January 17, 2021

Saturday Ramblings 7.27.13

RamblerHow was your week, iMonks? Here at the iMonastery we have have had a busy week chopping vegetables, peeling fruit, baking bread, and … and … whatever you do to meat. Grill. We grilled meat. And all of this chopping and peeling and baking and grilling has left quite a mess around the place. So now it’s time to clean up the joint. And the scraps we scrape up are what we call Saturday Ramblings.

It’s started already. We’re more than three years away from the next presidential election, but already the candidates are acting like candidates. And those who are Christians and candidates are praying for revival in America, as sure as the sun rises to the right of north. Can I say right now I’m already tired of the campaigning?

But I do see some good on the Southern Baptist horizon in the person of Russell Moore, the head of the SBC Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission. He is described as having “Jesus in his heart, Wendell Berry on his bookshelf and Merle Haggard on his iPod.” I might just like this guy.

A judge in North Carolina has told a group of county commissions they can no longer pray in Jesus’ name before their meetings. I’m still waiting to hear that Christians are being persecuted in the Tar Heel state. And how we need to return our nation back to its Christian roots. Anyone? Anyone?

And of course we all know that only the United States sends out missionaries, right? Right? Uh … well, we are still number one, kind of.

Not sure what to make of this. Just an interesting science experiment, or a devious plot to end civilization as we know it?

YouVersion, referred to at times as “God’s app,” has been downloaded now more than 100 million times. Many preachers now say, “turn in your Bibles or open your apps to …” from the pulpit on Sundays. What do you think of that? Does it matter if one looks at paper or a screen to follow along?

Good question: Can a horror flick lead people to Jesus? I’m not sure. Your thoughts?

Of course, many Christians go into full panic mode at any mention of “magic,” let alone “horror.” And interesting discussion on the topic this week by our friends at the Wartburg Watch.

The folks at Real Clear Religion have come up with a list of the 25 ugliest churches, and guess who is the first one they list? Start singing Big Butter Jesus. And they had so much fun with this first list, they came up with another. And, not to be outdone, here is a list of the 25 ugliest athletes. Have to agree with their number one …

And finally, just how many Anglicans does it take to change a lightbulb?

Birthday cakes were baked this last week in honor of Nelson Doubleday; Natalie Wood; Diana Rigg; Carlos Santana; Ernest Hemingway; Don Knotts; Garry Trudeau; Robin Williams; Rose Kennedy; George Clinton; Don Henley; Don Drysdale; Don Imus; and Mick Jagger.

Let’s mix it up just a bit today, iMonks. Instead of a song by 70 year old Sir Mick, how about a David Letterman Top Ten list? Enjoy.

[yframe url=’http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=joi6G1wTyEk’]


  1. How many Anglicans to change a light bulb? Which type of Anglicans are we talking? (And our sense of humor is still intact, correct?)

    British: The bulb’s been there since 1907 and is on a national registry. We can’t change it without the Queen’s permission.
    Anglo-Catholics: Lights? We have candles for that.
    African: One to change the bulb, two to consecrate a new bulb maker to send to America.
    American Anglican: Just one, but there are 15 different standards. Give us a few years and we’ll get that down to 3 or 4.
    American Episcopal: Irrelevant, due to the inability to distinguish light from dark anyway.

  2. I’ve gotta say, when it comes to ugly churches, L’Eglise Sainte-Bernadette du Banlay looks like Brian from Family Guy.

    • I think it looks like Tow Mater. 😀

      • Robert F says

        It looks like a fragment of a destroyed Death Star.

        • I am delighted (?) that so many of the ugliest churches are Catholic. We can’t be beat when it comes to poor taste! Regarding the Liverpool cathedral, I understand the locals refer to it as “Paddy’s Wigwam” and you can see why 🙂

          • Robert F says

            You can’t be beat when it comes to number of churches, hideous or sublime.

