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Walking through the front doors of City Bible Church is much like wading through the crowd into a rock concert. You can practically see the energy sparking in the air like a hormone meringue pie whipped from virility, youth and Axe Deodorant spray. The fact that the band keeps the base thrumming in anticipation doesn’t hurt at all.

After stopping to gawk at the stage, we found a pew toward the front and I wished I’d remembered the earplugs, which I recommend you bring if you plan to catch a service at City Bible Church. Along with a barf bag, a flask filled with Pepto-Bismol and a lighter, so you can raise a flame to Jesus during the drum solo.

I had to laugh when the band started in on the song “The Stand,” and I realized I knew all the words without looking at the big screen monitors behind the stage, of which I should note there were not one, not two, but SIX. Rock ‘n roll time for Jesus went on for about fifteen minutes before the band hit its peak and ended the set with their Jesusgasm faces.

Then Pastor Marc Estes took to the stage in his plaid shirt and jeans and led the troops in their first prayer.

I had every reason to like this guy. I mean, even I thought my predilection for cute, clean-cut, middle-aged bald men with goatees knew no bounds. But when he asked me to agree with his prayer by giving it “one big shout!” I couldn’t help but roll my eyes, especially when he followed that sentiment with a “happiest place on earth” cliche about his church being even better than Disneyland.

Then the lights dimmed and it was time for the video announcements! City Bible Church pretty much has its own TV channel, which you can see for yourself right here.

Each commercial was slicker and shinier than the last, like ads for VW hybrids or fancy newfangled feminine hygiene products with wings. But I couldn’t help but do the math in my head. My guess is that five minute video cost them a good ten grand to produce. I mean, these were commercials that had been test marketed. Then came the brochures,which were distributed to dozens of new visitors like Joel and me, along with shrink-wrapped introductory DVDs, logo-printed ballpoint pens and coupons for free drinks from their in-church Cafe. I’m no Catholic, but sitting there holding ten bucks worth of schwag overwhelmed me with guilt.

What a waste! All those dead trees could have fed a family of six for at least a day, if not a week. Each one of those stupid big screen TV’s was a year’s worth of groceries or enough to clothe and house a homeless veteran for a year. I kept waiting for the explanation. Where was all this money coming from? And more importantly, where was it going?

Unfortunately, I got the message loud and clear when the white popcorn buckets went around the pews for offerings.

“God promises that He will supply ALL your needs!”
“Blessed are those who give back!”
“I activate my faith by giving!”
“Let’s pray for prosperity!”

They collected the buckets and the sermon began, live-broadcasted from Vancouver to all four church campuses via satellite at who-knows-what cost. Pastor Frank Damazio’s lecture turned out to be about RELATIONSHIPS.

“Say relationships!” Pastor Frank preached as if he was teaching a foreign language. And who better to school me on relationships than a man who fully admits to being in a sexless marriage! I was all ears!

Apparently Relationships That Believe the Scriptures Rule are based on the inerrancy of the Bible. The Bible is the authoritative word of God and if that means you smack your wife for disrespecting you, the Bible TOTALLY has your back. This relationship thing is also based on the sufficiency doctrine, which says you have to look to the Bible in EVERY area of your life. Apparently this two thousand-year-old tome has every. single. answer, which only had me wondering what the Bible might say about the ethics of taking iPhone photos of Slug Bugs while driving just so I can get more points when Joel isn’t in the car with me. (We play slug bug for sexual favors!) What would the Bible say about my blog trolls? I’m guessing they should probably just “eat it [as] barley cakes, and thou shalt bake it with dung that cometh out of man, in their sight.” Eze 4:12.

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