Tag Archives: South

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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Is Same Sex Marriage as Big an Issue for God as It is for Christians?

Here we go again, up to our eyeballs in righteous outrage. You would think we would have learned from our past since the clamor over same sex marriage sounds strangely similar to the outcry exhibited in years past against divorce, interracial marriage, and Civil Rights. For each of those in its time, pulpits across the South and even nationally proclaimed the end of America as we knew it, and promised the wrath of God would be let loose on our country. Yet, by God’s grace and mercy, we survived to tell the tale of those dark days. It was not easy, but we eventually learned to replace intolerance with tolerance as the right thing to do – the Christian thing to do.

I do not condone same sex marriage, but neither do I see why it should overly concern me. I fail to see how it will bankrupt my soul, raise my taxes, raise the national debt or gas prices, entice me to divorce my wife and seek male companionship, bring about the extinction of mankind, threaten my masculinity, poison the air, cause Outback Steakhouse to change its menu to crepes and chicken salad only, cause breweries to brew only lite beer, or cause God to punish me for someone else’s sins when I have more than enough of my own for which he could punish me. None of those things are likely to happen, and certainly not because of a Supreme Court ruling in favor of same sex marriage! I also do not believe same sex marriage will lead to the ruin of the heterosexual family unit, the corruption of schools, or the decimation of our churches. If anything, same sex marriages will give us Christians more people to point at and whisper about behind their backs. It is highly unlikely same sex marriage will rip apart all that is near and dear to our hearts. So, why should I or anyone else fret over two ole boys or girls getting married? I know; I know! As a Christian, I should fear for their souls, and I have been told more than once that the Christian ranting, raving, condemnation and foaming at the mouth is not judging but the Christian community’s way of witnessing and showing their love and concern for their fellow man. I may be wrong, but maybe if we turned down the volume a bit and used a feather and a bucket of fried chicken, our witnessing would be a lot more productive and representative of who we profess to be.

By this time, some readers may have already unfriended me, trashed this blog, or written me off as a Godless heathen; however, for those still with me, I would like to share some additional reasons why I am not overly concerned about same sex marriage:

  1. I do not care if people think I am unchristian for not condemning a man or woman for a lifestyle I do not truly understand. I do not consider myself worthy of throwing stones at my fellow man;
  2. I do not have an issue with gay/lesbian marriages unless the law requires me to participate. It does not, so it does not concern me;
  3. I do not feel threatened by same sex marriages since I prefer women and happen to believe a woman is the most beautiful form created by God. In fact, I am so comfortable in my belief that I can’t help but wonder if homosexuality might be an eyesight issue;
  4. I do not believe the Supreme Court ruling puts me in danger of a homosexual proposal of marriage. If asked, I do not have a problem saying no, but if you are one of those people who has trouble saying no, I understand and feel your pain;
  5. I see same sex marriage as an answer to supply and demand. Same sex marriage increases the female selection pool for straight guys;
  6. I am not overly concerned that some people believe I will burn in hell for not taking homosexuals to task. Taking homosexuals to task is God’s task if he deems it necessary, and I am quite confident he doesn’t need any input or help from me;
  7. I do not believe legalizing same sex marriage will cause the world to go to hell in a hand-basket. That may very well happen, but it will happen because God deems it is time, and not as the result of Christians outraged over a controversial decision by the Supreme Court of the United States. Preachers in America have used the pulpit for end of time rants and to condemn people to hell since the days of Cotton Mather when women were regarded with the same intolerance and inhumanity as homosexuals are today. When the time comes for Christ to return, no one will know until it happens including the best of Christians and preachers; therefore, we need to relax and do what God put us here to do in the first place – to love one another; and
  8. I am not overly concerned with the legalization of same sex marriage since I believe it actually helps the Christian cause by pinpointing those in need of their prayers and witness. Once officially licensed as a homosexual couple, it’s hard to remain under the radar.

Finally, as a Christian, I do not have an issue with same sex marriage since I can’t find where homosexuality is mentioned at all in The Ten Commandments. If it is so horrid that it threatens the very foundation of human morality and everything we hold to be decent and good, why didn’t God include it along with murder, stealing, adultery and taking God’s name in vain when he passed the Commandments down to Moses? Based on my research, homosexuality is referenced in 6 verses in the Bible whereas “forgiving others” is referenced in 59 verses, “stealing” is referenced in 52 verses, “faith” in 51 verses, “judging others” in 27 verses, “bearing false witness” in 27 verses, “coveting” in 26 verses, “divorce” in 22 verses; “keeping the Sabbath” in 18 verses; “loving others” in 17 verses; “adultery” in 15 verses; and, “murder” in 13 verses. Looking at this list, I can’t help but wonder if there is a relationship between the number of scriptures assigned to a Biblical topic and its priority in the eyes of God. If so, I am not surprised that “forgiveness” stands at the top of his priority list.

If the number of Bible verses devoted to a topic indicates God’s priorities, then it is easy to see that when it comes to sin there are many sins as serious as or more serious than homosexuality. For example, based on the above list, “murder” is over 2 times more serious than homosexuality, “adultery” is 2 ½ times more serious than homosexuality, “divorce” is nearly 4 times more serious than homosexuality, and “stealing” is over 8 times more serious than homosexuality. This might be a bit too simplistic, but when placed in perspective with other Biblical content, I can’t help but wonder if God places as much importance on homosexuality as so many of today’s Christians do. I am not saying homosexuality is not a sin in God’s eyes, but we must remember he did not put us here to judge or ostracize our fellow man – we are here to learn to love one another. If we will do that, I promise you God with sort through all our sins and make any adjustments or judgements needed.

JL

©Jack Linton, July 6, 2015