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Family and Friends is my everyday journal. Captain's Log is where I pontificate on religion and politics.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Mega Religion

We went to a church today here on the west side. It started as an extension of the huge mega church in town across the river. We've been to the mother church many times over the years (usually for conferences that were hosted there) so we were naturally curious about this one.
Even though its not in the name this is a Baptist church.
We were the only ones that brought a Bible. They weren't needed. Grinnygranny admonished me to keep an open mind as we sat down in the fairly plush chairs.
Here's what my open mind noticed:

The picture at left is the cover of their order of worship. It was also plastered all over the walls. It is the focus of the series of the pastor's sermons. When I saw this I reminded this was one of the churches that showed the video Bush: God's Warrior. I also equate this with the crazies taking guns where Obama shows up to speak. Those who would applaud a gunman murdering a doctor in a church because what he does offends their religious beliefs. The symbolism of militancy is overt not subliminal. It brought to mind Barry Sadler's book Casca: The Samurai. Casca sees monks wearing swords. He thinks to himself that of all the centuries he'd lived that whenever religion picks up arms the world is in a pile of shit.
    Another observation is that everything this chuch does is packaged like either a television show or movie.

  • The sanctuary is a television studio. No vaulted ceiling giving the impression that the people's thoughts should focus on heaven. It has bare black beams with exposed ducting, lights, spot lights, cameras, projectors. The side walls are covered with speakers. When I saw the stage, the band set up, large screens on both sides of the front, curtains; I expected to see Ed MacMahon step out and say "Heeerrrrreeee'ssss Johnny." Before the service began there was a voice and video asking everyone to turn off their cell phones, just like in a movie theater.

  • The music worship was a pep rally. The singers on stage all had the Lawrence Welk smiles, raised hands, clapping. I was surprised they didn't have cheerleader outfits. There were the typical praise choruses brainwashing the faithful in the divine right of kings. (I've posted before on my disdain the last thirty years on the music services). The only difference I found here over almost all other churches and even at the New Baptist Covenant we attended earlier this month was in the level of ability. I give the song leader and musicians credit. They are good. I looked around at those in the congregation during the song service. Only about twenty percent raised their hands and about half were moving their mouths to sing along. Even the song service has become entertainment instead of a particapatory experience. Main reason for this is that all you see is the words. You have to see the notes in order to know how to sing the song. (Sorry pet peeve)

  • When the senior pastor (looked to be in his early thirties) came on stage he sat in a chair with a table to hold his notes. He wore blue jeans with a gray dress shirt over a white t-shirt. I noticed people dressed in shorts, t-shirts, flip flops, like they were going to the mall or more exactly to see a movie.

  • During the sermon he stopped for a video clip of man-on-the-street interviews about friendship. Later to make a point he used another clip from the T.V. show Old Christine and at another jucture there was a clip showing all the people who attended the church because one person asked someone and then they asked someone etc. It ended by lining up the different people as an example of what one person could accomplish.

  • It was a basic fundamentalist sermon. The kiss (keep it simple stupid) principle. Preach salvation and guilt the already saved for not asking all those they know to come to church. It seems that's all a christian is required to do is ask everyone they meet to come to church. The emphasis was on the people to "save" the lost. No mention that this is the Holy Spirit's job.

  • What I didn't expect: 1. No invitation. If you want to make a decision there is a card in the order of worship to fill out and leave in the boxes as you leave. I guess they don't want people coming down and messing up their fancy media equipment. That and the fact that they need to get this overflow crowd out the door and the next one seated in fifteen minutes. (Wow just like the movie theaters) 2. No offering. That's what the boxes on the way out are for. Interesting concept. Evidently plenty of people are apprecative and give generously this way.

  • We noticed on the way out that all services are available on I-tunes. No media stone left unturned.

Church has always been about entertainment. For much of history it was about the only form of entertainment the average person had to break up their work week. The last century brought cheap entertainment to the masses. Movies, television, radios, lp's 45's, tapes, CD's and now MP3 players, Ipods, PC's (the flood continues) fought with church for the attention of the masses. Some embraced the new medium. Billy Graham brought the local church service to the world with his telecasts. Radio and televangelists quickly found out there was gold in them thar little old ladies until the shopping networks cut into their profits. In the last fifty years church attendance has been way down and this seems to be one response. If you can't beat 'em -- join 'em. If anyone can find a way to add a video game to the sermon I'm sure they'll include that too.


Woody (Tokin Librul/Rogue Scholar/ Helluvafella!) said...

Pat, iirc there's at least one "Left Behind" video game available.

Re: Casca, there's also a certain amount of ambiguity about who is responsible for conversion by the sword.

Do the priests take up weapons when the world has turned to shit, or does the world turn to shit when the priests take up arms?

The European "Saint/Kings" (Louis, Edward, Stephen) won canonization by killing off the theological opposition and "converting" their nations to Catholicism...Which didn;t alawys work out for the wrongly-believing...

P M Prescott said...

There's one other historical reality that Dubbya shares with all the saintly kings of Europe. Everything they touched turned to crap too.

Unknown said...

PM: Sounds like a bad dream. I'd stay away. No, I don't like guns at all. I'm sorry to read you both wandered into this crazed place. May you find a nice church to attend that is sane.

P M Prescott said...

This was a one time visit just to see what it's like. This church is just down the hill from the one we attend.