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When Behavior Isn’t Appropriate

Posted by on Dec 3, 2010

Locally we had a tragedy last week. A young lady went missing, 20 years old, and many people mobilized very quickly in trying to find her. Her name was Jenni-Lyn, and unfortunately, it didn’t end well. Last Saturday they found her body in a garbage bag, and they arrested her ex-boyfriend, someone who, it seems, didn’t quite feel the same way she did about ending the relationship.

Jenni Lyn

A friend of mine named Tim wrote about it in his blog, but he wrote about it with the title On Religion and Human Tragedy. In general, it was the aftermath of the event, when he went to church the next day, looking for some kind of mental peace, and instead was treated to what I’m calling the “same ol’ thing”. In other words, the person giving the sermon never mentioned the tragedy, instead going on about topics that are usually the staple of some religions.

I was feeling Tim as I was reading his post, for a slightly different reason. Three weeks ago I had a friend of mine pass away. She went for a surgery that, a week later, had complications that took her away from us. It took 10 days for her funeral, and of course my wife and I had to go.

The ceremony was going along fairly normally if you ask me. There was an opening prayer, a beautifully sung song I’d never heard before, then a parade of people who went up to the lectern and had lots of things to say about her. This part took awhile to get through, but I learned through these people that she used to sing herself, that she had wanted to be a writer and had actually had a poem published, and that she had been mentoring a lot of young people over the years, even while raising her own two children.

After one more song, also sung beautifully, it was time for the reverend to say his piece, to give the eulogy. At first it was fairly calm and nondescript; he’d known her, and wanted to express his feelings upon hearing of her demise. Well, I was in for a surprise and shock.

Have you ever heard of “whooping”? It’s a style some preachers go into that, well, supposedly gets people worked up and gets the “spirit” into them. Here’s an example; you don’t have to watch the whole thing:

Now, I’m not religious, but I honor whatever ceremony people decide to have for their weddings and the like. In this instance, I didn’t think any of it was appropriate. To add to this, some of the things he was saying were out of line, and that irritated me as well. Another friend told me later on that I shouldn’t have taken any of what this man was saying literally, but I did and I thought that, with her children, ages 16 and 18, and her husband and mother, sitting in the front row.

My wife and I were appalled. When he said she was ready to go to heaven, we left. Seems he was just getting going, as I heard later on that he spoke at least another 30 minutes. I wondered who all of that hollering was for. Yes, many people jumped up and answered the call, but this wasn’t a Sunday morning church service. It wasn’t his congregation; truthfully, it wasn’t even his church.

I can’t say that he didn’t know his audience, but what I will say is that he didn’t know that there were many people in the church not ready for what he was about to deliver. Yes, I’m black, and I’ve been to a few black funerals, but never anything like that. And there weren’t only people there who were church folks. People came to honor her memory; his presentation only talked about her half the time. If that had been one of my close relatives service I don’t know what I’d have done.

Joy Forbes

I understand that nothing is appropriate for everyone. But some things aren’t appropriate no matter who might think it’s fine. I don’t get to write a presentation for only black people if I know other people are going to be there. I don’t get to write a business presentation only for men if I know half the audience is going to consist of women. At least I shouldn’t; it’s not about me, but about the audience, the reason people are coming.

By the way, I feel I need to add this because it begs the rest of the question of what’s wrong with people. A day after the police found the body of the young lady in the picture above, some idiots hacked into a couple of websites that had been created in her memory and altered them in negative ways. There’s no clue as to who did it, but what has happened to common decency? I know if they’re every caught someone’s going to say “we thought it was funny”; come on people, decorum!

Anyway, to relate it to blogging, I guess that’s why I write what I do here in the manner I do. I mix it up because I figure it’s for any and every body. It’s also for me, but it’s not always about me. And I hope you feel the same about your blogging space. Rest in peace Jenni-Lyn; rest in peace “Mama” Joy.

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Well said, Mitch. I actually enjoy listening and watching that style of preaching, although I never knew it was called whooping. There’s a lot of it in the movie The Apostle, and it’s fun. But a big part of it is showmanship, and that does seem extremely inappropriate for a funeral. I’m sorry you and your wife had to lose a friend, and then be upset by the way her service was handled. I wonder if there were others who felt the same way.

December 3rd, 2010 | 12:22 PM

Many people I talked to about the subject later didn’t like it, Charles, but the one person I talked to who was there knew the preacher personally and said he was always like that, and that I was too literal. See, that’s part of my issue; just because one person knows you’re always like that doesn’t excuse it for others, and if you can’t change up for your particular audience it either means you don’t care or don’t have the skills necessary to do it right. In a different venue I might have found it entertaining; not in this one.

December 3rd, 2010 | 3:35 PM

Hey Mitch, I am so sorry to hear about the loss of your friend. I’m thinking of you and her family.

December 3rd, 2010 | 1:23 PM

Thanks Susan. It was really an odd time leading up to, and then going through that funeral. I hope her family was comforted in some way; I wasn’t.

December 3rd, 2010 | 3:36 PM

Mmhmm – I know exactly what you mean about the ‘whooping’ – some pastors seem to think that is appropriate for ALL services, be it Sunday Morning worship or a funeral eulogy.

It’s a habitual way of speaking and ‘performing’ if you ask me, and has no true ‘spirit’ in it other than a means of whipping up people’s emotions and gaining admiration from the easily duped.

That’s one of the reasons why I shun and do not support organized ‘religion’ and encourage people to find God and Christ through direct spiritual experience.

December 3rd, 2010 | 7:11 PM

I just shun it all, Marv; no need for it, based on everything I’ve seen. Just so many extremes.

December 4th, 2010 | 2:32 AM


Just plain hugs.

