he sounded pretty nasty. I definitely snarked on the church I went to a few weeks ago, but not about everything. Some people have good hearts and mean well & I can respect them. Others don't. I try my best to not snark for the sake of snarking just because someone believes something different, nor just to be malicious. That's kind of how Dan Savage came across to me, though... and to be honest, that holier than thou attitude is one I don't subscribe to ESPECIALLY because it would put me on the same level as the religious fanatics that anger me. As far as I'm concerned, it's an ugly look on everyone.

Some of the people at the Fundamentalist church I was stuck in a few weeks ago were very sweet. But that said, I didn't like the pastor AT ALL. I found pretty much everything about him offensive. After sitting in the church a while, I noticed that he was missing the majority of his right ear. I kept staring at it as he went on about the "culture wars" we don't know about & about how American children can't thank God for their lunches in school but they're taught to recite entire sections of the Quran in class. (Right.) Most of my time in the sermon was spent praying. Praying that he would stop talking so I wouldn't have to walk out. After the sermon I asked my sister what happened to his ear. I was told "Well, when he was younger he had a problem with sin. He drank & did drugs. He was in a bar and got into a fight and someone bit his ear off." Which was exactly what it looked like but I thought it was too obvious to ever be possible. Then I was told "He could've had plastic surgery but he says he wanted to leave it so he could never forget the sinner he once was."

I tend to believe he left it for a different reason. It's a great bragging point... "You think YOU know the Devil? YOU don't know the Devil. I know the Devil! LOOK AT MY EAR!!!!"

In my mind, people like that put in hard effort to EARN snark for what they're doing in the name of The Lord so I don't feel guilty at all for dishing it out. Didn't seem to me everyone in that Seattle article earned it. And that kind of disgusts me a little, actually. YMMV, as usual.
posted by miss lynnster at 9:58 AM on June 22, 2007 [4 favorites]


Did you all give up around three or four in or something?

Yeah, actually I did. That's what happens when you front-load the shitty writing in an article like this: Your readers stop reading.

I have not the time nor inclination to give the benefit of the doubt to this article. If there's thoughtful material in there, they shouldn't have opened the show with immature nonsense.
posted by hifiparasol at 10:01 AM on June 22, 2007


Wow.

What a bunch of jerks.
posted by thehmsbeagle at 10:01 AM on June 22, 2007


>>it feels like the writers were almost encouraged to hold outright contempt for the places they were visiting.

That's just Seattle.
posted by SaintCynr at 10:06 AM on June 22, 2007


I have not the time nor inclination to give the benefit of the doubt to this article.

What a complete fucking douchetard. I want to become a Christian just to spite his contrarian hipster ass. Fuck this article.

Well, your amazing snap judgment skills, 3dgy 'tude and freeform cursing have certainly brought me around to your way of thinking.
posted by cog_nate at 10:09 AM on June 22, 2007


Did anyone say "fucktard" yet? No? What a bunch of fucktards. What kind of an assignment was this?
posted by dhartung at 10:12 AM on June 22, 2007


This is ridiculous. Over a dozen kinds of Christianity, and the only synagogue they can find is Orthodox, when that type of Judaism accounts for a relatively tiny proportion of American Jews? Enormous grain of salt. Most of these little anecdotes are far more about the author than the religion, the service or the experience overall. The Jewish one spends all but the last couple of sentences on the author's annoyance at having to do his job. It's ridiculous.
posted by luriete at 10:13 AM on June 22, 2007 [1 favorite]


looks to me like the editor spun the Wheel Of Jaded Hipster Snarking and this week it landed on "Religion". it must take a special individual for whom attending church elicits this kind of shallow prose:

"I’m circling around the gym, trying to find a cute girl I can sit next to. There are none. Seriously, NONE. This is absolutely not the place to pick up chicks. I also notice that I am the only one here with sideburns."

what a dick. too bad some of the more touching accounts get shouted down by the noise of all the hurfdurfing.
posted by the painkiller at 10:17 AM on June 22, 2007


Did you all give up around three or four in or something?

I certainly did. And that time I poked myself in the eye with a stick? Yeah, I stopped doing that too.
posted by found missing at 10:19 AM on June 22, 2007


Your amazing snap judgment skills, 3dgy 'tude and freeform cursing have certainly brought me around to your way of thinking.

This article's authors amazing snap judgement skills, 3dgy 'tude and freeform cursing have certainly brought me around to their way of thinking.

People who find this article awesome: Pretend the authors are fundamentalists or Republicans dropping in on meetings for the ACLU, PFLAG, or environmentalist groups and their making comments about hippie hair and thick-rimmed glasses and leaving early before they start hating America too. And then don't get offended, because those authors are spending about as much time and thought on their reviews as the Stranger's authors are on these ones.

This isn't reviewing. It's abuse and name-calling.
posted by schroedinger at 10:20 AM on June 22, 2007 [2 favorites]


Well, I didn't want to judge quickly so I read four. Which is more than 10%. Which should be a sampling of what to expect and a good clue for me to decide whether or not I want to continue reading. And of those four, I didn't get a whole lot of variety... it was just kinda people writing about places they would rather chew glass than be. Which is not the best basis to begin any review of anything.

