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Commoditizing Jesus – A Lover’s Quarrel

29 March 2007

Briefly perusing the introduction of Victor Davis Hanson’s 1999 book, _The Other Greeks: The Family Farm and the Agrarian Roots of Western Civilization_, it occurred to me that the phenomenon others have observed in culture at large – efficiency/productivity as the governing ideal, leading to commoditization on a broad scale, leading to a soul-numbing sameness that mocks the very wealth that produced it – has metastasized into the church with disastrous results.

Sadly, we are reaping that harvest here in Amarillo at my home church. Oh, yes! There is a shiny, seductive veneer of success, but it is measured in the stuff of mammon: tushes in the pews, clams in the tiller, squares on the architect’s drawing table, spires on the horizon and column-inches in the Globe-News. It is all very impressive.

Impressive, as in: just like those huge churches in the sprawling, youthful, fabulous suburbs of Las Vegas, or Atlanta, or Dallas.

Impressive, as in: just like all the other kings and kingdoms of this world.

But the banality, the sameness, the damnable soullessness of it all

…a soullessness that crucifies the prophet, casts aside the shepherd and kisses the king’s scepter.

…a soullessness that brooks neither thoughtful dissent from its vision nor substantive challenges to the judgment of its patrons (and their hirelings).

…a soullessness that keeps family and spontaneity and tradition at a careful arm’s length but embraces production cues, pixels and scripts as if they were long-lost lovers.

…a soullessness that trades spiritual passion, classical wisdom and the earthy grace of God Himself for something newer, more glamorous, less risky and more controllable – in other words, a cheap harlot who does what she’s told and keeps her mouth shut. Or else.

…a soullessness that basks in the heady affirmation and fawning loyalty of the ninety-and-nine but steadfastly refuses to hear and heed the mournful cries of the scattered one.

…a soullessness that views pastoral responsibility and church governance in terms of the iron fist, the wagging finger and the dismissive wave rather than the outstretched hand.

…a soullessness that insists on no special accommodations for the old and weak but throws itself shamelessly at the young, healthy and beautiful (and who – coincidentally – have a lot of upside salary potential).

…a soullessness that trades away the deep, abiding, long-suffering, forebearing and messy love we once knew as agape for the manufactured stuff of on-demand pity, off-the-shelf counsel and the latest training in interpersonal techniques, demographic profiles and marketing trends.

Didn’t Jesus say that we could not serve both God and mammon?


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