“We’re designed for worship.”

I’d heard it before, somewhere. People all giddy and into their sports teams like zealots at a witch burning. Or a stadium of screaming people in Kabul watching the Taliban blow heads off women.

Pastor Josh shakes hands like he’s one of the bros. It’s sometimes a bump. Other times there might be three or four parts to the process, followed by another bump. His paw is thick. He says, “dude” every two sentences like Hugo on “Lost.”

I feel like I’m at a sports bar and not church.

This is a mostly white church. I leave my dual ethnicity at the door. Actions are tempered. Not many people raise their hands like they even want to touch the feet of God. Me included. I’m usually too pissed off to raise my hands, or too torn up inside to even sing along. I don’t play games. I’m just one of the infirmed and I know this.

There’s indie rock on the stage. It’s all bass and drums. I go complain to Josh because he’s in the sound booth next to Nathan, who should be on stage shredding. Another shredder is missing. That would be my son Landen who is busy pushing carts at FoodsCo. I want the distortion. I want to feel like I’m about to watch Korn, U2, or the moment Wilco’s Nels Kline freaks on “Impossible Germany.”

“I’m four rows back and I can’t hear the violin,” I complain.

I don’t know if Nathan cares and I still can’t hear the shredding fiddler. I’m pissed. I get up and walk out of the church service.

Later I read Nathan’s Tweet: “Where’d you go?”

I scoot out the side door, walk into the daylight and head for the only security I know. It’s a bench over by the main building.

The main building is circular. It oddly resembles Space Mountain, which makes me think that Disney’s designers wanted one of their most popular rides to touch the cosmic alliance between science and a fancy American worship center. “We’ll make it look like a church. It’ll be our most holy of rides.” Until the Indiana Jones temple ride comes along.

“Ah, mom,” I say at the bench as if it could sprout a head of grey hair and some old freckled legs. I want its wooden slats to form a mouth and talk to me. I don’t even sit. I just stare down at it.

“I am so proud of your boys,” the bench says.

I wander into the main building. Some guy eyes me like I’m a jerk. I sit in the back row. All the children are missing. Everywhere there’s a suit, a head of grey hair, or some old floppy hat on a hairdo that looks like the twists of a vanilla soft serve cone.

A church choir sings hymns as if stale bread is good for the people. I start to touch a hymnal. I probably picked it up before. When my kids were babies. The books looked old then.

I wonder how long it will be before the rock band service becomes mainstream and takes over the Space Mountain sanctuary. I think about my twenty-year-old son, Jordan. He’s the fiddler. I’m missing him perform as I sit listening to the dying service. Even Space Mountain gets old. I get up and slip past the man who eyes me again.

Soon I’m outside. The hymns drift away as fast as they came. I pass the bench where my mom sat twelve years ago, dying on a Sunday morning. I imagine the ambulance sirens tearing along Victor Street. Somewhere during that day her chest got ripped open. She died.

I don’t care if I can’t hear my kid playing the violin. I hurry back to The Great Room. I sit in the back and eagerly listen to a song. Jordan’s fiddle bow is an apostle’s staff swinging along a horizon of strings. A few moments later, Pastor Josh talks about his favorite show, “Lost.” Then he mentions eating a hot dog outside of a closed Wrigley Field.

“The idol factory has started up in our hearts,” he says as I see images of factory smoke belching across the skies.

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NICK BELARDES is illustrator of NYT Best-Selling Novel by Jonathan Evison West of Here (2011), author of Random Obsessions (2009), Lords (2005), and the first literary Twitter novel: Small Places (2010). An author, poet, and screenwriter for Hectic Films, Belardes turned TV/online journalist overnight after blogging his way to success. His articles and essays have appeared on the homepage of CNN.com and other news sites across America. You can find Nick on Facebook and Twitter.

124 responses to “The Idol Factory”

  1. Connie says:

    oooo I would have walked out if I couldn’t have heard you impossibly talented son’s fiddle playing.
    I have to say music is extremely important to me and the weakest spot of the church services I tend every Sunday morning.
    However I often come home and listen to old southern gospel CDs, Elvis or Ricky Van Shelton.

    • You need to come to the Great Room one Sunday. Landen is leading the music service this weekend. And Jordan will be fiddlin’. And Josh will say “bro” and “dude” like ten times. It’s coolio for the sick at heart like me.

