Saturday, March 27, 2010

Pretend Your Way to a Better You

The last day of our trip found us tired out by a daylight savings leap forward, running on empty, and still drying off from the previous evening's rain. Needless to say, waking up for a 2 hour drive to church didn't seem like the most enticing option.

After a hurried breakfast at the Silver Diner, we made our way back to the place where our journey started a whole year before: the McLean Bible Church. We waited in a familiar-seeming flood of cars, and searched endlessly for a spot in the cavernous and poorly lit parking garage. The chilly walk inside cemented the fact that we certainly weren't in Miami anymore.

Since we'd come to MBC the year before and were veterans of a service in their main chapel, we decided to switch things up a bit and go for the "praise through song" rock-and-roll alternative. In place of the usual opening sermon from a pastor in training and more traditional hymns, this chapel offered 20-odd minutes of total immersion Christian rock. In sum, the four of us stood still for a while, exchanging the odd skeptical glance, as our peers swayed with their hands in the air, reciting the words being projected on the four huge teleprompters towards the front.

It was like being at a watered-down Creed concert - definitely the last thing any of us wanted given our collective mood.

As the vocalists sang their last and the instrumentalists filed off the stage, the lights dimmed and the screens lit up with images broadcast from the main chapel. Lon Solomon, our guy from last year, had taken the stage! After his usual greetings, a few images showed up on the other screens (I can't tell you how well they coordinate the multimedia at these places) and we knew we were in for a treat. The screen showed the cover of a not-so-recent issue of Newsweek debating the issue of religious involvement in gay marriage. Waaamp waaamp. Our moods continued to spiral.

Lon used this platform as a starting point for his sermon topic of when and how literally biblical verse should be interpreted in dictating our daily conduct (his answer: all the time, and entirely literally). And man oh man, did he succumb to some serious flaws of logic.

We sat and suffered as Mr. Solomon proved the literal applicability and validity of the bible by...saying it just had to be that way purely on the grounds that it's the Bible (in other words, everything in the Bible is completely true because the Bible says so). As we watched the most basic principles of simple logic get torn down on a big screen and listened to the murmurs of agreement from everyone around us, it was hard not to wonder just how much everyone was willing to suspend their disbelief for the sake of their pastor's argument. Although the man was encouraging false, circular logic and the type of closed-mindedness that would shock even Pat Robertson, everyone was eating it up. The second things concluded, we bolted, not even close to being in the mood for continued exposure, and too tired to argue.

As we sat in the mass exodus traffic jam, venting our frustrations with everything we had just experienced, it occurred to me that our hurried exit from MBC was all to similar to our exit from Miami. After 2 days of car confusion and trouble, not to mention the sudden onset of overcast, humid weather, we were beginning to get a little fed up with our glitzy, glamorous, gauche, and greasy vacay destination. Even though we were starting to finally get the hang of things (only eat Cuban food, and stick to hotels for some genuinely pleasing nightlife), it had all started to wear a little thin. All the "I'M IN MIAMI, BITCH" t-shirts in the world couldn't make South Beach seem like a real destination, and to do things like we would have really wanted to would have taken a pocketbook much larger than any of ours.

The breaking point came during our visit to a store called Claudio Milan. Although it looked like Eternity Fashions (in terms of decor and wares), the whole place seemed to have been priced by a boom-happy Russian oligarch. Run of the mill, de-labeled Gap jeans encrusted in rhinestones ran well into the thousands of dollars. Latin Grammy-worthy ballgowns with splits up the side that reached above the hip seemed arbitrarily priced at $5000 apiece. Sarah had her eyes set on a part of lycra leggings printed with the image of jeans (a real feat of trompe l'oeil), only to find out that they cost an astonishing $275. A shirt that was literally constructed from mesh netting and puffy-paint cost six hundred and eighty nine American dollars. When Kim asked the saleslady (who had been following us around the store) if this was simply a typo or a case of a decimal gone missing, she responded in her most "Pretty Woman" condescending saleslady voice - "It's a local designer. Handmade. The highest quality." Given the rate at which it was shedding glitter, the shirt itself begged to differ.

In both places, we were being sold something that was so obviously transparent and gratingly untrue that we were left with no other option than to get tired and give up. We learned in South Beach that simply pretending something is glamorous doesn't make it so. At McLean Bible Church, we learned that saying something is true just because someone else said so certainly doesn't make it the case, either.

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