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The Gold Lawler

I’m in a big band. Debut performance, for the band and for me. We’re playing for 400 or more ballroom dancers on the shores of Waikiki. Used to do the same thing with the Bath Municipal Band, in Maine, for 16 people. Welcome to Paradise. And the guy sitting next to me has a gold Lawler.

No, that’s Lawler. Two “l”s, no “y”. Suppose I should explain. A Lawler is a custom made trumpet, produced by a guy out in Tennessee. Gold-plated, literally and figuratively – though, to be fair, Lawler’s trumpets are not as hard on the wallet as those by, say, Dave Monette.

Still, here I am with a Ph.D. and counting my blessings that I’ve not (yet) had to consign my old Yamaha to the local pawn shop, while my neighbor, who’s a panel beater, has a gold Lawler. Which he chose to bring (in a truck the size of downtown Cleveland) instead of his Blackburn or Olds Recording.

The gold Lawler sometimes has difficulty navigating the swing band tunes we’re playing. Its owner comments that he’s more used to church music. I’ve done a little church music, trumpet and organ before the small congregations of small-town Maine. No, he says, this is contemporary Christian, and not the easiest of stuff, either. And it’d better be right, ’cause it’s on television.

Television? Ayup. Evangelical Christianity’s big news in the 50th state right now. Services and other religious show are, together, the second most abundant and popular bits on Hawai’ian TV. Right behind “Paid Programming”. And these shows are slick, man. Sure ain’t your grandmother’s little brown church in the vale.

Reminds me of when I was in Berkeley, and the TV evangelists descended on the local seminary to tell the liberal preachers how they, too, could become TV stars and maybe get more than three people a week to come to church. I wrote about what I figured their message was:

    “Lesson 1. Bob Dylan and the Beatles electrified music in 1964. It has been electrified ever since. You are not going to get the attention of today’s Christian with an upright piano and an 80-year-old lady belting Leaning on the Everlasting Arms in a voice that would drive the mountain lion to extinction. Hymns? Those tunes were whack when Queen Victoria was a girl. And who reads music these days? You don’t want them singing anyway, shouting’s just fine. Give your ears a break.
    “There are Christian rock bands. Use them. There are Christian multimedia shows. Use them. There’s this thing called ‘production values’. Learn them. There are times when real people go out. Schedule your services at those times. Sunday morning at 9 AM is not one of them. Everyone not still asleep is hung over, or working. And keep the message simple. You want people to holler, not think. If they’re thinking, they’re not putting money in the plate. Capisce?”
    Now [I wrote at the time] I’m sitting there reading all this, and I’m cracking up. Why? Well, I remember when the liberal preachers were hippies. Until they discovered the media and turned the various forms to their own devices. What was their mantra? The media is the message. Talk about being strung up on your own rope!
    Then I look again. Where have I seen these techniques before? Advertising! Whose message is Stop thinking and buy! Where did advertising learn all its tricks? Propaganda! The message of which is Stop thinking and follow! Who pioneered mass-media propaganda techniques? A spindly, dweeby Ph.D. type with one leg shorter than the other and a massive inferiority complex, who talked of turning little worms into an omnipotent force with his production values.

The gold Lawler might be playing for the fastest-growing church on O’ahu, one counted among the 25 fastest growing, and 10 most influential, houses of worship in the United States. And I’m always looking for a place to play. But I think I’ll see if I can find a nice, small church instead. One with an organ, maybe. And little old Puritan ladies, whose voices may put wildlife on the endangered species list, but who also have neither time nor patience for production values. “I want a show, I can watch Oprah. I thought we were here to worship God.”

  – O Ceallaigh
Copyright © 2007 Felloffatruck Publications. All wrongs deplored.
All opinions are mine as a private citizen.

Quilly is the pseudonym of Charlene L. Amsden, who lives on The Big Island in Hawaii. When she is not hanging out with Amoeba, she is likely teaching or sewing. Or she could be cooking, taking photographs, or even writing. But if she's not doing any of that, she's probably on Facebook or tinkering with her blog.


  1. I quickly realised that this was by OC and not Quilly. I couldn’t see Quilly playing in a band. Now I know why our church didn’t grow much. We loved to sing those old hymns and we had no production values.

  2. I’m with you, give me that ole time gospel music every time…..I feel the Holy Spirit touch my soul when I am singing along with a chior to hymns all of we baby boomers grew up listening to. This new fangled stuff that you have to read the words to on the board overhead is too much like lessons. (I am, as you can tell, least educated of all the sisters and not feeling much like taking on the task of learning a bunch of new songs that don’t sound appealing to me anyway!!!) Stuck in my rut and am to stay that way. Thank you very much.

  3. Here I come to be the devil’s advocate O.C. – as mother of five, I would have done anything to get them into church, even Christian rock music. I’ve always believed that if Jesus would have come back during these times, he would have used all the media at his disposal to get his message out. There’s room for both and all progressive churches aren’t just about production values…great post.

  4. Doug — why would a curmudgeon want to promote humor?

    Dr. John — OC laughed when he read your comment.

    Caryl — I don’t think it is the modern music that OC dislikes so much, I think it is the “show” that goes with it — and all the electronic wizardry razzle-dazzle that goes with.

    Kat — OC’s primary complaint when we talked about this is that all the showmanship seems to upstage God and worship. In other words, one should be able to tell church from MTV.

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