Here, let me show you... let's pretend I was hired to write an article & review a restaurant called "The House of Liver." Here is what my article is going to say... "Liver fucking SUCKS. I would rather die than eat it." This is why I will not be accepting any writing assignments involving reviews of liver, since there are people in the world who are quite fond of it, and my hatred of liver is truly not newsworthy or fair reporting. [MOST DEFINITELY LIVER-IST]
posted by miss lynnster at 10:22 AM on June 22, 2007


This is ridiculous. Over a dozen kinds of Christianity, and the only synagogue they can find is Orthodox, when that type of Judaism accounts for a relatively tiny proportion of American Jews?

I was thinking the same thing -- why is this "survey of religion in Seattle" all about Christian churches, modulo a Baha'i place they didn't even successfully visit and a relatively fringe Jewish institution?

Then I realized that they couldn't have called their article "A Month of Sundays" if they had included houses of worship that don't meet on Sunday.

Mostly I like The Stranger. But that right there, and this article in general, sums up everything I hate about The Stranger.
posted by gurple at 10:24 AM on June 22, 2007


Did anyone say "fucktard" yet?

I said "douchetard," but cog_nate got mad at me. Does that count?

Over a dozen kinds of Christianity, and the only synagogue they can find is Orthodox

Well, there was at least one Jewish writer right there in the beginning; maybe the thinking was that the best way to piss of the LOLXTIANS was to use a Jew to berate them. Remember that their goal here was not journalism.

"I also notice that I am the only one here with sideburns."

"For you easily-impressed ladies out there, I also wear a trucker cap, a Puma jacket and a Threadless tee. I enjoy Wes Anderson films and talking about how The Arcade Fire did their best work before you ever heard of them."
posted by hifiparasol at 10:28 AM on June 22, 2007 [2 favorites]


I just turned 14 too! Capitalism, is, like, brainwashing you, man! Fuck those mindless consumer sheeple! Hey, dude, want to steal one of your dad's Bud Lights out of his fridge and break some windows? That'll show the Man!
posted by nasreddin at 12:58 PM on June 22


The natural extension of your straw man fallacy here is, of course, that when you become an adult you finally reallize that the magical white wizard in Rome is 4 real. That rapture shit is totally going to happen!

But, as a 27 year old graduate of Georgetown, I just can't seem to get on my knees and repent.
posted by four panels at 10:47 AM on June 22, 2007 [3 favorites]


But, as a 27 year old graduate of Georgetown, I just can't seem to get on my knees and repent.

As a 30-year-old atheist, I can still see crappy journalism for crappy journalism. If people are going to present an anti-religious point of view, I'd just as soon they did it well.
posted by gurple at 10:55 AM on June 22, 2007



The natural extension of your straw man fallacy here is, of course, that when you become an adult you finally reallize that the magical white wizard in Rome is 4 real. That rapture shit is totally going to happen!


I'm an atheist, so I really don't care whether it happens or not, or whether anyone is 4 real.

But I'm glad Mr. Georgetown here has it all figured out. Perhaps you should leverage your credentials and go on a lecture tour. You know, open the eyes of the plebes.
posted by nasreddin at 10:55 AM on June 22, 2007


Oh man-- this thread is getting AWESOME. I feel like any minute now Andy Bernard from The Office will show up and casually mention that he went to Cornell.
posted by thehmsbeagle at 11:03 AM on June 22, 2007 [1 favorite]


The Stranger's Charles Mudede, tho, is probably one of the most interesting reporters at any alternative weekly...
posted by KokuRyu at 11:04 AM on June 22, 2007


If it hadn't been for cog_nate's comment, I would have given up before I reached day ten... the snarkiness of some of the writers is mirrored by whoever edited the piece and put the most hostile entries first. Days 10-30 are closer to Dan Savage's characterization in nuclear_soup's link: some respect, some irreverence. But to read the first ten entries one might assume that Savage can't differentiate "irreverence" from "elitist condescension."

I don't want the national discourse on religion to be dominated by people who hold nothing but contempt for those who disagree. That's just as true for snarky Stranger reporters as it is for the Pat Robertsons and Rick Santorums.
posted by Riki tiki at 11:04 AM on June 22, 2007 [1 favorite]



I don't want the national discourse on religion to be dominated by people who hold nothing but contempt for those who disagree. That's just as true for snarky Stranger reporters as it is for the Pat Robertsons and Rick Santorums.


Agreed.

I enjoyed reading a few of the pieces, but over all, I have to say that the attitude of the piece (and of Savage's reponse to others) is nothing but more hate and intolerance. I'm not a church goer, but if someone wants something to believe in, why mock them fort it? It does more good to examine the churches/organizations/individuals who are using religion for hateful purposes, spreading crazy/possble hurtful ideas, etc. Setting up a dicthotomy where all churches are equally bad and all relgious people are viewed as moron is useless. (not to mention: pretty boring to read.)
posted by nuclear_soup at 11:21 AM on June 22, 2007


Here, let me show you... let's pretend I was hired to write an article & review a restaurant called "The House of Liver." Here is what my article is going to say... "Liver fucking SUCKS. I would rather die than eat it."

Well, you pretty much just accurately summed up about 25% of Stranger restaurant reviews.
posted by tristeza at 11:26 AM on June 22, 2007 [2 favorites]


'm not a church goer, but if someone wants something to believe in, why mock them for it?

