A few years ago, I was in the U.K. and a pastor there was explaining some of the cultural differences between British and American Christianity. The "church massage" was a key point. When his team of pastors first attended an American pastors conference and encountered the numerous couples stroking and patting each other during sermons, they were shocked. It read as much more than affection in their eyes and culture. Some were so distracted by this behavior that they had to leave the room.
I'm not British but I have to agree. I don't view it as a precursor to anything (as they did), but I do find it highly distracting. Especially in winter when scalp massages send flakes a-flying. Blech. That's why I am a supporter of the new movement, PAMIC. And I'm rallying the troops here after encountering this witty take on People Against Massage in Church on Prodigal Jon's blog, Stuff Christians Like:
I therefore always thought I was the only one that didn't like the "during church massage." But on my blog, when I briefly mentioned a lady I've seen at church that rubs her husband's neck during service, a number of people commented. Suddenly, I was awash with an ocean of hope. Although I have mentioned this issue before, this time I was filled with the sense that I am not alone. I am not that weird. Perhaps, I thought to myself, I can join an underground resistance dedicated to the elimination of the "during church massage."
And the more I thought about that idea, the more I realized that every underground cause needs a manifesto. Some brief document that lays out our thoughts about the terror we so valiantly struggle against. I googled the name of the organization I wanted to join and didn't get any good results. So I knew it had to be me. I had to make the first move in this battle. And thus this essay was born.
1. The difference between a pat and a massage.
We recognize and respect the need to pat someone on the back. Sometimes, it's good to say "Hi" or "Good job" or "Your chair is currently resting on my big toe" with a small tap on the back. We support that. But when you pat more than four times and then linger, you have now crossed into massage territory my friend. And you're about to find yourself on the other end of a "PAMIC Attack."
2. Circles are great for cheerios, not church.
We recognize and respect the need to lay a hand on someone as you say hello or want to show your spouse support during a prayer. But when you start rubbing in a circle, a square or any other geometrical shape, you are now giving a massage. That's not a big deal right? Wrong. Your rotating hand is creating what we call a "circle of distraction." People around you will not be able to focus on the sermon as they instead become hypnotized by watching you. God hates that. It's in Numbers or Exodus I think.
3. There are consequences if you try to massage us.
The members of PAMIC are attractive and funny and Godly and often smell very nice. Please don't get confused by those four things and think it's OK to ever give us a back or neck rub during church. If you do, we can't be held responsible if you suddenly find yourself in some sort of karate arm bar lock, a sleeper hold or at the bottom of a wicked leg drop.
4. Don't confuse not loving in church massages with not loving life, Jesus, our spouses etc.
You will assume, based on our plans to rid all churches, in all countries of "during church massages," that we are not loving people. That perhaps you are rubbing someone's neck as an act of worship or praise or affection. And that members of PAMIC are not into any of those things. That is adorable. It's possible we held hands with our spouses as we walked into church. We might give back rubs at home. We could be amazing "snugglers" but when it comes to touching folks at church, we follow the Bible. And there's not a single example of someone in the Bible giving someone else a neck or back rub while Jesus taught. I dare you to find me a verse that show someone massaging someone else while they listened to the Sermon on the Mount for instance.
Is this extreme? Perhaps, but few great revolutions started quietly. We will not go peacefully. We will march and protest and launch thousands of PAMIC Attacks. (A PAMIC Attack by the way is when you squirt someone that is trying to start a during church massage with a squirt gun full of vinegar. Or what we call at our house, "sass juice.")
Non-massagers of the world unite!
Enjoy your weekend and may you sit still in church. ;)
UPDATE: Wow. Did this post provoke a lot of response! I categorized it as humor, but I see not everyone got that. It was an attempt to poke fun at a distracting element of church behavior. There is no real PAMIC group (at least not that I'm aware of!) and no PAMIC Manifesto. I hope the dialogue, however, helps everyone to understand that what may seem acceptable or commonplace to one person, may actually be unhelpful or even offensive to someone else. Knowing that we are called to help build up one another in love, I trust this conversation will help us all understand various perspectives on physical affection in church--and thereby move us forward in glorifying God in our actions and reactions. The comments thread is now closed -- thanks.