Smells Like Church Spirit #1
Smells Like Church Spirit #2
Smells Like Church Spirit #2.5
In fifth grade I became friends with Al because of baseball. We lived one block away from each other in the neighborhood. Al and I played baseball in all of its forms. Pounch (our unique brand of wiffle ball), pitcher-catcher, “pop-em-up”, groundball, dice baseball, ping pong baseball, “the game off the garage,” computer baseball, Intellevision baseball, Atari baseball, and oh yeah, little league – we were on the same team. Were you to extract baseball from our friendship, I would dare say that little else would remain. Well, it’s not that baseball is all we did, but rather it was what named our relationship. We did other things totally unrelated to baseball as well. We did things like trade baseball cards – wait. No really, we played Dungeons and Dragons, stayed over at each other’s houses, and went to school together. We had a good friendship.
Al liked me because I was a good challenge in baseball, but also because I was honest, kind, and a loyal friend. I was fair and even unfair to his advantage sometimes. Through the years I never drank or smoked, or did drugs or partied or anything like that. He was the same way. I was a safe friend who had his parents’ approval and vice versa. Neither of us were too much into girls, but enough to, you know, make sure we knew where we stood and all, but neither of us were overtly obsessed with them. Playboys and girly magazines were not a part of this friendship.
In fact, I think Al’s mom wanted to adopt me. The fact that I already had parents threw a monkey wrench into her plans, but the way she smiled when I came over made me feel welcome and accepted. I think my mom had some adoptions plans for Al as well. Those never materialized either. But that was OK, we remained friends and are to this day, though we live in different places and don’t contact each other all that often. We’ll still play fantasy baseball every now and again.
We got into trouble, though, when we talked church. You see, since he was an Assemblies of God dude and I was a Church of Christ boy, I knew that he needed serious help. It really bothered me that my good friend had been under the influence of the false teachers and was in all likelihood going to Hell. So, I did the right thing, I argued with him about the one and only way to worship: acappella. I figured I’d start with the most important things and go down the line from there. Next was baptism, and none of this heretical baptism of the Spirit mumbo jumbo either – only the real baptism found in the Bible. I was going to tell him about true baptism, the only kind that really takes away sins.
So we argued and argued about singing only worship. He was so perplexed by this argument and with the energy I had behind it. Couldn’t he plainly see the truth? How could my friend who was a straight A student be so stupid when it came to God? Strange thing in these arguments is that we never actually used the Bible in our deep theological rants to each other. Looking back, it is a good thing we didn’t use the Bible since I would have had nothing to show him.
Since I couldn’t convince Al about the truth by mere conversation, I thought that if he had an experience of the truth then he would finally come to his sense. So I got him to come to church.
“Come Ye That Love The Lord…” rang out in four part harmony without the filthy contamination of those hideous instruments. I was glad we sang that song because I liked it and I figured that since Al claimed that he loved the Lord (even though I knew he really didn’t) that his sin would be exposed and he would confess, go forward and give his life to the Lord – for real.
After church was over, I asked him, really trying not to be too smug or sure of myself (though I couldn’t help it), “So, now what do you think of real worship?”
“What does the word ‘ye’ mean?” He asked. And when he said ‘ye’ he made quotes with his fingers and made a face like a monkey that just got poked in the butt with a stick. He was mocking me badly.
“Huh?” I was stunned. He just experienced true worship, so how could he have a question?
“Yeah, that one song said, ‘Come ye,’ I want to know what I sang.” Behind his taunts was an actual question.
“It means you,” I said quite unamused, “all of you.”
“There is something wrong with your music,” he said, feeling a little more comfortable with his critique than I thought was appropriate before God almighty.
This was a very strange exchange. And the older I get the more weird it appears. How did my deep theological thoughts, my love for my friend, and my concern for his eternal destiny get reduced to me defending the use of the word, “ye” in a hymn?
When I sort out my spiritual history, I find that there are things that smell so attractive that anyone would want to be a part of it. Who doesn’t want a loyal friend who is kind and honest? I learned that stuff in church and in my family. I also find that there are things that smell hideous and wonder how anyone tolerated me. Who wants a friend who is obsessed with microscopic and non-existent particles of theology? I learned to do this from my church. My loyalty to God and depth of spirituality was measured by the degree to which I could defend those fat sacred cows.
What I have been doing and will continue to do is to kill those sacred cows and make a fine smelling roast out of them.