Because the religious nuts will vote another George W. Bush into office because Jesus told them to.
posted by four panels at 11:41 AM on June 22, 2007


Thankfully, these asshats skipped Immaculate Conception, one of the more beautiful Catholic churches I've been to in the US with a lovely congregation. 15 minutes of the Mass was spent on the sign of peace -- what would have been a brief uncomfortable handshake with your immediate neighbors in most parishes turned into a long session of people milling about the pews, greeting each other and laughing and chatting. Even amidst the fairly large turnout, several people singled me out as a stranger and welcomed me warmly.

I'm not a Catholic anymore, but that one visit (made on a whim) gave me an entirely new perspective on what churchgoing means for many people.
posted by xthlc at 11:44 AM on June 22, 2007


...but cog_nate got mad at me.

Dude, seriously? I thought your responses -- flatly stating "Fuck this article"; being contrarian as the contrarian hipster you apparently despise, in your statement that you'd just convert to piss him off; and then taking me to task for actually taking the time get past the noise to a few of the good articles -- were flippant, and I decided to respond in kind. *shrug*

I'm actually in a fair amount of agreement w/you. As I said in my first comment, a lot of the articles are pretty hostile and poorly written. But it only took something like five minutes of skimming to get to a decently written account. Despite the overall negativity of the article, a couple better-written accounts resonated with me, which is why I thought this was worthy of being posted.
posted by cog_nate at 11:54 AM on June 22, 2007


(For what it's worth, though, I really did enjoy douchetard. Very Donnie Darko-ish.)
posted by cog_nate at 12:05 PM on June 22, 2007


'm not a church goer, but if someone wants something to believe in, why mock them for it?

Because the religious nuts will vote another George W. Bush into office because Jesus told them to.


Because, man, if there's anything that will convince religious people to vote the way you want them to, it's mocking them for their religion.

Are you even listening to yourself?
posted by nasreddin at 12:08 PM on June 22, 2007


This espisode, "Faith", from TAL contains the best piece of "atheist/agnostic goes to visit the fundamentalists" journalism I've heard.

Specifically act one, with Alix Spiegel covering the massive prayer project in Colorado Springs. She went in with more than a little bewilderment and came out with an appreciation for faith, even if she can't share that faith.
posted by pandaharma at 12:41 PM on June 22, 2007


'm not a church goer, but if someone wants something to believe in, why mock them for it?

Because the religious nuts will vote another George W. Bush into office because Jesus told them to.


The whole point of my comment was that non-offensive people who just want to go to church and get some peace a day or two a week don't deserve to be mocked, stereotyped, or hated any more than any nonoffnsive non-believer does. Religious nuts are in a whole different category.
posted by nuclear_soup at 12:42 PM on June 22, 2007


I used to write for The Stranger. I quit when it became Dan Savage's soapbox. What Dan really wants to be is a shockjock. I always felt like this was really why he was for the Iraq invasion -- purely for contrarianism's sake. Of course, this is an old journalistic formula, and it sometimes produces great theater. (In fact, The Stranger's early editorial staff was made up of many theater folks, including Savage.) This article, sadly, fails to be great theater.

I still think Seattle is lucky to have a paper that's not afraid to try stupid ideas, though. Sometimes they even work.
posted by IcyJuly at 12:47 PM on June 22, 2007 [1 favorite]


Eh, I enjoyed it. It's not deep, or particularly well-written, but it does give brief accounts of various local churches and their services from outsiders' perspectives. The accounts are often pretty snarky, but what else would expect from outsiders?

I mean, religious worship really is kinda weird if you're not used to it -- symbolically eating your god's flesh & blood, talking to and singing songs about your great invisible friend, swearing allegiance to him... pretty weird stuff for somebody who hasn't been around it before.

FWIW, a few of 'em are quite positive, mostly reactions to the sense of community.
posted by LordSludge at 12:48 PM on June 22, 2007


I kept reading till I found someone who felt the experience was a good thing. Unsurprisingly to me, he was also the first that commented on the one thing I always enjoyed about going to church: the church itself.

While I could probably enjoy watching a Latin Mass (just because it's a cool language and I no longer have any affiliation with the team so I can see it for the pageantry that it is,) I would have no problem spending a couple of hours in a church. But only if it was one of those big-ass Catholic cathedrals.

I don't want anything to do with their God, but I sure has hell respect their architects.
posted by quin at 12:55 PM on June 22, 2007


I thought your responses... were flippant, and I decided to respond in kind.

Fair enough. I was being extra-flippant in my "he got mad at me" comment, so yeah, it's probably time to dial back my own douchetardedness.

This piece just pissed me off extra hard. I'm a journalist myself, and there's really no excuse for presenting a story as a review or an analysis, then turning it into a treatise on the brainless issues of a bunch of entitled brats. This could have been a great piece (and by your account, some of it is), but instead the writers, and the editor, chose the low road. What's more, the first thing they teach you in Professional Writing School is to immediately draw your readers in, right? One or two snarky pieces I could deal with, but to lead with one that's snarky to the point of babyish and bigoted histrionics ("I didn't take communion because I was afraid it would turn me into a Christian") is a sure way to turn readers off. I actually feel bad for the writers you mention, because they're the ones who actually took their jobs as journalists seriously.

Also, what everyone else said.

And seriously folks, what's up with Four Panels? Am I right? Am I right?
posted by hifiparasol at 1:20 PM on June 22, 2007 [1 favorite]


I don't want anything to do with their God, but I sure has hell respect their architects.