          • Christiane says

            well, maybe the money they saved by hiring an aesthetically-challenged architect was used to better purpose anyway . . . 🙂

            truth is, the great Churches of the faith were often labors of love spanning well over a century in the building, and La Sagrada Familia comes to mind . . . strangely beautiful!

          • Martha,

            I noticed this. I decided to be a good Protestant and not mention anything. 😉

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says

            I’m still surprised the Taj Mahoney wasn’t on the first list. Scary to think there are uglier churches than it.

            Some of them wouldn’t be bad as commercial buildings, event halls, or avant-garde show palaces,but CHURCHES?

  3. Wait… They think Corbusier’s Church in Ronchamp (#34) is ugly? Clearly, they haven’t been there.

  4. Robert F says

    The Holy Spirit is the only one who leads people to Christ, and I suppose he can use whatever means he likes; since there are so many means available, however, I like to believe that he has better taste than to use what looks to be a second-rate horror movie as his means.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      While the horror genre has much to recommend it (acknowledgement of the supernatural, things beyond physical reality, real evil), I’ve gotten an after-action report about the flick in question. It’s from the same frauds who gave you that True Account of Demon Infestation, The Amityville Horror. And includes “The Absolutely Ugliest Doll in horror movies, counting Chucky — somebody would actually give THAT to their little girl?” And a second Demonic doll just as creepy-ugly who compares notes and teams up with the first doll.

      If this is adored from the pulpit as an Evangelism Tool, The End IS Nigh.

      • Robert F says

        From what I can tell as a non-viewer of the films in question, much of what has passed for the horror genre in the last couple of decades is actually the sadistic gross-out genre. I suppose the idea of using a horror film as an evangelistic tool has the same pedigree as turning a church into a HELLHOUSE for Halloween, where the audience gets a preview of what hell may hold in store for them (according to the only slightly repressed sadistic imaginations of the church yahoos in charge of the event) if they don’t “get saved” now. In either case, it gives Christians with an unacknowledged sadistic streak the chance to terrorize the heathens now before Nobodaddy has a chance to get a hold of them later.

        All this would give Nietzsche a great big derisive chuckle.

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says

          From what I can tell as a non-viewer of the films in question, much of what has passed for the horror genre in the last couple of decades is actually the sadistic gross-out genre.

          That’s not horror, that’s SPLATTER. Also known as “violence porn”.

          “I first attempt to Terrify. If I cannot terrify, i Horrify. If I can’t horrify, I Go For The Grossout.”
          — cited by Steven King in Danse Macabre (non-fiction, on the subject of horror)

          And too many take the easy and cheap way out and just go for the grossout.

  5. Robert F says

    Neuroscientists plant false memories in brains? Holy Total Recall!

  6. Robert F says

    How many Episcopalians does it take to change a light bulb? Don’t worry about changing the light bulb; due to loss of members, the vestry in consultation with the diocese has decided to shut the doors and sell the church building and its properties…maybe to a group interested in opening a nice Jewish synagogue or Sikh temple….. but definitely not to any of those offshoot conservative Anglican denominations, the rebels.

  7. I guessed correctly that The Cathedral of St. Mary of the Assumption in San Francisco would be in this list (#24). Since it looks like a washing machine agitator, the locals have nick-named it “Sister Mary Maytag.” 🙂

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      I’m surprised the Taj Mahoney got bumped onto the second list instead of the first. It’s considered the ugliest church in Greater LA.

      Though that cathedral in Managua — “The Boob Church”…

      • You would not believe how I am itching to get my hands on the Taj Mahoney. Just one more reason we are spared by the mercy of the Holy Spirit from having women priests in the Roman Catholic Church, because if I was the local archbishop, the first thing I would do would be (a) slap a coat of paint on the walls (b) stick a reredos up on the back wall – something along these lines and (c) get a proper bishop’s cathedra installed, not that pile of blocks they currently pass off as a throne.

