I can’t speak for the entire country, but people in Dallas, Atlanta and Los Angeles apparently like to break up with significant others after church retreats.
I talk about that sometimes when I visit churches and conferences. And it’s true, one of our favorite things to do as a Christian is to dump a boyfriend or girlfriend after a retreat. We do it because on Saturday night of the retreat, which is the cryfest portion or “sloppy agape,” the minister tells us we need to lay something down tonight.
We google our heads and hearts looking for something to give up, until bing! We find it, we should give up our boyfriend or girlfriend. Especially if they didn’t come on the retreat.
And I know this is something that happens across the country because when I speak about it from stage, I can see people in the crowd elbow each other.
Ahh the church elbow or “chelbow” if you will. Long held as a classic sanctuary move, it is a shame I’ve never discussed this. Used to perfectly punctuate a pertinent pastor’s point, the elbow is designed to let people next to us know, “This sermon is for you, listen up you sweaty heathen.”
But what do you do if you find yourself on the end of that elbow some Sunday? What if it’s your ribs that get poked? What to do? What to do?
I have four ideas.
How to respond to a church elbow:
1. Hand them a beard of judgment
Not to be (disastrously) confused with a beard of bees, the beard of judgment is just what it sounds like. Mimicking the long, luxurious beards the Pharisees had, this beard is a thick matte of hair on a string. As soon as someone judges you, simply hand them one from your “bag o’ beards,” which Stuff Christians Like will soon be selling. Tell them, “You’re too smooth faced to be a Pharisee, here’s your beard.”
2. Yell, “No, I won’t make out with you.”
It’s like Ben Franklin, our favorite person to confuse with the Bible, used to say, “Nothing diffuses a situation faster than pretending someone is trying to make out with you.” Yell this out and the threat of judgment will instantly be forgotten under a wave of awkwardness.
3. Pull out a plank from under your seat
Everyone knows the verse that says, “Don’t elbow me about the splinter I have when you’ve got a plank in yo’ eye.” (That’s the message version, not King James.) So illustrate that verse by pulling out an actual plank when someone elbows you. And then hit them. They’ll forget all about that church elbow they tried to give you when they wake up later that afternoon.
4. Use an arm lock
These suggestions have gotten progressively violent, “but from the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven has been forcefully advancing, and forceful men lay hold of it.” Did I just use Matthew 11 to justify a Ultimate Fighting Championship style arm lock in which you force your pew neighbor to tap out during the middle of service? Yes, yes I did.
I hear what you’re saying, I do. “We don’t want to carry around sacks of fake beards. We don’t want to hide planks in church. We don’t want to dislocate someone’s shoulder as an act of grace.” Well then, you and I are very different my friend.
Be honest, have you ever given someone the church elbow?
Has anyone ever given you the church elbow?