Seventh Sunday of Easter
Solemnity of the Ascension
Solemnity of the Ascension
This is a post in which I decry something evil. Definitely a "Black Spider-Man" day. Stick with me, you'll like it.
There's a new church plant in Lexington, and its staff are big fans of billboards and direct mailings. (I got two in the lead-up to Easter - known to some of us as "Lent.") If you drive along New Circle Road west between the Nicholasville and Harrodsburg Road exits, you'll see a billboard depicting a barefoot man in jeans and a cap leaping into the air. The caption: "Church was never meant to be boring." I have a double-sized direct mail postcard that proclaims the same shameful message.
Everybody knows this is wrong, right? By appealing to middle-class consumerist boredom in their introductory message, these folks make it very clear that their primary value is the entertainment of the masses, the dispensing of religious goods and services in such a way that will keep you coming back for more. Their tagline: "Imagine a church that is vibrant, relevant, and for you!"
I imagine (ahem) an exception to my worries about purpose-driven catechesis: maybe they should open PDL and check out page 1, which proclaims, "It's not about you." A church that's not about being an "us" really needs to pack it in.
Maybe they're right. Should I switch churches? Their advertisement claims that they are "Vibrant - Alive with God's energy!"
What does that even mean? That I have to jump up and down? What's the energy for? Does it have a direction? Couldn't the local Wiccan coven advertise the same thing? Can I ask the goddess to help me align my crystals, please? I can't feel my chi right now! Why can't I feel my chi?
Is my church vibrant? Sometimes we get in fights, and that's pretty energetic. Yes, fights. We love each other enough and spend enough time with one another to get into fights. Does this church do that? Are their fights as good as ours? I'd be pretty impressed if they were. If I'm going to be part of your church, you better care enough about me to care if I act stupid. And don't worry - the reverse would also be true.
Next line: "Relevant - Music, messages, and relationships, that fit your life!"
Do they assume that their goods and services "fit" a life that is as-yet unconverted, or one that is mostly converted? The only way in which it would be legitimate for those things to fit my life is if I were Jesus Christ Himself.
This makes me want to violate my profanity policy. (I only write swear words in the comment box.)
Relationships that fit my life. I'm pretty sure that makes them the internet porn of churches.
What about Vine and Branches? Is the music relevant? We don't have any - we pray Psalms together. Lately we've started whining to chant them. Sure enough, that's probably not relevant to what I think my "needs" are - just like the Fathers said. Rather, the liturgy is relevant to the Thing that I'm becoming. Thank God. But that doesn't count. I'd score us a 1. Ha!
The messages? Alan could sex up his blog a bit, mostly he does pretty well, like the discussion about the new monasticism last week. But in the liturgy we have discussion more than "messages" most of the time. I'll give us an 8.
Do the relationships fit my life? Certainly not. The worthwhile ones don't, really. In order to choose these relationships, I have to say no to others. To live in these friendships, I have to renounce my freedom to continually choose what I feel like doing at any moment of the day or week. These relationships don't "fit" my life. In Jesus, they provide the shape of my life.
And really, if any church wants to offer relationships that "fit my life" - I was serious about the internet porn thing. Always there for you, and never asking anything in return. It's beautiful, really.
Finally, this is "For People Like You - A church where you can belong!"
You know, maybe that's true. Maybe if I attended their liturgy, lots of those folks (hell, there could be 5 of them for all I know) would learn my name and invite me to have lunch with them. Maybe we could be friends, and they would shoulder my challenges and let me bear with them in theirs. I'll never know, so I have to give them the benefit of a doubt. Maybe they would actually require something of me.
I do have a serious doubt, however, because the church's logo depicts four people, a man and woman, a boy and girl, with joined hands. A nuclear family is the symbolic mascot for these folks. Sorry mates, that's not a good sign. I think you all know how I feel about that particular fetish.
It's bad enough I'm single - what if I were divorced? Bloody hell.
Ah, consumerist Christianity. "This ain't a scene... it's an arms race."
If anybody involved with this church or its ad campaign is reading this, let us know. We're willing to accept your repentance.