The Gospel According to Jimmy Buffett

by

Of all the places to find inspiration for a religious article, listening to Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville wouldn’t make the short list. But this just goes to prove you never know. I was listening to a concert recording recently, and when he sang, But there’s booze in the blender / And soon it will render / That frozen concoction that helps me hang on, tens of thousands of parrotheads sang along with lusty conviction that sounded as if these lines connected them to the singer on a spiritual level. Which got me to thinking.

Fans of Jimmy Buffett have the reputation of being beach bums / alcoholics, and what dawned on me was that for untold numbers of people, an alcoholic beverage really is what helps them hang on. And although it may have been obvious to everyone but me, to those who share this life approach a gathering of a hundred-thousand people or so in a fun concert is a form of a worship service. I could hear it in the live concert.

At this point, most preachers would say how sad it is those poor people in the world are like that, but as you probably know by now, I’m not a typical preacher. Instead, I wonder aloud what modern-day “church” offers as an alternative. My fear is that it often offers a place of pretense where one tries to dress up and shape up and feel better than other people in the “world.” If so, compared to that, I can see how a sing-along with Jimmy Buffett with no pretense where you can just admit your failings could be more desirable.

But if this is the perception of “church,” it is not related to Jesus. Oddly enough, I can see those very same concert-goers forming the crowd that followed Jesus, and finding, instead of either alcoholism or self-righteous pretense, a love that could help them hang on in life. Wouldn’t it be something to be a part of a church like that?

It is just so sad that people rarely see Jesus when they look at church.

Advertisements

17 Responses to “The Gospel According to Jimmy Buffett”

  1. Terry Austin Says:

    It is just so sad that people rarely see Jesus when they look at church.

    Amen.

    And, might I add, it’s sadder still that most churches are too inwardly focused to notice… or care.

    A little self-test: I’ll try to remember to keep tabs tonight at our elders/deacons meeting. Of our agenda items, I’ll track how many are “maintenance” related (dealing with keeping the flock fat & happy) and how many are outreach/compassion related.

    Maybe we can make it a “DH pool” to see who can guess the accurate ratio. (Poor Horatio.) Winner gets a box of Al’s storm-ravaged personal belongings. All proceeds go to Heifer International… who’s in?

  2. juvenal_urbino Says:

    Maybe we can make it a “DH pool” to see who can guess the accurate ratio.

    It’s a trick question. Division by zero is impossible.

  3. Terry Austin Says:

    Point of clarification: By “maintenance” I do not include acts of compassion directed toward those already “in the fold.” For instance, if we help a family/individual in some sort of crisis, and that family attends our congregation (or another in our tribe), can I count that as compassion? Or must it be maintenance?

    And which one gets me a better seat in heaven? Something in a cozy field box, just down the third base line would be ideal…

  4. Michael Lasley Says:

    I have no guesses, Terry. Having never even once been to an elders/deacons meeting, I’m not really sure how those things work.

    I’ve not lived too many places, but does anyone with exerience in churches outside the Bible Belt have any input? My churching experience in Syracuse was much different from church in the South (Syracuse was much more outward focus), but that’s my only real experience.

    Okay, Terry, for fun I’ll say 2. I mean, unless there’s money on it.

  5. juvenal_urbino Says:

    Others may disagree, but I gotta think that’s maintenance, Terrence. Helping people who are like oneself or part of one’s “in” group is, as Jesus once remarked, nice but hardly noteworthy.

    Now, I say that would be maintenance because, by and large, churches are homogeneous: 99% middle-class white people. If that were to change — if churches were to suddenly contain large (or even measurable) numbers of people outside that group, and the educated, relatively well-to-do folks were genuinely and humbly working to help the less fortunate — that’s a kettle of fish of a different color, and I’d happily rethink my categories.

    It still wouldn’t be quite where things need to be, but it’d be a big step down that road. A breathtaking one, actually. It’d restore one’s faith in the possibility of churches being, to borrow Al’s word, relevant.

    ~~

    I’m going with 17:1. Seriously.

  6. juvenal_urbino Says:

    And which one gets me a better seat in heaven?

    You mean a cheeseburger in Paradise?

    I’ve not lived too many places, but does anyone with exerience in churches outside the Bible Belt have any input?

    I have experiences with them in NYC, Iowa, and Virginia (which I guess might still be in the Bible Belt, but not for CsofC).

    The church I attended in NYC was remarkable, especially given its small size, but still focused mostly inward. It did some volunteer work at a soup kitchen, but that was about it. The refreshing thing about it was that its inward focus wasn’t on the minutiae of how we “did church,” but on the community of the believers.

    The same was true of the church in Virginia. Terrific people, a much healthier spirit than Bible Belt CsofC, but still not very involved with reaching down into the lower reaches of the society around it and lifting those people up.

    The church in Iowa was the result of efforts by CsofC in the Bible Belt — a planted church. Or, more accurately, a transplanted church. It looked, talked, and acted just like its Bible Belt parents. It was tiny, totally irrelevant to its community, and smelled of death.

    IIRC, however, the planted church in Rockford, IL, sounded like it was doing yeoman’s work. I have no firsthand knowledge of it, though. Terry does.

  7. Terry Austin Says:

    Final Score: 5-2 or 6-1, depending on how one interprets our decision to anonymously help one of our members struggling with health issues (he did not request the help; we discovered the need and are acting “behind the scenes” to meet it).

    As for Rockford, I’m probably going to make a visit up there within the next couple of months. It’s a unique congregation: People in lower middle class (or the upper end of lower class, if there is such a thing) busting their butts to help the needy. None of these people attend Rockford CC for worship style or even geographic convenience. They’re there as missionaries to the families in the inner city neighborhoods, housing projects and slums of Rockford.