Been there, done that, bought the whole apparel store. In my case, it was a funeral for a family Chinese friend who was deeply religious. The sermon was mainly in chinese but I found out from my husband (who is Chinese) that 80% of it was explaining how we’re all going to Hell unless we repent.

Again, hugs. It must have been very difficult for you and your wife.

December 4th, 2010 | 5:54 AM

Thanks Barb. Strangely enough, mad seems to overcome grief sometimes, but it was still greatly disappointing.

December 4th, 2010 | 11:44 AM

I’m so sorry, Mitch; both for your loss and for the bad experience with someone who’s personal ambitions diminished what should have been a more respectful occasion.

I am religious and find great comfort in that relationship, but I will not force my beliefs onto others. They too have the right to choose for themselves.

I have attended a charismatic funeral, but it differed from your experience in that most of those gathered, including the family of the deceased, were joining in with “the show”. It made me very uncomfortable, but it was obviously what they were accustomed to.

December 4th, 2010 | 2:47 PM

Allan, a lot of people did indeed join in here as well, but it wasn’t everyone and for those of us who came for something else it was, well, shocking.

December 4th, 2010 | 3:04 PM

Sorry for your loss, it’s always hard to lose friends or family. Also sorry you and your wife had to go through something that made you uncomfortable.

My thought on this is if the family who organised the service had told people in advance what was going to be done, then at least people would have known. I wonder who chose the type of service? Would it have been chosen by the next of kin or maybe the person who died might have like that sort of thing, do you know?

I’ve experienced ‘whooping’ (didn’t know it had a name, though!) in a church near a mile or so from where I used to live. I quite enjoyed it (though as the only white person there, I felt rather out of place as people kept turning round to stare at me!) – it wasn’t as excessive as the video preacher above but had quite a lot of soul to it, but then it wasn’t being done at a funeral (at which I agree, it would seem to be out of place) and I’m not a Christian so it felt kind of unusual to me.

December 4th, 2010 | 5:38 PM

Val, that feeling you had in church is one I’ve had many times in my life; interesting being me sometimes.

Actually, I’m not sure the family knew what was coming or not. The thing is when you’re planning something like a funeral, you’re not always thinking about some of those types of things; I certainly wasn’t when I was doing it. But there were lots of things I did plan, and I knew my mother wouldn’t pick a reverend she didn’t admire, so that was covered.

December 4th, 2010 | 11:17 PM

I agree with you Mitch on the whole whooping ordeal. I never knew there was a term for it. I have been to a couple of funerals as well as I lost a child back in ’04 and it has always been a very somber experience. The only time I ever witness clapping or laughter was when a friend or family member was sharing a story about the deceased. I do see that as disrespectful on behalf of preacher to treat it as a normal praise and worship service. As far as the people who hacked that young lady’s page and added comments, I find that disgusting as well. I remember about 2 week ago there was a guy who is known for his YouTube videos was killed outside his girlfriends house after leaving the baby shower of his unborn child. Within hours a photo of his body on the sidewalk was on Twitter circulating. It is so sad how people can be so thoughtless when it comes to the deceased and their families. Just because someone has passed away doesn’t mean the respect should die too.

December 5th, 2010 | 1:08 PM

There are some warped people, Karen, and some of what I see shocks me, though oddly enough it doesn’t surprise me. Some folks just can’t stand that they’re not getting the attention, no matter what the circumstance. It’s sad.

December 5th, 2010 | 1:38 PM

LOL I remember when I was regularly attending church.

One week a friend and I decided to try a church closer to home (your neck of the woods, Mitch!)

She was pretty new to the church experience. So was I – at least in this church!

There were people in the congregation speaking in tongues & dancing and rolling in the aisles!

Scared the be-jesus out of my friend. I had heard of these things and have even witnessed the speaking in tongues…but the rolling up and down the aisles – that was DIFFERENT!

That is awful that they would act like that at a funeral!

December 6th, 2010 | 6:43 AM

Carolee, I experienced that type of thing you’re talking about when I was 17… at a party! It just went weird, and next thing you know, my friend and I were looking at each other wondering what we’d gotten ourselves into.

December 6th, 2010 | 11:26 AM

Hey Mitch, I reckon I found an error in the fourth paragraph.

So sorry to hear about your friend.

I’ve never been to a service where all that whooping goes on, although I have seen it on TV, usually one of your movies. I’m just left wondering how the family felt about it all, especially as they must have picked the priest. If that’s the case surely they must have know which way the service was heading.

Personally I would have been pissed, but the I never would have picked such a priest.

December 7th, 2010 | 2:58 AM

Took care of the error; that would have been hard to find on my own.

As to the rest, I’m wondering about the family myself, but truthfully I only knew my friend well, not the rest of her family, so I’ll never know.

December 7th, 2010 | 12:41 PM

Good thing you have me around Mitch 😉

Well hopefully it was what they wanted. It would have been awful to have lost a loved one and then to have to put up with crummy service.

December 7th, 2010 | 5:03 PM

Supposedly it was a reverend they were familiar with from church services over the years. I don’t know if they’d ever seen him at a funeral before.

December 7th, 2010 | 5:37 PM

Hi Mitch, first time comment here so hi. Funerals are one of only a few events that call for extreme caution about deviating from the conservative route. Unfortunately I’ve experienced this myself with my family when we attended my Grandfather’s funeral only to find the priest drunk, distracted and eager to let everyone know he was keen to get things over and done with to get back to the bottle. It was a shambles and unfortunately it kind of poisoned my grandfather’s memory.

December 8th, 2010 | 3:06 AM

Thanks for your comment James, and I’m sorry for your experience as well. You’re right, conservative and funerals go together unless all parties know what’s going to happen. Drunken priest; that’s a shame.

December 8th, 2010 | 9:17 AM