12 December 2006

Consumer Christianity Has Bitten Us In The Arse

First off, I'd like to say that 'arse' is a much more colorful word to say than bottom, behind, rear, or even ass. The imagery is just so rich. :-)
Please understand, I'm not picking on anyone in particular. So the picture of the Crystal Cathedral above simply is a picture that illustrates a point.
I will say however that when I saw it for real a few months back there was only two words that kept running through my mind. The first word was one that people sing in church every week and that word was 'Holy'. The second word was one I kept to myself, but suffice to say, it was more graphic than arse. I must give public credos to a friend I was with who actually did whisper these words with the organist practicing in the back ground.
If God were actually religious, we probably would have been struck by lightning.
Now on to the point (although it can be argued that the point has already been made).
Makeesha has blogged about the recent downfall of many a church leader recently and like domino's, they just keep coming. Another was confirmed today by a friend of mine who attends a particular church in town.
There's been a lot of talk about this issue, and one of the great questions raised is, "What can we as the body do differently?" It's refreshing to see 'the church' point it's fingers back at itself, and not just hang pastors out to dry.
I'd like to add a bit of a different angle to it as well, that probably (hopefully) helps provide some road work down to a destination that might provide some answers.
Modernity and Post-Modernity aside, one thing we as Americans are so good at is me first individuality, make me feel good, give me quick answers, warm fuzzies, I want fries, cheap prices, and an extra hot Latte, all while I sing my Jesus will bless me pop song.
We hear it in the worship music of the day, we see it in books, we learn how to have a better life now, we believe that Jesus will bless us if we ask, and we hear it week after week after week in messages all across America and the western world. One church in our town - and it's a great church - gave a 10 week series called, "How to not screw up your life".
It's all about what we can get from loving Jesus and frankly, I'm frakin' sick of it. It makes my skin crawl and I want to take those warm fuzzies and spill cheap beer all over them (I'll drink the good beer!).
So, if a pastor, for weeks on end, teaches his flock how they can feel good with Jesus, wouldn't it be natural for some to say(and none of us can be excluded from this threat - we are all selfish humans by our fallen nature), "I give and bend and break and give and work and sacrifice so I can make my members happy so they don't leave, so I can have more people to give more money so we can get a new sound system for the youth room, and new carpet in the sanctuary, so more people can come with more money and I can give more and sacrifice more to make even more people happy because Jesus wants us to be happy. We'll *&^% it, I'm not happy so I'm going to do something that makes me happy! I deserve an illegal drug, or I have a right to download a XXX movie from the Internet, or I need that extra money to buy something special for me. If the message is that Jesus makes us happy, then I need to be happy too."
Now this can be an entirely sub-conscience wandering within the gray matter of a church leader, and some may think it's a stretch, but I believe it's entirely plausible that consumer driven Christianity has fueled the fire that has left dried up pastors with no where to turn and selfish congregants with no one to trust.
This is one area (among many) where emergents have something to say. How do we tear down the hierarchical CEO pastoral model in a consumer driven me first society and turn it into an organic messy sacrificial body of believers that will, as Paul states, consider others higher than ourselves?


Makeesha said...

Really good. :) I like that you're addressing the individualism of the issue...very though provoking indeed.

Dave said...

Good thoughts...

FYI - I had the same reaction when I saw Crystal Cathedral.

I also had the same thought when I saw the new "expansion" at Willow Creek (the church that I grew up at).

But your post was good, especially as Makeesha pointed out, bringing out the individualist aspect of each of us. Good work.

John Lynch said...

Yeah brother - go on!!!

..."How do we tear down the hierarchical CEO pastoral model in a consumer driven me first society and turn it into an organic messy sacrificial body of believers that will, as Paul states, consider others higher than ourselves?"

And if I may be so modern as to auggest an answer, I think it would be, 1)Quit 2)Abide 3)Connect 4)Invest.

Michael said...

Basically what we are looking at is this.... As a church that goes against the grain of "Traditionalism" the only thing that will open the eyes of the "Microsoft Assembly of God's" is God himself. We know that through relationship building and allowing god to let his fire burn from the inside out, we have to let the numbers do the talking. I'm not talking about church attendance however. I'm talking about the number of people we genuinely have a connection with. Or how many people we help financially and then take the time out of our "busy" lives to give them a call to see how they are doing and see how else we can serve. I find it comforting that I serve a God that didn't wait until he got through the Starbucks Drive through to show love and serve people. People as in everyone. Not just his little clique at his 4 wall structure that our society has coined the term "Church" for. Just a side note... I don't think Jesus would have been in the drive through of Starbucks anyway. I could see Jesus hanging out at Everyday Joe's sipping a shot of Espresso. Yah That's the way I see it!

paul said...

another great post old bean!

personally I am not against a CEO model, or indeed a pastor having CEO in their name title - it is afterall saying something about action/doing of the executive, or discharging his role in office...

It's just my tuppence but I think we get hung up on title...

So let me unhang myself and say that there is no doubt an element of truth to what you say in that for most of us in the west our number one drug of choice to relieve pain is to consume something - we are all addicts in every sense of the word - so why not throw church into the pot and when church or christians let us down then let's choose something else to numb the pain...

My feeling is that we, particularly if we have charismatic leanings, have pulled towards the nowness of God and out faith is built a lot around God doing a new thing... we need to be also reminded of the mediaton of God - the suffering servant image where we are wounded, where we limp, where we serve the world...

If we couple both together then I think we will have something that captures the best of the entrepreneurship behind consumerism but also something that challenges it as well - that as christians we are called to suffer, be rejected, to be ignored, hurt, hunted etc

Anonymous said...

Man, you all sound real judgemental and holier than thou. I am done with this blog!