Seriously, the Goddites get all the great architecture. I mean, hell, Gaudi alone seems to be worth a baptism or two. It's not just Christians, either; think of the Pyramids, Machu Picchu, etc. Secularists can't seem to find good reasons to build quite that extravagantly.

And seriously folks, what's up with Four Panels? Am I right? Am I right?

four panels gives me a sad, startling empathy for moderate Christians who are found guilty by association with the rabid fundies.
posted by gurple at 1:30 PM on June 22, 2007


Because the religious nuts will vote another George W. Bush into office because Jesus told them to.

Not one of the people who voted for Kerry or Gore believe in Jesus. Not one. Plus, all the people in the Big Gay Church mentioned in the article obviously voted for Bush.
posted by frobozz at 1:31 PM on June 22, 2007


Secularists can't seem to find good reasons to build quite that extravagantly.

Oh? Is that right?

See also
posted by Pollomacho at 1:46 PM on June 22, 2007


The weekly San Diego Reader has also been doing this for quite a while.
posted by the_bone at 1:52 PM on June 22, 2007


I'm not even vaguely a church goer, nor am I a Christian, and I found this series to be beyond offensive on a number of levels. As someone who has worked as a journalist, it bothers me a great deal when this sort of overprivileged brat-rant is passed off as A) writing, B) journalism, and C) worthy of ink and paper.

That any editor would accept some of these for print, much less front load it with the ones that were chosen, boggles the mind.

What's tragic is that the concept is a really great one, and had the assignment been given to some talented writers instead of whiny, self inflated hipsters, I bet it would have been a fabulously interesting read.
posted by dejah420 at 1:58 PM on June 22, 2007 [2 favorites]


The thing about religion is that it is doublespeak for organized hate.

The religious genuflect in sweeping tones of morality and personal redemption, but it is in rhythm with exclusion.

Stop wasting your life; if you get your head out of the clouds and look around, you'll see the real world is right in front of you.
posted by four panels at 12:54 PM on June 22 [+] [!]


No, four panels, you're succumbing to the same 'one bad apple' fallacy that most of the self-righteous atheist brigade subscribes to.

The fundamentalists preach a religion of exclusion. The vast majority of religious folks worldwide don't.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 1:59 PM on June 22, 2007


hifiparasol, agreed. My wife's a journalist, too. I'm curious to see what her reaction will be to the article.

And, since we're (kind of) discussing Seattle, here's a nice, extravagant piece of secularist architecture. And a couple other secular landmarks (for fans of Spanish architecture).
posted by cog_nate at 2:01 PM on June 22, 2007


Oh, don't get me wrong, Pollomacho and cog_nate. There's some great secular architecture. Of the ones Pollomacho linked to I particularly like the Hungarian Parliament building. Those are all great works.

Gaudi, too, is really just an example of a very talented guy doing what architects do; he just happened to be super-religious. The (reduced-footprint) Sagrada Familia may never be completed.

But when church and state combine under an Emperor-god, as with the Egyptians and the Incas, then you get stuff that's not only breathtakingly beautiful, it's horrifying in terms of the expenditure of resources and suffering necessary to bring the structures about; structures that serve no secular purpose other than a display of power.

It's kind of depressing, and simultaneously kind of uplifting, to think that mankind will never build something as impressive-for-its-time as the pyramids again.
posted by gurple at 2:04 PM on June 22, 2007


#19, Gethsemane Lutheran Church:

We warble through a discordant "Gather Us In."

Lutherans often sing flat, but they're rarely discordant. 'Specially on Marty Haugen tunes.
posted by pax digita at 2:05 PM on June 22, 2007


For the record, Pollomacho, the Taj Mahal is a Muslim holy site. The mausoleum itself is flanked by two mosques. The link to the Chrysler Building makes up for it, though.
posted by gompa at 2:05 PM on June 22, 2007


What's tragic is that the concept is a really great one, and had the assignment been given to some talented writers instead of whiny, self inflated hipsters, I bet it would have been a fabulously interesting read.

I'm almost positive that a couple of weeks ago there was an FPP featuring two writers who would be attending various churches in the following weeks, with the first installments already in. I just skimmed it, but it seemed quite a bit more serious and substantial than this ... vitriolic fluff, or whatever it is. However, I can't for the life of me find it.
posted by frobozz at 2:06 PM on June 22, 2007


four panels - I'm actually at a week long conference on excellence in parish ministry right now, hosted at Garrett Seminary in Chicago. It's predominantly mainline Christian seminarians under the age of 30 (I go to Chicago Theological Seminary). It's hosted by these people, who are very cool - they've provided fellowships to nearly 75% of all African American religion professors in the U.S. In case you actually read through their fellowship portfolios, I've received a "Ministry Fellowship" - which is a fancy way of saying that they're going to finance a ministry project that I will undertake in '08 (in case you're curious - I'm going to Palestine to build playground / community centers around Bethlehem with these folks.)
Today we had an opportunity to visit several churches in the Chicago area. The church I visited is called Adalberto Methodist Church. A cursory google search should give you some history on this tiny storefront church and it's amazing pastor - Walt Coleman. I was also able to meet Elvira Arellano, the undocumented immigrant who is currently taking sanctuary there with her son. I'm trying to find a way to implement the New Sanctuary project at my home church in Grand Rapids, Michigan. We also suffer in our community from deportations and the threat that they pose to thousands of our Hispanic brothers and sisters. Today, speaking with Pastor Coleman, I was able to hear someone explain some very important issues to me with a very strong, prophetic voice that spoke softly but urgently about the need to protect the most vulnerable members of our society from corporate exploitation. About the need to rescue another generation from being torn apart by having their families destroyed. It was incredible!

