In 1994, trip hoppers Portishead wrote, directed, scored and starred in a short movie called To Kill A Dead Man. Here it is:
The idea of the “Stockholm Syndrome” is a curious phenomenon maybe you’ve heard about. The idea is that hostages begin to falsely believe that they have some sort of relationship with their captors, to the point that they begin to feel empathy for them, sometimes even to the point of defending them.
According to Wikipedia (so you know it must be true!):
The FBI’s Hostage Barricade Database System shows that roughly 27% of victims show evidence of Stockholm Syndrome. The Syndrome is named after the Norrmalmstorg robbery of Kreditbanken atNorrmalmstorg in Stockholm, in which bank employees were held hostage from August 23 to August 28, 1973. In this case, victims became emotionally attached to their captors, and even defended them after they were freed from their six-day ordeal.
Wait, isn’t that the theme of Disney’s creepy movie Beauty and the Beast?
What does any of this have to do with a lowly pastor’s thoughts on culture and church planting, you might ask? It seems to me that this is a perfect explantation for why so many of our churches seem to be driven by consumerism. After all, we in the West (and increasingly throughout the world) are held captive by consumerism. Our entire way of life is built on consumption. If we stopped buying things our economy would collapse. If companies didn’t keep stirring the pot of discontent, we wouldn’t continue to buy things we don’t need, believing that we will somehow find satisfaction through purchasing, yada, yada, yada.
This is the sauce in which we marinate. Everywhere we turn, we are bombarded with the pins and pricks of advertising instilling in us the notion that we don’t have enough and that’s why we’re not satisfied. If only we drank that soda, we would be happy, etc. The underlying notion that we’re left with at the end of the day is not only that more of the right stuff (not just any stuff) will make us happy, but that we deserve the best and if product x can’t deliver it, then product y will.
How else have we come to accept a phrase like “church shopping”?! How else can we explain the idea that worship is somehow enhanced with the presence of dark lights, lasers, Chris Tomlin look-a-likes with their just a bit of grunge tussled hair singing Chris Tomlin’s songs to the gentle drone of a fog machine? How else can we explain churches that resemble shopping malls (your one-stop spiritual emporium)? What other explanation is there for such blurring of the lines between entertainment and “worship”? How is it that so many “worship experiences” resemble rock concerts more than anything else?
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about this quote from A.W. Tozer:
”A church that can’t worship must be entertained; & men who can’t lead a church to worship must provide entertainment.”
I’m beginning to wonder if the American church has been held hostage by consumerism so long that we now have empathy towards it? After all, instead of resisting the siren song of consumerism, it seems as though we’ve come to embrace it, hook, line and sinker. We’ve come, not only to appreciate our captors but to emulate them.
The church is not Burger King and you can’t have it your way. The church does not exist to entertain you and worship should not be a production. We should be breaking the chains of consumerism rather than reinforcing them.
Amazon has some great prices on some invaluable resources right now for the Kindle (yes, I’m reppin’ for the Man):
OK, OK, I realize that not everyone is a fan of Yo Gabba Gabba. I get it, even though I don’t get it. I don’t see what there is not to like. But that’s beside the point. I watch my youngest son Eli dance along to the songs without a care in the world and I’m honestly a bit envious. At what point in life does the weight of people’s opinion outweigh our willingness to dance even if people are looking?
I’m just going to go ahead and say all of this because I’m tired of pretending otherwise. I am tired of American Christianity. I’m tired of pretending that “holiness” means looking good in other people’s eyes. I’m tired of thinking at we always need to have answers and that there’s no place for mystery. I’m sick of creating an atmosphere where people who follow Jesus feel more comfortable than those who don’t. I’m tired of pretending that struggles are the same thing as a lack of faith. I’m also tired of feeling like there’s no place for doubt, like the Psalmists somehow don’t fit in my Bible.
I’m tired of feeling like God’s approval of me is measured in terms of other people’s opinions and I honestly don’t understand how we have created an atmosphere where we feel like it appears “holier” to pretend like everything is alright in life when it isn’t. After all, if we believe that God offers the healing balm of the soul, how is it that we have created a culture where we try to “one-up” each other in cheesy, Flanderish grins rather than letting others know how we hurt and where we doubt?
I wonder how many modern Christians would actually be comfortable with Jesus as He’s presented in Scripture, when, after all, the people He hung out with are the people we are trained to avoid?
What mighty it look like if the church was a place where people were encouraged to truly be themselves? What might it mean if people were able to express doubts and be open with hurts instead of pretending that everything was always fine?
I guess what I’m trying to say is that I’m tired of pretending.
I love to doodle. And I doodle a lot when I listen to lectures or sermons. Over the years, this has been something I’ve actually been pressed to feel guilty about. I’ve been told that I don’t pay attention the way that I should, blah, blah, blah.
But, here’s the thing; I know that it looks disrespectful to speakers if I’m in the audience not looking at them and doodling. I know it looks like I’m not paying attention. But looks can be deceiving. In fact, I have always (at least as long as I can remember) felt that, if I can doodle, especially while I’m trying intake extended pieces of information like a lecture or a sermon, I am actually able to pay better attention.
I retain more when I am able to stop pretending that I learn the “ideal” of trying to maintain eye-contact with the speaker and pretend that I’m a mannequin.
I recently found validation for my sentiments in a TED talk by Sunni Brown. And yes, those are some of my doodles.
Late last year, I was super-blessed to get a new laptop. Then, a few days ago, I left it on the edge of the couch. As you may know, I have four sons, which means that our home can get fairly rowdy at times. My new laptop was knocked off of the couch and the drive had to be replaced yesterday.
Each time, setting up my new laptop, I’ve been presented with a problem only a severe music lover might face? Do i transfer 20-something thousand songs from my old iTunes library to the new machine? That way, I’d be sure not to face that dreadful craving for a certain album that wasn’t on my new machine, right?! I know, I know, first world problems.
In iTunes, I can transfer music wirelessly, so each time, I decided to transfer only what I consider “foundational” albums for my musical life and then to add music as I go. These “foundational” albums are albums that, no matter the phase of life, no matter the season, I always return to.
What are some albums always seem to be part of your life? Here’s ten of mine (in no particular order, nor a full list):