  2. Connie says:

    Would that I could, however my mom calls me bright and early, and I mean 6am, to make sure I am going to church. Then it’s breakfast with as many of my family members who make it up and out of bed. Sunday is family day for us.

    Do your boys ever play charity gigs for free? to get exposure?

    • Yeah. Like where?

      Landen has a concert this weekend at Brighton Park. Some big gig through the Kern Arts Council. And he just cut a song for some movie. It’s really good.

  3. Connie says:

    Chili Cook Off at the Dome on May 15th, proceeds go to the Porterville Kids Cancer Camp.
    We will talk on the phone about it, but this camp is for kids ages 4-14 and their siblings. The parents get a much needed break, we have 24 hr nursing staff, and the kids get to be KIDS, not patients while they are at camp.

  4. matildakay says:

    Sounds like the Great Room Pastor has a way of relating to people that is sometimes lost in traditional services.

    I get a sense of restlessness in this story… Leaving the service because you can’t hear the violin, looking for peace at a bench where your mother was in pain, and thumbing the old hymnals as hymns wash over you.

    Even the title “the Idol Factory” suggests we’re looking in all the wrong places.

    God is walking beside us on our journey. Most times it’s us who forgets he’s right there with us.

    • Faith, mystery, God, hidden meaning in things…

      A lot of people leave out parts. I tend to wind them all together.

      I used to look at church as a place of worship.

      Now I think of it more as Civil War triage.

  5. Slade Ham says:

    I’ve been absent for a bit, and just skipped in to see what all I had missed. Happily, before I even got to the old stuff, there was new stuff from you.

    “…as if stale bread is good for the people.” Simple, and perfectly said. Though I can’t quite explain it, this whole piece really runs parallel to my mood today. Good read, “dude”.

  6. Elaine says:

    Thanx Nick I enjoyed the day spent with you in thoughts; and fancy flights of descriptive snapshots, I too am on the bench

  7. Connie says:

    Nick,
    Sometimes our souls are shrouded in sadness, our minds fogged with pain, yet we must keep getting out of bed and trudging thru.

  8. Gloria says:

    The third paragraph from the end made my eyes tear up.

    This is beautiful. And sad.

    I love that your sons are musicians.

  9. Connie says:

    Gloria,

    His sons are amazingly talented musicians.

  10. BakoMom says:

    I liked reading your piece. I felt a sense of anger and feeling lost. Going to bench and going back into service perhaps provided some clarity.

  11. Jeannie says:

    *hugs*

  12. chingpea says:

    a lot of things run through people’s mind at church and try to find a peace in that temple that they know deep down won’t exist there. don’t get me wrong, i love church for the comradery but it’s still very much like high school with the “cliques”.

    interesting how you’re there to enjoy everything but you’re searching, reminiscing, and trying to find peace of mind at least for the moment…

    sometimes, we tend to forget that God is always with us… rockin’ on a sunday morning or in meditation on a late night in a living room….

    • heck yeah! Thanks for your words. So true.

    • Peace of mind is important. Lately, I always find some of that in every church I walk into or pass. Just seeing a church, a mosque, a temple can put one into a frame of mind that is respectful, retrospective, inquisitive, and dare I say, god-fearing?

      Oh man, many churches (probably every one) is cliquish. I don’t worry about all of that anymore. I think maybe I used to.

      “Peace of mind.” You know me. I’m always mad about something. As I mentioned in another comment, this piece really is about: Did I go too far in my idol worship of family? I know I am overboard in my idol worship of Disneyland. But I’m just going to go ahead and keep on sinning there. 😀 Is there an idol factory in everyone’s heart? That’s really what this piece is about.

  13. Connie says:

    I felt as though you received your spiritual respite at the bench, but then again that was my interpretation.

  14. Di says:

    Love how you described everything. I felt like i spent a sunday morning there now!

  15. Matt says:

    Nice little meditation, Nick. And I agree with Gloria: that third paragrpah towards the bottom’s a keeper, for sure.

  16. Matt says:

    Well, taken out of the context of the rest of the essay, it *almost* functions as a nice, self-contained piece of flash fiction.

