Jack in the Box Church

A couple of Sundays ago I sat in a pew in the back of a church. During my childhood, Mother made us sit in the second row from the front, and because of that, I plant my fanny in the back of any church that I enter.

At the beginning of the service and throughout it, folks were up and out of the sanctuary. Some kids left alone; parents accompanied others; even adults made exits during that one hour session. The events left me flabbergasted and wondering what was going on.

Both children and young adults had trouble making through the hour without leaving. Perhaps the children suffer from some rare disease that doesn’t allow them to hold their water. That problem usually is one that afflicts us older men, and we seek medical help to alleviate the malady.

Maybe these people suffer from ADHD. According to some authorities, such a condition prevents individuals from staying plugged in for extended periods of time. Because they aren’t able to make it through an hour, these people rise in the middle of a service and leave. However, before long they reappear, usually with their heads bowed and smiles smeared across their faces.

More than likely, the younger generations have difficulty remaining in one place because of conditions of their worlds. That first includes television shows. A typical thirty minute show has twenty-two minutes of programming and eight minutes of advertising, most of it in thirty second slots. Viewers attention to a program is interrupted sixteen times in a half hour show. No wonder folks can’t sit still long.

Video games, computers, and communication equipment all offer highly addictive sources of entertainment. Other things like church, school, and even casual conversations with friends and family lack the “rush” of action, so young people lose interest in them quickly.

We who have several years behind us remember a different behavior in church. Jim and I survived church services, barely. We never spent time in the nursery. Instead, our parents plopped us down on the pew and dared us to misbehave.

Of course, sitting two little boys side by side is just asking for things to happen. People who used to sing in the choir remembered us as being two who looked for things to get into. We, on the other hand, slid down in the pew because we felt that those singers were staring at us.

On too many occasions, one of us had our “tickle boxes” turned over. That meant we swallowed and choked on laughs that, if loosed in the sanctuary, would have resulted in immediate and severe punishment. Sometimes, Daddy grabbed one of us and plunked us down on the other side of the pew.

One woman, Mrs. Gault, always caused us grief. We knew talking was forbidden, but this lady would sit beside us and yak. She’d offer peppermint lifesavers during prayer time. We’d shake our heads “no,” but the woman kept on until we took one to silence her, but then we worried about being in trouble for taking candy.

The biggest deterrent to our misbehavior was a one-line whisper: “You’ve had it when we get home.” That death sentence meant a spanking awaited us as soon as our feet crossed the threshold at home. Like so many times throughout our lives, we refrained from doing things because the thrill wasn’t worth the ensuing pain that was inflicted by a belt or switch or paddle.

These days, parents don’t keep children in check. Instead, they believe that children should be allowed to be freer spirits than we were allowed to be. That’s why they can’t sit still for an hour. Instead, they become jacks-in-the-boxes at any place that requires them to sit still for more than ten minutes. I wonder how they’ll do in college lectures. For now, I supposed the good lord will forgive them.

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