In case you haven't figured it out, yes, I'm a fan of the J-E-S-U-S down in my H-E-A-R-T. In case you also haven't figured it out, I'm NOT so much a fan of the types of people that make us all look like a bunch of nut jobs, a la Jesus Camp and Ann Coulter. And yes, I'm happy to work against any misconceptions you and yours may have because of people going all fundamentalist on us. I happen to have a sense of humor, so I appreciate movies like Saved. If you don't have a sense of humor, this world would really be a terrible place to live. So I roll with the punches and enjoy a rigorous religio-political debate every now and again. And again. And again. Keeps me on my toes. And believe me, after you spend a summer living with two antagonistic atheist twins, nothing offends you. Nothing.
So, it was with cautious optimism that I went to my first Christian concert this past weekend. I am a fan of good music, regardless of the content (ok, well, sometimes the content makes it not so good in my eyes, but you know what I mean) or genre, and so yes, I happen to enjoy some Christian bands. Two of my favorites, Bebo Norman and Shane and Shane are touring together and playing in Flushing, Queens. So obviously my crew felt the need to go. So, on Saturday night eleven of us made the journey to Queens.
Ok, for those of you native New Yorkers, when I say it was far, you'll know I'm not kidding. We're talking PAST Shea Stadium to the very bitter end of the 7 train. And then a 20 minute walk. Through industrial wasteland. One of my friends asked if I felt the area in which we were walking was safe. Absolutely. You know why? Because I lived in West Philly for 4 years, so most anything seems warm and cuddly in comparison. And because there were no people around. And eleven of us. Totally safe.
First off, the church. Now, I kind of expected it to be a "mega-church." A la one of those gynormous southern churches with a big auditorium-style seating and a big stage (Disclaimer: if that's your thing, totally cool, but I'm sorry, I'm still going to make light of it). Only I also kind of expected we would be in the gymnasium or something, like a big open room of said mega-church, NOT the actual sanctuary. Oh, but yes. Straight up sanctuary, in big stadium seating movie-theatre style cushy seats. Ok, so fine. I can deal with that. I can also deal with the fact that it was a Korean Church and we eleven were maybe 11 of 50 white people there. We 11 were also probably in the top 10% age-wise. I can deal with that, too.
What I cannot deal with is the clapping. Now, it's totally appropriate and great to clap along to songs that are upbeat. Every once in awhile. But when you clap to every song, including slow songs, and NOT ON THE BEAT, you need to be thrown into a deep dark echoing hole somewhere to deal with your clapping on your own. Echoing claps back and forth across the sanctuary on and off beat- also not ok. Being the 10 people who are clapping on a slow slow song when no one else is clapping- nope, not ok either. Especially if you're sitting in the same row as me. General clapping at every possible moment of sound in a song- ultimately not ok. Unless it's the end of the song- clap away, whenever and however you want.
Don't hate me for saying this, because I mean it as a genuine question (as I was so taken aback), is it a cultural thing? I have never seen anything like it in my entire existence on this planet.
Seriously people, get it together.
Ok, so I'm not bitter or anything, I just had to get that out. I also have to say that the whole experience was kind of surreal for me. Again, I am all about different ways and means of spiritual expression and "get" that that's why there are different churches. I just thought I was going to a concert... not a half-concert half-sermony thing. No, I don't want to be inspired tonight. No, I don't want to adopt a child in a poverty-stricken village in Africa. I just want to listen to music. In fact, I will lump these things in with people at the other end of the spectrum who go on their own "sermons" about politics and anti-war moanings. I'm not paying you for your opinion. Just your music. Is that so much to ask? No.
Don't get me wrong, I'm totally down for an inspiring moving talk, a rockin worship session, or even one of those hands-in-the-air Hallelujah gatherings (Ok I'm totally lying, I was raised going to Catholic Mass and so I'm totally uncomfortable in those settings. That's why I like the Presbyterians. They seem to fit somewhere in the middle). But not while I'm trying to watch me a little concert action. There is a time and a place people. For clapping. For sermons. And for poverty-stricken African children. And it is not now.
But at least now I know. And it only took a 40 minute train and 20 minute walk out to Flushing, Queens to find out.
So I realize that I may be struck down by a bolt of lightning when I click "Publish Post" for the blaspheming that I'm doing right in the here and now. But you know what, lighten up people. God has a sense of humor. He invented flamingos, after all.