Random Notes from the Religion Merry-Go-Round

Paul Harvey

The merry-go-round, or the tilt-a-whirl, of American religion keeps going. Just a little taste of it, from today's Times:

An entrepreneur follows in the model of JDate, the Jewish speed dating service, with his version of Muslim Speed-Dating:

At intermission, about half of the participants went to a back room to offer their prayers. A 29-year-old woman named Maria, who works as an art director for a major television channel, went to her parents to complain that some of her “dates” did not know what an art director was. “Some of the men are very removed from this culture, even though they live here,” she said. “I need a drink,” said one exhausted bachelor. He did not mean Kool-Aid.

Every college town (in this one it's Gainesville) is heaven for believers in The Gospel of Anarchy:

Taylor’s noble goal in “The Gospel of Anarchy” is to remind those of us long past our own difficult youths of the grace and beauty to be found even in a “bunch of drunkpunks in the armpit of Florida.

In House of Prayer No. 2, the southern writer Mark Richard goes all Apostle on us:

But maybe darkness is what Richard is after, the necessary prologue to the spiritual awakening that occupies the end of his book. Again, he is laconic about the epiphany; we learn simply that while he is walking alone in the Tennessee woods, he gets “the call to ministry.” After a few thwarted attempts to enroll in a seminary, he stumbles on an unexpected outlet for “this thing that has been placed on” his
heart: his Cajun, lapsed-Catholic mother has joined a black Pentecostal church in his hometown, and they need a new building. Richard finds himself deeply involved in making this a reality, holding regular consultations with the pastor, buying bricks and shingles and tools, ordering food for the convicts doing the construction. His story of how the House of Prayer No. 2 gets built — despite financial obstacles and legal setbacks, and with the help of multiple small miracles along the way — becomes his means of testifying, and it’s a powerful one. When the church is close to completion and the pastor’s elderly mother “lays her hand on your shoulder, and you, at last, are slain in the spirit,” I felt a shiver pass through my body, and suddenly the memoir’s reticence, its desultory movement, its use of second person, revealed their purpose to me. To understand the mystery of faith, you cannot be told it; you must experience it yourself.

And finally, there's a girl in New York City who calls herself a human trampoline, and of course there's a church specializing in the BOD4GOD:

New York may lag behind the rest of the country in the language of evangelical self-help, but when it comes to fitness obsession, surely few cities can touch us. Work out more rigorously, work out more gently; be proud of your body, be ashamed of your body. Whatever the message, New Yorkers have peddled it, consumed it, metabolized it and excreted it a thousand times over.

It’s surprising, then, that so few have thought to merge the discourse of God and the discourse of bod. Linking the two has a number of strategic advantages over the standard “look better in a bikini” sales pitch — most notably the chance for followers to outsource their motivation to a higher power.

It’s also an opportunity for the church to prove its value in something concrete — ounces and pounds — rather than the more intangible calculus of spiritual progress.

Ya'll be careful out there.