August 21, 2006

The consumer church, yet again

After yoga this morning, a few of us were talking about PTA meetings and church news (though not necessarily in that order). I learned that one of the local Baptist churches is hell bent (hah) to buy an entire city block because they have a hankering to start a Bible based school. That is ALL we need--another fundy thumper factory. (Motto, "We put the "fun" back in "Fundamentalism*).

Another church has decided to build what a friend refers to as an "atrium for Jesus" on the front of their very nice church building. Those stories from the OT? You know, towers and edifices? Nevermind.

Anyway, these have me thinking about an old post from the blog, so I did a little digging. I think it is still relevant and even better than I remembered--if I do say so myself.

Please note: I am more than aware that MOST churches are NOT like this. Even many fundamentalist Baptist churches would never be caught dead with a coffee shop or bookstore. But there is undoubtedly a consumer trend, and below is my humble idea of what it might look like.

Streak's Blog: "The recent Passion-related merchandising and subsequent deafening silence from the evangelical community has inspired me of the business opportunities to be gained in this largely untapped market. Below is my vision of the new, P.C., LLC.. (a wholly owned subsidiary of Nabisco foods)

[As our visitors enter the sanctuary decorated with the usual crosses and stained glass depictions of our Lord and Savior saving mankind, they are directed to their seats by ushers. Those same ushers take drink and muffin orders as the organ plays.]
[Lights dim, Pastor steps to the podium.]
'Welcome to our church,, where your religious dollar goes farther!'
[Thepastor grins and waits for the laughter to fade.]
'In all seriousness,we hope that our visitors were able to negotiate the parking system outside and urge you to sign up for a monthly permit if you join our church. Great savings over the single visits. Remember that salvation and standing up to the devil is a costly venture and we must compete. And before we start the hymns, please make your final drink orders from your usher. We are having a Passion of the Christ muffin sale today, 2 for 5 dollars. And now our music minister. Praise Jesus.
[Music minister takes the stand.]
'Please turn in your hymnal to page 242. If you do not have one, your usher can bring one to you for a $4 rental or you can purchase your own (engraved in fake leather) at the bookstore after the service or online at
Now,let us sing: 'what a friend we have in Jesus...'
[After the choir has sung their song (paid for today by the $2 cover charge), the Pastor reappears to call for the offertory. He explains how to use the touch screens and card swipes in front of every worshipper. Those without credit cards are ushered out to avoid embarrassment.]
[Organ music.]
[Pastor returns for his sermon.]
'Today's sermon is brought to you by the good folks at Keeler SUV and Gas Guzzler. If you need to buy a new car, the Lord has directed me to say that these folks are his anointed dealership in this area. They will not cheat you out of the heaviest car they can sell you, and you can show your devotion to our Lord and Savior by following his will. On a side note, there are people who will tell you there is something wrong with SUVs. They are called Communists and the Lord is not amused. SUVs are exactly what our Lord and Savior would have driven except for the fact that the Jews hadn't figured out the internal combustion engine when he walked the earth. And don't listen to the 'tree-huggers.' God made these cars too and if you buy a, so-called, 'efficient' vehicle, you will be cheating our good Brother Exxon--Hi brother, so glad you are enjoying your front row boxseats--out of his hard earned profit. If his business suffers, the Lord will not be happy.

Now to our sermon on the Moneychangers. These were evil Jews, much like you would see in our contemporary Hollywood. And in this story, Jesus just threw them out of the temple. Wouldn't that be grand? Wouldn't we love to see the fornicators and abortionists and pornographers just thrown out of this good country?
Remember, Hitler loved porn. Abortions and porn.

Let us pray. 'Dear Holy God. Help us to be better children of thine and show us thy pleasure by making our stocks go up, Lord, yeah, even double. For as I walk through the uncertainty of downsizing, I will fear no evil as God himself will ensure that my 401K will increase at a healthy 10% rate. Amen.

'Now is the time to call our new converts and consumers to the front to declare your allegiance to our Lord and Savior. Once you have declared before God and man, you will have one more step.

For while it is good to declare your love of Jesus and God before this holy, incorporated partnership and congregation, it is most important that you show the rest of the ungodly world where your allegiance lies, verily. So following your conversion, please follow Bridget (head usher) to the Church GiftShoppe where you can purchase your proof to the world. We havet-shirts (pre-shrunk, of course) posters, bracelets, official pendants of the Passion of the Christ movie, and of course, John The Baptist ties for the Christian executive. For our youth fighting the sin of premarital sex, we have 'Abstinence Only' thongs and 'Just say No' briefs.

The Gift Shoppe accepts all major credit cards, and today only, if you turn your life over to Christ AND purchase a minimum of $50 worth of Christian-proving merchandise, we will sign you up for a low interest credit card.This new card will allow you to profess your heartfelt faith whereveryou shop, and in fact, you will be witnessing to the world every time you buy something. So, buy, buy, buy. Show the Lord and the Devil whose side you are on! Let us pray.
[End of service.]"

If I were to write this today, I might have added an option on the swipe card screen to order coffee, muffins, and make a substantial donation to the Republican party right from your pew. With the free wireless (undoubtedly available at this church) new consumers could set up their tithing as an automatic payroll deduction ("Remember, people, that is 10% off the top, not take-home.**)

*Simpsons reference
**and yet again


mary said...

I think the touch screen on the pew-back (those little cards and envelopes and mini-pencils are SO twentieth-century!) will have an American Idol voting capability, where you can rate up the bits of the preacher's sermon that you like, down-rate those you don't. Thus, over time, you'll get a better message product, tailored to what you want to hear.

I find myself wondering when worship became an entertainment product to be focus-grouped. Neil Postman described the desacralization of religion by the advent of televangelism -- is it worship if you can watch it while flossing your teeth in the bathroom? -- and I wonder if this is the logical continuation of that.

I'd choke on those muffins and coffee if I ever tried to eat or drink in a sanctuary. When I go to my stodgy, traditional mainline church service, I am always astonished to see a lovely couple who come in and take their seats, carrying their 32oz. Dr. Pepper bottles. I'm sure they're nice people, but when did that become okay? Am I just getting old and cranky? And can you really call it a community if it needs a Park N'Ride?

Streak said...

will have an American Idol voting capability, where you can rate up the bits of the preacher's sermon that you like, down-rate those you don't. Thus, over time, you'll get a better message product, tailored to what you want to hear.

Ah, now I get it. Excellent. And a perfect idea. After all, a sermon that gets too close to the bone might deserve a thumbs down, or frowny face. "More Jesus love and how he hates my enemies."