Mandatory Church Attendance?

Silly Sylvia AllenMandatory church attendence?  That’s what Arizona state senator Sylvia Allen wants.  I can’t make up stuff half this funny; or disturbing.  But, it’s true.

In a debate over legislation that would allow good, hardworking Christians to carry guns in public buildings (honestly!) Mrs. Allen careened from the foolishly naive to the zealously theocratic, blurting out “there’s a moral erosion of the soul of America!”

“It’s the soul that is corrupt – how we get back to a moral rebirth I don’t know, since we are slowly eroding religion at every opportunity that we have. Probably we should be debating a bill requiring every American to attend a church of their choice on Sunday to see if we can get back to having a moral rebirth.”

What I’m wondering is: if I don’t choose a church, will one be assigned to me?  The prospect is, I’ll admit, a little daunting.  What if I get Jehovah’s Witness?  I really like birthday cakes and, you know, modern medicine.  On the other hand, there’s an element of excitement if the procedure is anything like that sorting hat business in Harry Potter.

“I got Gryffindoor!”

“I got PuffenStuff!”

“I got Seventh Day Adventist!”

“I got a rock.” (Shut up, Charlie Brown).

Incidentally, whatever happened to Charlie Brown?  He moved to east Texas, got a job as a flag guy on a road construction crew, and lost himself in the Pentacostal Church.  No more wiffing on kickoffs for him–dude spends his weekend shaking and baking and speaking in tongues.

But I digress.  Congresswoman Allen is dead serious.

In fact, when reporters caught up with her the next day, Allen doubled down.  Refusing to apologize, she pointed out how things had changed since she was a child in the 1950s. (not her fashion sense, of course).  “People prayed, people went to church,” she said, “I remember on Sundays the stores were closed,” Allen said. “The biggest thing is religion was kicked out of our public places, out of our schools.”

I get how these people feel–it must be highly disorienting to emerge from the monochrome vision of pasteurized, processed America and find that the world contains a vast palette of ethnicities, cultures, sexual orientations, gender identifications, political sensibilities far beyond what was portrayed in Leave It To Beaver and The Donna Reed Show.  I feel her pain. It’s how I felt when I visited Orem, Utah.

What I don’t get is how these folks don’t hear themselves. Isn’t this mandatory religion thing one of our core conflicts with eastern extremists such as ISIL, Al Queda, and the Taliban? How is a frumpy Christian woman who wants to legally compel me to attend church any different than  a bearded Muslim extremist who aims to impose compulsory religion?  I would think, in a nation that calls itself Christian but is in actuality experiencing a startling decline in the numbers of individuals who identify as “religious” in general and “Christian” specifically, the God Gang would be a little more warm and welcoming, and a little less aggressively imperialistic.

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I Saw The Best Minds of My Generation…pinned to a lapel?


“All your heroes are here! Jack Kerouac, Alan Ginsberg, William S. Burroughs and Hunter S. Thomson.”

But where’s the Ferlinghetti?