        The tapestries can stay, though 🙂

  8. On the planting of false memories in the brain. God is vindicated again. He did say you need two or three witnesses to prosecute. At Jesus’ trial and Paul’s various trials ( he was such a law breaker!) the witnesses couldn’t keep their stories straight.

  9. Robert F says

    Interesting how many of the ugliest churches are Roman Catholic, but I suppose that just reflects the fact that there are far more Roman Catholic churches than any single Protestant denomination churches. I’d be willing to wager that many of the monstrosities pictured here were designed by highly respected architects, people considered real artists by the architectural world. Perhaps they did not understand that they were being commissioned to design sacred spaces, not scary spaces.

    • Richard Hershberger says

      The post-WWII period has not been good for church architecture. The vast majority of church construction has been of the “vast expanses of blank brick walls” school, presumably because it is cheap; the ecclesiastical equivalent of a quonset hut. This style is boring and unattractive, but at least it doesn’t look stupid. The trouble came when congregations rebelled against this, but had no good idea how to execute this rebellion. They weren’t interested in going back to the pre-war neo-gothic standard, and probably couldn’t have afforded it even if they had wanted to. So instead we get this shotgun approach to church architecture: try everything, and hope some of it works.

      I do occasionally see a modern church that looks both modern and like a church, in a non-ugly, non-stupid way. But not often. When I do, I stand back and admire. The only example I have at hand is St. David’s Lutheran in Davidsville, Pennsylvania. Unfortunately, I don’t find any good photos of it. The best is simply to go to street view on Google Maps, and that doesn’t really do it justice.

        • Richard Hershberger says

          That’s the one. The design is historically informed: it clearly was designed by someone who understood and respected traditional church architecture. Yet at the same time it does not merely copy traditional church architecture. This is more obvious in person than in the photo. The first time I drove past it I immediately knew that it was a post-war design.

          • I think it was a very unfortunate conjunction of matters that the modernising of churches after Vatican II, including new buildings, happened at the apex of the Brutalist style of architecture and the 70s love affair with poured concrete.

            Result: buildings that look better suited to be bunkers or fallout shelters, not places you would want to kneel down in (unless you wanted to wreck your knees on the cold, hard floor).

            Or even more alarmingly, that look like temples of the Esoteric Order of Dagon.

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says

            Is “Brutalist” anything like “by Albert Speer & Associates, Architects”?

            Or even more alarmingly, that look like temples of the Esoteric Order of Dagon.

            “And they taught us a new prayer. IA, IA, CTHULHU, FTHAGN…”
            — “Dagon” (the movie; actually an updating of “The Shadow Over Innsmouth”)

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says

        I do occasionally see a modern church that looks both modern and like a church, in a non-ugly, non-stupid way. But not often. When I do, I stand back and admire. The only example I have at hand is St. David’s Lutheran in Davidsville, Pennsylvania.

        I remember seeing a recent-construction Seventh-Day Adventist church in Hemet, CA, that was pretty striking. Like a distillation of the upward-pointing pitched roof and flying-buttress spires without actually copying Gothic.

        • Richard Hershberger says

          The only Seventh Day Adventist church I find in Hemet doesn’t match your description, but I suspect you are thinking of this one, in Perris:


          I’m not sure I like it, but it certainly was designed by someone who knows what a church looks like. I’m not sure that his ideas of what to do with this idea were entirely fortunate, but I give him credit for starting with the idea of looking like a church and doing something with it.

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says

            Yeah, that’s the one. Perris and Hemet are close by each other in the same Inland Empire valley.

  10. Speaking of ugly churches, Greencastle, Indiana also has a boob church, more politely referred to as the Dolly Parton Church. It’s a (ahem) prominent landmark.
    Here it is: http://www.naturalspacesdomes.com/large_domes/church_dome.htm

  11. I agreed with most of the ugly church choices… but there were a few that their “look” pleased me… particularly the Russian Orthodox one.