    Within the story, I like the juxtaposition of the fleeting hymns vs. the lingering memory of your mother. This is the exact sort of thing that a hymn is supposed to provide support for, yet here they seem as insubstantial as smoke.

    • Thanks. I didn’t like the words “she died”. I felt like I got lazy, or a bit afraid of getting too detailed about her passing. “She died” doesn’t really do her justice. But at the same time, I figured that people didn’t really need to know and it wasn’t integral to the story.

      I supposed one day people will say that about me. “He died.” And that will be it.

      But that’s OK. If I make it into someone’s TNB post post-life, that would be cool.

      • It’s a hard thing to explain as a writer… Your bound, of course, by sensitivity. Unless the person who dies is a horrible person, you have to be gentle and refined about it. But then as a writer you want to get to the heart of the matter. When Hunter S. Thompson killed himself, journalists were saying he “passed away” and you have to wonder what he would have made of that… He wasn’t one for polite euphemisms. He splattered his brains and skull fragments on the roof.

        And yes, it would be worth some post-life kudos to get a death mention on the TNB. I’ll keep that in mind if I ever hear you’ve passed away…

  17. Joshua says:

    I love your honesty, bro. Super rad to see all that God is doing in you right now. GR is more diverse than you might think. Ethnicity, creative expression, size, age, people’s personal history, addicts of drugs and addicts of monthly sales figures sitting side by side…. we are all over the map. I see it as a beautiful portrayal of God’s kingdom. A Feast filled with all kinds who have had their hearts scooped up by the costly gracious acceptance of Jesus.
    “Pass the Mashed Potatoes” Stoked you are feasting with us.

    -Your Mom would be proud of your boys and you too. You all carry her legacy.

    • I agree. There is definitely diversity. Just not that much in diverse ethnicity. It has to grow, and can.

      But that’s OK. It’s not about color. And I think people of all colors will dig the great room as they find it.

      Thanks for your kind words about my mom. She would say, “Josh is kewl.”

      Now I want some taters!

  18. reminds me of the the talking sofa from pee wee’s playhouse. Whats the word of the day……aaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhhhh!!!!!!!!!

  19. Connie says:

    It’s so odd to see your comment about ethnic diversity, since I am quite often one of two white ppl attending events, maybe we need to trade places?

  20. Nice one as usual Dr. Nick. *tips hat*

  21. Connie says:

    in my case “white” is… heinz variety. but skin is light and I only speak English, makes me an unpopular person in Kern County.

  22. Irene Zion says:

    This was a hard read, NL, a good read.
    Go sit on that bench and have a good talk with her from time to time.
    She’s listening.
    And her answers come softly with the wind.

    • Ah yes. The talking mom bench. She’s there, you know. At least it makes me feel good to imagine her there. And people from outside the church loving on her as the kindly folk know how.

  23. Joe Daly says:

    Gorgeous. Sometimes you go to a place to get something, and sometimes you go to give something, even if your gift is just sitting there.

    Love the bench as well. Very evocative piece. Now time to scroll up and read it again.

    • Your words were just magic to me: “even if your gift is just sitting there.” Beautiful. Thanks Joe.

      And a double read? I am honored. Really enjoyed your article today.

  24. Greg Olear says:

    I’d like to write more, but the NyQuil is starting to kick in, so: a moving piece, Nick; one of your best.

  25. Patty Wonderly says:

    Nick,
    Your writer’s voice is so clear in this piece. The shorter, choppy sentences allow me to feel your restlessness even while you try to fit in. I am right there with you, sympathetic to your inability to find your spot in this environment. Allusions to your deceased mother make me want to know more of the story.

    • Thanks Patty. Much appreciated. Not sure if I was trying to fit in. I’m just myself wherever I go. Thanks for reading my story. It’s just about me worshiping idols…

  26. Nancy Szepfalvi says:

    This style of writing is not the genre that I normally read and as such is hard for me to objectively critique, but here goes: Who is Nathan to you? What was this thing ‘shredding? This came across to me as disjointed. This excerpt left me with a lot of questions. If your intent was to give the reader a sense of the subjects agitation or restlessness, you succeeded.

    Nancy

  27. Erika Rae says:

    That bench, that bench. A powerful piece of this story.

