Home > Uncategorized > How churches and bars are alike

How churches and bars are alike

October 15, 2010

Bars and churches are both primarily social institutions. Drinking alone is of course a danger sign, and churches tend to distrust private (i.e., non-doctrinal) spirituality.

Both bars and churches serve up something that interferes with rationality. The difference is that it’s more immediately obvious at a bar: church members don’t fall over and suffer from slurred speech. (Well OK, Pentacostals…) And each tends to frown on the other’s product.

It’s snark, of course, and the point of snark is to focus exclusively on the amusing similarities, not to paint the whole picture. Snark is usually easily deconstructed.

“Social Institutions” – yes, but beyond the occasional donation jar next to the register, bars don’t impose mutual responsibilities that reach beyond the institutional walls. To varying degrees, church members are obligated to care for one another. But that kind of ruins the joke.

“Interferes with rationality” – yes, but even doped up on morphine in the hospital last year, I was never tempted to believe in god. And most people in a bar don’t get drunk: they’re observing a technical limit so they can drive home afterward. Maybe a similar percentage of bar patrons get stinking drunk as church members speak in tongues, I don’t know. Again, it kind of ruins the joke.

Painting a fuller picture shows that the common element between churches and bars is that human beings – often the same human beings – can be found in both of them. Of course there will be similarities.

Unfortunately political ads are almost all snark. Here’s an example I saw on television last night: when Mark Kirk’s attack ads against Alexi Giannoulias focus on money lost by the college tuition fund he was running, or the failure of his family’s bank, they try to make him look dishonest or incompetent. Kind of ruins the joke though, when you realize that almost all funds lost money during that period. Small banks got sold to larger ones.  People who are experts on finance saw their self-managed accounts diminish.

This season, try to ignore political ads and phone campaigns. Listen to the people running for office, and read large chunks of their writing if you can find some. (Which is to say, things they wrote not during a campaign. Politicians don’t have thoughts of their own during campaigns.) Visit disambiguation sites like Real Clear Politics. Turn on your cognitive windshield-wipers and try to clean the campaign noise off your windshield. Otherwise, all you’ll see is the snark.

Of course, getting a really clear view can be depressing.  Maybe I need a drink.

Categories: Uncategorized
  1. October 15, 2010 at 18:23 | #1

    My advice about political ads is simple: Don’t believe anything an ad says about the opposition. It might be true, but odds are it’s not, or it’s only part of the truth that can obscure the whole.

    It’s amazing anyone is swayed by them.

  2. October 16, 2010 at 04:38 | #2

    I’ve come to suspect that, for most Christians, the most important thing about their religion is not what it asks them to believe, but is instead the community it brings them. Their church is where they go for friendship. Only a relatively few Christians of an intellectual bent look upon their religion as primarily a mental exercise in belief. At least, something along those lines strikes me as true enough.

  3. Neil
    October 16, 2010 at 20:23 | #3

    I’ve never given any credence to political ads, or been influenced by them except as an ocassional exercise in spotting B.S. and seeing how many incorrect or distorted “facts” I can pick out. All parties and politicians whose ads I have seen are guilty of hyperbole and fact-stretching to at least some degree, though it also seems to me that right-wing candidates often go beyond the standard truth-stretching, inflating of numbers and general exagerration into truly ugly and fearmongering territory. I have seen it at least implied that democrat candidates were willing terrorist appeasers, were on a course to destroy the country, wanted to dismantle the military, or were attacking families or christianity, or were encouraging abortions by the millions(possibly for racist or other eugenic reasons), or were trying to indoctrinate people into the “homosexual agenda”, etc, etc, etc…not just exaggerateing the negative affects of policies, but trying to paint them as murderous subversives or gay leftist dictators. Even the most anti-corporate or anti-anything ads I’ve seen from liberals didn’t have as much fearmongering and hate in them. Sadly, not because there wasn’t plenty of material to draw from, but because most democrat candidates don’t actually oppose many of the republicans most oppressive policies, at least not out loud.

    As far as the relationship between churches and bars, there are many obvious differences, yet the essential function seems the same to me, at least for casual church-goers. Though at least at a bar, you get something real for your money on top of the social aspect. I’ll take beer over bad fiction and bad acting any day.

    Unrelated, but as I read this I was reminded of a joke told at Dennis Leary’s Comedy Central roast by a whisky-sipping man who claimed to be Dennis’ priest:

    “A priest, a rapist, and a pedophile walk into a bar…and that’s just the first guy!

  4. October 18, 2010 at 01:52 | #4

    I got called by a polling agency. Supposedly they were doing independent polling yet all the questions were asking me if I was going to vote for a repub candidate. There wasn’t one unbiased question.

Comments are closed.