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Saturated and Burned Out

The congregation squirms uneasily, but not so much from the preacher’s words as a tired tailbone.  Including announcements, offering, prayers, music, and the ongoing blistering sermon, the Sunday morning service is approaching ninety minutes.  Brother David has made his point at least six times and has started on round seven.  Hungry stomachs are growling.  Exhausted brains are begging, “Please shoot me – enough is enough.”  It is time to stick a fork in the congregation, they are done!

Unless you have been chastised relentlessly by an ordained Southern fire thrower waxed in the glow of the Holy Spirit, you know nothing of long-winded preaching.  If your eyeballs have not bobbed and surfed the tides of the second Great Flood in hour two of a Southern sermon, you know little of praying for deliverance.   Unless you have the t-shirt, Saturated and Burned Out, you are not a survivor of a soul cleansing hell, fire, and brimstone tongue lashing.  I grew up in a Southern Baptist Church – I have the t-shirt!

Why does it take preachers so long, especially in the South, to say God loves you and if you can’t accept that, prepare for an eternity in a rotisserie oven?  Why does the preacher feel compelled to make his point multiple times when once maybe twice should be enough?  The answer is simple – once or twice is not enough!  Southern DNA makes massive doses of overkill a necessity.  No one – not the preacher or Jesus Christ can tell a blue-blood Southerner what to do and expect to get it done – at least not the first or second time.

Growing up in Mississippi, my family was in church every time the doors opened: Sunday School, Sunday morning service, Sunday evening worship, Monday evening Royal Ambassadors, Wednesday night Training Union, two weeks of summer Vacation Bible School, and two weeks of fall revival meetings.  My pastor, a devout man, preached long fiery sermons with a vengeance against the evil he saw in the world or he inferred from the scriptures.  Like his sermons, he was intense, unwavering in his crusade against Satan and his followers.  His prayers, he called them mini-sermons, were rhythmic sing-song dances of thanksgiving laced with healthy doses of pleas for mercy culminating with skin-curling warnings of fire and damnation for anyone not walking the walk of Jesus Christ.  In a church of maybe one-hundred members with regular attendance of sixty or seventy, people walked the walk, or at least, we did around Brother David.

Before cable and Internet, there was little to compete with church on Sunday.  People literally had nothing better to do than go to church.  So, it didn’t matter if Brother David raged from the pulpit for two hours or Deacon John’s prayer bounced here and there for twenty minutes before he asked for God’s mercy and healing and said “Amen.”  It was the best show in town – take it or leave it, and if you lived at home with mama and daddy, there was no choice but to take it.  The only negative was church ran long – really long – and lay waste to the best made plans for Sunday lunch.  As a boy, I often witnessed parking lot grumblings and short straw lotteries to decide who would tell Brother David to buy a watch, but to my knowledge, no one ever said a word to him.

Brother David did not need a watch.  He was determined to convert every soul in his congregation to Christianity, and to that end, a watch did little but get in his way.  He understood there are only two ways to convince a Southerner to do something: you convince him it is his idea, or you scare him into doing it.  Both take time – a lot of it!  A Southerner is inherently born with the notion that everything is his idea, so convincing him an idea outside his own is his idea is extremely difficult.  In his mind, he is the center of the universe, and the only worthwhile thoughts or ideas are his own, so why listen to anyone else?  Therefore, most preachers opt for scary motivation.  To bring their people to the Lord on their knees, they scare the living hell out of them.

In the South, preachers who dwell on death, graves, and things that go bump in the night usually have little trouble preaching to full houses.  Southern boys and girls are as brave as they come but talk about something dead they didn’t shoot while hunting, especially if that something is them, and they get creeped out.  A smart preacher uses this to his advantage.  To keep his flock coming to church regularly and dropping a few bucks in the offering plate periodically, he cultivates fearful uneasy souls.  The only drawback is such a process is time consuming, especially with laidback Southern temperaments.