You state above (and, I assume, believe) that "
The thing about religion is that it is doublespeak for organized hate."


I am really, really saddened to read this. Because I work every single day with many people who have committed their entire existence to serving the poor. They have been arrested, they have gone hungry and they have given up any chance of material wealth or prosperity - indeed they have readily sacrificed ambition - to take up a sacrifice for the benefit of their communities. We call this "taking up the cross."

I would encourage you to more closely examine your generalizations.

Also, while 25% of Americans do claim to be "evangelical Christians" - you are dismissing and ridiculing the beliefs of many, many kind people. You are also abusing and dismissing the legacy of some pretty powerful voices - individuals like Martin Luther King, Jr, and Mahatma Ghandi, as well as my own personal heroes, people like Henry Nouwen and Thomas Merton, and the Berrigan brothers - and people like Walt Coleman and Elvira Arellano.

But I guess I'm glad that you know where you stand on issues of faith. I just wish you could express it without the vitriol.

As for the linked article - it kind of reminds me of coffee-house discussions after Philosophy 110 during my freshman year of college.
posted by Baby_Balrog at 2:24 PM on June 22, 2007 [4 favorites]


When I hear about folks like you and the people you describe, Baby_Balrog, I inevitably think, "hey, why couldn't that person be on my team?"

I'm getting involved with an atheist group in my area that organizes blood drives, donates, and does sporadic other kinds of volunteer work. Atheists like that are out there. But as yet, atheism doesn't have the reputation for public service that some religious communities do.

To my mind, this is doubly a shame -- that atheists aren't more organized, as atheists, around community service, and that so much community service gets done with dogmatic strings attached. How tight those strings are, of course, varies widely, and I don't mean to cast aspersions on your work in particular, B_B.
posted by gurple at 2:47 PM on June 22, 2007


Baby_Balrog, I have a few thousand people I'd like to turn into clones of you. How can I accomplish this?
posted by hifiparasol at 2:51 PM on June 22, 2007


Well, I've said it before in muslim threads & I'll say it here too. Fundamentalist evangelicals represent the average American Christian just as much as fundamentalist muslims represent the average Islamic person. ie, not at all. (My family excluded, as Fundys are sadly over-represented there.)
posted by miss lynnster at 2:56 PM on June 22, 2007


But as yet, atheism doesn't have the reputation for public service that some religious communities do.

The reason I've been reluctant to do this is because there are so many athiest groups out there that make me uncomfortable. Too many of them remind me of PZ Myers -- bright, but not very nice to people who don't share their mindset. There's one group here in LA called the "freethinkers" -- as though the concept of believing in a god is antithetical to rational thought. It's irritating for an athiest like me, who appreciates some aspects of organized religion and belief in God.
posted by hifiparasol at 2:59 PM on June 22, 2007


miss lynnster's got it right. The obnoxious evangelicals and zealots seem to be around every corner, but in my experience they represent just a tiny fraction of the overall whole. They just happen to be a tiny fraction that is really loud and shocking and therefore get a lot of press.

It's kind of like how the news will take a shark attack, play the hell out of it, keep it on a 24/7 cycle and suddenly everyone in the area thinks that sharks are attacking anyone who ventures into the water, when that is simply not the case.

Whereas most religious people are quietly faithful, they do their thing and more or less ignore people who want to do something different.

I guess what I'm really trying to say is that religious zealots are just like shark attacks.
posted by quin at 3:13 PM on June 22, 2007


Not that this is any kind of defense of Religion. We still are not on speaking terms. It knows what it did, and I don't think we need to discuss it in public any further.
posted by quin at 3:15 PM on June 22, 2007


Huh. Some of it was pretty snarky, but some was thoughtful. I guess I don't see the unmitigated hate a lot of y'all see.
posted by maxwelton at 3:18 PM on June 22, 2007


frobozz, I think you're referring to this thread.

The Stranger article linked here though, man, so much vain, superficial and close-minded garbage. I'm not religious by any means, but the subject interests me, and I was curious to read about what the reporters saw. There were some decent stories sprinkled in the middle, but nothing I'd call good or compelling reporting. A bunch of them couldn't even be bothered to stay through an entire service. I guess they could only go so long without masturbating in front of a mirror.
posted by picea at 3:33 PM on June 22, 2007



miss lynnster's got it right. The obnoxious evangelicals and zealots seem to be around every corner, but in my experience they represent just a tiny fraction of the overall whole.

Then how do explain the overwhelming % of Americans who don't believe in evolution and feel homosexuality is a sin.
posted by tkchrist at 4:03 PM on June 22, 2007


There's one group here in LA called the "freethinkers" -- as though the concept of believing in a god is antithetical to rational thought.

The term "freethought" has a long and storied past. Indeed its proponents do assert that believing in a god is an end run around purely rational, evidence-based thought. A constraint on a purely rational frame of reference, if you will. That's kind of hard to deny.
posted by gurple at 4:13 PM on June 22, 2007


Ah. I see.

