16 May 2010

Going to Worship with Denis Leary

I went to church with Denis Leary this morning.

In a manner of speaking, of course - no, Denis Leary did not make his way to an ELCA congregation in rural Iowa. At least, if he did, no one noticed. But I went to worship with him all the same.

I was in a bad mood this morning. For some reason, the Unbloggableness (henceforth known as "U.B." because I'm tired of typing out the whole thing) popped into my head as I was leaving the house for a supply date at a local congregation. Ten minutes of seething behind the wheel is not a good way to prepare oneself to preach to a group of people who've recently lost an interim pastor to illness and haven't seen you in two years. I tried various musics and podcasts and just couldn't get my mind of the shitty turn things had taken vis-a-vis the U.B. No particular reason - I guess this morning was just my turn on the shit wheel. It happens, you know.

I pulled into a drive-thru coffee shop for some extra caffeine and scrolled through my iPod while I was waiting for the car in front of me to get their order when "No Cure for Cancer" popped up. Some of you may have forgotten this little gem, or maybe you're too young to remember that Denis Leary was a comedian long before "Rescue Me" or any of the other projects he's done as an actor. His act is not for the uptight or easily offended, especially when it comes to religion, Catholicism in particular. For some reason, his combination of anger and profanity was just what I needed to put me in the right state of mind. I laughed all the way to the church, enjoyed the service tremendously, including several conversations with members after worship, and then I laughed all the way home. In fact, I had a great day after a lousy start, thanks to Denis Leary and the myriad ways he can use the F-bomb in the course of a single rant.

Perhaps this is a sign of the life we've been living lately: the best pick-me-up I've had in months came from a guy screaming, "Your life didn't turn out the way you wanted it to? Hey, pal, I wanted to be the starting centerfielder for the Boston Red Sox. Life sucks: get a fucking helmet!" We have so much for which we are rightfully thankful, yet the U.B. has made us perpetually aware how quickly things can change and how dreadfully we can be hurt.

What I have always appreciated about Denis Leary is his absolute refusal to engage in bullshit. Having been a fan for years, I've caught him on talk shows and other places and have always enjoyed the fact that he simply doesn't care how you feel about what he says. We both work in words, Denis Leary and I, yet he has a freedom of which I can only dream, for the most part. The more outrageous his act, the more people will come to hear it, whereas my job is to disappear entirely and let Jesus be the outrageous one, and me simply the guy pointing directly at him.

I don't want to be a person who engages in bullshit. We've got far too little time on this earth to waste it saying things we don't mean and putting up with crap that isn't true. There are far too many of us in the church who value tranquility and "niceness" above all other characteristics, when what might be more healthy is a good dose of plain speaking or even anger at times. I don't mean the kind of vengeful, hateful anger that seeks the destruction of what is good, of course, but there is certainly a place for anger about mistreatment, unrepentant sin and the expectation that bullshit is better than honesty that might get uncomfortable.

There's no grandiose statement here at the end of this reflection. I won't promise to call "Bullshit!" whenever I see it (even though it's a wicked fun game and you should try it sometime). I just had a good ride to church with Denis today and thought you should hear about it. He's a good guy, that Denis - his language is a little rough, but he says the kind of things I often think in my head but don't have the guts to say out loud. I think he and I should ride to church together more often; if you want to come along, don't say I didn't warn you.

Grace & peace,



  1. mmmm... there's something in there about "the spirit of truth" surely...

  2. Yes, my friend. Yes. I've got my helmet on.

  3. Very interesting blog. You are right- do and say it now because this is not a dress rehearsal.

  4. No one ever has to agree. But people with common sense can agree to disagree and remain friends.