Jerry Springer At My House

Tonight I witnessed a scene out of Jerry Springer outside my apartment building. There was screaming and shouting, irate accusations and fluid profanity. Apparently the guy had been cheating on his girlfriend, but in his defense he and this other girl weren’t having sex yet. Apparently that makes it all okay. The girlfriend kept talking about trust and her baby–to which the guy kept correcting, “Our baby!”

Perhaps this is why commitment is important. Apparently it matters who you have sex with and who you have children with. Odd that some people never realize this until they’re screaming at each other on the front porch while the neighbors gawk.

Purge Something

We live in a culture of sex. We’re preoccupied with sex and just about everything we do gives way to sex. Even the family is being tossed away for the one night fling. Sex is expected. It’s normal. It’s the one constant.

You turn on the TV and sex is everywhere. And I’m not just talking about sitcom single moms and their daughters sleeping with their respective boyfriends. I’m not just talking about the teeny-bopper dramas with the Dawson River kids sleeping in each others’ beds.

I’m talking about the Old Navy commercial where they strut around in loose, tight fitting clothing, selling sex. It causes men to ogle the models and wish their current fling dressed like that. It makes women feel inferior, feel the need to have the lowest hip huggers, the highest shirt, show off more skin. It’s the Bally’s commercial where the camera angle is designed to show butts and boobs sticking out like that’s the goal of exercise.

Walk around in any public place and you see a bunch of insecure people checking one another out. The girl’s wearing a tight fitting dress that barely covers her breasts and the guy on her arm is checking out the girl across the way, then chuckling about the last overweight passerby.

We have no shame. We have no integrity. We have the farthest thing from a healthy self image.

We’re convinced that beauty is in the eye of everyone else. We have to paint ourselves up, cram ourselves into the right outfits, and strut our stuff. No one seems to care about character, about personality. Bra size, waist size, and muscle mass is suddenly the key to relationships. Why do we even call them relationships anymore. They’re little more than encounters. Maybe even repeat encounters, at best. And we wonder why the divorce rate is so high. The only reason it isn’t higher is because people have stopped trying marriage, so there’s fewer people to end their marriages.

Beauty is a hard, tanned body and shuddering sex. Too bad the glossy pages of Playboy and the edited scenes of Cinemax are the farthest thing from reality. Instead we have playboy-bunny-wannabes laughing with their latest boy toy, sucking down fatty foods and purging in the bathroom while the hunk of the hour contemplates the intricacies of panty removal during the back-seat fandango.

Society needs to purge something else.

Like a Song

But I won’t let others live in hell
As we divide against each other
And we fight amongst ourselves
Too set in our ways to try to rearrange
Too right to be wrong, in this rebel song
(from ‘Like a Song’ by U2)

Hundreds of others have probably seen the same thing in these words, but I just discovered this song the other day. These words remind me of myself. A younger me, vibrant and vocal about the inconsistencies in my church and longing for the church to be what it’s supposed to be. Reassuring that I’m not the only one with such feelings.

Thoughts on Liturgical Worship

I’ve noticed that liturgical worship is much more communal. The words and prayers are set out in the liturgy, allowing the congregation to participate as one. The congregation even confesses as one, reading the same generic prayer of confession. This is in stark contrast to my upbringing in the Baptist church, where everything is personal and private.

The differences abound. In the Episcopal church I’ve been attending I’ve found the liturgy refreshing. I take part in a mass confession, and actually confess my sins to God. The danger is that it will become meaningless through repetition; one day I may just mumble through the words and not realize what I’m saying. That’s what my Baptist self says. But my Baptist self was never put in a position where confession was a weekly ritual. My Baptist self was rarely given the opportunity to confess, thus it happened rarely.

It’s an interesting concept. Communal practices can easily become mere ritual. But the individualistic approach puts much more responsibility on the individual, and the result is often a lack of those very practices.

This leads me to believe that the Baptist approach to Christianity is more American. The Baptist denomination is about the individual. They are rarely confronted with the kinds of things liturgy brings every week through communal response. In my experience Baptists turn to the potluck for community.

Just a few completely biased and not fully thought-through ideas on denominations.


Does it give away my age or my social standing that these thoughts are always based on something that’s so last week? You only see me talk about movies after they’re on video or have hit the cheap theaters. Maybe I’ll start a trend of people not recognizing pop culture until it’s old hat.

Tonight I watched Josie and the Pussycats. It’s a great movie. It’s got an addictive soundtrack featuring Kay Hanley, former member of Letters to Cleo. The whole movie is a spoof on pop culture and the movie industry. It’s great until you realize that Universal Pictures probably got paid for every single goof ball product placement in the movie. That’s the ultimate joke. had a great review, so I won’t waste my breath. But despite the mixed messages of global domination, it’s a fun movie.

Architectural Equivalent of Fast Food

I don’t want to live in a house that’s the architectural equivalent of fast food. Right now I live in a neighborhood that has a lot of diversity. The houses have character. They all look different, some of them radically so. One looks like the bungalow from Snow White and the Seven Dwarves. Another looks like one of the flat-roofed buildings of the American southwest.

And I don’t want my house’s yard to be part of an unending chain of unsustainable, biologically defunct ecosystem. When the lawn mower is the most productive herbivore and I have to motivate it with sweat, cursing, and gasoline, it’s not the best arrangement. Granted flowing fields of green grass are great for children to run through, but that’s what parks are for. And most yards around here don’t have enough square acreage to support more than one bored, lonely child. Unless of course you have one of those inflatable swimming pools, in which case you can entertain half the block.