    You did an expert job conveying your restlessness in this one. Not disjointed – restless. Perfectly sequential and understandable. So many powerful images. Almost like a waking dream.

  28. jmblaine says:

    ah, church.
    I made a deal
    with the LORD
    I’d go
    long as
    I didn’t have to
    go on Sunday morning
    coming down.
    “Sunday morning wasn’t my idea,” He said with a shrug.

    This was nice, Nick.
    always a strange mix
    feelings in church

    • Your hamburger piece actually inspired this one. Even though the events that transpired in this article occurred just last Sunday. 😀

      • jmblaine says:

        really?
        Wow.

        I’m still trying to find the right tone to talk
        about church and God and all that stuff.

        Complicated.

        • It’s tough. I don’t want to come across as preachy, a zealot or a god-hater. I say we just keep trying it. I have an older piece I want to write about a haunted church titled “Gee Whiz.” I might do that next… But, yes. Your work on here inspired this piece.

  29. I’m with a lot of the comments here. Your piece captures nicely the conflicting feelings of sitting down to a worship service, with the doubts and misgivings, but nonetheless seeking. I’ve spent a fair share of Sunday mornings feeling “torn up” as you say, though it’s been awhile as I’ve further cultivated skepticism about making spirituality organized. Still, it’s always good to hear the voice of someone seeking.

    • Your comment, like some of the others is very interesting to me. I don’t perceive myself as seeking in this piece, though other readers, as you have, do. My seeking God ended 25 years ago (whole other story). This piece is really about idolatry. The title “The Idol Factory” as well as the beginning and ending lines give it away as I wrote about idolatry in metaphors, using my own life as an example.

      As the article suggests, people are geared to worship. People worship Space Mountain, traditional ways, and so on. And I admit in the piece that I worship my kids performing on musical instruments and that bench to a degree. I think it’s just human nature.

      The question I really wanted people to ask was: “Did Nick’s worship of his family, music, and a talking bench go too far?” Or was it all reasonable? Who knows. In terms of seeking, I was just seeking to have that violin turned up. hahaha. Thanks for your response. It really made me think.

  30. Simon Smithson says:

    There’s a big movement over here towards the more excitatory kind of service; something about getting in the young, I think. I was taken to church as a kid, and it’s synonomous with a quiet, suburban kind of Anglicanism for me.

    Ah, well. The world changes.

    For some reason, this feels like a much more personal piece than you’ve written for a while, Nick – oddly, given that you’ve got lots of personal pieces around on TNB. I like it a lot.

    And I’m sorry to hear about your mother.

    • Thanks Simon. What happened to my mother was 12 years ago. I try to stay at peace with it. But the last she saw my kids, when they were little just before a Sunday morning service, they weren’t shredding in an indie rock band at the same church. It’s really fascinating to me as I sit and listen, and how proud I often think my mother would be of them.

  31. I’ve only ever been in churches two or three times (when forced or coerced) and until a relative dies I probably won’t be going back… But your post made me wonder… What’s the in-church etiquette for tweeting?

    Not that I’m blessed with a device capable of tweeting on the go, (I’d have to carry my laptop for that) but does the Bible have any advice on the subject? Or do they mention it in their sermons?

    I actually tweeted something the other day about arresting the pope, and I’m sure that would go down too well. But then again, it would be strange if they had specific policies regarding the tweet content… ie pro-church tweets are fine during any pause longer than five seconds, but anti-church tweets are banned on church property.

    • Becky says:

      Actually, since “Pastor” indicates protestantism of some kind, tweets about arresting the Pope may be entirely welcome, even encouraged.

      • Oh balls, my ignorance has been exposed again.

        • Becky says:

          Nah. Protestantism is only a matter of course in America (and even then, some places more than others) and a handful of Germanic/Scandinavian countries.

          It is entirely normal that most people anywhere else in the world would think of Catholicism first when they hear “church.”

          Although, it might interest you to know that there are a shocking number of Korean Lutheran churches (at least around here). When it comes to non-white Lutherans (not a huge group) Koreans enjoy a significant, if not majority, representation. I’m sure there’s some historical reason for this that makes perfect sense, but no matter how many times I see a sign with a bunch of Hangul followed by “ELCA” (Evangelical Lutheran church of America), I still get a little confused.

