Saturday, February 24, 2007

I have no problem with Jesus...

...but sometimes His fervent followers tick me off. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if they annoy Him, too.

If I had to check a box on a form, I'd check the one next to Christian. I was brought up in the First Baptist Church in Springfield, Missouri. Some of what I heard there I believed, and some of it didn't feel right to me, so I dabbled in a few other religious denominations as I grew older. All of them were Protestant and all of them fell under the broad category of Christian. When the sermons I heard in those churches failed more often than not to jibe consistently with the God I knew in my heart, I moved on.

I may be a backslider, but the spiritual part of me feels pretty content. (These days I get my religion mostly by reading The Rev. Dr. Kate.) I do not feel the need to have my immortal soul rescued at the grocery store.

Remember when I wrote about being excited because a new supermarket was being built near my house? I was thrilled that I'd no longer have to drive five to eight miles to do my grocery shopping. The fact that I wouldn't have to navigate the parking lot and vast interior of Wal-Mart seemed like an answer to my prayers. (Yes, I pray--but generally not for things like convenient shopping.)

The new store is nice. It's ultra-clean and laid out well, and it has almost everything I need. It's a little more expensive to shop there, but the convenience makes up for it. I'm eating better, too, because shopping nearby means shopping more frequently, and that translates into more fresh foods.

After I went to the new store for the first time, I wrote this: "...all the people inside the store were smiling--especially the customers. Even me. I hadn't seen smiling grocery shoppers in a long, long time. By the time I left the store, I was humming carols right along with the piped in (piped out? to the parking lot?) music." I shopped there yesterday, but without the same pleasant experience. It was the piped-in music that changed everything for me.

I don't remember what kind of music they've played since the Christmas season. I think it was just typical elevator music, although I do remember one time recently when I was alone in the dairy aisle and the music made me feel like dancing behind my grocery cart.

Yesterday, though, the whole time I was there I listened to piped-in Christian music. It was the pleasant, easy-listening, could-be-confused-with-soft-rock kind of music, but the lyrics were all about praising and worshiping and Jesus being the answer. It wasn't the music itself that offended me but the idea that Jesus was being "sold" to me right there among the avocados and the cherry tomatoes.

If you want to talk to me about "saving" while I'm grocery shopping, tell me about coupons or two items for the price of one. Don't make me think about my afterlife while I'm trying to determine which carton of skim milk has the longest shelf life.

Now, I'm all for free speech. If you write about your religious beliefs (or political viewpoints) on your blog, I can read it--or not--and agree with it--or not. The same goes for anything you publish in your newspaper or broadcast on your television show. In those situations, I have a choice. But when you proselytize in the supermarket while I'm trying to buy enough of your goods to check one household chore off my list, I can't turn you off. My choice is either to live with it or to shop somewhere else.

I could protest, of course, but I'm trying to see both sides of the issue. I guess, if I were the storeowner, I might feel entitled to play whatever kind of music I like. As a customer, I don't like it. And I don't think Jesus ever expected to be the subject of background noise for people whose minds are on the price and freshness of boneless, skinless chicken breasts.


  1. It was the same with me when I went into a resale shop and there was that music playing. I don't mind an occasional soft song of praise and I often really enjoy a rousing hymn but in public places I like them interspersed with other music or no music at all. I told them that I found it annoying and disturbing. I felt better after saying something though I doubt they've changed the music. Of course I wouldn't know since I haven't been back.

  2. Velvet, You and I see eye-to-eye on religion. I was around 9 when I told my Sunday School teacher that I was glad we didn't have the same God! Mom agreed with me and let me quit Sunday School for a few months until I moved up a grade and got a new teacher.

    I have to say, the down your throat religion is one thing I DON'T miss about the South. The ones who seem holier than thou are the very ones leading charge to the bars on Saturday night and in the front row at church on Sunday... a dichotomy I never really got.

    Still, if it was a choice of this store or Walmart, I'd buy / borrow an ipod!

  3. My first thought is "do those people really care WWJD?-what would Jesus do knowing that songs that are intended to praise him are being used to sell things?" But then again, maybe they either think they can attract more Christians once word gets out about the choice of background music, or they think they can convert you in the canned-goods aisle. Is this a major chain? I wonder what the area manager thinks about the music.

  4. Velvet, I think this is the BEST first sentence of a blog I have read so far! lol
    I'm bombarded with music I don't care for, everywhere I go. Even sitting in my car at a stoplight! Lucky for me, I had three children, so have 'selective hearing'! I block it out and I don't hear anything I don't want to hear!

  5. I wonder Velvet, if you might have misunderstood the lyrics. Maybe what they were singing was that Jesus saves right there in that very store. The message of course being you'd be saving there too. Even if Wal-Mart is a little cheaper.

    I think ordinary janet is right about the WWJD question, but off a letter. Maybe it should be WWJS?

    where would Jesus shop?

  6. Annie, I love hymns, too. There's evidently a huge market for the "new" Christian music, but I'd imagine that even the people who regularly listen to it would be comfortable with other music (something instrumental maybe?) while they shop. Good for you for having the courage to say something!

