9.3.11

Peterson on Church

I am in the middle of Practicing Resurrection by Peterson, and I came across this passage which I couldn't resist typing out in full and posting for your enjoyment:

      "I soon found that the imagery I had grown up with to form by turns either a romantic or a crusader church had changed. Sermons from the Song of Songs or Ephesians were no longer preached to eroticize or militarize the church. Bible texts were no longer sufficient for these things. new and fresh imagery was now provided by American business. While I was growing up in my out-of-the-way small town, a new generation of pastors had re imagined the church. Tirzah and terrible-as-an-army-with-banners had been scrapped and replaced with the imagery of an ecclesiastical business with a mission to market spirituality to consumers to make them happy. Simultaneously, campaigns targeted outsiders to get them to buy whatever it was that was making us happy.
     For me, these were new terms for bringing the church's mandate into focus. The church was no longer conceived as something in need of repair but as a business opportunity that would cater to the consumer tastes of spiritually minded sinners both within and without the congregation. It didn't take long for American pastors to find that this worked a lot better as a strategy for whipping the church into shape than the terrible-as-an-army-with-banners and the without-spot-or-wrinkle sermons. Here were tried-and-true methods developed in the American business world that had an impressive track record of success. Pastors, I learned, no longer preached fantasy sermons on what the church should be. We could actually do something about the shabby image we had of ourselves. We could use advertising techniques to create an image of church as a place where we and our friends could mix with successful and glamorous people. We could use media manipulation to get people to do something they were already pretty good at doing: being consumers. All we had to do was remove pictures of the God of Gomorrah and Moriah and Golgotha from the walls of our churches and shift things around ab it to make our meeting places more consumer friendly. With God depersonalized and then repackaged as a principle or formula, people could shop at their convenience for whatever sounded or looked as if it would make their lives more interesting and satisfying on their own terms. Marketing research quickly developed to show us just what people wanted in terms of God and religion. As soon as we knew what it was, we gave it to them."

... As soon as we knew what it was, we gave it to them. That phrase rings on in my head as indictment, warning, and reminder. It didn't work very well Aaron, as much as the people wanted that golden calf. 

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