How churches and bars are alike
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.