THE ROCK-Y HORROR SHOW
If you live in my town, which I realize you may not, the next time you go grocery shopping, you should look across the street at the Presbyterian Church and check out what’s up next with their Sermons on Song series. Apparently the minister has decided the church needs to attract some young blood and is holding forth on rock songs. So far he’s done “Blowin’ in the Wind” and “Show Me the Way”, which means that he’s probably doing a good job of bringing in the younger set—the younger set that is trying to figure out how their Medicare works, that is. If he’s going decade by decade, as it appears, I’m here to suggest as his topic song for the eighties “Da da da”, and for the nineties, let’s go with “Sex and Candy”, huh?
It goes back a long way, this series of gymnastic exercises to try and attract the hip-to-the-jive teenager to church. The exercise’s first manifestation that I know of was the sixties’ swinging hipster minister, the one who had read Thomas Merton and had some notion of what the Jefferson Airplane was. Their natural habitat was the campus ministry, where the whole thing probably worked pretty well; transferred to a standard parish, it may have been successful with the youth group but less so with the church as a whole—one of the more amusing phenomena of my youth was the weekly walkout of the local school superintendent emeritus when our new liberal minister would say something objectionable, which was usually within a minute of when he opened his mouth. I could have supplemented my allowance by taking bets.
The second generation of the church youth movement perfected it all, though. Usually fundamentalist, these smoothies decided that what the young set really wanted was entertainment and to not have to dress up. And were they ever right. They spawned the megachurch movement, which was all about pop music and edgy lighting and near-hysteria. The liberal churches may have tried to catch up, but I think that at heart they don’t have the feel for glitz and showmanship that their fundy cousins have.
And as for me, well, I’m pretty tempted to take in one of the “Sermons on Song”. But it’s football season.