Someone once argued with me that we should do anything to get our foot in the door if just to spread the gospel. On one level that sounds Machiavellian—the end justifies the means—but on another level it’s just being an asshole.
We should be happy that the marketplace is taking note of what is happening in the churches. Really? Wasn’t it the other way around when we first copied the marketplace? If the marketplace was copying the church then it should be about caring for the poor and needy and fighting for justice and equality. But since it was the other way around and it was the church that started copying the marketplace, the marketplace is just basically copying itself.
By riding along that means something is altered. Marshall MacLuhan, the professing Christian I would rather pay attention to, in the middle of the 20th Century coined the phrase, “the medium is the message”. Simply said, the medium (presentations in general or specifically medias like television, print, web, etc.) in and of themselves has a message. Example, television is an entertainment medium, consequently whatever you air on TV becomes entertainment—whether the news or religious programs.
That last sentence should raise eyebrows already.
With the gospel riding on a marketing medium, something is altered as well. It is driven by numbers, to be kind about it. We can be crass and add a dollar or peso sign in front of those numbers but let’s just stay with the body count. Ever so often a church would have this “vision” (pick a theme from the bible) and add a number as a goal: “vision1234”. That goal may be something like spread the gospel to “1234” number of people, or “1234” new churches, or “$1234” more money in the bank—but that’s being crass. Whatever.
Because the church is now riding on that numbers game, it better be efficient or cost-effective.
And it will cut out stuff that may scare potential prospects. Such as …
“Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nest, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.”
Or, while talking to this rich kid …
“Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”
If Jesus attended one of those evangelism courses, what he would have said to the rich young man would have been, “say the sinner’s prayer with me and you’re good.” But not. Jesus would have flunked one of those evangelism courses. He keeps scaring away the prospects.
That reminds me on an old joke (okay, now categorically a “dad-joke” it had either Bill Gates, George Bush or whoever you thought was the anti-christ at the moment as the butt of the joke): a rich guy died and upon entering heaven was to choose between what appeared to be CCTV images on computer screens. One showed people sitting up in the clouds strumming harps and another one showed a beach scene with a rock band and girls in bikinis. He chose the beach and instantly found himself in hell. He complained and the reply he got was as the angel moved the mouse around “oh, that was just a screensaver”.
We have gone a long way from the extortion scam of medieval Roman Catholicism where they scared the shit out of people with threats of purgatory or hell just to get them to turn to God (or buy indulgences). Modern Christianity, in its desire to spread the Gospel, has become captive to their own numbers game and has gone the other extreme reducing its message to nothing more than a pretty picture. Just as I would not want to have anything to do with a religion that came from the dark ages, neither would I want to have anything to do with one lit up in spot lights.