Thursday, July 23, 2009

Cruise Ship Theology

As I look around at other pastors in the blogosphere, they're out there taking sabbaticals, or at least touring with church groups.

They're traveling through the Holy Land, treading out the very ground that the Apostles trod. They're feeling the brilliance of the Grecian sun as the dust from the ruins of Corinth fills their nostrils. They're feeling the water of the Jordan as it courses between their toes. They are establishing a deep sense of personal connection with the places and stories they know so well, so that they can tell them even more intimately upon their return.

Me? I went on a cruise.

To Behr-myoo-dah.

Me and the missus and the pups hopped on board the Explorer of the Seas last Friday, one of those great gleaming city-ships that stand as high above the water as Godzilla's armpits. It had four pools, and a seemingly infinite number of bars. It had so many bars that in some cases they were stacked on top of one another. In its immense gut, there was a actual mall...which was above the casino and right next to the ice-skating rink. It was a festival of gorging self-indulgence, from which I feel lucky to have returned only three pounds heavier. Urff.

Unlike a tour of the sacred sites of the Ancient Near East, it might seem that this seaborne temple of conspicuous consumption would be lacking any theological framework. This is not so. For me, everything is theological, even when my medications are working. This cruise was no exception.

There were a number of church groups in evidence. There was a gaggle of folks there to celebrate 170 years of "receiving God's blessings." That's what their t-shirts said, anyway. There was a cluster of men whose shirts were emblazoned with Jesus slogans which were either In Your Face For Jesus or suggesting that God Will Do Whatever You Ask Just Because He is so Awesome.

That first Sunday, there was a worship service on board. It wasn't in the chapel. The chapel, as best I can tell, is exclusively for on-board weddings, of which there appear to have been several. The worship service was described as "nondenominational," and was in the theater. Not the big theater. The slightly-less-big theater.

The worship service involved the ceremonial playing of a Joel Osteen DVD.