Perhaps I'll check them out after all. Thanks, gurple.
posted by hifiparasol at 4:23 PM on June 22, 2007


tkchrist said: ...the overwhelming % of Americans who [...] feel homosexuality is a sin.

That is incorrect.
posted by thehmsbeagle at 4:28 PM on June 22, 2007


Then how do explain the overwhelming % of Americans who don't believe in evolution and feel homosexuality is a sin.

These studies as well as everything else I've read about the subject seem to indicate that disbelief in evolution and unfavorable thoughts about homosexuality both stand at around 50% of Americans. While I find that number disturbing and unacceptably high, I do not find it "overwhelming;" in fact, compared to the answers identical questions would have received (esp. the attitudes about gayness ones) only 25 years ago or so, and in view of the studies showing acceptance of homosexuality steadily rising year by year (see the graphs on the bottom of this page), it's actually sort of hopeful. Fifty percent is halfway there, after all. What other civil rights movement has ever progressed from total non-acceptance to this level of acceptance in so short a time?
posted by frobozz at 4:29 PM on June 22, 2007


Then how do explain the overwhelming % of Americans who don't believe in evolution and feel homosexuality is a sin.

I would guess a lot of it has to do with the way the pollsters asked the questions. But even if I'm wrong, and the majority of these people really feel this way, as long as it remains a belief and doesn't manifest as an action, what does anyone care?

I work with a couple of guys who are extremely religious. They definitely don't buy into evolution and I'm betting they thing that being gay is pretty bad, but honestly, it doesn't come up. Our workplace doesn't require a belief in Darwinian Theory to get anything done, and they are both very civil and professional with the couple of gay workers in our building.

Personally, I think their beliefs are a bit wacky, but I afford them the same respect they seem to offer to everyone else. That's what tolerance is, the ability to deal with something you find objectionable. You don't have to like it, or agree with it, you just let it be.

In my experience most religious people fall into this category, but I'll be the first to admit, that my experience might be limited here.
posted by quin at 4:36 PM on June 22, 2007


No. CORRECT. Your link never used the word "sin" in describing homosexuality in the polls.

According to your link 53% STILL felt it was "morally wrong." They just don't want to make homosexual sex "illegal."

And IMHO that more to do with Jenna Jameson than it is the enlightenment of American Christian doctrine.

Also that link doesn't answer the question about evolution, does it. Which, last I read, I believe was an amazing like 60 (some odd) % do not believe in evolution.
posted by tkchrist at 4:47 PM on June 22, 2007


I'd also love to clone Baby_Balrog, but alas he's not in the majority. Here in Ohio the churches like to concentrate on getting their hate on (Rod Parsley, the "Patriot Pastors," etc etc) and discriminating against those who are different.
posted by bitter-girl.com at 5:02 PM on June 22, 2007


Personally, I think their beliefs are a bit wacky, but I afford them the same respect they seem to offer to everyone else.

IF they offer that respect. But often, in my experience, they do not.

I'm not claiming there has not been progress made. Yes. American today is better over all that fifty years ago.

But not better than 10 year ago.

But there has also been a significant backlash to progressive ideas that have undone fundamental progress in many places in this country. There are isolated areas— big cities for the most part, where progressive ideas flourish in the daylight. But many, many, more places where they are either in retreat or just holding on.

Perhaps some of this will be helped by the inevitable shift in demographics as the older boomers die off.

But it appears, according to what I have read, there is significant cognitive dissonance in younger people. Where they report being extremely conservative in religious belief, feel homosexuality is still immoral, don't believe in evolution, but want to down load porn openly. It's weird.

My point is this: Historically religions trend more towards orthodoxy and extremism and resist change until there schism. Even after there is doctrinal split the dominant branch always trends towards this kind of extremism over time and that drives even the progressive wings to extremes. My fear is we may be living in the tail end of a secular bubble.

People really WANT American Christianity to be a progressive social force more than it really is in reality.
posted by tkchrist at 5:02 PM on June 22, 2007


I cannot type: Yes. America today is better off over all than fifty years ago.
posted by tkchrist at 5:03 PM on June 22, 2007


I think this intolerant article really proves how much more accomodating we need to be to irrational, ancient, dangerous dogmas of all stripes.
posted by inoculatedcities at 5:19 PM on June 22, 2007


nasreddin: DON'T FORGET THESE CHE-GUEVERA WEARIN' SUBURBAN-REBEL POT-SMOKIN' QUASI-DEMI-REVOLUTIONARY GUITAR-JAMMIN' SURFBOARDIN' MARX-TOTIN' BUD-LIGHT-STEALIN' TEENAGE WANNABES!*

*My favorites have are Russell, Shelley, Feuerbach, and Feynman. Just to pick four of those morons.
posted by inoculatedcities at 5:33 PM on June 22, 2007 [1 favorite]


tkchrist, "sin" is most commonly used to mean a kind of transgression against God, or a religious law. So how could a pollster ask a cross-section of Americans - religious and secular - if they felt that homosexuality was a "sin"? That language excludes anyone who's not religious.

