The Economics and Anatomy of the Church

I had considered writing a short story to work out these thoughts, but everything seemed forced. Sometimes we feel like it’s important to be heard, like the world needs our opinion. I considered burying mine in a piece of short fiction and playing naïve. It didn’t feel honest. A friend sent me the new book by Timothy Willard and Jason Locy—Veneer. It raises good questions about this online-generation that is so disconnected. Facebook, twitter, blogs, instagram, beluga—windows into our thoughts and opinions because we want to be heard or noticed. Modern media provides us with more opportunities for exhibitionism and voyeurism. The marketing of self has become commonplace.

I’ve been watching this documentary on the modern Corporation. If you can cut through the liberal bias, you will find interesting commentary on the marketing of consumption. Production and consumption are what provides this country with its firm economic footing, so you are told that using your stimulus check to buy a new widget is patriotic. Saving it? Not as patriotic. The messages from both the market and the government are clear; success is found in consumption and consumption is found in possessing.

It is silly to pretend that I don’t drink the Kool-Aid. I am, after all, writing a blog on a computer while consuming a great cup of joe. I will likely tweet the post, and might post it to my Facebook account. See? It’s “strange wine,” a friend told me yesterday.

I heard a story this weekend. The lovely couple were suffocating so they left their church. A multi-million dollar debt load was being lorded over their heads, they who made less than the average working-class couple. There was a state-of-the-art facility and now the bride of Christ needed to raise the money to pay for it. There was an email campaign, twitter messages, and a well-named marketing program designed to dispose of the debt. The flat screens in the foyer ran a presentation that mixed “progress reports” with bible study times and pot-luck locations. The message was latent, but clear—give more so that we can consume more for “the kingdom.” My friend and I talked about his angst, railing against the drunken religion of consumption.

It’s been nagging at me these last two days. Am I so different? As a member of the church, am I equally responsible for contributing to a well-marketed, surface level, consumer-Christianity? Do I want the responsibility of economic accountability, or would I rather hide behind 140 characters? Would I rather live a veneered life and pretend that abundance is found in possessing?

Politicians and preachers tend to reflect our social norms. Hypothetical hypocrites make easy targets but the truth about self is a mark that is easy to miss.