Friday, April 28, 2017

Ten Things I've Heard in the Church: Sadly, Only One is a Lie

Ten Things I Heard in Church:  Sadly, Only One is a Lie!

Hey, you may have heard about the meme going around on Facebook, where you list ten bands you’ve seen, with one of them a lie.  Crusty could certainly throw down in this area.  COD spent seven years with Toad’s Place in New Haven, CT, just a short drive away and saw all sorts of bands there.  Crusty then lived in the Boston area in the mid 1990s, when places like the Middle East in   Cambridge, the Rathskellar in Kenmore Square, and the Paradise on Commonwealth Ave all had great acts coming through – let alone the places on Landsdowne Street. Kenmore Square now makes me feel like I’m in Toronto, it’s all shiny and clean and there are no record stores but all sorts of shops my grandmother would have liked.
Favorite show: They Might Be Giants, September, 1990.

COD did not post on this meme, in part because he’s also a contrarian (if this is your first time on this blog, just scroll through a few old posts).  But the internet being the internet, awesome variations on the meme started popping up.  Crusty’s personal fave was “Ten Preachers I have Heard…and one of them is a lie!”

There would seem to be two aspects at the core of this meme, perhaps which is why it became so popular.  One is upending expectations:  people may think of you one way, and discover something about you perhaps that they didn’t know.  Especially if we only know someone through social media; the very acronym IRL (look it up)  demonstrates the varying degrees of connection virtual relationships we can have.  After suffering through this blog, and not being cursed through knowing Crusty IRL, you might be surprised to know that COD for instance, has seen the Village People four times.  Another variant on this is the “Two Truths and a Lie” ice-breaker game, where you say three things about yourself, one of them a lie.  COD sometimes wins this game because he always states as one of his facts, “I was a cheerleader in high school.”  People always think that’s the lie, perhaps because it seems incongruous with how people
Still have the megaphone.
perceive Crusty, but it’s actually true ( GO BIG GREEN! ). Then there's the related "I Never" drinking game, where you say something you never did, and anyone who has done that has to drink.  It can get into Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf levels of revealing dysfunction if you have a bunch of people who know one another pretty well.

Another aspect which perhaps makes this popular is the humblebrag aspect to it: look at all the awesome things I have done, all the awesome bands I have seen.  This shows I am more hip/cultured/urbane/cooler than you.  There’s nothing wrong with the humblebrag in moderation, so long as one isn't overbearing or annoying about it – we all do it, in varying degrees, and there’s nothing wrong with having a life worth living and sharing that. 

But the opposite of the humblebrag, friends, is in part what this blog is all about:  we can always use social media to share those aspects of ourselves that we want to share with the world, that make us feel better about ourselves, that show our best self.  But part of being fully authentic is being willing to shine a light on aspects where we may have fallen short, or where we need repentance, or even name things we are perhaps unwilling to discuss.  Someone in Crusty’s congregation asked him why he didn’t end his sermons with an “Amen” like almost all other sermons that person has heard.  I replied, “Because ‘amen’ means to affirm or support.  I don’t always expect you to agree or even like what I preach, so it seems an intrusion or imposition for me to use the pulpit to force that opinion on you.”

So, in the spirit of shining a little light, Crusty is offering his own variation on the meme with...

(BTW, isn’t this one of my best ever burying the lede?  You have had to wade through all of this to get to the damn list?  Don’t show this blog post to OMOCOD, Official Mother of Crusty Old Dean.  She was a newspaper reporter for 25 years and wrote prose so crisp and to the point she might not be able to handle this blog.)

So here's the list.  Either things I have personally heard myself or people have shared with me. 


1.         A bishop, to a 16-year-old reporting sexual misconduct at her church camp by one of the counselors:  “There’s nothing I can do since this is a he-said, she-said thing.  And I can’t discuss this again with you in the future without an attorney present.”

2.         A parish discernment committee, to a candidate for ordination:  “We’ll note the fact that you said you had to ask the bishop for permission to give us access to raw scores from your MMPI and the psychiatrist's written notes as you not fully complying with this process.”

3.         Bishop, to a person to who has come to discuss ordination: “Hey, thanks so much for bringing yourself forward for ordination.  We’ll try to make this process as open, transparent, and supportive as possible.  BTW, What are your visions and dreams for the church?”

4.         Vestry member to a female priest, who had asked that an evening meeting be rescheduled, otherwise she would have been at church from 7am-9pm and had a 1-year-old child: “No.  For what we’re paying you, you can afford to have someone watch him.”

5.         A lay employee of the church, after a staff restructuring: “I walk in every day and see a cross above the door.  And that makes me sad because I realize I was treated better in the corporate world than I am here where there’s a two-tiered, clergy-lay, unequal system in power, pay, and benefits. To think that the corporate world the church thinks itself so superior to can treat its employees with more dignity.”

6.         Long time member of a congregation, to a child of color who was adopted by long- time attending members who are Caucasian, whose adoption was celebrated liturgically in the parish, after having a guest preacher who was a person of color from an entirely different ethnic group: “Your dad did a great job today.”

7.         A priest, when asking a bishop why he had been told to rescind an invitation to a retired clergy person to speak at an event:  “We can’t have this person appearing in public because we need to get over the sexual misconduct this person committed that everyone knows about but was never reported.”

8.         A church attorney, ruling on whether some was possible under the canons:  “Yes, but I need to tell you that despite it being possible  I’m going to say it’s not possible because we have enough conflict already and I don’t need people who won’t be happy complaining about this.”

9.         Caucasian senior warden, in an entirely Caucasian congregation, to a priest who is a person of color and serving as supply clergy, in the middle of the service: “You are preaching too long, you need to wind this down.”

10.       A Commission on Ministry member, to a candidate for ordination: “Don’t say you can’t answer any of our questions because churches are exempt from discrimination laws.”

Can you pick the only one which is a lie?