Tag Archives: Southern

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

To Save America, the South Must Rise Again

Ignorance and hate are killing America! While the black man blames the white man, and the white man points back at the black man, America trembles under racial siege on the brink of self-inflicted collapse as a nation. As a people, we appear helpless to turn the tide, but if America is to survive someone must be willing to step forward and initiate the healing process. Someone with courage must take that first leap of faith to right our great nation.

Our obsession with judging our fellow man rather than trying to understand him as well as our penchant for creating smokescreens to cover the real issues are ripping out our hearts and trampling our souls. We live in an enlightened time, yet we stand guard at the gates of yesterday protecting a past that has little to offer but distrust, anger, hurt, and alienation from our fellow man. We live in a society of non-discriminatory intolerance. We live in a society often unwilling to acknowledge the truth behind its sins or that it has sinned. As a people, we are quick to cast blame but slow to take responsibility. Regardless of the color of our skin, we have embraced intolerance to the point that it has become our norm, and it is that intolerance that now lays siege to all we love and care for as a nation.

America does not have a black and white issue. America has a distrust issue resulting in the disenfranchisement of both blacks and whites from reaching an amicable understanding and solution to their problems. Inevitably, the omission of trust leads blacks and whites alike to resentment of one another and even to violence. As a country, distrust permeates every aspect of our lives. We distrust anyone who has a different lifestyle, different belief, different skin color or different ethnic background. We would rather alienate someone outside our understanding than risk contamination by a new understanding. We would rather cling to the past than risk the uncertainty of embracing a new future. We would rather desperately hang on to dead ideologies than to open our minds to healthier more altruistic ideas. We would rather sacrifice our future and the future of our children than acknowledge the soiled truths of the past. We would rather defiantly rally behind a symbol that stands contrary to the civil rights of all men than exercise tolerance and understanding.

I have long regarded criticism of the Confederate flag as an injustice that was little more than a smokescreen or scapegoat for much graver issues, and I admit, I still hold to that opinion to a great degree. I believe it is simple minded madness to advocate pulling down historical memorials, monuments, name sakes, and individual freedoms that can be linked to the Confederate cause or any other offending historical cause, to do so is to eradicate history, which is a dangerous disservice to all. However, I believe removing a divisive symbol from local and state government institutions established to represent and serve all people is not too much to ask. Therefore, I am of the opinion that the debate over the Confederate flag has been ongoing for too long, and it is time for resolution. It is time we recognized that any injustice directed at the stars and bars pales to the injustices it symbolizes for many fellow Americans. Regardless of where you stand on the flag issue, the distrust and division the Confederate flag has caused in race relationships in America is unquestionable.

I have said this before, but racism in America goes a lot deeper than a flag or even the color of a person’s skin. Racism in this country is an adult disease without regard for race or class that is forced on our children who in turn become adults and force it upon their children. This perpetual cycle of collective cultural ignorance exists in our communities, our schools, our churches, and our government, but although it grows and is often allowed to fester in these places, none of these is the root of its ugly beginnings. Racism begins at home with the mamas, daddies, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins who intentionally, unintentionally, or out of ignorance feed it to children.   Children are not born into this world hating! Children are not born into this world caring if another person’s skin is white or black! Children are born into the world only with the imprint of God on their souls. It takes a misguided nurturer to wipe that from them and replace it with hate and prejudice. The homes of black and white Americans alike are where racism is cultivated, massaged, nurtured, and molded into the disease that now threatens the very existence of our great country.

I am not black, so for me to say I completely understand the black man’s feelings toward the Confederate flag would be untrue, but even as a white man, I can see the hurt, distrust and division this symbol of the past causes so many black men and women. Although I am a proud Mississippian who sees the Confederate flag as a symbol of the valor of men who fought and died for a way of life in which they believed, I am not proud that way of life included enslaving people due to the color of their skin. Slavery in any form is wrong and condoning it even as a part of heritage is a slap in the face to all that is decent and right. For that reason, the time has come to lay our past to rest.

The time has come to remove the Confederate flag from our local and state government buildings. Such an action will not resolve racial tensions in this country, but maybe it will act as a sign that at least in the South, we are finally ready to embrace the future rather than the past. To help right America, it will take the iconic courage of Southerners to take a leap of faith and show the rest of the nation that we are ready to find a way to live with our fellow human beings regardless of the color of their skin. God blessed many of us to be born Southerners and for a select few, he blessed us as Mississippians, but he blessed all of us as Americans. It is time to stand together as Americans and not stand divided by the color of our skin or by ideologies that no longer matter. It is time for the South to rise again, not in defiance, but in compassion for our fellow man. We do not have the means or the power to right the wrongs of the past, but we do have the means and power to lay aside the past and live together as brothers.

JL

©Jack Linton, June 26, 2015