You couldn't PAY me to go to chu... wait. What?
June 8, 2007 11:15 AM   Subscribe

Drew Marshall [previously] is paying 2 people to go to church. The participants have already been to their first church and blog about their experiences here and here.
posted by xmattxfx (19 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
From the FPP link:

"A strange thing happens in church. We stumble into a party we weren't invited to, and then we find the uninvited standing at the door making sure no other uninvited guests get in. Once we are included in the party, because of Jesus' irresponsible love, we decide to make Grace more responsible, becoming self appointed Kingdom Monitors, guarding the Kingdom of God, keeping the riff raff out, which, as I understand it, is who the kingdom of God is actually supposed to include."

That certainly sounds like a couple of (Lutheran) churches I've been in. The contrast between my current one and the Unitarian one I occasionally visit underscores this.

I'm hopeful that this won't devolved into yet another tiresome LOLXIANS thread, but I'm ready to make popcorn, just in case.
posted by pax digita at 11:31 AM on June 8, 2007

Weird. I was going to do this (without pay) and blog about it, being as not-a-Christian as possible. Only I was going to go to as many different ones as I could find. Beaten to the punch? Not sure. I was having problems finding someone to do it with me anyhow.
posted by cobaltnine at 11:36 AM on June 8, 2007

$50 for a couple of hours on a Sunday morning? That's not a bad gig.

Unfortunately, I tend to burst into flames when I step on holy ground.
posted by Faint of Butt at 11:39 AM on June 8, 2007

How many people go regularly to church?

I can't imagine being so disconnected from religion that you're surprised at the annual income, as both posters were. But I grew up in a church where both parents have done stints on the finance committee and so forth, and at the new church I found in Chicago, I sat on the finance committee myself. I mean, building upkeep alone can be roughly a professional salary or two. They also missed the key implication -- that a lot of people donate in lieu of attendance, out of some level of guilt.

But it's very true that a church that doesn't have a visible contingent of families with young children is in trouble. Maybe not now, but in 10 years or so. That Chicago church -- actually Evanston -- was down to about 80 active members when I joined, partly due to a big complicated split over a non-religious issue. (THE major, if not the only, determinant in the viability of a church is the congregation's faith in its pastor.) By the time I moved away, though, it had rebounded strongly and there was more stuff going on in the church than I could keep track of. That's another thing -- well over half of church participation is the stuff that is NOT Sunday services.
posted by dhartung at 11:53 AM on June 8, 2007

It was such a hard process, but after much deliberation, we made the decision to choose a male AND female University/College student.

They chose a hermaphrodite so they wouldn't have to pay two people? Cheap!
posted by gurple at 12:02 PM on June 8, 2007 [1 favorite]

That's funny, I was going to do that too. I wanted to make a project out of visiting every religious congregation (churches, temples, mosques, meetings, whatevers) in my town, but I just couldn't bring myself to do it. One of my qualms was that I would have to lie to the friendly congregants about my motives for being there that day. I'm just not comfortable with deception of any kind, even a story about "just passing through." Also, I like sleeping in on Sundays. And I would have to go alone. Still, I think about that as a project every once in awhile. My degrees are in Sociology and Religious Studies, and the thought of doing some plain old field-work (informally, of course) is quite exciting.
posted by arcticwoman at 12:06 PM on June 8, 2007

I'm curious as to why they felt the need to lie to the congregation about their reason for being there. Were they instructed to do so?
posted by solipsophistocracy at 12:14 PM on June 8, 2007

From the 2nd "here" link (the girl):
"Paul, my most hated of Christian writers!"

From the "paying" link:
"..accurate observations from a real live objective "outsider"

She doesn't sound like someone who is overly objective.
posted by schleppo at 12:15 PM on June 8, 2007 [1 favorite]

I went along with my wife to probably a dozen or so Buddhist temples when she was doing grad school research. No one seemed to mind, but we didn't exactly just sneak in either. I've never been to a church or temple that didn't want visitors. What exactly is the big deal here? That someone wants to do market research on heathens? Have a good time godless folks. Enjoy the $500.
posted by GuyZero at 12:16 PM on June 8, 2007

I actually did this (20 years ago) as part of work on an unfinished thesis. I went to services at Catholic, Baptist, Episcopalian, Unitarian, Hindu, Buddhist, Krishna Conciousness, Jewish, African Methodist Episcopalian, Jehovah's Witness, Church of Christ, Church of God, Methodist, Latter-Day Saints, Pentecostal/Holiness, and Greek Orthodox houses of worship.

