Path to Spirituality: Bible, Church, Bud Light

January 10, 2011

As you know, I’ve finished the Bible — all but Revelation — and so I’m moving to a new project.

After much deliberation, I’ve decided that from now until Christmas 2011, I will go to church on Sunday and dive bars on Tuesday, posting church blogs on Monday and bar blogs on Wednesday.

I hope to post from undetermined national and international locations. Prague and Argentina are high on my list as is Iceland, a fortuitous location suggested by a physic and friend who, as fate would have it, plans to go to Iceland in June. What are the odds?

Though you’ve noted my affinity for shock value, the church/bar project is about exploring the congruity of pew and stool. Both allow people to escape life, understand it, enjoy it, hide from it and surrender to it.

I’m anxious about this transition. Not the bar part, the church bit.  I read the Bible in at my own pace in solitude. But going to church requires a certain amount of scheduling (cringe) and talking to strangers. Yikes.

Yes, I talk to strangers for a living. I ask questions, people answer. I don’t like the idea of inverting this system. I want control. In dive bars, loosely defined as windowless edifices with no more than four domestic beers on tap — no one asks any questions. I walk in, people stare and go back to their bottles. They don’t ask about my personal life, my profession or my woes. In church, this is not the case.

Once I hit a certain comfort level with church, I’ll loosen up and take a bit from Pastor Noah, using myself as a mouthpiece to share problems that are not mine. (Noah talks about turning to someone in a movie theater and saying something like “Hi, I’m x and addicted to porn. Can you help me?” I will do this.)

I promise that after I run through 51 churches and 51 dive bars, I will read Revelation. Promise.

In the mean time, if you want to subscribe to this blog, please scroll to the bottom of the page. I can’t figure out how to move that up. I’ve tried. Always with the same result — a fascinating combination of expletives.

I hope you stick with me on this one. As always, questions, comments and criticisms are welcome. Email is biblethump@rocketmail.com. Twitter: @thumpme. Facebook.

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15 Responses to “Path to Spirituality: Bible, Church, Bud Light”

  1. Q. said

    I’m excited to see what happens and what conclusions you come to. And if you wind up in Arkansas, come see us! ^_^

    The second bit of your proposition is interesting. On the one hand, I believe that churches should be places people seriously can present things like an affair, an addiction or other issue and find help rather than condemnation, but the bit that bother’s me is the presentation of “other people’s problems.” Do you see what I mean? If you want a genuine response, I think the first step is to be genuine.

    But for the sake of an experiment, it’s an interesting proposal.

    • thumpme said

      If I end up in Arkansas I will definitely contact you!

      I understand what you mean. I’ll be careful with it. I’m more interested in Noah’s whole idea of being able to express that stuff in church but not in a movie theater. That a stranger in a church setting with understand and reserve judgement whereas one in a theater would not. So, we’ll see what I do with that. Maybe I’ll release some of my own demons though I’ll have to have some AMAZING experiences and feel extremely comfortable before I do that. I know we’ve talked about miracles but that really would be a miracle.

  2. Laura said

    Definitely Prague. Definitely. My favorite place in the world – absolutely gorgeous, especially at the right time of year and right time of day. Take me with you! 🙂

  3. Noah said

    oh man, i am laughing out loud reading about how you will take up my advice Ivy… i hope it’s not my church you do that at! too funny. i’m sure it won’t do me much good, but just in case a random reader is wondering what kind of crazy advice i gave you, just a bit of context will help:

    I want to make a point that the church experience of “hear sermon. sing songs.” is an incomplete experience. it’s not bad, it’s just incomplete. many people ‘go to church’, doing this on sundays and checking it off their list. church (which i’m mostly defining from Acts 2:42-47 which gives a description of the first church) entails preaching, singing, and also hanging out, eating together, caring for needs, and prayer. a.k.a. authentic community. you can’t do this all on a sunday morning, nor is everyone ready for it, but that doesn’t mean we can make excuses and not make it a priority. ideally sunday morning is the entrance to someone being able to find this, and the “this” will happened in scheduled and unscheduled times during the week. this will look different in different churches but if they’re not being intentional about it, i doubt it’s really happening. and in these spaces, you ought to find the people you can talk to about real life issues like a serious addiction to porn, or substance abuse issues, or marriage crisis, etc. when the need for those conversations arise, and also find people who will visit you in the hospital, lend you money, etc. as need arises.