        • I’d like to take this chance to pretend it’s not my fault… But I’m actually keenly aware of the differences between Protestantism and Catholicism. Although I subscribe to neither religion, I did study them both in university – from a historical perspective, rather than spiritual.

          I’ve just been reading a lot about the Catholic church and spending time with Catholic friends (despite being a fierce atheist, I count incredibly pious people among my closest companions) and for some reason I made a silly assumption.

          I was going to mention with your last comment that I’m from Scotland, where the problem of sectarianism is utterly rampant. I really dislike the pope, for example, but I feel restraint in criticising him because whenever I think about anti-papal sentiment, I think of dumb bigots on the streets of Glasgow.

          One contributing factor in my otherwise strange choice of coming to Korea was that it technically has one of the highest atheist populations in the world… Except that people just often don’t officially subscribe to any religion. They’re really pretty hardcore.

          Koreans seem to have a reputation of being very Christian, even though it’s an entirely new religion to them. I hear jokes on American TV all the time where people say “After my Korean friend stopped talking about Jesus…” and so on.

          They tend to take religion pretty seriously, but I guess that’s true all over the world. You can expect to be accosted at your door or in bus stations, just like in the West. And whenever I’ve been to Koreatowns in other countries (thanks to stupid taxi drivers who assume that if you get off a plane from Korea, you’ll want to go to the nearest kimchi-retailer) and I see a lot of Korean churches.

          Anyway, my knowledge of Christianity extends to Protestantism and Catholicism. I really don’t know much about Lutherans. Oh, and the Moonies…

        • Becky says:

          Eh! Lutherans ARE protestants. The first protestants! 1517 represent!

          Though I do realize that, in your general homeland vicinity, Protestant usually means Anglican, that’s a whole Henry VIII thing. He didn’t like Lutherans one bit, and the legacy of Anglican protestantism being differentiated from Luther’s protestantism in the UK and surrounding areas has to do with him. Of course, Henry had no real problem with the Catholic church, other than that he didn’t run it. Hence his church’s striking similarities to Catholicism. Religions derived from his Church of England are usually referred to as Anglican, a branch of Christianity different from Protestantism (a vast and diverse group of denominations primarily descended from Lutheranism).

          Anyway…As Nick mentions below, some of Lutheranism’s differences from Catholicism are theologically major and others are minor to the point of being negligible. The net effect is, in many cases, an essentially more liberal church, female pastors, married pastors, absence of bloody Jesus, significantly decreased role of Mary…increased emphasis on worshipers having direct access to God (as opposed to needing to go through a clergyman/woman), and denial of transubstantiation. It’s tough to boil it down too one thing, but if I could, I would say most of the reforms were based on limiting the church’s ability to act as a governing/tyrannical force, which was the problem Luther was facing when he nailed his Theses to the church door.

          Incidentally, I am no longer an adherent…but it would appear they succeeded in making my confirmation lessons stick.

        • I always gave my mom crap because she said she grew up Lutheran in Iowa (40s and 50s). And having studied the Reformation in grad school, I always enjoyed learning about the churches in Europe splitting and splintering and evolving. I don’t ever put a date on Protestantism. It’s all vague. So many movements across countries. So much is vague. And the early sects. Some seemed to have more of a Protestant bent before Rome took over… Oh man, it is so hard to just write about this in 5 sentences without citing book after book and spouting historical interpretations. Call Dr. Harrie at CSU Bakersfield. She is a Reformation expert! hahaha… I loved those courses…

        • Becky says:

          As you say, TNB is really more of a place for the Cliff’s Notes version.

          1517 is the date for the 95 Theses, which is generally considered the “official” beginning of the Protestant reformation, which, as you allude to, Luther probably would have said was not a progression forward but a return BACK to the “correct” ideals and practices of Christianity. As I understand it, he never really intended to start a new church, just to fix the one he was part of.

          1517 is when whatever was simmering got serious, in a broad sense.

      • I should add that I feel very comfortable in both Catholic and Protestant churches. In fact, I spoke about this with Pastor Josh while chillin’ over some burritos the other day at a fast-food Mexican restaurant called Chipotle.