  12. The “youversion” article bothered me on a few levels, but my biggest frustration is how it never questioned the amount of tracking this app is doing. Why do they feel the need to collect all this data, and just how up front are they that they are doing so?

  13. Regarding the article on the sending out of missionaries, just where is “the global south” anyway? And who was authorized to make the definition? India, South Korea, and the Philippines are all north of the equator. I’m just sayin’…

    Apparently the global south is anything south of Canterbury….

  14. It appears as though a great many of the very ugly churches were built in the 60s and 70s, especially the Catholic ones. I was taken on a field trip to St Francis de Sales in Muskegon as a very young teenager. It was held up as an exemplary church for integrating modern ideas about faith into its architecture.

    I liked both of the Orthodox Churches, but not as much as this one.

    I would like to see the 25 most beautiful churches built with a budget under, say, $1M. My guess is that the Lutherans would shine here.

    • Richard Hershberger says

      Under $1M? You are an optimist. The organ alone will run you that.

      And there are, alas, ample examples of bad Lutheran church architecture.

      • Brianthedad says

        The worst was the one we never built, thank goodness. I found old plans for it while digging thru records when serving on a building committee. The building we’d been in for years was the first phase, with classrooms with folding walls that could convert to fellowship area and a small sanctuary, the outside looked like a Pizza Hut, mansoured roof. As a matter of fact, when asked by locals where we went to church, when told, they would invariably ask, you mean that office building up on the hill that looks like a Pizza Hut?

        Yes the proposed building was worse. It was 70s church architecture at its worst. Inverted curving funnel cross-section is the best description, with the roof coming all the way to the ground. Didn’t get built. We did finally build a new sanctuary and the result is ok, architecturally, especially considering the initial plans. And my childhood church in Milton, FL was known by locals as the ‘Witch’s Hat’ church due to its shingled cone over the altar area.

        Yes, we Lutherans do have our architectural fails, but I think it reflects the change in art generally in the post WWII period. Think of the changes in classical music, art, design, architecture, everything. Churches were not immune.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      The scary part is the majority of that Ugliest Churches List comes from my denom. Makes my diocese’s new Cathedral (formerly the Crystal Cathedral, bought at the Schuller fire sale) look normal.

      “The Spirit of Vatican II (TM)” has been used to justify a LOT of Weirdness. Either that or there are some really heavy designer hallucinogens floating around the Church Architect community.

  15. The photo of Grace Baptist in Detroit is sad. Look closely: it is enclosed in chain-link; obviously it yet one more Detroit church which has been abandoned and/or facing the wrecking ball. Even in my city, I just noticed for sale signs in front of a “worship center” facility which was built just a few years ago.

    The churches that look like big-box stores (not the ones that look like boxes. I get cubism) are more telling. Some churches move into abandoned commercial property out of economics and perhaps mission. But some “worship centers” I have seen were built to look like a shopping mall. I don’t think it is by accident.

    I appreciate modern art. I think there is beauty in many of these structures. A church design influenced by modern art is not necessarily a surrender to the zeitgeist. I think we get the “ancient-future” concept half-way. The “catholic” nature of the church means all believers from all generations (past, present, and future) are one in Christ. It is definitely true that the church has mostly failed to embrace its ancient roots, but it is equally at risk of abandoning the present and future by focusing too much on ancient practices, symbols, and art. Balance is such a tired, worn-out and often malign word, but it is essential just the same.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      And the occasional little storefront non-denoms really shouldn’t be on that list. Those are usually tiny independent congregations renting whatever space was available.

  16. Richard Hershberger says

    “..those who are Christians and candidates are praying for revival in America…”

    Are there, or are there likely to be, any presidential candidates who are *not* Christians? I would be astonished to find any, apart from fringe vanity candidacies. I suppose a Jew is possible nowadays, though not likely.

  17. I actually thought some of those churches, while maybe not beautiful, were pretty awesome looking. The angry, tin foil Jesus was just silly, but I’d love to see the inside of some of these churches.