There’s something about suburbia that doesn’t thrill me. When the fast food joints begin replicating themselves every ten miles you start to wonder what happened to all the character. The small business is a dying breed, and you can see it in the outskirts of every city. It’s the no man’s land between downtown and suburbia, and it’s the only place where small businesses are left. And most of them are on their way down. Urban sprawl is the new American way. Miles upon miles of concrete highway with corporate glut at every exit ramp. One of these days there won’t be any open space left.

Do I sound a little pessimistic? Maybe a little delusional? A little to extreme? Perhaps so. But sometimes it’s necessary when people have been swallowing the same old line for so long without ever stopping to wonder whose pockets are being lined and whose soul is being auctioned off.

Will the Dream Ever Come True?

Slavery ended over 100 years ago. The Civil Rights movement was 35 years ago. Yet racism is still a part of us. Apparently when they fought for Civil Rights they only meant for us to treat one another civil. Beating the crap out of one another wasn’t looked too highly upon anymore.

But I wonder when the day will come when we can actually live together. When we can do more than tolerate one another. And a lot of people have a problem doing that today. Stereotyping seems to be the only way we can deal with one another. When a white person sees a black person they get scarred. When a black person sees a white person they call racism. And that’s my stereotype of the issue.

It’s such a stupid issue that you can’t even talk about it. What words am I supposed to use? White? Caucasian? Black? African American? It doesn’t help that some words are acceptable for some people, but not for others.

It’s like there’s no way to win. Sometimes I wonder if Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream ever has a chance of coming true on this earth, or if he was looking beyond this sinful planet.

Missing the Point

Sometimes it troubles me so much that the church doesn’t have a clue. Bono calls us squeakies. Sometimes we’re so self-righteous we forget about the basics. We’re so caught up in the fact that something is a sin that we forget all about the basic command to love.

But the greatest of these is love.

Certainly the sin is wrong. There’s no way around that, and I’m not suggesting there is. But love should be the order of the day. Not judgment. Not gossip. Unfortunately Christians often miss that point. The basic tenant of Christianity and we forget about it.

Sometimes I wonder if the frustration is compounded by our own feelings of self-righteousness. I am right, therefore your viewpoint is wrong. I think love is the better approach, therefore your approach is wrong. You think emphasizing the consequences of sin is important, therefore my approach is wrong. It’s a simplistic example, mixed with the sins, oversights, and just plain mishaps of humanity.

Sometimes I just wonder if God looks down on us and laughs, always thinking we have the right answer, always claiming that our answer is the way God really sees things. I wonder if God smiles as he sees how each one of takes a bit of God’s truth and calls it our own, then adds to it our own biases and preferences until it’s not simply God’s truth anymore. It’s become our truth, and it’s become tainted.

I think when we get to heaven we may find it very ironic when we figure out just who was right and who wasn’t. I also think that at that point it won’t matter to anyone.

Familial Extinction

Sometimes I wonder if the family is becoming extinct. One day it will show up as part of a display in the natural history museum, with mannequins playing the part of mommy and daddy, and the little children. Invariably a dog and cat will be in the background of the display.

The other day I realized that among the marriages of my parents and their siblings, only 20% of them are still together. That’s an 80% divorce rate. A little higher than the national average, and I can’t help but wonder if the national average is climbing.

I can never help but wonder what causes such familial unrest. It seems the American concept of individualism has quickly degraded to selfishness. We no longer understand sacrificial love or the common good of the community. We only understand me; my wants, my needs, my desires, my passions, my dreams, my hopes.

Such thinking is fueled by our very society, where advertising becomes culture in a vicious downward spiral. Yesterday I saw novelty T-shirts at the department store featuring the ad slogans on TV. Kitsch is cool and you’re now a walking billboard. Such thinking is fueled by malls where stores don’t simply sell products, they sell philosophies as well. Such thinking leads to the discarding of relatives who don’t support the cause, no matter how close the relation: brother, sister, mother, father, husband, wife.

But simple selfishness can’t be undermining half of all marriages in this country. There has to be something more. Perhaps it’s laziness. If there’s one thing I’ve learned in my seven and a half months of marriage it’s that marriage is hard work. And I don’t mean roll-up-your-sleeves hard work, although it involves plenty of that. Marriage involves the kind of pride-swallowing sacrifice that is just plain hard to do. You have resist every bodily urge to lash out, to scream, to bicker, to argue, to nit-pick. You have to resist the urge to throw up your hands and retreat another room of the house. You have to grapple with the negativity that quickly encroaches and can squelch a marriage in a heartbeat.

Perhaps our modern laziness encourages us to take a dive rather than work it out. After all, taking a dive means a new start, which means another trip to the mall for a new philosophical outlook. My Gap approach to life didn’t work, perhaps I’ll try an Old Navy.

But whatever the reason for our inability to hold a marriage together, we’re leaving a wreckage of children in our wake. Children who will grow up with the kind of emotional baggage that would weigh an elephant down. Children who will have seen the example of laziness or selfishness or whatever-ness and will follow like trained monkeys, yet rebelling in their own individual way. A generation of children will grow up with live-in boyfriends for dads, live-in girlfriends for moms, and we’ll wonder why they end up on Jerry Springer. We’ll wonder why sex is so cheap and commonplace, we’ll wonder why babies are abandoned in dumpsters, we’ll wonder why children don’t obey their parents.

One day a neat and tidy explanation will adorn the museum display. Social scientists will have pinpointed the problem and an intern will write the placard copy. Nondescript visitors will read the sign, chuckling to themselves at that once quaint notion of a family. Their significant-other-for-the-week will squeeze their hand, and they’ll move on, calling for the rent-a-child they took out for the day.