    side note: there are some churches where you’ll find this type of community on a sunday morning, but they will be much smaller intentionally. this is living room style versus auditorium style. you probably can’t do this with more than 30-40 people and even that is too many. not saying we should sell out, but there is a practical reality to being sustainable financially in order to keep a full-time qualified pastor on board (if that is a priority for that church), that you’re not going to be able to do with 30 people. which is a logistical reason the ‘living room’ style community gets shifted mid-week and that Sundays can point new people towards that as a core value.

    but most don’t define church this way and then they say that they are doing church because they hear preaching and they sing songs and i say B.S. to that, you’re doing 1/3 of church. it’s ok if you’re on a personal growing path towards the other 2/3 but don’t define the 1/3 you’re doing as all of what church is supposed to be, and don’t be apathetic that the other 2/3 isn’t essential.

    • Laura said

      I’m with Noah on this one. Many (most?) of the expressions of church that you’ll see out there are so ridiculously limited and narrowly focused on what happens in a certain building for a couple of hours a week. While that’s not (hopefully!) an incorrect expression of who God is and who the church is, it is definitely an incomplete expression. The kind of intentional community of people who are deeply invested in one another’s lives and in what God is doing in one another’s lives and in the larger world is what church is REALLY about.

      While I don’t want to even give the impression that I’m claiming my own specific faith community is perfect in this kind of expression of church (far from it!), I do think we’re moving along in the healthy and helpful process of learning to become this kind of community. If you’re ever in Abilene, Texas (come make a visit to Preacher Mike – I’m one of his TAs for a freshman Bible class at ACU), I’d love to meet you and have you meet the members of my community. It’d be something different from your typical Sunday morning experience, but I think it could be good for that very reason.

    • thumpme said

      I’ll have to find some of those “home churches.” I’ll be in Michigan for a few weeks so I’ll definitely come by.

  4. Noah said

    another downer of the experiment Ivy is that to get a good feel for community, you’ve got to give it some time. a core to our church’s DNA is our Community Groups… I try to talk about them in the visionary way of what they are supposed to accomplish, but also ask people to be patient and understanding that it takes time to build friendships and get comfortable with people. It also takes a level of maturity to learn to love people that get on your nerves, persevere through this, etc. Day 1 in a Community Group should look a lot different than Day 100 as far as comfortability / transparency level. It still would be worth it for you to check it out to get a better feel for what “church” is beyond the Sunday morning event, I think it’d just be important to keep that in mind.

    To be overly-clarifying, my initial point about churches and movie theaters is that I think most American churches have become EXACTLY LIKE movie theaters. Generally speaking, you can’t walk into a movie theater OR a church and have a space to get help on real issues, as both are very similar spectator experiences and not community experiences. My point is, you’ll be utterly disappointed if you bring this question up in most church settings, like you would in a movie theater, because they aren’t geared to respond to that.

    • thumpme said

      I get it but I don’t have the time to do the community group thing. This project is church — different denominations — and dive bars. I get the community thing, but I need snapshots. I’m one person with a million things to do.

      • Noah said

        i’m totally with you Ivy on realistic time availability & snapshots, and i think it will make for a great (& entertaining!) project. just wanted to bring up the community piece to give a bit more context to your reflection/conclusion time

      • thumpme said

        Agree. Found community with the Baptists…for a minute. Up later today.

  5. Quiara said

    What will you do if you do find an open, welcoming place that has people who will genuinely be open to helping you through/beyond whatever burden you choose to share/present?

    • thumpme said

      I will accept their help as long as they deliver the message without pulling in God or Jesus. That makes me feel like they’re trying to convert me. Also, I have a hard time with love. Working on it. Can give it, hard to accept.

  6. […] never stay in Colorado. I’ll never read the Bible. I’ll never go to church. I’ll never get married. I’ll never get divorced. Never say never. Lesson […]

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