Commentary

Bananas: Church shopping in Vermont

By Johnny Bananas 

Vermont is known more for feeling the Bern than praising the Lord.  A recent Pew poll found less than 3% of Vermonters claim they have been “born again,” due mostly to their still being bitter about being born in the first place.  

Which is why when it comes to finding a church one is more likely to stumble into a building once used to worship the risen King now set aside to rent spaces on Tuesdays, Thursdays and weekends for sustainable hemp macramé lectures, matching your hookah to your Kundalini chakra or making your own solar powered chainsaw.  Or as one optimistic Vermont mega-church pastor describes them – “seekers”.  It’s still unclear what they’re seeking, but guessing from their bumper stickers it has something to do with heroic attempts to change the climate.  God, help them make it warmer, please, in the name of Jesus.  Amen and A-woman. 

Driving from tiny town to tiny town I found myself seeking a church where I might feel welcome and safe, a part of a community committed to what the Bible teaches, and capable of making a strong cup of organic coffee with real Vermont dairy products.  As anyone who has gone to a church in the last ten years knows, you must come ready to take notes.  Pastors don’t spend their weeks turning sacred scripture into snappy alliterations for you to forget what they really wanted to be when they grew up was a gangsta rapper for Christ. So grab the no. 2 pencil thoughtfully slotted in the back of the chair in front of you.  It’s time to find you a church! 

Seventh Day Adventists

Great if you’re needing accountability with your New Year’s weight loss resolution.  Adventists focus heavily on eating vegetables and avoiding alcohol, while also focusing on the much needed day of rest for you busybodies.  Other reformed Christians call them “legalists” but I like to think of them as purists since they rely heavily on trying to return to man’s time in the Garden of Eden, and who in Vermont doesn’t like to garden?  We didn’t legalize pot and composting  for nothing.  

Likewise, their prophetess Ellen White is a first wave feminist who “wrote” over ninety books the SDA folks liken to scripture. Which means, if you’re a Miss Bossy-pants (yes, you Karen) who likes to read, this is the place for you. Tithing is optional, and communion is a combination of Welch’s and lightly toasted Ezekiel bread.  Pastors dress casually and typically preach about the end times (hence Advent).  If you’re a Catholic, ex-Catholic or recovering Catholic you might want to skip this group as their opinion of the Pope is slightly lower than Sinead O’Connor’s. 

Jehovah’s Witnesses

If you’re tired of celebrating birthdays, going to the hospital for medical care (and who isn’t at this point), and have a low opinion of man-made governments like, well, basically all of them, and don’t care to introduce people to your family, then this is your crowd.  Meetings are invite only and available on weeknights.  The dress code is semi-formal.  Once a member you get a free subscription to their magazine called the Watchtower, which likewise reports on the never-ending reasons to be suspicious of government while also avoiding suspicion about all of the prophecies the magazine has gotten wrong in its nearly 100 years in publication.  They are also big fans of exercise, preferring cardio intervals where they walk door to door.  Bring a pair of comfy shoes. 

Roman Catholics 

This church is looking for those who are serious about their faith – deadly serious.  One should possess a reasonable knowledge of art history, enjoy sculptures and stained glass, with a taste for organ music.  For those who lack self-control around the opposite sex there is the opportunity to join one of their exclusive mens or ladies clubs where clothing is provided and a variety of campus locations are open to members.   Politically they are most known for their stance as pro-life while ironically having a police state-like apparatus intended to keep tabs on those who take advantage of God’s grace by living life to the fullest.  

Speaking of police states, aspiring young men can join other big-boys clubs like the Jesuits and Knights of Columbus which can fast track you to a career in the intelligence community and even the Illumnati (so I was told by the Adventists).  Birthdays and holidays are celebrated, and government is great so long as the Catholics are in charge of it.  Known to evangelicals as the “plus” religion, this is for people who trust Jesus as their savior “plus” want to do a little extra to impress Him. Even though there are no “Help Wanted” signs in Heaven, these people expect you to work for it, so pack a lunch. 

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (LDS) – the Mormons

Nice doesn’t begin to describe these people.  Whereas most Vermonters wave in traffic with just the one finger, these people are traditionalists who observe the original five-finger wave rather than a five-finger death punch, which is refreshing.  Speaking of refreshing, cleanliness is next to godliness and hygiene is a matter of sanctification (look it up) that includes special thermal underwear, which makes sense since this group began in Vermont.  

Feminists may find some of their teachings difficult, since polygamy is still accepted in some circles.  However, given the difficulty of finding a good man in New England these women have learned to keep their mouths shut about it, because, patriarchy. Like the Adventists they are tee-totallers but have loosened up on other dietary restrictions, such as drinking Coke products since the LDS learned how to make money on the stock market.  Similar to the JW’s in neighborly exercise, the LDS have taken the great state of Utah and turned it into a feeder system for professional sports teams, which means you can watch more channels than most others. 

Baptists

If you are looking to be right more than righteous this is your clan.  There is no point arguing with these people, they will win, even when losing, which oddly sounds like it would be full of Democrats but that wasn’t the case at all. I’ve never seen so many Trump stickers in a church parking lot. You’d think they sainted the man, but the Catholics wouldn’t let them. The dress code is nearly formal, so if you can’t tie a double Windsor knot or don’t wear dresses (no creeps please!), don’t bother showing up. Regarding alcohol there is a joke that goes “How can you tell the difference between two Baptists at the liquor store versus two Methodists? The Methodists will wave to each other.” Nuff said. 

