First Pastafarian Church preaches a do-it-yourself art ethic 

click to enlarge "The Crew" at the First Pastafarian Church in Norman, Wednesday, June 15, 2016. - GARETT FISBECK
  • Garett Fisbeck
  • "The Crew" at the First Pastafarian Church in Norman, Wednesday, June 15, 2016.

Water from the air-conditioning unit drips onto heads as guests enter First Pastafarian Church.

“It’s holy water,” said Josh Babb. “That’s how we baptize people into the church.”

Babb is a founding member of the Norman church at 115 S. Crawford Ave., the former home of music and art venue Dope Chapel.

First Pastafarian Church does not belong to an obscure Christianity offshoot, nor does it represent any religious movement practiced by the likes of Bob Marley. Instead, its congregation follows the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster (FSM) social movement. Its deity is a noodle-armed, floating knot of pasta and meatballs topped with two expressionless eyes.

A large portrait in the venue’s front window features FSM and a nude “Venus of Urbino”-esque figure in a parody of Michelangelo’s famous “The Creation of Adam” fresco inside Vatican City’s Sistine Chapel. The image and the church’s odd title generate a lot of interest, and not all of it is positive.

“If someone has a negative reaction, you can see it when they walk by,” Babb said. “They’ll scowl and then walk off.”

Babb said the founding members became interested in launching the church after they learned the building that housed Dope Chapel was for rent. It continues the former occupant’s role hosting regular events with an all-art, no-fuss emphasis but does so while promoting the ideals of His Noodly Appendage.

Chapel to church

Pastafarianism was born in the mid-2000s as backlash against teaching intelligent design and creationism — specifically in public school curriculum. In 2005, a sarcastic request to require equal FSMism education was sent to the Kansas State Department of Education. The letter and deity it described became an internet sensation after its text was published online.

None of the church’s organizers, including priest Red Magner, were heavily involved in Pastafarianism until they acquired the space. Babb said the idea to launch the church came as what founders saw as a logical progression from the Dope Chapel concept. Why not turn the chapel into a real church?

Magner delivers sermons and leads prayers from official FSMism doctrine. The church also hosted his wedding ceremony on Jan. 1.

He first heard about FSMism after a friend who played a show at the church told him about it.

“I went online and I did a lot of research and I thought about it for a while,” Magner said. “Then I just got involved in the church.”

Becoming an officially recognized Pastafarian priest was not a difficult process. He downloaded a certificate after paying a small fee.

Magner’s sermons have defined First Pastafarian Church’s four basic tenets, all of which are basic pleas for decency and good conduct at shows.

The first two tenets Magner delivered were “Don’t litter” and “Take a shower.” Brushing one’s teeth and wearing deodorant were included within the shower credo.

Babb noticed repeated offenses even after sermons.

“People were still littering everywhere and they weren’t taking showers clearly, so the third message was, ‘Don’t be an asshole,’” he said. “Yet again, people were doing everything and being assholes, so the last … was ‘You’re all animals and you’re not getting any new sermons until you master the basics.’”

Babb said congregants have yet to follow all four tenets and added he is unsure if they ever will.

Similarly, Magner theorized that mastering the principles might be the key to true enlightenment.

“Maybe nobody knows because as soon as you achieve all three, you ascend,” he said.

Launching point

A major goal of the church is to promote a variety of musical acts. Babb said it strictly follows a do-it-yourself, local-minded ethos. It doesn’t charge artists to perform, or at least it hasn’t yet.

“It’s actually really hurting us financially just because shows do cost money, not just time,” Babb said. “We’ve had music five days in a row multiple times this month.”

That was a mistake, he said, but church leaders are learning more about what they can and cannot do as they go.

Gilson Machtolff is a guitarist in the rock band Magic Munchbox, a regular act at the venue. He said it is his favorite place to play.

The church held the first Magic Munchbox gig that wasn’t hosted by the band itself. Machtolff said he first messaged Babb in February about playing there. Organizers needed another band to round out a show lineup, so Babb asked the act to perform later that night. It did.

“We came down here, played for the 10 to 15 people that were here and loved the place,” Machtolff said. “Every time we’ve come back, it’s just been bigger and better. It keeps evolving.”

Babb said one of the church’s missions is to act as a bridge for new artists to enter the wider Norman music scene.

“It’s really hard to get into Opolis,” he said. “Dope Chapel was just like, ‘Oh, you’re an artist. Do you want to perform something for people? Get the fuck in here.’ That’s basically what we try to carry on.”

Learn more about First Pastafarian Church and upcoming shows at firstpastafarian.church.

Print headline: Starchy sect, First Pastafarian Church picks up Norman’s do-it-yourself music ethos where Dope Chapel left off.

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