I’m sharing this anecdote from my earlier blog. It was written February 4, 2017 and appears as/is.
I’m lucky. I grew up in a church that didn’t have that many jerks in it. By and large, Presbyterians are a pretty low key group. Or, at least that’s always been my experience. They don’t tend to get in your business or act holier than thou. Or, at least they don’t as much as some other churchgoing folks might. My experience growing up Presbyterian was that we went to church for two hours on Sunday and that was basically it, unless we wanted to get involved in a social activity of some sort. And it was entirely voluntary.
I just read an entertaining thread on RfM about the biggest jerks in church. Some of the stories are pretty classic. To really get the thread, you need to know something about Mormonism. For instance, Monday nights are sacrosanct because they are “family nights”. Monday nights are when families do some kind of church affirming activity together. It’s supposed to promote bonding.
One guy wrote that he was trying to get some church business taken care of and this dude wouldn’t answer his emails. So he called him at 8:30pm on a Monday night thinking that would be late enough not to interrupt family night, but not so late that it would wake up the guy’s kids. The guy got an earful from the person he was calling. The man of the house was put out that the guy would dare call him on “family night”. Then the church jerk hung up on the caller.
Another person wrote about a bitchy wife who got into a Facebook argument with someone. One of the parties involved wrote something along the lines of “I hope this disagreement won’t spoil our friendship.” And the bitchy wife wrote back that she wasn’t “friends” in the first place and basically implied that she was better than the other person in every way. Hmmm… how Christ like!
One guy wrote about being bitched out by a church member for “wasting the Lord’s time” at Walmart. Even though it was “p-day”, the one day they got to do stuff like grocery shopping and laundry, this church member felt it was appropriate to publicly dress down those poor guys, who were no doubt tired, depressed, disheartened, and working for free, anyway. Sheesh!
The only church related drama I remember from the church I grew up in happened when I was an adult. I’m sure there were other dramas that I wasn’t privy to, but I am not really aware of them. My parents mostly got along with people in our church, although my mom didn’t always attend because she was the organist at different churches. There were two stints when she played organ at our church, but most of the time, she was playing at Methodist or Baptist churches. I mostly attended church with my dad, who sang in the choir. My sisters were out of the house, so I was left to sit with another choir member’s wife.
My dad fancied himself a good singer. Besides being in our church’s choir, he was also in a number of local choral societies and singing groups. He was often given solos by the choir director, a really cool lady who graduated from my alma mater, coached softball, and taught driver’s ed at the high school. The driver’s ed teacher served as the choir director for many, many years, but had finally decided to quit. The church had to find someone to take her place.
My parents were instrumental in getting a Jewish Russian woman hired as the choir director, even though a lot of people didn’t think she was qualified on account of her not being a Christian. My parents wanted her hired because she had musical expertise, which the driver’s ed teacher hadn’t had. The Russian lady, name of Olga, had degrees in music from the former USSR, I think. The driver’s ed teacher had been very nice and was kind to choir members, but her lack of formal musical training had been a source of frustration for my mom, who was tired of playing the same shit every week.
After much debating among church members, Olga did indeed get the job. She promptly pissed off my mom, who was the church organist at the time, by picking music and not consulting her. Olga treated my mom, who had about fifty years of experience, with utter disdain. My mom got so upset that she called the new director an “asshole”. I had never before and have never since heard her call anyone that. Mom eventually quit over the choir director and went back to playing for Methodists.
Some time later, the choir director infuriated my dad by telling him very frankly that he “didn’t have a soloist’s voice” and she stopped giving him solos. To be fair, my dad could sing, but I hated it when he did. That’s another story, though.
In any case, this development, quite naturally, pissed my dad right the fuck off. He was furious! I remember him asking me to help him draft a resignation letter telling off the Russian choir director.
I tried to explain to my dad that Russians and many others from the former Soviet Union tend to be brutally blunt. When I lived in Armenia, it wasn’t unusual for strangers to stop me in the street and offer to sell me Herbal Life because they thought I was too fat and needed help. And if you were a crappy singer or a lousy artist, they would flat out tell you you sucked. Fortunately, Armenians always responded favorably to my musical pursuits.
I understand it’s a bit of a stereotype to say that all former Soviets are like this, but culturally, they kind of are… at least on the whole. That’s just how they are… kind of like how a lot of Germans take a very long time to warm up to people they don’t know. It’s not intended to be hurtful, per se. It’s just their culture.
My dad wasn’t hearing me, though, and was extremely upset with the choir director. So I helped him write a letter and titled it, “Fuck off, Olga.” That was the only time my dad wasn’t upset by my use of the f-word. I don’t think he ever gave her the letter. He stayed in the choir for as long as his health permitted. Olga eventually left the job and they replaced her with someone more appropriate for a Christian church choir.
I haven’t attended a service in that church since about 1993 or so… but there are still people there who remember me and my parents. But then, it’s a church in a small town and people choose to be there rather than get assigned based on where they happen to live. It’s my understanding that Mormons are basically assigned wards and they attend whatever ward serves where they live. Either that, or they go to wards based on their marital status. That could be why there are a preponderance of “jerks” out and about in Mormon and other “demanding” churches.
Anyway, I’m grateful that I didn’t have that experience with church jerks, except for ones that happened to be my age and were jerks to me simply because they thought I was annoying or weird. It had nothing to do with religion and everything to do with our ages and/or maturity levels. Thank God for that.