Is that a nail file in the hand that should be holding the Good Book?

Is that a nail file in the hand that should be holding the Good Book?
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Can't you just see the look on a Southern mama's face when she spots unseemly behavior on the Sabbath? Take that time she drove clean to another state for an all-day singing, only to see a woman at the fellowship table load her plate with her bare hand. And bless her heart, it took her a few tries to settle on a piece of chicken. (Pick up a wing, put it back, pick up a drumstick, put it back.) Mama couldn't have recoiled more if a water moccasin had lunged at her from the pickled peaches.

Under ordinary circumstances, Mama believes in embracing people "from all walks of life" in church, where everybody should feel welcome and at home. We don't want visitors and new members to think they dare not make a misstep or that there's some secret code of behavior they must memorize in order to be accepted. Absolutely not. Most of what we consider bad behavior in church is bad behavior period. It's just amplified by the setting.

So, for example, a micro mini is never a good choice for a memorial service, but it's especially bad form if you're heading for a funeral down at First Baptist.

Skin-baring seems to be an interfaith ruffler of feathers. "Don't show up to shul in a sleeveless dress!" admonishes a Jewish sister from Memphis. "It's not appropriate, and everybody knows that. If you don't know it, your mama didn't teach you right."

Ministers can name a plethora of rude behaviors that annoy them—and you can find them all online—but listing them here might get them attributed to Brother Larry back home, which would get him into all kinds of hot water, so you'll just have to rely on Google. Likewise, Southern Mama could easily catalog all the rude behavior she has witnessed during Sunday services over the years. However, given that she has to occupy her lifelong pew at the next Sunday service, that would be unwise.

Instead we polled our Facebook Brain Trust and asked: What are some of the rude things you see in church? You won't believe what they told us. Then again, maybe you will.

You're In My Seat

"My husband and I went to a local church and sat down. An older couple walked up and informed us that we were sitting in THEIR SEAT and we had to move or they would go get the pastor."

"I was head usher at our previous church for about 15 years. During one Christmas Eve service an elderly lady came in about 20 minutes late. Her husband was parking. I found her the last two seats, then seated her husband when he came in. Afterward, while I was cleaning up for the next service, he followed me around grumbling that I had seated them near a vent, where they froze. After about 10 minutes of this, I politely said, ‘Sir, I'm very sorry, but those were the last two seats available.' What I wanted to say . . ."

"I'm Presbyterian. We're usually frozen in our seats."

May We Introduce You To Our Friendly Nursery Staff?

"I sat in front of a family with two small children, whom the parents fed all the way through service, unwrapping and rewrapping noisy items, discussing what the kids wanted to eat or drink, trying to persuade them to eat this or drink that, rewrapping and unwrapping, over and over . . ."

Pssssst. The Rest Of Us Can Hear You

"A couple sat behind me in the balcony of a large, jam-packed Birmingham sanctuary and carried on a we're-at-home-in-our-living-room-volume conversation throughout what was supposed to be a reverent Christmas service. Everybody might feel compelled to whisper something to a pew neighbor at some point during the service, but if the choir can hear you . . . "

Do Your Personal Grooming At Home

"Right in the middle of the sermon, a woman behind us started clipping her nails LOUDLY."

Unless You're Texting Heaven . . .

"When I see people on cell phones in church, it just burns me up!"

"I can't believe it when I see people texting during the service."

"I wonder how the pastor feels when he's in the middle of his sermon and sees people all over the church staring at their phones?"


"A taking-it-too-far congregant attending a church in 'one of the two big football towns in Alabama' passed a pad and pencil down the pew for an AUTOGRAPH in the midst of the service. Roll Tide/WDE, dude, football is not that kind of religion, even in Alabama!"

The Big Picture

"We can get so caught up in speaking to our friends, making plans for lunch, and even coordinating church activities that we overlook that new couple standing awkwardly in the lobby. What would your Mama do? She would go over to that couple, introduce herself, and invite them to lunch. Really, the rudest thing you can do in church is ignore the people you should be welcoming."

We'll give that an Amen.

WATCH: Stories of the South—Our Sunday Best

Ladies, it's time to break out your hostess apron, load up on Aqua Net, and shop for a new Easter dress. Let's revive the art of gussying up in the South.