        Sure, Catholics pray to Saints. That’s mostly the beef, and a beef over showing Christ on the cross (and yes, Catholics believe in the resurrection. Why wouldn’t they?) And Protestantism is mostly sola fide (faith alone with the triune God). That’s a big sweeping brush stroke there. Protestantism is filled with many many denominations and endless schisms. Heck, read the book of Acts. There has been schisms since before the Pentecost over Jewish traditions, incorporation of Gentiles, etc. And that was when there were just tiny Christian sects and the “ends of the Earth” was considered Ethiopia. I imagine those same men trying to understand “Bakersfield.” Talk about another universe.

        Anyway, I don’t pay much mind to the Pope or to any protestant church leaders. They have responsibilities and that’s their business. I just know that people fail each other, even good people. And that’s OK, as long as they try not to stay corrupt. Presidents, fast food workers, popes, TNB writers, cops, teachers. You name it. Everyone gets torn up inside and a bit corrupt now and then. Especially here at TNB. That’s what makes for a lot of good writing, don’t you think?

        • Becky says:

          I think that’s true of a lot of protestants…a lot of Lutherans, anyway. I mean, it’s not N. Ireland over here or anything. Talking trash about the Pope is more a matter of friendly ribbing than anything else.

        • Ribbing is always good. But I know some “political-minded” protestant churches that go way overboard, constantly demonizing Catholics and democrats. It’s dumb. I’m guessing they’re using the political churches of the Revolutionary War era as their justification for such divisiveness.

        • Becky says:

          Well, Protestantism is a pretty general label.

          I mean, even within Lutheranism there’s aLOT of diversity with regards to relative levels of conservatism/liberalness.

          And I think there are equitable levels of demonization of not just conservatives, but the religious within liberal ranks, their major cover being that lower levels of religiosity among liberals makes it more difficult to pinpoint any on centralized institution or type of institution as the metaphorical “church” for that kind of behavior.

    • As for where I attend, there’s no anti-tweet policy. But being mean toward anyone, is, well, mean. So I’m guessing any pastor would be against negative tweets, just in the sense of, “What’s wrong?” and “How can we fix that”? I don’t think there would be any policies, or hatred, but rather an attempt at understanding and helping with reconciliation if needed.

      You can ask Pastor Josh yourself. He commented on here. And he tweets at JoshuaKirstine

  32. Becky: I disagree. I don’t think Pope bashing would be welcome.

    • Becky says:

      It was a joke.

      • I was multitasking when I wrote that. Sorry. My thoughts tend to get scattered and splattered when I’m on the phone, chatting, and maintaining TNB comments. lol!

        • Becky says:

          My own defensiveness comes into play.

          People assume that since I know a handful of things about religion and seem have an appreciation for religion, I must be religious, which then leads to the assumption that I am somehow a zealot and serious when I say things like that. That, in turn, puts them in “scold the believer” mode. Which is a stupid mode, anyway, but especially when it’s based on assumptions.

          I thought that was what you thought. Assumptions making an ass out of me, too, I guess.

        • Aw. Hugs all around. That’s all that’s ever needed. Although you’re a wild cat in your photo and might chew my foot off. Nom Nom Nom!

  33. Connie says:

    Nick, I was going to lay off the religious aspect of this piece however I will spew a bit.
    As a child I started going to church in a very strict Pentecostal Church, then Southern Baptist, Mennonite, back to Pentecostal and finally married a Catholic and converted .
    My take on religious differences in the churches I attended, protestants had better music but were nosier- wanted to get into your personal business . Catholics -lousy music – not really interested in your business but then again not as much fellowship.

    perhaps I am too simple , my personal beliefs are .. well personal, my practices are public.

    nice pot stirrer .

    • All of your observations may be true. But I have found in my conversations with the devout that they have just as many conversations with their fellow Catholics as I might have in let’s say, the Great Room at Olive Drive Church, or with Pastor Josh. I hear that the Catholic churches in Bakersfield are all a little different from each other depending on the needs of the individual. I don’t consider myself much other than a sinner. I don’t get caught up into being this or that.

  34. Maura says:

    What jumped out at me was the intense love you have for your sons. That love conquered all and I am so mystified at how that connection happens in your heart .. father /son , mother/ daughter all strong love . Bravo Nick !

