Temptation Bangs Forever: The Worst Church Signs You've Ever Seen
by Robert Kroese and Joel Bezaire
Recommended Ages: 12+
Tackiness on Holy Ground thread on my blog? It hasn't been very active lately. But it's been over four years since I moved away from the St. Louis neighborhood served by a Lutheran church whose pastor literally wrote the book about what to put on your church's sign if you have really bad judgment. Now, to steal the thunder from my rants about tacky church signs is this book by the author of the "Mercury" novels (Kroese), whom I first encountered through his hilarious but now defunct blog "Mattress Police," and another humor blogger (Bezaire) who specialized in, well, tacky church signs.
This book is basically a photo album of the best, I mean the worst, of the church signs Bezaire collected, with snappy comebacks by both of them and section intros by some guest contributors whom I will not name here. It would probably be a sufficient review of this book if I were to say, simply, that I am envious of their opportunity to contribute to a book like that. I think it would have been a gas to be part of that crowd. But reading the book was reasonably gaseous as it is. It amply documents the fact that authors of church sign sentiments often lack not only good taste or a sense of the proper tone for their subject matter and medium, but also have trouble with spelling and grammar, a blind spot to breathtakingly inappropriate ways a person of average or below-average piety may interpret what they wrote, and a tendency to try so hard to seem "with it" that they only prove how out of touch they are. For example, take the sign that lends its punchline to the title of this book: OPPORTUNITY KNOCKS 1X - TEMPTATION BANGS FOREVER. Yeah, it really said that. The book has photographic evidence.
It's such a ridiculously short book, and even more quickly read than its length would suggest, that I almost feel guilty about writing a review of it. But it was fun, and the fun was about something I actually care about. Like Kroese and (I think even more so) Bezaire, I poke fun at bad church signs not to be blasphemous, but in a sort of cathartic way, because if I didn't laugh I would perhaps have to cry. In a similar way, I go after church music that I think is tacky in the context of Lutheran worship, not because I want to run nice religious people down but because I think what is taught and confessed in the sung portions of the Divine Service is too important to leave in the hands of people who haven't the least sensibility about it. For a better witness to the outside world and a stronger grasp of our own faith, we owe it to ourselves as churchgoing people to learn from, and turn from, mistakes like the ones laughed at in this book. And if we laugh at them in fun, well, that's gravy.