Methodists

If you are someone who needs how to be righteous spelled out for you in three easy to remember activities (sorry Calvinists, I’m not tip-toeing through the TULIP here), then this might be the right fit for you.  I can’t recall what they are right now, but then again, I’m not into being ordered around by a club that would have me as a member.  Suffice to say Methodists didn’t make it to the top of denominations all time by being a bunch of slackers.  Methodists have an unquenchable desire to do good, so if you’re a do-gooder you’re a natural fit.  Charities, bake sales, car washes, knitting clubs, and vegan recovery efforts are all in a day’s work for these folks.  Looking for a church like this?  Just do it. 

Congregational 

If you want to see a microcosm of limited government and true democracy in action, this is your place.  Whereas many churches are blind-sided by heavy handed leadership councils or blinded by narcissistic super pastors, Congregationalists have perfected the art of the blind leading the blind.  By that I’m referring to the relative age of the members.  Who knew they made quadrifocal lenses? What are those for?  Reading up close, far away, and keeping an eye out on either side of you for Baptists and Presbyterians. 

Presbyterians

This is the representative form of church government that most closely resembles a republican model.  Since this is Vermont there aren’t actual Republicans running it, so it’s more like a commerce chamber with loosely elected representatives, who may or may not pass you their business card.  Inspired by the conservative theology of John Calvin they hold fast to the five solas: sola scriptura (scripture alone), sola fide (faith alone), sola Christi (Christ alone), sola gracia (grace alone), sola Deo Gloria (God’s glory alone).  That’s a lot of alone time, and given the preponderance of heathens in Vermont you might feel at times like you’re worshipping alone.  On a positive note, the communion wine is typically a nice Malbec. 

Assemblies of God (AOG)

A typical AOG worship service elsewhere in the US would find this rowdy crowd running the aisles in spiritual elation with flag waving and people holding their hands so high you know they’re sure, and so does God.  However this is Vermont, so they can’t be bothered with outward displays of public excitement so, unless someone brings some snakes or Daryl decides to join in the band with his bagpipes, you will be sorely disappointed by comparison to other AOGs in the other 49 states.  One of the more egalitarian styles of worship they will pass the mic around and let any and all comers share a word of prophecy or a nice thought or paraphrase a poetry reading they heard on NPR that morning. I wasn’t kidding about the snakes. 

Episcopalian

A man dies and is met by St. Peter who takes him touring through Heaven when they come upon a big pit full of people gnashing their teeth and wailing.  The man asks “Who are they?” St. Peter replies “Those are the Catholics who ate meat on Friday.” “Oh. I see,”said the man.  A short distance further they see another pit full of people gnashing their teeth and wailing and the man says “Who are they?” To which St. Peter replies “Those are the Baptists that went out dancing.” “Ahhh,” the man nods.  Some distance later they come to a huge pit full of people gnashing their teeth and wailing and the man asks shocked “Who are all those people?”, and St. Peter says “Those are all of the Episcopalians who ate dessert with their salad fork.” 

Dress appropriately. 

Mega Church 

If you’re the shy type who worries about fitting in – don’t.  The greeters will give you so many hi-fives and shower you with brotherly love by the time you get to the dimly lit worship-cum-concert area you’ll never know what hit you.  Bring a glow stick and some ear plugs if you want to assimilate, but scout out the speakers, sometimes they’re in back, and sit accordingly if you want to keep most of your hearing.  God is at least two thousand years old AND in Heaven so they need to crank it up good and loud so He can hear them.  Play your cards right and you will get both free coffee and a free t-shirt, but these are millennials so, if you’re an off the grid type, you have to give them your personal information to get either FYI.  The pastors are usually entertaining and ferociously hip from their sick shoes to their lit fake glasses. So try not to get too distracted when you hear the gospel and learn you need to repent for your sin, not find new ways to indulge it.  It’s just your eternity that hangs in the balance. 

Good luck!

Johnny Bananas is the nom de plume of a fake news reporter and satirist who lives in Vermont and gives the editor headaches when he submits columns like this one.  

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9 replies »

  1. Thanks for the early morning chuckles. Note: it’s not about religion, it’s about relationship. Religion is a brand; relationship is an interactive fulfillment, connection, and happiness.

  2. And you forgot the REAL church, which isn’t a denomination, but a group of any people anywhere who get together to read, listen to and study the word of God (bible) and worship Him. My church family is Union Bible Church way up in Alburgh – a more down-to-earth, honest and humble group of people you’ll may never see. No rock bands, just old-fashioned hymn singing and praise. No “seeker-friendly” stuff, just the Word – which will convict you all by itself of any need to change. Not one perfect person there, just a group of people who know they’re just sinners saved only by His grace and glad of it! Kids are free to be kids and there’s a lot of them, all included. And it IS absolutely about a personal relationship with the King of kings and Lord of lords!

  3. Cambridge Christian Fellowship in Cambridge of course is also one of those amazing loving churches that seek only Gods word and a relationship with Jesus. Old gyms kids and 97 on down in age. Pot luck sundays and bbqs for the town in the summer. All sinners and nobody is better than anyone else mask or no mask

  4. As a pastor here in Vermont I began reading this with trepidation and ended with amused appreciation. Such trenchant wit! My ego felt a little insecure about this column, but as my mission didn’t seem concerned I reckon my ego can squirm a bit. Well done.

    • I’m reminded of some of Robin Williams’s quips about being Episcopalian – including saying that we’re “Catholic lite: same religion, less guilt.” Or my favorite, though I don’t know if it was by Williams: How do you know someone is an Episcopalian? When you’re watching a Star Wars movie & one of the characters says, “May the Force be with you!” they’ll respond, “And also with you!”

  5. Wait for it — What about the UU’s? They are the ones patiently waiting under the snow for the first signs of Spring when they will spring forth in full sappiness.

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