Never made it to a mosque, more out of poor planning and time management than anything else.

The A.M.E. church service was the most fun and welcoming, and served the best food afterward. The Hare Krishna meeting was the weirdest, but I was on acid at the time, so that doesn't count. Least fun was the Church of God, where I was not only not welcomed but overtly shunned (maybe it was the mohawk, but I had it down and combed, and I was wearing a suit....).

None of these (admittedly fleeting) contacts with organized religion left a lasting spiritual impression, and I remain a happily unchurched heathen.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 12:24 PM on June 8, 2007

Know how to really get paid to go to church?
posted by Wolfdog at 12:35 PM on June 8, 2007 [1 favorite]

Interesting, especially Sabrina's observations about how the songs made her feel guilty, not closer to the divine. I also thought Taylor's analysis of the church's lack of appeal to young people was hilariously blunt: "Had this whole church thing not been so new to me and had I not been so wired on delicious coffee, Sunday’s service would have been a very cumbersome extravaganza."

(I did find this comment rather odd, though: "The baby boom generation is leaving us at an ever increasing rate and it seems there will be no one to fill their void." I know what he means, but the way he puts it, it sounds like there's a plague killing off all the people between 50 and 60 years old.)
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 12:36 PM on June 8, 2007

Church organists wanted? Only if they can play this!
posted by GuyZero at 12:59 PM on June 8, 2007

During my study abroad trip, I got the chance to visit various houses of worship.

1. A Southern Baptist Church in Albuquerque (my host family were one of a handful of white families, and then you have 3 South Asians, a Brazillian, and a Taiwanese tagging along): people were generally friendly and upbeat.

2. A somewhat more alternative church in Phoenix, can't remember the name but it was frequented by older folks and seemed to be an offshoot of an offshoot. Things were quieter and more sombre, but we (myself and the Taiwanese again) were treated with respect.

3. Nearly every temple imaginable in Japan. This was great! I even got to live in one for a week, which was brilliant. There isn't much human-to-human interaction, but you could definitely feel the faith and spirit of people there. They were all really big and grand and mystical; you could get lost in them. I enjoyed these the most.

One had two rocks which, if you could walk across and back with your eyes closed, meant that you'd have good luck with whoever guided you. Another had this underground tunnel which was meant to symbolize death and rebirth; the idea was to feel your way by holding on to one wall, as it was pitch black. Scary, but halfway through it was actually peaceful and when you saw light again it was grand. There were often fruit and vege shops that worked on the honour system - no shopkeeper, you just deposited your money in a box. So much trust. There was also a big statue of Kwan Yin in one of the cities that I found especially peaceful.

4. A Turkish mosque in the Netherlands - the first thing that struck me was that they didn't mind non-Muslims coming in. Back in Malaysia, there's a lot of fuss made about non-Muslims entering mosques. Here they were welcoming, quite quiet and serious but generally friendly. It was a nice, peaceful environment, if a bit on the conservative side. I do wish more Malaysian mosques were like those though.

5. A Muslim youth center in Belgium - this was set up by Omani families and they were very friendly and welcoming. We (a big multicultural group) had a good debate with one of the younger Omani men there! A lot more relaxed than the Turkish mosque, but the strong faith was still there.

6. A Hare Krishna meeting in Belgium. A lot of people thought it was "weird" but I could see the devotion in the people that guided us through (either husband-wife or mother-son, I can't recall). They were very earnest and genuine in their spirituality, which I respect.

7. A humanist centre in Belgium. Our host organized a discussion about faith, belief, and manipulation. It did get a bit annoying when he kept going on about how the belief in God is inherently manipulative (a lot of us disagreed) but we did get a good discussion on how manipulation occurs in society.

