I have a long and complicated religious history that I won't go into great detail on right now, but by the time I was 14, I found myself attending the First Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) of Danville, Kentucky.
Though I found church itself boring beyond words, I loved youth group. Not because youth group offered some important spiritual guidance that I found compelling as a young Christian, but because I got to hang out with girls.
I will always be grateful that I grew up exposed to a variety of Christianity that was tolerant and liberal and generally did not inspire fear or hate in me. For example: The first time I ever heard Nine Inch Nails and XTC were at youth group and they were played for us by guest speaker from Lexington. He played "Dead God" and asked us if we, as young Christians, should listen to music like this. Some people said we shouldn't because it wasn't Christian. The speaker said, "Hey, this song is awesome and XTC are a great band. If you don't listen to good music because someone tells you that it is 'unchristian,' you are only missing out on listening to good music. If you believe in God, a song isn't going to change that. Loosen up and listen to good music. Here's something off 'Pretty Hate Machine.' This stuff is great."
Our youth group would have lock-ins in the summer. We would stay up all night at the church and watch movies and listen to music. I think there was supposed to be some sort of "real talk" about Jesus, but that never seemed to happen. There were only a few people in the youth group who seemed to be there because they loved Jesus. For the most part, the other kids were just there to hang out with members of the opposite sex. It was for this reason that in retrospect, I am surprised that we were allowed to spend the night together in a church, more or less unsupervised.
Of course, this 'nonsupervision' didn't matter much to me. I wasn't one of the people sneaking off around dark corners, disappearing into the dark labyrinth of hallways. I stayed in the lighted areas with the boombox, listening to the cassette of the first Violent Femmes album that someone brought, shocked and elated by the language.
I think it has always thrilled Clint that "Tonight! The Church Van" contains the word 'narthex.' In case you've never looked it up, the 'narthex' of a church is the entrance to the naive of a church. Of course, in our church, it was just the fancy word for 'lobby.'
When we recorded at Finn's mom's house in Hope Valley, we moved everything out of her living room and den and breakfast nook. She was out of town for the weekend, and after we'd done it, Finn, Robert and Ben went for bagels and coffee.
"Your mom knows we are doing this, right?" Matt asked as they left.
"Is she likely to come home early?"
Matt and stood there in Finn's mom's house, furniture gone and both silently wondered how it would look for her to come home, find her house empty and two strange men standing there, talking about Steely Dan.