Which is why the pollster might ask if the respondent considered homosexuality morally acceptable, or morally unacceptable. Which is what that poll did. Which gives you the following split:

Homosexual relations are morally acceptable
Yes: 47%
No: 49%


49% is absolutely not an "overwhelming" majority. You may be further interested in another point from this same poll: Among those who attend worship services, those who "attend nearly weekly/monthly" are split 57%/40% morally acceptable yes/no. Those who attend "less often/never" respond with 74% morally acceptable/22% morally unacceptable (that's still 22% of hipster atheists who hate Dan Savage?). Among those who attend worship services weekly, 64% say that it's morally unacceptable, but of course that means that fully 33% of these very religious folks believe that homosexuality is morally acceptable. Yes, 64% is still troublingly high, but I am absolutely certain it is a lot lower of a number than you'd have found surveying church-going Americans a generation ago.

American today is better over all that fifty years ago.

But not better than 10 year ago.


America is not getting less and less tolerant. If you scroll down the Gallup poll article, you'll find a handy graph illustrating the fact that in 1982, only 32% of Americans felt that homosexuality was an acceptable alternative lifestyle. 10 years ago, in 1997, 42% of respondents agreed with that statement. In 2007, 57% of respondents agree. That is a HUGE jump, and this number has been trending steadily upward for 25 years. So, yes: we ARE doing better than we were 10 years ago.

As to evolution, I didn't claim that "my link" had anything to do with evolution. However, since you brought it up:

I think your "amazing like 60 (some odd) % do not believe in evolution" statement may be derived from the somewhat bizarre reporting on a recent poll on the issue. In the Yahoo! story, for instance, "66% believe in creationism".

However, if you actually look for the Gallup poll, you'll find that the evolution question was responded to like so:

Evolution, that is, the idea that human beings developed over millions of years from less advanced forms of life:

Definitely true
18%

Probably true
35%

Probably false
16%

Definitely false
28%

No opinion
3%

So that adds up to about 53% of respondents who think that evolution definitely or probably is accurate, and only 44% who think it is definitely or probably inaccurate.

Now, you might think that that'd mean that 44% of Americans believe in creationism, but the issue with this poll is that is that it didn't ask "Which is correct, evolution or creationism?", but instead used two separate questions ("Is evolution correct? How about creationism?")

In the creationism question, 66% of respondents thought creationism was definitely or probably accurate (quite a jump, of course, over the 44% who thought evolution was inaccurate!), leading most media to report on this poll as "66% of Americans believe in creationism OMG!" when if you look at the data (...not that anyone ever does, of course), you discover a more nuanced, less-doomsday picture.

(Sorry that got so long, everyone.)
posted by thehmsbeagle at 5:43 PM on June 22, 2007 [1 favorite]


I love the "it's just one bad apple" idea. It's so casually dismissive. But it has an enormous number of things wrong with it. First off, the group tarnished by the one bad apple never does anything about it. Instead, the group never corrects them, and, rather than standing up against them, they meekly follow along, not wanting to be seen as not pious enough. When the moderate Christians of the world start policing their own, they can use that excuse again.

It's also not just one bad apple, and they aren't just a bunch of snake-handling, strychnine-sipping evangelicals hanging out in the backwoods of any Deliverance-qualifying state. One of the biggest groups pushing for the Constitutional Amendment to ban gay marriage would be black Baptist churches, not even forty years after the Loving case. Hypocrisy much?

You let me know when they stop trying to push Creationism in schools. Or when you can buy liquor on Sunday mornings here - still can't. It's fun to watch checkout clerks explain that to little old Jewish ladies, when they don't even keep the same Sabbath. Or in those polls that show if Americans would want a female President, a black President, a gay President ... lemme know when the atheist President stops coming in last. And that's just in the U.S. Casting abroad will give us some fine examples of honor killings and the like.

So, yeah, it's a sneery, hipster article. Maybe sneering won't help. But, gosh, decades of reasonable discourse, of hiding, of trying to find a middle ground haven't exactly been a winning tactic with people who believe that God went to the trouble of creating a bunch of photons six thousand light years away when he made the rest of the Universe, just to make it look like everything had been around for billions of years ... as a test of our faith. Sneer away, respect for religion sure hasn't worked.
posted by adipocere at 9:23 PM on June 22, 2007 [4 favorites]


thehmsbeagle. Your being far too generous with your poll interpretation. People will ALWAYS under report their prejudices. Few members of the Klan say they are racists for example. But I guarantee you people VOTE based on their prejudices.

As far as how the general public "feels" or reports they "feel" about progressive ideas is not necessarily a very good gauge as to where we are heading or indeed where we are.

Public policy ten years ago was far more progressive in total than it is now. Far more. And the "public" seems fine with the regressive nature of our leadership (it's the war that has approval ratings for Bush down).

When an openly gay man, or god forbid (yes pun intended), an admitted atheist run for president for one of the major parties and don't get shot... I'll believe you.
posted by tkchrist at 9:50 PM on June 22, 2007


Oh, I see. You didn't want statistics, you wanted your opinion to go unchallenged. Gotcha.
posted by thehmsbeagle at 9:54 PM on June 22, 2007


So, yeah, it's a sneery, hipster article. Maybe sneering won't help.

My issue with the articles isn't that they sneer. Sneering can be fun. It's that they sneer while looking all guilty-like about it. If the journalists doing the sneering were confident atheists or even agnostics, they might be able to make some interesting points while they sneered.

