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.