Let me be frank. I am not a very cool person.
“Pshaw!” you say. No, really. I kid you not. Point of fact, I am so un-cool that I assume people in my blog’s target audience use the word “pshaw”.
If coolness were money, I would be one of those clowns that looks like an “old timey” hobo with the painted-on frown, pulling out his empty pockets and looking forlorn. Although I have no idea how much dough those clowns pull in a year, so maybe that image is less than accurate. I’m not very cool, is what I’m saying. So you can imagine that, as I explore what a life of following Christ can look like, I try to avoid any semblance of being lame.
Disclaimer – Anyone who reads WTFaith.com is automatically excluded from any kind of lameness based on beliefs, creeds, daily bath rituals, fashion, music choice, use or non-use of current slang, or watching Gossip Girl. Here’s your free pass. Everyone gets one.
That being said, I used to think that Christians were super lame. And from a secular perspective, that’s not a hard conclusion to jump to. After all, Christians seemed to spend a whole lot of time focusing on what they can’t do instead of what they can do, and it appeared to me for a long time that the list of can’ts was a lot longer than the list of cans. They dressed up in geeky little dress shirts and wore geeky little ties and not a bit of it was ironic. Every Sunday they would stand and sing and hold up their hands, as if they were all listening to a live cover of “Free Bird” but forgot to bring their lighters with them.
Like Gollem with his ring, I have always hoarded whatever coolness I could lay claim to. Even today, I protect it and nurture it because, let’s face it, it’s not exactly raining “awesome” on me day in and day out. So when I was searching for churches in my community, I did so with a certain amount of trepidation. I wondered how much of my precious, precious cool I was going to have to leave at the door.
Then I came across my current church’s website, and I saw a picture of this guy:
This is Aaron Boothe. Aaron runs the worship service at Hillside Church in Duluth, MN. He plays the guitar like I wish I could. He sings and does a little dance like Dave Matthews when he’s rocking out. He plays songs about Jesus Christ every week, he declares the glory of God without a trace of irony, and he is way cooler than I am. Aaron Boothe and lameness are like oil and water, Whigs and Tories, nature and a vacuum . . . they abhor each other.
Seeing Aaron on the website’s staff page was pretty darn reassuring. If it’s possible for someone on church staff to be awesome, it must open up a door for me, right? Maybe I could sneak my way in. At least, it seemed like it was worth a more in-depth look.
So I snuck my way in. And even there, at this awesome little church in the heart of downtown Duluth, I suffered a little bit of culture shock. Let me elaborate – at the time of this post, I’ve been attending church for maybe seven weeks. Here’s a little something I started a few weeks ago – I made lists of things that I was uncomfortable doing in a church context, and a list of things I was completely comfortable with. I wanted to keep track of my faith journey, and my thought was that I could maybe watch items move from one list to the other. Some of the things I was uncomfortable with were “singing,” “saying ‘Jesus’ instead of ‘Yeshua’”, and “crying in front of people.” Now, I am gaining a certain amount of comfort with singing along during worship service, and “Jesus” is just more recognizable than “Yeshua,” but I still haven’t gotten to a place where I would want to be seen crying in church. To be fair, I haven’t felt any urge to cry in church, but I’ve seen people doing it.
Why am I worried about crying in church? I don’t know. Is it because I’m a man? Or is it because my background is so strongly secular? Again, I don’t know. But it’s clear to me that there are still some things that people do in church that I feel, rightly or wrongly, aren’t something that I, myself, can do. Maybe I’m focusing too much on cool. I mean, I don’t know what passed for “cool” in biblical-era Nazareth– indoor plumbing? chrome camel shoes? a kick-ass burkha? jamming out on the harp? – but I am pretty sure people didn’t follow Jesus because of how trendy he was. Although he did throw wicked parties (John 2:1-11, check check-it), which just goes to show that some things are always rad.
So why bother worrying about cool? Lately I’ve been joking about it. Anytime Brandi or myself does something that is so saccharine, so positive, so enthusiastically uplifting that we can’t help but comment on it, I’ll joke and pray out loud for God to anesthetize me to feeling as lame as I surely must be becoming. I mean, the other day I actually said the words, “Man, this day is killing me. I just want to go home, make a cup of tea, and read my Bible, you know?” I mean, I said that. In the past two months, I seem to have squandered away what little cool I started with and have morphed into the Church Lady.
But that’s alright. I don’t feel lame, even though I logically assume I must be. I feel great, actually. If my average, every-day happiness before finding Hillside Church was a four on a scale of one to ten, I’d say that I’m now cruising at a six. Which isn’t hugely dramatic, but it’s real. Coolness is ultimately about perception, and reality is something that exists regardless of perception. But this all has me wondering, and I’d like to get some chatter going on this blog.
So chatter, will you? Here is what I would like to know from you, the 1.4 people reading “What the Faith” – is there something that people do at church that you can’t bring yourself to do? Was there ever such a thing? If so, how did you get over it (assuming you did)? I would love to hear from you guys, and I promise that any comment that does not reference genitalia will be approved. (I’ll approve maybe half of those referencing genitalia, but only in medical terms – and certainly not if it’s done for laughs. Jesus ain’t no joke, son.)