For this reason, Brother David set the pews on fire.  He ignited a flame of urgency under his people fueled by hell, fire, and brimstone.  “The fires of hell are full of Christians who do not go to church and tithe regularly,” he scolded his congregation Sunday after Sunday.  He brewed a pot of fear seasoned with doom and gloom.  He pounded the podium and walked the pews warning of human barbecues while teasing his congregation with firefly bits of hope he promised would grow if they attended church regularly and tithed generously.  He scared the hell out of his flock, and he did not care how much time it took to do so.

Brother David has long departed this world, and his brand of hard-ball preaching has given way to holy roller spectacles and preaching almost exclusively the love of God rather than offend or upset anyone with the rage of a jealous God.  However, to this day, his practice of battering congregations into holy submission is alive and well in many churches across the South.  Many pastors still tend to be long winded with little concern for rumbling stomachs, but is it necessary?  Why can’t they say what they need to say, and be done with it?  Why must they repeat themselves at least seven times before they give up the ghost and take a seat?  The reason boils down to Southern DNA and the Rule of Seven.

There is a pinch of a boiled peanut shell in Southern DNA that makes good ole boys and girls a tad thickheaded, or maybe, decades of wearing tight fitting baseball caps twenty-four hours a day has resulted in hardening of the skull.  Whichever it might be, a preacher best repeat himself often if he wants to get a point through dense Southerner heads.  The more a Southerner hears something the better the chances it will sink in and the more likely he will believe it.  Researchers in Atlanta, Georgia have found there is a direct correlation between Southerners reacting positively and badgering.  They discovered if you tell a Southerner something once, he might not hear you; tell him twice and he might think you are talking to someone else; tell him three times and he will try to tune you out; tell him four times and he will think you are trying to cause trouble or mess with him; tell him five times and it agitates him; tell him six times and he becomes passively interested; but if you tell him seven times, the chances are good he will not only remember it but believe it as well.  This process known as the Pester into Slow Submission Technique or PISS Technique is a strategy used by Southern women for countless decades to manipulate their men, and with the assistance of WMU (Woman Missionary Union) groups, early Southern preachers learned to use this same badgering or nagging technique to get through to their congregations.

In the Twentieth Century, the marketing world adopted the PISS Technique and called it the Rule of Seven, which is nothing more than a modern makeover of the old Southern recipe.  The Rule of Seven states people, especially men, must hear something at least seven times before they remember it, accept it, or engage in it.  It works great; however, if the preacher is not careful, a disgruntled congregation is capable of mutiny, especially if the Methodists and Catholics are regularly beating them to Mary’s Cafe or KFC for Sunday fried chicken.

The real danger though occurs when desperate preachers, experiencing a decline in attendance and tithing, change the rule to the Rule of Seven X 3.  This well intentioned though controversial practice means sermons and prayers include three times the number of repetitive keywords and phrases than the standard Rule of Seven.   According to the medical community, such an overload can be unhealthy for church-goers.  Doctors specializing in Devout Hypertension Syndrome warn that such practice can result in compulsive absenteeism and static tithing as the result of Repetitive Sensory Overload (RSO).

There are people who will argue that within the fleeting time continuum of life none of this really matters, and maybe, they are right.  A Southern prayer may be as long as a television sitcom, and a Southern sermon as long-winded as a two-day hurricane, but what if they are?  Do Christians have more important things than church on Sunday?   A prayer or sermon in the hands of a well-trained articulate Southern stump jumper can be an artistic marvel of rhetoric steeped in the juice of bread and butter pickles and sweet tea; isn’t that worth a tired tailbone or a table with a window at Cracker Barrel?  But, I admit, at times I also grow weary and impatient.  Sometimes, I wish there was an off switch under the front lip of the pew to push to let the preacher know the time has arrived to shut up and go home.

Saturated and Burned Out!

