Tuesday, March 9, 2010

B.E.D. H.E.D.

Last night we decided, since we love naps and relaxation, we would check out club B.E.D. B for beverages, E for entertainment, and D for dining. We shamelessly imagined ourselves in that episode of Sex and the City where everyone goes to the nightclub that offers a plethora of sleep-inspired furniture. Unfortunately for us, our experience lacked the ease and reliability of a night with Carrie, Samantha, Charlotte, and Miranda. Despite this, last night gave us entree into the realm of Miami nightlife that we came here to discover.

Club B.E.D. received Hannah, Sarah, Adrian, and me with an undo amount of turbulence. The owner insisted that we pay for "at least one appetizer a person and dessert." We had already eaten dinner at an amazing Cuban place and we knew that excessively-overpriced-mandatory-eating should not be imposed on us in lieu of a cover charge, so we didn't crumble under this nightclub dude's pressure. He had major attitude though, and was pretty abrasive for someone who works in the service industry. Assuming he was the owner, he should have been providing his customers with a positive experience. If he does not do this, they won't come back -- and they sure as hell won't be ordering souffle.

The only commonality between our night at B.E.D. and what happened on SATC was the fact that beds were present in both. Beds or no beds, I've been thinking about what it is that nightclubs are promising us. Why do we seek a taste of the exotic, a bar with beds for example, and why are we willing to pay so much money for it? Reductively clubs offer overpriced drinks, food, music, and dancing. Restaurants do the same thing, minus the dancing. So, I think there has to be something about the idea of night life that imbues it with special powers. People see it as an opportunity to act on impulse and enjoy themselves and the strangers among them. The formula is something along the lines of this: pay money + get into semi-private room with a lot of other people + alcohol = escape.

B.E.D. got me thinking about the service at Christ Fellowship last Sunday. First and foremost, the public baptism we witnessed was shocking and altogether a hard experience for me to swallow. It seemed to be in awful taste, making a spectacle of a spectacle of a religious ceremony. It looked like bad theater. Second, all of the service seemed to emphasize surrender and obedience. Instead of qualities I admire more, like critical thinking and questioning, every prayer and every song discussed the worthlessness of human life and the impossibility of happiness until death. Worshipers were implored to accept the inadequacy of their existence before prayer. Their prayers seem then like another kind of escape, the escape from the hopelessness that requires their prayer. The cover charge of these prayers is having to remain unsatisfied or "sinful" during your life on Earth.

Furthermore, the pastors spoke about giving up all earthly desire for the life to come after death -- but isn't desiring a life after death an earthly desire? And isn't heaven filled with all of the things we would want to have during our time on Earth, if only it were possible? What humans want for heaven is based on human experience, the very thing the Church service rejected.

The premise of heaven and the premise of the nightclub business is an offering of the unknown. Heaven is offered as, well, heaven -- while nightclubs brand themselves by their strange contents. Whether you get a bed, a theme, or theater, your experience of life is temporarily altered. This shift in perception is breathing room for the act of escape. People can either pay for it with their obedience or their wallet, but I'd say most of the time they pay for it with both.

Christ Fellowship closed the service with pleas for donations. "It's easy to give in good times," the pastor said, "but it's a true act of faith to give in hard times." Among their instructions on how to become a better evangelist, the pastors were able to solicit large sums from the people around us. There were envelopes in boxes on the back of each seat recommending donations later, if not now. The expense of Church attendance is a requirement of church attendance, and this expense leads me to another point. Maybe megachurches, are also in the service industry, offering H.E.D. or, Heaven, Entertainment, and Dining. As soon as we entered the Church there was a food court vibe that saturated the space immediately, a physical manifestation of service infiltrating religious ground. Service is not simply about raising money or recruiting converts, it's about giving customers what they want.

1 comment:

  1. Great comparison, one sees the parallel between those who spent money for immediate earthy gratifications and those who invest it for heavenly promises.