Music: B+ We got there early enough to catch the organist play some songs. He started by throwing down some HEAVY bass tones like whoa. He played other shit higher up without letting go of the drone bass note for at least a whole minute, which was like a shit-yourself level of rumbly. Awesome. Sick. So yeah, sick organ. The songs they sang were very interesting. For example the first hymn was in 3/4 time, and totally set the tone for the type of music that went down there. People just seemed to have a hard time singing the songs! The hymnal was proper to their church, and copyrighted in 1898. Even the songs in 4/4 time were very confusing rhythmically. It was kinda wild. I think it was mostly because the songs lacked anything resembling an obvious cadence for repetition. There was also a solo for organ and voice which was sick: vocalist without microphone and hectic vibrato; song structure just all over the place, huge dynamic range with many tempo changes., etc. It made me think of a churchy bohemian rhapsody. So fuckin wild. But anyway, this is all good and shit but they definitely get points for making music that is legitimately very difficult to sing along to.
people who will die in the next 20 years: 5-10%
pastor charisma: C These two women were very smiley but in an almost concerning way, and also their services are structured not to allow very much conversational style talking, which will set you back in this category almost automatically.
décor iconography: Well, this place was cool, very concrete and dark wood. Very Star Trek, again. Why does this keep coming up… I don’t even like star trek… But anyway the chapel was a big semi-circle of concrete, with chairs going up greek-amphitheatre-style, all this leading into a circle at the edge of the top. There was no religious iconography as far as I can remember, but the stage was flanked by two walls with quotes – one by JC and the other by the founder of the religion, Mary Baker Eddy. Her quote was “Divine love always has met and always will meet every human need”. The seats were upholstered with pee-yellow/green velvet.
food/drink: None that I saw.
scare quotient: Hm. None I guess? No lucifer, that’s for sure.
number of people: LOL @ 40 or so.
THE REAL STORY
So this sunday I was in chicago hanging with my dad, you know, what else is new. My mom had only recently told him about my blog, I guess maybe she also intuited that he wouldn’t like it. He still hasn’t seen it yet I think. But when I asked if he wanted to go to a crazy american church he seemed really hostile. My dad is a catholic guy, even tho I think he doesn’t believe in hell and dumb shit like that. Anyway, I got him to come around after hours of talking about how this wasn’t a “take a shit in god’s throat” type of artistic endeavor (I reserve that for tattoos on my heart). We walked by this place, and I instantly knew I wanted to go there for church.
The Church of Christ, Scientist, is a wacky american sect of christianity that was founded by a woman in 1897 in Boston, Massachusetts. How wild is that? It’s wild I think. They used to think that you didn’t need medicine to fix your body cuz JC or whatever. I guess after some children died in the 90’s they maybe took that back. Anyway, they’re full of wackiness in their own right, but i’ll concentrate on this service for now.
Yeah so we got there early, benefitted from some sick organ playing, and then eventually accepted that there would be like no one at this service and it was very pitiful. Before shit really got underway, two women walked in from behind where the organist was, smiling very actively. Actually yeah the organist was so centrally positioned, which was cool – you could see all that he did, his back was to the crowd.
The lead pastor greeted us with a “Good morning, friends” which besides being a little presumptuous, was nice I guess. After the first hymn, they did this whole “silent prayer” thing which I have a bit of a soft spot for. I mean, you need a certain amount of nerve to order a room full of people to be silent for something other than like 9/11 or whatever. It goes against the entertainment value, at least for most people I assume it does.
Then they had this reworked lord’s prayer which was call and response. It had some kinda choice lines like instead of “forgive us our trespasses” it was “forgive our debts”. Most freaky and proto-feminist though was “our father-mother god, all-harmonious”. By proto-feminist I mean that most, if not all, of the doctrine was written in the late 19th, early 20th century. It might have all been written by Mary Baker Eddy actually. Anyway, the next hymn was based on a poem by her, and the pastor decided it was good enough to read it aloud first before everyone sang it.
She then did the church announcements, which was remarkable if only for the fact that the two conferences mentioned were given by women. At that point I was pretty convinced that this here was evil witchy heresy lol jk not jk who knows. I wonder what it was like to found a religion like this back then, especially if you’re a woman, no?
And finally there followed one of the wackier sermons i’ve yet to come across. As the pastor explained began by explaining, these people don’t do biblical interpretation, they leave that exclusively to the writings of M. B. Eddy (the founder, remember?). So the sermon only includes what is “divinely authorized”, as she put it. So it was alternating between the christian science textbook or whatever it’s called, read by one pastor, and bible passages read by the other. No interpretation, no personality, no accounting for contemporary society, no big deal.
But boy did it ever cast a revealing light into the formative concepts of the church of christ, scientist! Lol, that’s just a funny name for a church, it’s fun to write. Basically, the readings were about the concept of original sin, adam and eve, all seen and explained through the lens of a most total and all-encompassing anti-materialism, which I guess is the cornerstone (!) of this place. The way they swing that is by saying we’re made in g-d’s image, aka in the image of a perfect being, so we’re perfect too, so we can reject mortality and matter. Check what Genesis has to say about it: “And G-d saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good.” Lol it reads like a children’s novel: “And Nicholas saw the sand castle that he had made, and behold, it was very good.” Or how about Isiah: “Awake and sing, thee who dwell in dust.” What does it even mean, durty peepul iz awzum. Woopwoop.
“Christ came to destroy the belief of sin” It did remind me of medieval heresies, the Ranters of england or whatever, all those freaky revolutionaries who declared themselves free from sin aka allowed to have the sex, or the get drunk, or the swear, or the take the property of the rich, the whole shabang. But it was not revolutionary seeming here, it just seemed like an empty flailing rejection of materiality in favour of a poorly-defined “spirit”. Huh? I’m thinking they’re lost somewhere. That shit about leaving the material world (not in the “give your riches away” kind, the more literal “who needs food when I got JC” kind) only really works for those willing to take risks and those 40 people there didn’t strike me as those types. This was literally their equation: spirit=immortal=truth or matter=mortal=error. Yay! So simple!
After the sermon it was almost done: they did a collection, probably got enough to pay for 3 toilet flushes, sang a song, doneskeeze. My dad went to the bathroom (1/3 of the funds collected for the day) and I looked at their wares for sale. They had this deck of cards that I didn’t understand, so I opened one. It was kinda like a good deed card or something, but they all had quotes on them too, and the first one I saw was by Morrissey. There was another by Katy Perry, but mostly they were people well accepted in the world canon of holy dweebs. Anyway, it was packaged as a game, but it looked really boring and not really a game either.
While discussing it with my pops later, he pointed out that indeed I was probably by 10 years the youngest person there, and most were alone, save for a few couples or mother-daughter types of arrangements. It was a sad scene dudes, the pastors just smiling out of desperation. Well, their building is probably worth like 8000 gazzilion dollars, it’s right downtown chicago right on the water, crazy expensive property, so those guys will for sure retire in style. While looking up a photo for this post i came across a lament about its possible impeding destruction for new development, which i agree is sad cuz there’s not enough buildings like this in the world, i think: almost secular but having an aura of mystical geometry to it… Fuck it all i guess, starbucks fills that gap in more ways than one (cheesy i know wtf).