    • But did my idol worship go too far? Do people in general go overboard with their inner idol factories? Soccer moms out of control. Parent groupies. Sons and daughters speaking to imaginary talking benches. Old people not giving up traditional ways because they are stubborn or refuse to see the power in power chords… I don’t know what’s too far or too much.

  35. Connie says:

    Each church has a personality formed by the members, each service has a different personality also formed by the members who attend regularly.

    • And a personality defined by their interpretation of the God-man relationship. And ever notice how churches have weird rules. “We don’t wear pants” “We do wear pants” “We have long hair” “We don’t have hair” hahahha. etc. I mean, it gets all interpretive. Transubstantiation or not? Grape juice or wine? chanting and hymns or no singing.

      Just give me INDIE ROCK! and I’m good. 😀

  36. Mary says:

    “Pastor Josh shakes hands like he’s one of the bros.” There’s something sickening about that sentence. Granted, it’s perfect and gets you exactly where it needs to go, so kudos there, but that Pastor Josh guy … yick. What a weird spiritual marketing ploy.

    • Marketing? No. It’s generational. That’s how me and a lot of people shake hands. I don’t take it that way at all. Josh is a cool mofo.

      • I should add that the service is relaxed. Coffees. Donuts. Jeans. T-shirts. That’s a guy handshake for guys. I never see ladies doing that. It’s like the way I would shake hands with Rich Ferguson or my sons. It’s a bro thing. Bromance all over… lol

      • Mary says:

        Really? Gosh, am I just letting my jadedness toward religion in general color my reading too much? I don’t know. I thought feeling like you were in a sports bar was not really a good thing. Then again, I have negative feelings about sports bars and bros. :-/

        • Me too usually. I see your point. I think such brommunication isn’t just for jerk drunks, frat weirdos, and chauvenists though. There are those of us who just do it. Like me and my kids. We’re just bro weird that way…

  37. Connie says:

    We all have rules and rituals that bring us comfort.
    For example I must stop whatever I am doing and give hubby a kiss before he leaves for work, however I am too superstitious to tell him to “be safe” I usually say something non-threatening such as “see you later”

  38. Connie says:

    I don’t care for mexican chicken, they tend to serve it boiled- blech.. grill it, fry it , bake it, but don’t boil it , bawk bawk.

    • It’s grilled at that one place in the marketplace. I get a chicken Ultimo burrito…. It’s next to Starbucks. You know the one… and they have Cholula sauce! A little dab on each bite. 😛

  39. Richard Cox says:

    I was struck by the same paragraph as Mary, though I liked “He says, “dude” every two sentences like Hugo on ‘Lost.'”

    I agree with what someone said earlier, about how certain churches and pastors have evolved to reach a demographic they might not otherwise, but something about it to me rings false. Something like “we’ll keep adapting our message to you as long as you please keep thinking of us as relevant.”

    On the other hand, it seems perfectly reasonable that as the society evolves, so should the worship practices.

    Your post was moving in an odd way. I liked it. I read it twice, which I don’t often do.

    • Thanks Richard. I really appreciate your double read. I was turned off by church for a long time until my kids kept telling me they were rocking out at a church service. I was skeptical. But I’m a big fan of indie rock. And a big fan of my kids. So I came for the music. Then Joshua Kirstine’s sermons started to grow on me. I don’t agree with everything he says. I did like what he said about the idol factory. And so I thought it might make a decent metaphor for a piece…

      It’s a controversial way to do church. But I figure it’s all about what works for individuals.

  40. Connie says:

    I only go to the MarketPlace on Wed nights, too far away for me to drive just to eat.

  41. mike gleim says:

    good to hear your thoughts!

  42. mike gleim says:

    I want more violin

  43. D.R. Haney says:

    Nick, is this the church I visited briefly when I was in Bakersfield for a few hours last summer?

    There’s an old church down the road from me here in Echo Park, and the other day, walking by it, I saw that the doors were open, and I wanted to go inside, just because it seemed so peaceful. Also, maybe I was reminded of attending church as a child — which is funny, because I used to hate it.

    • Same one. Different room. But yeah. Wish you could come just for the tunes cause you know how proud I am of my boys. They could be playing on toothpicks and I would be asking you to come listen… lol

      • D.R. Haney says:

        They’re very talented, no doubt. You know, you’re always a little dubious when people rave about their kids, but yours more than lived up to any advance hype.

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