    Apparently on last year’s trip, someone in our group was offended by the language/jokes used by some of the inner city kids, so our group’s not going back this year.

  8. juvenal_urbino Says:

    Nice. See, that’s the kind of thing I had in mind when I was talking about helping insiders vs. helping outsiders, and how if there were lots of non-middle-class insiders and they were being helped, that would be a big step in the right direction, but not quite where things needed to be.

    In this case, not only can that church not help the people who need it, they can’t even help the people who help the people who need it. Why? Because somebody might hear/see/experience something they wouldn’t hear/see/experience inside a church on a Sunday morning. It’s childish. Infantile, in fact.

    Helping people who need help isn’t optional. Churches can’t condition it on those people being or acting like Christians. And it isn’t a conversion technique and it isn’t “outreach,” insofar as that’s a metaphor for attempts at conversion. It isn’t an investment and it isn’t a technique. It’s an end in itself, not a means to other ends. It’s basic Christian decency. It’s a discipleship requirement, on the same level as the so-called Great Commission.

    Churches can’t hide from that responsibility behind “evil companions corrupt good morals” (although, of course, they do). There’s a reason Paul said, “when I grew up, I put away childish things,” and said it in the context of a discussion of love.

    CsofC have been around for close to 200 years. The typical member has been a member for decades (all their lives, in fact) and had parents and grandparents who were members for decades before them. It’s loooooooong past time these generations-old churches and Christians grew the heck up.

    (In the case of the particular church Terry speaks of, and all CsofC in that area, the situation is even worse. Not only are those Christians generations old, many (close to most) of them attended (or currently attend) CsofC schools and colleges. I mean, good grief. If the church has these people under its exclusive tutelage 6 days a week from kindergarten through college, and they still are so spiritually fragile that they can’t be around non-Christians without falling off the wagon, maybe that should tell them something about how dead their church is, and how utterly useless their “Christian education.”)

    Rockford CofC, I salute you. Not only for your work, but for your ability to persist in doing it despite the internal obstructions. You are stronger people than I am.

  9. Whitney Says:

    In this case, not only can that church not help the people who need it, they can’t even help the people who help the people who need it. Why? Because somebody might hear/see/experience something they wouldn’t hear/see/experience inside a church on a Sunday morning. It’s childish. Infantile, in fact.

    JU,
    I think this is one of the huge problems perpetuated by our Christian colleges. Specifically, we shelter people (kids) SO much and try to keep them away from anything “bad” that we don’t allow them to see the opportunities, either. i.e., lets send them off to learn about the real world, all the wile with a curfew and all kinds of restrictions. Lets surround them by other upper-middle-class white kids whose parents can affort to send them to private school. Lets send them on mission trips once a year so they all feel good about themselves and about how they help poverty-stricken people in third world countries. (I did a mission trip once–I don’t negate the good that came out of if and that a lot of people saw Jesus that week, but I don’t know how much I learned about REAL service from it, either–it sure didn’t translate back to helping out at home.) I don’t know exactly what I’m trying to say here, but it seemed to be on the same page as you. ?? Maybe? Maybe not.

    Oh, I just finished reading your entire post….apparently we are on the same page. 🙂

  10. Terry Austin Says:

    I will say this about the leadership of my particular church:

    In an elders/deacons meeting a while back, I proposed a radical change to our summer Wednesday nights. I suggested our small groups be asked to do a community project together on a weeknight (Wednesday or other), and that we use Sunday nights through the summer as a time of testimony, reflection and encouragement. Everyone coming together and sharing what they had experienced, accomplished and learned.

    It didn’t happen, but it wasn’t because of opposition from the leaders. It was more because of logistical problems we couldn’t solve in the short amount of time we had to work with.

    And I’m not giving up. This is why I have a little more faith in this gridlocked “CoC system” than does Juvenal. Of course, I think Juvenal (and others on this blog) have journeyed this road before. Their frustrations are well earned…

  11. juvenal_urbino Says:

    Whitney — Yes, it sounds like we are on the same page. Years and years ago, Michael Weed said this great thing about how Christian education too often provides not a real engagement with what it means to be a Christian, but an innoculation against ever having that engagement.

    Terrence — Best wishes on getting the summer program implemented next year. I have my doubts, but don’t want to be all Nancy Negativity. Besides, you know better than I do where the pitfalls lie.

  12. Terry Austin Says:

    This very e-conversation prompted me to e-mail your friend and mine, Robin F. Patten, to see what’s up with the HfH affiliate here in town.

    They’re on House #7, I think she said, and going strong. They’ll certainly be one of the organizations we work with if/when the summer project gets off the ground.

  13. juvenal_urbino Says:

    Robin is one of my very favoritest people in the world. Please tell her I said hi. (And apologies for leaving her holding the bag.)

  14. Al Sturgeon Says:

    I’ll just repeat what Juvenal said, including the parentheses. Then add my own to Juvenal for leaving him holding the bag first!
    🙂

  15. Terry Austin Says:

    She asked how you (JU) are doing. But she didn’t ask about Al, which makes me think she must really hate Al. 🙂

    But I’ll pass the greets along.

  16. Al Sturgeon Says:

    Oh, now I really feel bad.

    Thanks a lot.
    🙂

  17. juvenal_urbino Says:

    But she didn’t ask about Al, which makes me think she must really hate Al.

    Oh, she does. You should hear the things she says about him. They’d send a sailor to the confessional.

    (No offense to any members of this blog who might happen to be or have been sailors.)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: