On Thursday, the Arizona Senate okayed a bill that would allow denial of services on religious grounds. A move civil-rights groups (and yours geekly) believe would allow discriminatory actions by businesses.
As I read the news, shaking my head and thinking, "What will the crazy conservatives in this state do next?" my mind turned to the so-called separation of church and state. I was reminded that religions have massive political power in this country, yet they don't pay any taxes. What a deal.
I should start a church. No, really.
Why am I bringing this up here? Because my church is going to be The Church of Music. Read on and I'll start you on a path to enlightenment.
Are You Sure You Want to Talk Religion, Geek?
Of course. I love talking religion. Politics, too. Small talk is safe and boring.
Sure, I recognize it's a sensitive topic, and I realize having to think about it makes some people uncomfortable, but I'm not just doing it to push buttons.
This is something I've actually thought about quite a bit.
For the purposes of the conversation: I'm what you might call a spiritual agnostic, meaning I'm positive that nobody knows anything for sure about God, but I'm pretty sure there's more to this magical process than meets the eye.
(Important disclaimer: That is just my opinion.)
Anyway, since I'm not bound by tribal rules or mythological fear, I'm not afraid to intellectually analyze the whole cultural phenomenon, including the formation of my own church in all its tax-free, special-exempt glory.
A little joint called The Church of Music.
I think I can make my case for it.
It's All About Beliefs, Right?
As any religious person will tell you (usually when flummoxed by facts): The most important thing about a religion is belief.
Hell, the only thing you have to have is a belief. There doesn't have to be a shred of proof (and there never is). Just a super-powerful hope (best served with logic-defying passion).
I believe in music.
Let me rephrase that: I worship music.
Music is a powerful force that has affected me forever. It has never let me down. It makes me happy, sad, curious, melancholy, and nearly every other emotional state. It counsels me, it guides me, it accepts me, it cures me, and it takes me to a place where few things can take me.
It brings me closer to what I perceive to be The One than thousands of church services and sermons ever did.
There have been countless times over the years when I've been listening, at a concert, or in my car, or on the headphones, and I've instinctually felt that spiritual feeling of being at one with the whole mess -- the kind of feeling normally reserved for love or nature.
Hopefully, you know the feeling to which I refer.
As a bonus, unlike God, I know things about music. I can hear it. I know who made it. There are things about it that I can prove. I can make factual statements about it.
If you are a religious person, especially of the fundamentalist persuasion (which includes most of my extended family), then you don't like what I'm saying. Fair enough. I respect your right to believe whatever you want to believe (with the caveat that all the passion in the world doesn't turn hopes into facts).
If you aren't religious, and you spend part of your free time reading a music blog, then you might understand my belief. You might share my passion.
You might be a potential member of The Church of Music.
Can I Get a Witness, or Do I Need a Lawyer?
So I googled up "How to Start a Church."
Voila! A blog popped up on wikihow.com.
The opening paragraph stated: "A church is a spiritual community that comes together in common fellowship. If you're dissatisfied with your local options and have a group of likeminded thinkers and believers, you may be interested in branching out on your own to worship in your own way"
So I read further.
Turns out there are three steps to forming one.
So I figured I'd run through the checklist to see if I can legally form this tribe....
STEP ONE: BEGINNING FELLOWSHIP
Start a Home Spiritual Discussion Group. That's easy enough. I've been discussing music in a variety of settings, including record stores, SXSW panels, industry publications, countless bars, and this very blog, for over 40 years. Doing it at home, or in some other venue protected by the freedom of religious immunity, will be even easier.
Define the Scope of the Church. Sounds hard, but this was easy, too. I just had to answer a couple of questions to "define my aims":
Possible membership? Endless. Music has been here forever, and it has affected every culture in history. I already know hundreds of people that believe in it as much as I do.
Location? Wherever we can listen to it. My house. Your house. The Internet. These days music is pretty much everywhere. And so shall be my church.
Is your commitment part-time or full? Hmmm. I'm not suggesting that music is the only answer (or that I've got any answers at all), just a powerful force. However, it's not the only important force -- there's love, family, nature, and philosophy -- so I'll work part-time.
Your financial aims? Um, I don't have any financial aims. Has that disqualified me from being a religion? (The answer I gave to my question was "Is the Pope Catholic?," which gave me so much ironic amusement that I had to share it).
Draft Church Bylaws and a Statement of Belief. Wikihow says I should think of this as a "Declaration of Independence" for my church.
Well, I'm not a big fan of bylaws, but apparently any sort of government-condoned religion must be bureaucratic, so I'll make our declaration of independence something simple like:
We love music and we believe in it's power. The members of The Church of Music shall gather together to worship, listen to, discuss, and promote its effect on us and our culture.
Assign Corporate Officers. Again with the corporate bullshit. Since I have to file the docs, I'll guess I'll be president. Or maybe the reverend. The Reverend Record Store Geek. I like the sound of that.
Name Your Church. Done. Why The Church of Music? It has to be all-encompassing. We can have masses and sermons dedicated to certain genres, but there's no way that anyone who truly worships music can restrict themselves beyond that.
Okay, what's next?
STEP TWO: FORMING A NONPROFIT
Have you seen God's W2?
Me neither, because God doesn't have to report any income.
Neither will our little church.
I won't bore you with all the steps, except to say that there's gonna be a ton of paperwork, and a few legal fees, but nothing that should present too big of a problem. As a business owner, I've learned how to jump through bureaucratic hoops like a champ.
On to part three . . .
STEP THREE: BUILDING A CHURCH
Now that we've gotten past the formalities, this is the fun part. Building a church where we can all get together and share our love of music.
Find a place to worship. Like I said, name your venue. From your studio apartment to Madison Square Garden, music retains its power (although with all due respect to your apartment, I prefer MSG), so it doesn't really matter where we worship it.
Develop a compelling message. That's the beauty of being the Reverend Record Store Geek . . . I don't have to have a message. In fact, there doesn't have to be a complicit message at all. Music is the message within itself.
Listen to Miles Davis' "So What" (or any song that takes you away from your day-to-day thoughts). That is the message.
Of course, I'll be glad to do sermons if anyone would like. Maybe something like "Who's the best Stones guitarist? Mick, Brian, or Ronnie?"
Now that's something I'd like to see on the street sign.
Consider Joining a District Office in Your Denomination. My old boss at Zia, founder Brad Singer, used to preach to us about Marx's quote (Groucho, not Karl): "I wouldn't join a club that would have me as a member." Real wisdom from a true rebel. We'll skip the district office and just do our own thing.
Establish Your Unique Presence with the Community. I guarantee you, this won't be like any other church in town.
We aren't promising you a thing about this life or beyond. We don't have a deity that will be watching over you. You don't have to believe. We don't even care if you join.
We are just going to play some tunes and have some fun.
Include a time for fellowship and get to know your members. Wow, it just keeps getting funner. Turns out I've been doing this for years, so why not make it official? You and I and whoever else can each bring a six pack and a handful of albums, and we'll fellowship all night. Nothing helps you get to know your members like that sort of behavior.
That's it. No more steps.
Dad, There's a Church of Music Guy at the Door
Sounds like we are on our way, huh?
My spirit is jumping at the thought of it.
The Church of Music. It could do a lot of good in this crazy mixed up world.
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Lord knows (pun intended) this much, if Governor Brewer doesn't veto this stupid bill, we'll be free to do whatever we want in Arizona.