8. A synagogue in Belgium. I was especially looking forward to this, as there are no synagogues in Malaysia and no hope of learning about Judaism back home. Our host lady was friendly and open, though you could tell she had some reservations as the synagogue had faced some trouble in the past (attacks and so on). It was a great opportunity to clear up misconceptions and stereotypes, and learn more about this faith which was often painted as "evil" back home. What I found amazing was that she was friends with the humanist and the priest at the nearby church, and they'd often go out for meals together!

I took the opportunity to pray at nearly every place we were in, regardless of faith. (especially at the Japanese temples) It was a good way to get some spirituality in the midst of our hectic tour. Essentially, regardless of the specifics of faith, they are all the same: connect to a Higher Being, and connecting to each other. The grace I saw at each place was unmeasurable, and I wish such grace would be reflected anywhere in the world, religious or not.
posted by divabat at 2:58 PM on June 8, 2007 [3 favorites]

Is this ... The Shape of Things To Come?

Rock-a my soul with the wallet of Abraham?

Having been taken hostage every Sunday for 18 years -- to be bedazzled by the miasma that passes for wisdom -- it'd take quite a few samoleens to get this body thru the door. Incense and stained-glass lions and tigers and bears notwithstanding.
posted by Twang at 5:57 PM on June 8, 2007

Offensive and pretentious. And I say that as an agnostic.
posted by schroedinger at 10:53 PM on June 8, 2007

Riffing off of divabat's post...

When I was, oh, sixteen or so, I went to England with my mother to visit my relatives there in Essex. One of my uncles loved nothing more than driving us all over to look at old churches. One day trip we ended up at Greensted church, the oldest wooden church in the world. I can remember all the trees and the bright sunshine and the inside of the church, which was considerably darker than the outside. This worked very well with the sunlight coming through the stained glass, causing the windows to truly look illuminated. The wiki says that the leper hole is now thought of to be a holy water stoup. When I visited, it was still thought of to be the latter. The hole is carved between two of the logs making up this wall, and is basically a triangle. There used to be a bell mounted on the outside and a string leading to the inside, and the priest would ring the bell, and the lepers would come to receive communion through the hole. A beautiful church, though I think that the amount of people through the building has sapped it of the serenity that I found in another church we went to.

One of the others was very similar to this one (the Holy Innocents pic)… it was so long ago, I can’t recall the exact church, alas. The inside was white, bright, simple and had wonderful high ceilings. At the time there was us (6 people) and another 4 people there. The centre aisle leading up to the altar had long rugs laid down, the original colours worn pale by the countless number of people walking up to receive communion. Standing at the foot of the altar, looking back at the entrance, above the door was the small organ, its pipes gleaming… I wanted to have a closer look, but the door upstairs was locked (I tried). Everything locked, and no priests around? Curiosity got the better of me – what is under the rugs? Lifting the one nearest the altar revealed a long brass inset. Neat! By the time Mom caught me, I had ¾ of the rug lifted back to see what the brass thing was. My uncle saw and came over and saw it was a plaque of a knight. “The knights came back from the wars and were buried here. Only the knights and the nobles of the villages were allowed to be buried in the church, especially in the aisle up to the altar,” he told me.

I was walking on the grave of a knight who had been buried in a church that was older than the concept of North America.

History found me and I felt the Earth turn under my feet as my thoughts were taken from the present day and back to the past. To feel small and large at the same time at the near-tangible crush of years passed between then and now.
Some of the graves in the yard had children who were buried at 6 years of age further back than our family history has been traced, and the whole atmosphere of the place was one of serenity born of time and a quiet history. Similar to Greensted, but different. Location? Lack of tourists? Hard to say ... I’m not the least bit religious, but the calm there made me hesitate a bit. One day, I’ll go back.
posted by Zack_Replica at 11:14 PM on June 8, 2007 [1 favorite]

England is full of churches like that... I have my choice of the Worcester Cathedral, the Hereford Cathedral (which houses the Mappa Mundi), Tewkesbury Abbey or the Gloucester Cathedral. I only go to take photos, but it's great living near such ancient architecture.
posted by chuckdarwin at 1:27 AM on June 9, 2007

Ship of Fools has a whole series of Mystery Worshipper reports, if you like religious tourism reports.
posted by belladonna at 12:41 PM on June 9, 2007

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