Monday, May 14, 2012

Consumer Religion

"I used to be Catholic, but I left because it didn't suit me"  
"I used to go the Catholic Church, but I wasn't being spiritually fed"  
"I go to the [insert name of hip young modern church] because they understand me, I really get something out of it."

Ever heard these lines?  Or perhaps, you're one who has said these lines when someone asks you why you switched churches.  I'll be blunt, I have an issue with these lines, and indeed, with the logic behind them.  While I understand that people are searching for spiritual fulfillment, I can't help but think they're doing it entirely wrong. Now, I know what people are looking for, and there's nothing wrong with looking for spiritual fulfillment.  However, what is wrong is the method with which they search.  You see, there seems to be a spiritual epidemic of people migrating from church to church in search of the church that suits them, and more often than not, it reflects a person's hunt for a favorite restaurant rather than a genuine pursuit of truth.  
Our culture has, since the early to mid 20th century, had a massive tone of consumerism.  The notion of consumerism places a strong emphasis on option, on choice, on the ability to pick the life you want to live, and has resulted in nearly unlimited ability for individual expression.  This attitude of consumerism has benefits, but it also have deficits.  However, among one of it most unique qualities it has is its near parasitic ability to spread into every aspect of life.  For many in our culture, its not good enough to have choice in economics, we must also have choice in education, choice in our personal lives, and, most alarmingly, choice in our religious faith.  

Now I'm not talking about freedom of religion in the political sense.  I'm all for people being able to choose their faith.  However, I'm not okay with people being able to do so inconsequentially. Its alarming that people can move from church to church, teaching to teaching, doctrine to doctrine, not with objective truth as the object of their search, but personal preference.  The biggest deciding factor in many people's faith journey isn't whether the teachings and practices of the faith reflect and speak to the Truth, but whether the teachings and practices of the faith reflect and speak to the self.  They want engaging, touching religion more then they want true religion.

"But Joe, what's wrong with a faith that speaks to one's self?"  Great question, disembodied skeptic!  It might seem preferable to have a faith that speaks to the person, that engages the person, that appeals to them.  However, as fun and exciting as it is, it doesn't base the faith around God. Instead, its based around personal preference, which often has nothing to do with God.  For example, if I have to take a trip to Timbuktu, the path I take better end up getting me there, whether I like it or not.  It's certainly nice if the trip starts where I am at, and takes into my account personal preferences, but if it doesn't actually get me there, its purposeless.  

This is the sad effect of church hopping modern progressive Christianity:  ultimately, its all about me.  My likes, my dislikes, my preferences, my this, my that, me, me, me, me, me!  Faith is never meant to be about me, its meant to be about God.  Too often we leave a Church saying "I didn't feel God" when honestly, its not about feelings at all.  We're not meant to feel close to God, we're meant to BE close to God.  We can't be consumer religious.  Many people say that we shouldn't be a consumer society, because we end up being that which is consumed.  I say we shouldn't be consumer religious, precisely because religion is supposed to consume us, and not vice versa.

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