    Creekhiker, the bad news is that those "holier-than-thou" folks are not just in the South anymore. A lot of them are in Washington, D.C. Maybe what I experienced yesterday was their back-up plan: "If we don't succeed in passing enough legislation to make 'em all toe the line, we'll brainwash 'em in the small-town supermarkets." ;-)

    Janet, I agree. I found it disrespectful to the customers (especially those who might be of a different religion) AND to Jesus.

    This is a Harvest Supermarket. It's a chain, but I don't know if it's a big one. I did find out from my younger daughter that one of the owners "has his own church," so I'm thinking this is his attempt to reach out and convert the heathens in his customer base.

  7. Jackie, I know what you mean about "selective hearing." I guess I need to expand the capability of my hip-hop filter to exclude other genres.

    Third-Cat, Jesus might save there, but not if he buys the DiGiorno supreme pizza, which costs $1.30 more there than at Wal-Mart. And I don't know where he'd shop, either, but given his legendary talent with loaves and fishes--not to mention turning water into wine--I'd guess he wouldn't have to worry about it too often.

  8. Velvet, let me just point out that the DiGiorno supreme pizza bought where Jesus shops whould probably be just heavenly, if not divine. Surely that would be worth the $1.30!

  9. Third-Cat, that's a really good point, LOL! And next time I go there, just as a test, I'll be sure to buy the angel-hair pasta and the angelfood cake.

  10. I haven't experienced that but I have experienced quite a change in the grocery store I often frequent. There are couches and a coffee table, a sort of livingroom set-up, by the luncheon meat selection, and, AND, a woman playing a piano near the flower section. When did grocery shopping become some life-stylish. I want to go there, get my eggs, milk, butter, whatever, and be on my way. For sitting and visiting, I'll go elsewhere. Same goes for concerts. Odd.

  11. Alison, that's WILD! If that kind of ambiance escalates, you'll soon be shopping by candlelight. I guess that would be one way to pass off rusty lettuce.

  12. I like the point you brought out about how it lowers Christianity to white noise / background noise. That is the strongest objection I have to things like that.

    I'm not sure why people insist upon piping in music anyway. I prefer the Muzak type for background noise. It seems when its not that kind but more popular stuff its way too loud. I'm also annoyed when the music is on at the doctor's office and you cant hold a conversation because of the likes of John Tesh. I may hate the music but I still have to give my co-pay...its not right. If I have to endure John Tesh I shouldn't have to pay.

    third cat might be right- the message may be that Jesus shops there and saves not just money but customers too.

  13. Dear Velvet Sacks - First of all, thank you for the kind comment about my blog. After reading your post, I am sorry I haven't been by sooner! Hymns in the grocery store is a new one (other than Christmas carols which really fall into the catagory of "seasonal"). I agree with your take on the whole thing - it is not appropriate to force others into a conversion experience in the dairy aisle - and I would be leary of the conversion if this is all it took!
    As a general rule, I dislike anybody forcing their taste in music on me. I don't like Muzak, the radio or anything else in the background. And I despair of folks who play their car radios so loudly that I am forced to endure their taste while idling at stop lights! I do enjoy hymns though, and play them often - on my car's CD at a decible not intended for distribution! I do try and remember that Jesus may have taste entirely different than mine!

  14. Gah, someone got to the What Would Jesus Buy joke before me. I gotta be more vigilant about my blog reading.

  15. Hi! I just giggled about your blog the whole way down. My husband works at a grocery store, he's head of grocery as a matter of fact! People complain about the music continuelly to the store! Elderly people tend to not like anything made after 1960 to be played, while younger people roll their eyes and comment on the lovely music. You can't make everyone happy, BUT Christian music, soft rock or not is usually not something played in a public location for fear of offending someone! I'm surprised they had it on! I can tell you I complain to my husband about the music as well... usually because when I call him and am on hold the music, no matter what genre it is, is usually loud enough to damage eardrums! Although, I must admit I do occasionally get ticked when he picks up while I'm singing along to a particularily good song!

  16. Austin, I'm old enough that I don't mind elevator music as long as the volume level is reasonable--although it does require some attention to impulse control when the music is good enough to make me want to sing along.

    The Rev. Dr. Kate, thanks for stopping by to visit. I always find your blog inspirational and thought-provoking, and, after so much exposure to hellfire-and-brimstone preachers, immensely refreshing. As a matter of fact, one part of your comment reminded me of another story about religion I've been meaning to write. I'll do that tonight.

    Mike, I hate when that happens, don't you?

    Anonymous, thanks for visiting. Your comment was helpful. Now that I know people complain about grocery store music all the time, I might work up the courage to mention it to them myself. I certainly didn't want to be the only one.

  17. Oh, I sooo want to say alot, but I won't. What I will comment on is music in stores, don't like it, and I never have. There is way to much noise pollution in this world as it is.

  18. As a fellow back slidden Baptist, I know just what you mean. I also don't want anyone holding me hostage to their viewpoints.

  19. Schrems, you're a good example here. I know from what you've written that you're a person of strong faith, and I admire that. I also feel sure that if you wanted to share your thoughts about your faith with me, you wouldn't do it while I was trying to buy groceries.

    Kat, exactly!

  20. Velvet, I share my thoughts about my faith in Christ when someone opens that door for me. Otherwise, I demonstrate Gods love, in my actions, and in the way I live. (I'm still working on the "way I live part"). I'm better at "showing" than I am at preaching....just DON'T ask my kids.


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