    As for false memories, I’ve always maintained that when my kids were young, I could have convinced them of darn near anything, true or not. The mind is a fascinating thing and something that human kind, I think, has only begun to delve into.

    • In particular, the Finnish “Rock Church” in Helsinki is indeed quite striking once you’re inside. In fact, it’s hard to even see it from the outside as shown in the picture (an aerial shot, presumably). It’s not to everyone’s taste, of course, but I’m surprised it made an “Ugly” list.

      As for Finland in general, the fact that modernist architecture is so common everywhere makes it seem a tad more natural when it shows up in churches. Transport one of these churches to suburban USA, and it would be a disaster.

  18. “Can I say right now I’m already tired of the campaigning?”

    Are you kidding?

    I wonder about anyone who likes this stuff. These politicians engage in endless campaigning. Even after they win office. They go right on campaigning.

    ‘Sick’ and “tired” would be how I would describe it.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      Blame Slick Willie Clinton. He started the trend of Perpetual Campaigning, and the others had to follow suit or be Left Behind.

  19. David Cornwell says

    “we need to return our nation back to its Christian roots. Anyone? Anyone?”

    This always confuses me. I wish they would define this golden era for us. When? Of what did it consist? When I read our history books, and check table of contents or index I cannot for the life of me find our “Christian roots.” Was while we were stealing land from Native Americans, kidnapping blacks in Africa, stealing land from wherever we could get it, or making up reasons to go to war.

    I love this country and would still (well, maybe, I’m 75) fight for it if really threatened. But my great great (somewhere back there) grandfather was once wanted for killing an Indian while we were supposed to be observing a peace treaty. Later he was pardoned for service in the Revolution. However I’d hardly define ths era as being “Christian.”

    The only thing I can think of is when the “City Upon a Hill” speech was given in 1630. It wasn’t a bad speech. But then reality intruded.

    These evangelist politicians need to spell it out for us and teach us the history we seem to have lost.

    • David Cornwell says

      Maybe they mean the Gilded Age or the age of the Robber Barons? Had some fire and brimstone preachers then also.

    • All across America “our Christian roots” means “what Grandpa said it was like when he was a boy”…. and it has been ever thus. In other words, an idealized but not quite accurate picture. And our Grandpas’ Grandpas were probably saying the same thing about their Grandpas, and so forth, and so forth.

      Sorry about the gender-specific paragraph above. Change it to Grandmas if you like.

      Hey, what can I say, I’m 72.

    • Richard Hershberger says

      Read the newspapers and Christian journals of the day (whatever day it is we have in mind) and you will find endless wailing and moaning about our fallen state compared with the good old days.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      This always confuses me. I wish they would define this golden era for us. When? Of what did it consist?

      1) The 1950s as filtered through Ozzie, Harriet, and Donna Reed — apple-cheeked little boys in crewcuts and neckties attending church with all the other White Americans. When Church Attendance was at its peak and Everything Was Perfect In Every Way.

      2) The 1870s as filtered through Little House on the Prairie. No mention of it’s contemporary Deadwood.

      3) Or if you take that “Kirk” in Moscow, Idaho (whose Christianese histories should be taught to every American at gunpoint, according to God’s POTUS Huckabee), the pre-Civil War South as filtered through Gone With the Wind, God-ordained “Peculiar Institution regarding Animate Property” and all.

    • Maybe they mean when the difference in compensation between a line worker’s wages and those of his CEO was closer to 30 than to 3000, and before there was free agency.

      OK, OK, I’ll stop meddling

      • Where do Calvinists come down on free agency, I wonder?

      • Robert F says

        Maybe the Good Ole Days were when the little kids playing on my street wouldn’t have routinely and loudly dropped the f-bomb and other choice terms in front of an adult neighbor, namely me, without the slightest qualm or embarrassment.

