Sunday, October 25, 2009

Gay Guy in Seminary: Day 070 (Hand Sanitizer)

I visited Christ Lutheran Church today. The pastor there is actually the wife of one of my Intro to Ministry professors. I was having a weird deja vu moment when we pulled into the parking lot because the layout of the church is exactly the same layout that I remember from a Ventura County Chinese Club Halloween party from when I was a kid, but I know we did not drive all the way up here for it. I mean, I'm pretty sure we didn't because that would be crazy. I also remember winning my Halloween Snoopy mug that year, which I broke a few years later. I always end up breaking my favorite mugs. I guess it's inevitable when you use the same mug every day.

Anyway, so we're at this church, and I notice they have these hand sanitizer "stations" set up, one at the front of each of the two aisles. I didn't think too much about them until Pastor Terry pointed them out and said that while she is certainly not discouraging people from touching each other, she did describe her congregation as a congregation that likes to touch, we still had to respect the H1N1 epidemic that our country is facing right now. I totally agree with what she is saying, but I worry about the social implications of it. With the hand sanitizers sitting right there out in the open, and everyone using them right after shaking each others' hands, it's kind of like a subconscious jab at the people around you. It says, "You're dirty." It says, "We're all dirty, and we need to purify ourselves after touching each other." Not exactly the message that I would want to send to a people in a church.

I don't want to say this like I'm some kind of sociologist and that I have all kinds of degrees in this kind of thing, it's just the gut reaction that I got from it. I think if this practice were to spread to any kind of degree, it would just feed into everyone's paranoia. Like I said, I agree with her and believe we need to do something to protect ourselves from this virus. In fact, my brother just contracted it recently. (He's fine now, btw.) I just don't like what this kind of thought can lead to. Eventually, if we are going to follow the slippery slope model, which is a model that I find inherently flawed, but let's just go there for a moment for hyperbole's sake, no one will want to touch anyone anymore. And, that would just make for a sad, sad world.

This is not a congregation that wants to avoid people. They were very warm and welcoming, and everyone went around the room "Passing the peace," which I guess is a very Marin County thing to do. Maybe it's a NorCal thing? Down south, when we shake each others' hands or hug, we say, "Good morning." Up here, it's, "Peace be with you." Maybe it's a "Shalom" thing...

We were lucky today, because we happened to pick what I think is the Lutheran equivalent to our Presbyterian "Stewardship Sunday," and they had a celebration luncheon afterwards. Stewardship Sunday is the day when we all pledge how much we expect to tithe to the church in the upcoming year so that the church can figure out its operating budget. This "lunch after church" thing has been happening a lot with our church visits, which is good 'cuz it saves the cost of a meal and gives us a chance to interact a little bit more with the people at those churches. These churches don't have lunches every Sunday, we've just been getting lucky in the game of church lunch Russian Roulette.

Didn't do much else today. Caught up on Ugly Betty and finished editing the Inquirer essays, so I'll be mailing those out tomorrow. I'll hopefully be getting a lot of reading done after that.


  1. I think the "Peace be with you" thing is Lutheran. I remember doing it at Brenda's church every weekend.

    I'm a total handsanitizer fan. I've had a jumbo bottle on my desk, since I made it through our office's bronchitis outbreak unscathed using it. You're right though, it does some times send an unintended message. I think judiciously timing when you use it is the best thing...that or establishing yourself as the office paranoid germiphobe will help prevent people taking offense.

  2. All of the Presbyterian Churches up here use, "Peace be with you," too. Timing for use of hand sanitizer during a church service isn't really the issue 'cuz the bottles are right there out on the floor. I think it would be better if the sanitizer was kept in the bathroom, but that would lessen its effectiveness. I don't think there's an actual solution to this dilemma, I just thought it was an interesting observation