Angela Hall Jennings – Amherst, VA


I recently made the mistake of buying my sons camera phones.  A couple of weeks ago I was exasperated with my seventeen year old because he left something at home that we needed on an errand.  He insisted, even swore on my (wishful thinking) future grave, that I had NOT handed him the paper and I knew that I had. I made a U-turn and headed back home for the form.  Now, the U-turn could have been a tad quick and the discussion may have turned a little hot, but none of that would matter or be admissible in court if my thirteen year old had not RECORDED the incident with his phone.  My threats of physical violence (“Say ONE MORE WORD and I’ll stop this car and beat the dog snot out of you“) won’t convict me with a jury of my peers—mothers of teenagers.  The childless crowd might put me away.  The snickering thirteen year old promised, after blatant coercion, to erase the evidence but I know he’s only biding his time until he really wants something, then the little comedian is gonna blackmail me.

People are taking pictures everywhere, all of the time.  Even my in-laws are in on it.  They joined us for dinner out one night and every time I got a dripping piece of the deep fried onion to my mouth (and chin and collar) my mother-in-law pointed a camera at me.  Why, I wondered.  What was so precious about that particular moment in time that it had to be preserved in pictures?  She didn’t take that many photos of her grandbabies but suddenly whenever I’m adjusting a bra strap or fixing to sneeze, Ms. New Digital Camera is there.

My church went through a crisis, or knock-down, drag-out hate fest if you will, about two years ago.  The Southern Baptist Association, when a church’s congregants are smacking down big time, will send in a kind of interim counselor/preacher to hear the members’ grievances and to figure out whose Pyrex dishes are whose after covered dish suppers.  The preacher assigned to our church fancied himself a real photographer.  After worship service, when I’d be tired of pinching my youngest son to make him stop giggling and my mascara had melted and the wrinkles in the front of my skirt made me look like I was wearing a Shar-Pei, there Preacher would be, wanting to get a shot of the family.  I don’t take well to spontaneous photographs, but honesty forces me to admit that the camera attacks were not the only reason my church attendance took a dive.  I have to confess that my back-sliding is also due to the music.

I don’t like most contemporary Christian music.  I’ve been told I need to modernize; in fact, I’ve been told I need to get over it.  Contemporary Christian music is here to stay and I could handle that if occasionally the preacher still asked us to turn in our hymnals to one of the old beloved hymns.  Most contemporary Christian songs sound like elevator music.  Listening to contemporary Christian radio is like listening to an all-Richard Marx, all-the-time station.  Plus I must have missed the Southern Baptist Convention where it was decreed that not only should women give up pants-wearing and the right to vote, but that all worshippers MUST WAVE at least one arm, preferably both, overhead the moment the latest Christian tune is sung.  No longer do we turn in our hymnals to anything.  The lyrics are projected on a screen at the front of the church and the fired-up choir director will for some reason shout, “Let’s repeat the last verse!” again and again, maybe for those too simple to get the message the first twelve or so times it is sung.

I miss singing “Amazing Grace” and “The Old Rugged Cross”, squinting to read a waving hymnal held by my attention-wandering son.  I want to hear the songs I remember from my childhood accompanied by an organ, not an electric keyboard.  If I can have that, I’ll let you take my picture.

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