JL

©Jack Linton, September 16, 2018

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“But, Honey . . . .” and the Off the Grid $300 Chicken Egg

“But, honey, it is so much cheaper if we do it ourselves.”  Those words have sent more good men into bankruptcy, caused them to lose their religion, self-respect, and enthusiasm for life than any words in the history of mankind.  I know; my wife uses those words on me daily!  She is one of those poor souls who believe more than five minutes of idle time is a sin.  Her motor is always running at top speed; whereas, my motor is perpetually disengaged.  I love her, but that does not mean we are compatible.

If we lived on a farm where my wife could work in a garden, raise chickens, make her own soap, milk a cow, and slop a hog, she would be in heaven.  I also like farms, but I like to admire them from a distance.  Farms are hard work!  I have never lived on a farm, but my mama and daddy always had a garden, chickens, and every so often a couple of hogs penned in the back corner of our one acre, so I am acquainted with the constant work required to tend animals and gardens.  It is not that I am lazy, well that may be partly it, but the truth is I am a practical person and for me Corner Market is simply more practical and convenient.  For a fraction of the effort and cost (I’ll get to that later) it takes to be a DIY (do it yourself) person, I can stroll through the local grocery and pick all the peas, tomatoes, cabbage, peppers, and squash I please and not break a sweat.  I dare anyone to do that on a farm or a backyard “wanna be” farm!  At the grocery, I can open the cooler and grab a gallon of milk and never get caught fondling a cow, and I if I want eggs, they are stacked neatly in pastel colored cartons not far from the milk.  Why should I reach under a laying hen to retrieve eggs and get blood pecked out of the back of my hand when it is so much easier and painless to pick up a carton of eggs from the local grocer?

I know, I know, my wife says it daily around our house, “There is nothing better than fresh eggs.”  Although I am convinced it is more a personal preference than a statement of fact, there are apparently a lot of people, including the local grocer, who agree with her.  Right next to the Styrofoam cartons of snow white large, medium, and small eggs are brown cartons stamped with “organic” on the lid as if the word organic implies fresh.  If I remember correctly from my high school science classes, all eggs are organic, so I fail to see how eggs packaged in a brown carton are any more organic than eggs packaged in white, pink, and blue cartons, unless, maybe, they are counting the organic fibers in the extra dollar bills spent to purchase eggs in a brown carton.  Of course, you cannot convince my wife that the only difference between a brown organic egg and the spotless white supposedly non-organic egg is the money you pay and little else.  Personally, I don’t see anything wrong with the egg fetched from a sanitized environment where chickens are fed a controlled diet (at least as sanitized as you can get with a pooping machine like a chicken), but my wife insists the brown store bought organic egg or better yet the homegrown farm or backyard chicken egg is better for you and tastes better.  I have to admit backyard eggs do seem to taste better, but someone will have to educate me as to how an egg uprooted from under a backyard or barnyard chicken that scavenges for bugs and worms it finds under decaying wood and chicken poop can be the healthier choice?  Maybe, it’s a higher protein count – who knows, but I don’t get it!

My wife has yet to satisfactorily explain the organic thing to me, and when I get too hung up on that point, she drops into her sweet, honey, you don’t want to fight me too hard on this, voice (Husbands know that voice as “Back off Buster,” “Are you sure you want to go there,” or the dreaded, “Fine” followed by deafening silence).  When she knows or believes she is right, which is always, she draws a line in the chicken poop and dares me to cross it – I know better.  Nevertheless, along with the heart of a true environmentalist, she always has good intentions.

She wants to raise chickens and make her own soap, so we can get as far “off the grid” as possible.  What is the grid?  From my viewpoint, it is any modern convenience that mankind has spent thousands of years inventing to make life worthwhile such as electricity, pizza, and Girl Scout cookies, all of which my loving wife believes we can do without.  Not once, has she ever asked me if I wanted to get off the grid!  If it costs me money and extra work and means giving up my favorite processed foods, I do not, but I am just a husband, so what do I know.