Instead, at least half of the authors seem to be nascent Christians who never really left the fold completely and still have cute little issues with their religious upbringing, and their sneering is just a nervous thumbing of nose at authority.
posted by gurple at 10:34 PM on June 22, 2007


I'm just happy my church got one of the few snarkless and decent reviews.

Quite a few of us are tolerant and decent. We just don't make good television.
posted by dw at 11:09 PM on June 22, 2007 [1 favorite]


Uh, inoculated cities, did you miss the part where I said I was an atheist?

Immaturity is immaturity, whether I agree with it or not, and a college degree doesn't, evidently, prevent one from being a juvenile little prick.
posted by nasreddin at 12:23 AM on June 23, 2007


Wow. So that's why people hate hipsters. I was never entirely sure what 'hipster'ism actually was - but know I feel I have an acceptable definintion - the ability to take a subject worthy of at least excess vitriol and make it as interesting as generic brand of somebody else's shoe polish. Religion may be an excuse for a multitude of sins, but being this self-importantly tedious, even in the 'respectful snippets, is worth at least half a dozen lakes of fire, with concomitant weeping and gnashing of teeth.
posted by Sparx at 4:15 AM on June 23, 2007


Haven't read this yet, but I know I'm going to enjoy it, judging by the conservobot distain in this thread.
posted by dydecker at 12:13 PM on June 23, 2007


Oh, I see. You didn't want statistics, you wanted your opinion to go unchallenged. Gotcha.

Now, now. Let's not get snippy.

If you want I will retract "overwhelming" from my first statement.

And even with your rosy assessment of the statistics we are still left with slightly over HALF or close to half of Americans believing some pretty fucked up shit. 140 (apprx) million people? That is terrifying.

I posed my original question (though my numbers appear to be stale) to counter this argument that the "problem Christians"—the people either morally or politically opposed to progressive social policies— are a fraction percentage of the population. This is observably not true. Your stats back that up.

And it is also demonstrable the religions do historically trend to orthodoxy and extremism. The cycles of liberalism are usually brief. That our governments are discussing "creationism" as public school curriculum is certainly a symptom of a tenuous secular divide.

My opinion on this article is... well... I live in Seattle... I like that the Stranger writes ABOUT things I care about... HOW they write about them is often adolescent.

But after a couple thousand years of religious atrocities I think it's time for religion take a little shit for a while. I would assume a supreme being can take it.
posted by tkchrist at 5:48 PM on June 23, 2007


the "problem Christians"—the people either morally or politically opposed to progressive social policies

There are plenty of people who may find homosexuality morally objectionable, yet not favor legislation against it.
posted by me & my monkey at 6:41 PM on June 23, 2007


My opinion on this article is... well... I live in Seattle... I like that the Stranger writes ABOUT things I care about... HOW they write about them is oftenalways adolescent.

Fixed that for you.

I would probably except Erica C. Barnett, who might be the best city desk writer in town if she'd just deal with her foot-in-mouth disease.

the people either morally or politically opposed to progressive social policies

Um, which ones? I mean, a plurality of Catholics support social welfare programs considered "progressive" while being opposed to gay marriage. So are they eevl or not?
posted by dw at 10:29 PM on June 23, 2007


There are plenty of people who may find homosexuality morally objectionable, yet not favor legislation against it.

Yes. I already said that. But neither will they endorse progressive policies FOR homosexual equality or for teaching evolution etc. I didn't say they directly favored REGRESSIVE policies necessarily (but they WILL given proper political "guidance" I guarantee it).

The best that can be said is they do tend to favor status quo and NOT favor progressive policies - like gay marriage for instance.

That over 50% of Americans report believing in literal creationism?

That over half of the mainstream GOP presidential candidates raised their hands and proudly admitted they unequivocally did not believe in evolution.

How can you NOT see how fucked up that is. These are the symptoms of minority trend.

C'mon. You guys. Your arguments are silly. Quit pretending that the majority of American religious people are all progressive love and puppies and non exclusive. You know that is not true. Religion IS conservative for the most part. And religion most often trends to the extremes. The word of god is absolute. The American religious heritage is puritanism for Pete sake. There is some serious head in the sand behavior going on on behalf on the MeFi Christian contingent here.
posted by tkchrist at 2:21 AM on June 24, 2007


So are they eevl or not?

Huh? What? Evil? What the fuck does that mean? Who said anything about evil.
posted by tkchrist at 2:23 AM on June 24, 2007


These are the symptoms of minority trend.

Should read: These are NOT the symptoms of a minority trend.
posted by tkchrist at 2:24 AM on June 24, 2007


Quit pretending that the majority of American religious people are all progressive love and puppies and non exclusive.

I don't think anyone said they were. But neither are they as generally extreme as you seem to think.

There is some serious head in the sand behavior going on on behalf on the MeFi Christian contingent here.

Being a gay atheist, I can't speak for the MeFi Christian contingent. I do have a pretty good handle on how religious people have treated me, for what that's worth.
posted by me & my monkey at 7:57 PM on June 24, 2007


But neither are they as generally extreme as you seem to think.

Generally extreme? As individuals? Maybe not. More easily swayed to the extreme than I think is healthy for the future of a pluralistic secular society. Yes.

The trend will — and is — driving the aggregate to the extreme.
posted by tkchrist at 10:01 PM on June 24, 2007


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