Lost in the Deep Woods of Religiosity

Amid a thick wood stood a big tent. Inside was a stage with many chairs, upon which sat a number of prim and proper looking people. A man in a stiff black suit and tie marched up to a microphone, followed by a lady in a fluffy pink dress and pointy red heels.

The man stood like a board as he spoke into the microphone. “Hello, I’m Doug.”

“And I’m Daisy,” said the woman with a plastic-looking smile. “Welcome, perfect pew sitters, to our ‘Chills that Thrill Dance Studio.’ We have come here to your church to teach you how to trick the evil forces in your lives with moves that no one understands, not even us. Now, let’s all stand straight as boards as we hum an introductory hymn. MMM… MMM… MMM.” She stood straight and tall, as if leading everybody in the pledge of allegiance. Shivers ran up and down their spines as they copied her. Then she raised her hand and whistled to get everyone’s attention. Ten seconds of silence followed as the congregation closed their eyes for a moment of silent well wishing.

Doug held up a stiff book with a black cover. “Now, folks, it’s time to get to business. This here is the instruction manual, see? Everybody bow your heads and close your eyes in reverence as I open it. Okay, you can open them now. Isn’t it amazing? I just opened the book to the very first page, which says that the proper way to start the dance service is to leap from your seats and yell ‘Hurray! It’s as you say!’ So, come on. Let’s all stand up and do it together.”

Everyone leapt up and shouted the words in perfect harmony, like good little Christian robots.

Before they finished jumping, Daisy told them to sit down. “The second line says ‘Stand and stretch,’ so that’s what you must do. Follow our instructions to the letter.’”

Most people in the audience didn’t understand what such predictable moves had to do with outwitting evil forces, but they did the stretches obediently as they were told.

Doug and Daisy demonstrated how to do each move, even as they barked orders. “Bend down and touch your toes! Bop your neighbor on the nose. Twist to your left, turn to your right. Now, lock elbows with all your might.”

It was like an old-fashioned square dance foisted on school children to make them suffer.

“Now make sure you memorize all these moves perfectly,” said Daisy, with a click of her red heels. “Because there will be a long, exhaustive quiz at the end.”

“It’s all in the footnotes on the bottom of this page,” said Doug, holding up the book for all to see. “The footnotes teach your feet the proper notes to hit. Now, everybody clap ten times and do a handstand.”

Nobody could see the notes, so they did their best to copy Doug. Not many people could do the handstands, but they tried their best, resulting in many a sprained wrist and bad back. As the instructions droned on, the moves became increasingly complex. The dancers were told to do things like:

“Turn to your partner and bray,” “Turn to your partner and neigh,” and “Turn to your partner and sprinkle him with Old Bay.”

Daisy really got into that last one. Her heels squeaked like rusty hinges as she shouted, “Come on, pew sitters! Shake your hands over each other’s heads as if you just can’t get enough Old Bay on them. Show us dance instructors that you respect our rules. You will be forced to do them until you get it right!”

It took the outdoor church goers an hour to do the motions. Then a bunch of hoops were brought out. Everyone had to line up and jump through the hoops like tigers. In the end, they were exhausted. But hey, they’d done their duty. They came to church, they listened carefully, they did all the moves they were told to do, and now they were ready to forget them all and go about their business, inspired for the week but completely unchanged.

“Now that’s what I call a doggone down-to-earth religious workout,” Doug told Daisy. “I can’t wait to do it all again next week. Can you?”


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