My wife is consumed with the idea that doing something with your own hands is rewarding.  I have tried to be supportive of her in that area and encourage her to pursue whatever she likes or thinks might be fun.  The only thing I have asked in return is to be left out of her fun.  If I wanted to do something with my own hands, I would take up golf, bowling, origami, or throw away my remote and walk to the television to manually change channels.  I am more into rewarding my hands by allowing them to rest calmly and unstressed at my side, and I can do that best on the grid.

“But, honey, just think, we could have fried chicken with no worries about all the chemicals they feed commercial chickens.”  That is well and good, but not once in all the years that I have chopped down on a drumstick from KFC or Popeye’s have I ever worried about what the chicken ate before I ate it.  Besides, let me give you a quick lesson in raising chickens to put meat on the table – DON’T!  Unless you get a thrill from grabbing a living creature by the neck and twirling it violently until the neck snaps, repeatedly chasing the dog away from the flopping carcass, and consoling the children because you just killed Bitsy, my advice is to buy your grilling or frying chicken already packaged from the local grocer.  Also, never give a name to anything you may eat later, including chickens, pet rabbits, and obnoxious children.

“But honey, we could have fresh free eggs every morning for the rest of our lives.”  Fresh, I will concede.  Free?  Not even close!  From the day, my eldest son surprised his mama with two baby chicks for Easter, until now, seven chickens later, my wallet has been open.  “But honey, just think of all the free eggs we are getting.”  Again, I will concede that when our temperamental chickens decide to lay, we do get eggs, but they are not exactly free.  After building a 10 X 10 chicken house and pen, reinforcing it with new wire three times to keep the opossums and raccoons out, buying a trap for the smarter critters, all the accessories for feeding and drinking, a 50 pound sack of chicken feed every other week, flock blocks, etc., I figure I have, over the past three years, dropped the initial cost of $300.00 per dozen eggs down to about $29.95 per dozen.  Now when I hear, “But honey . . . ,” I weep.

Having chickens is a sacrifice, but it is a sacrifice that keeps my wife smiling.  The chickens are part of her master plan to get us “off the grid.”  She has this grand idea that we can grow our own food and eventually drastically reduce our use of electricity.  A lower food bill and electric bill would be nice.  The money saved would make me feel a little better about giving up satellite television.  I have written about the withdrawals I experienced giving up satellite television in a previous article, but for the sake of the chickens and my marriage, I GAVE ALL or I should say, I GAVE UP ALL!  It turned out she was right.  Other than football season, I have not missed the dozen decent channels, thirty-two shopping channels, cutesy animal channels, badminton channel, the radical conservative network, the conservative liberal network, liberal conservative network, rural farming network, eight romance channels all playing the same godforsaken background music, the Pat Boone channel, twenty channels for kids, at least ten news channels, and fifty music stations.  Not only have I not missed them, but the money I have saved has helped pay my chicken mortgage and pay for the new shoes I am constantly buying because we can’t get the chicken poo smell out of the shoes I bought the previous week.

As if chickens were not enough, my wife decided if we were going off the grid, we still had an obligation to each other to be clean, so she learned to make soap.  Also, she reasoned, eventually, we would need an alternate source of light for the evenings, so she learned how to make candles.  I must admit it was fun helping her research how to do those things.  At first we, she, looked at making old time lye soap by extracting lye from the ashes of burnt wood.  After a little study and watching several YouTube videos on the process, she decided we were not ready to get that deep into soap making, so she buys lye for her soap from the hardware store.  She has since learned the mixing temperatures of essential oils, fragrances, dyes, and goat’s milk to the point that she has soap making down to an art.  Her homemade soy candles are also a work of art; I never knew non-commercial candles would smell so nice.  However, the best part is that she sells some of her soap and candles, which is the part that makes me the happiest.  After all, it takes money to keep her chickens in the lifestyle they have become accustomed.

Happy Easter!

JL

©Jack Linton – March 27, 2016