        Oh, I know little kids have always used transgressive language among themselves, I remember doing it myself; but they (we) observed a boundary proscribing the use of such language around any adult, familiar or complete stranger. Now the little urchins let fly with profanity that speaks nothing but the absence of respect for any normal social boundaries or propriety.

        If the bringing back the Good Ole Days would involve getting kids to watch their mouths, at least while the old folks are around, I just might be for it.

        • David Cornwell says

          My brother tried that in public once when he was about 10. Word got back to my mom. She used a good old bar of Ivory Soap to wash out that dirty mouth. That ended the swearing, at least in public.

        • Of course you have diddies like I learned in the 50s/60s.

          Eni meni mini mo. Catch a n…. by his toe.

          Gee, that is a great thing to have stuck in my head for over 50 years now.

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says

            I went to grade school in Suburban SoCal in the Sixties. Rio Hondo Elementary, Arcadia. Mostly white neighborhood built up right after WW2, some hispanic, some asian, NO blacks in the neighborhood or school. So guess who became the butt of all the schoolyard’s race jokes?

            I mean, some of the Bart Simpson Syndrome crap we used to pull back then would get you in SO much trouble nowadays — Federal Hate Crime charges, Registererd Sex Offenders (at age 10), or both.

            Especially when you’re 10 years old and male and anything and everything gross and disgusting is funny.

    • David Cornwell says

      I think the bigger question becomes how do we as Christians act and react in the midst of a secular and materialistic culture. How do we speak to the politics of our day? How do we avoid becoming polarized around one or two issues? And other such questions.

      Before I moved to Indiana I was largely unaware of the Anabaptist tradition. Now I’ve lived here for many years and they have greatly influenced my thinking in a lot of ways. The respect for life that I see reflected in their theolgoy and personal lives takes in more of the totality of Creaton in ways that I’ve not known before. My personal physician is a Mennonite. Her father is also a physician who serves Christ with a a different kind of joy that to me is very striking. He has served on mission fields in Africa, and on Native American Reservations in this country. He subsitued for his daughter for several months this year and I quickly learned to love him. To him medicine was a calling and a service to humanity. Its total commodification is foreign to his nature, but cannot be escaped.

      Now I know that nothing is perfect and logic can point out holes and contradictons in almost any theology, but just saying that these people have been a great blessing to me.


  20. Proud to live in the south half of Pinellas County Florida (St Petersburg, Madeira Beach), home of TWO of the world’s top 25! We do tacky right!

    • I grew up in St. Petersburg and am very familiar with Madeira Beach. Church By the Sea is considered ugly and/or tacky? My sister wanted to get married there (probably because it was by the sea). The one at Eckerd College, on the other hand . . .

  21. The listing of the ugliest athletes is just plain mean. I can criticize and laugh at ugly architecture, but not a person’s natural appearance over which he/she has no control.

  22. OT: Eagle, who has posted here frequently, is back in the hospital with a reoccurrence of the bacterial infection he had last year.

  23. Ugly churches. Yes some of them are plain B*TT ugly. As Martha said above, why are they made to look like a war time bunker?

    But including store fronts and other buildings that were obviously bought or rented and turned into a church is just plain arrogant.

    Plus there seems to be a bias against things that don’t look like red brick Baptist, white clapboard New England and/or traditional cathedral styles. Many of those are more “just different” than ugly.

    But then again a few seemed to go out of their way to be just plain ugly. Not just as churches but as buildings in general.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      Plus there seems to be a bias against things that don’t look like red brick Baptist, white clapboard New England and/or traditional cathedral styles. Many of those are more “just different” than ugly.

      Ever seen pics of that Gigachurch “Polishing-the-Shaft” Schaapf inherited from his FiL Hybels? Looks like a brick-red tilt-up WalMart with a Red Brick/White Clapboard New England Church facade and steeple tacked on to the center front of the building. That’s not just ugly, that’s stupid.

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