Sunday, September 21, 2008

Revivalist Redneck Rampage

(UPDATE: I just fixed a typo in this one that drastically altered the meaning of a sentence. Normally I don't point out my frequent corrections, but this was a doozy that completely reversed what I meant to say. I'll point it out when it shows up, several paragraphs from now. Look for another stretch of italics.)

There are several reasons why I chose the church I attend, and that decision is reaffirmed on a regular basis.

At first, of course, I started attending this particular church for what's probably the most common reason: I had a friend who went there. (There's a lesson there for us Evangelicals.) That friend was the one who originally made me realize the difference between nominal Christianity and genuine faith. It was only natural that he steered me toward his own church, and that I made it my own.

My continued attendance there has not been due to habit or blind adherence, however. After starting to attend there and realizing that genuine faith must be fed and continue to grow, I went away to university. Over the next few years I got a degree in religious studies (with an emphasis on Biblical studies), attended several different churches from a few different denominations for anything from a single visit to extended periods, and took a correspondence course from the Knights of Columbus in Roman Catholic theology that purported to be the equivalent of the first year of seminary theological training undertaken by Catholic priests.

So, it's fair to say that I'm equipped to critically evaluate that first church. I'm not a motherless duckling who imprinted on the first football that was dragged by.

When I came back from university, I took a long hard look at the church I had previously attended. There was a new pastor, and some changes in the membership from when I was last there. For one thing, the friend who originally invited me had long since moved away.

After much prayer and consideration, I stayed. I evaluate a church on one basis only: whether the word of God is proclaimed and taught there. I don't care what kind of facilities, programs or music they have. I don't particularly care whether the preacher is dynamic. Those things are all fine, but ultimately I don't care about anything except whether the doctrine that is proclaimed from the pulpit and (probably more importantly) in the Sunday School classes, home Bible studies, and inevitable committee meetings is true to Scripture.

My church fits that bill. Unity in essentials but liberty in nonessentials is a great philosophy for a congregation. The first essential is an answer to the question of whether the Bible is to be taken seriously as God's word. Most modern churches answer no, implicitly or explicitly. My church has answered yes. Our next essential follows, and is very simple: having answered yes to the first question, what we consider "essential" is to be determined solely by Scripture.

I don't expect my church (meaning here the people who comprise the congregation, including the pastors and deacons, who are not "above" the rest of us) to be perfect. I'm certainly not. However if doctrine were ever preached or taught there that was contrary to Scripture, and after discussion it was defended and adopted as an "official teaching", I would be gone in a heartbeat. I don't think that will ever happen, because I expect that the vast majority of our members and adherents feel exactly the same way.

All this is preamble to another reason that I love my church. Yesterday we held an official, church-organized-and-endorsed men's event: a trap shoot and barbeque.

Seriously, how can you get more redneck, in the best possible sense of the term, than a bunch of conservative Christians (that's "Bible-thumpers" for those of you in blue states or red provinces) going out in the woods to fire shotguns and eat red meat? Note that this was unapologetically a men's event; the ladies weren't invited along. Not that we would have turned any away if they'd decided to show up, but we're politically incorrect enough to expect that none of them would be particularly interested. (My egregious typo was in the previous sentence. The first word was accidentally rendered "Note", as opposed to "Not". That obviously completely changed the meaning from what I intended.) Similarly, when a "crafts night" or somesuch is held at the church, it's promoted to the ladies. Speaking as a male, I've never been offended by my exclusion.

About 16 of us came out (including a few visitors who accepted invitations). A good time was had by all. To my surprise, I actually managed to hit several targets. I think I fired 25 rounds all told, and probably hit on about half a dozen of them. Considering that until today I hadn't actually fired a gun in the last three decades or so, and that I'd never fired a shotgun, I don't think that's too bad.

I hope we have another of these sometime; at the very least, it should become an annual event. Since we're probably the only congregation north of Mississippi or so to do this sort of thing, it would be a shame to let the opportunity slip away.

Enough rambling. Here's a picture of me taking down a clay pigeon. This is a screen capture from my digital camcorder, and after the capture and resizing for upload it may be hard to tell, but trust me: in the original full-size jpeg, you can clearly see small chunks of the shattered target in the sky. Too bad you can't see smoke coming from the barrel, which is the only thing that I think could make this picture any cooler.


HomeSchooler said...

Those northern NB women just don't know how to have fun! I can think of plenty of women who'd have a blast (yes, I was tempted to say "bang") shooting at things. Hmm... but I think they'd all be my relatives. Come to think of it, outside of my relatives, I don't know any women who'd want to come along on a trap shoot. We must be one weird family...

RebelAngel said...

Dude! How cool is that! Do I count as "north of Mississippi" being in the state of Mississippi. I would go if we had one. I would love for my church to do that sort of thing.

Too bad it is too early to arrange one for this Friday when we are descended upon by the city-folk media and that circus known as a Presidential Debate.

Can you just see the Secret Service going nutso as shot guns start going off just outside town?

*sigh* Too bad. That is the only thing I can think of that would make this event you speak of being cooler than what you had.

Zirbert said...

Rebelangel - the Mississippi reference was put in as a little tip of the hat to you.

I debated which state to name, trying out the sound of a few to see which was funniest. Yes, I actually sit around debating which exact word is funniest in a given joke, much to the chagrin of my wife, who has to listen to a lot of "Which of these is funnier - this one or this one?". Kind of like the linguistic version of an optometrist.

I decided that Mississippi worked at least as well as any other, and thought you might enjoy the reference. My implication was that I could see this sort of thing taking place there without even being seen as unusual, which I mean as a compliment.

I noticed last night that because it was a nice sunny day, I could see a bit of a line of demarcation where my collar had been (I'm normally pretty pale).

That's right. A single afternoon of shooting and eating barbeque actually made my neck a little redder.


RebelAngel said...

You know, I thought it might be a nod this way. And you are OBVIOUSLY a Canadian. South of the border things are always referred to as either East or West of the Mississippi (River). "This is the best (biggest, longest, driest...) ________ east/west of the Mississippi." You certainly do qualify as north of here though.

If I may put on my sociology teacher's/fact nit picker hat...I can see a church doing something like that in Tennessee, maybe even rural Kentucky. No farther north than that, though. At least, not east of the Mississippi. ;)

Unfortunately, many churches around here (not my own, I don't think) would look down on this as a red neck thing to do. "One mustn't encourage stereotypes now. Our state has enough trouble getting respect without proving everyone right by such behavior."
No one would say it, but it would be thought if the motion of a shoot/BBQ outing were brought up at a business meeting.

Bleh, I prefer my church where we are free to wear jeans (though I generally don't) and the pastor has begun his last few sermons with "Some of you may not like this but here is what the Gospel says..."

Note (LOL)- I realized you had a typo. That sentence stuck out as not fitting the rest of the paragraph and I figured it out. Me being public schooled in Missippy an' everthang.