Are you addicted to religion?
As some may know, I have become disillusioned (Ha! interesting word considering what I’m about to say…) with evangelical, emotion-laden, mega church environments that seem to be taking over the Christian world in these last several years. I do not agree with a church environment that attempts to illicit an emotional response to a phrase, a prayer, a motion much like a director cues an actor to enter the stage in a play.
Allow me to illustrate my point. During a church service, the pastor/preacher is talking and seems to be driving home a point s/he wishes to make. The pastor then begins to slow down the pace of his speech and lowers his tone. His…pauses…are…more…spaced…apart…to…add…effect… Then, as if on a rehearsed cue, a piano begins playing ever so softly and slowly. The pastor continues to speak and is no longer pacing the stage but is still, again for effect. The piano continues to play as the pastor brings the point of the message home. All of a sudden, the people in the audience/congregation begin to tear up because they KNOW he’s speaking to them. The music. The tone of voice. The quiet of the church. It’s an emotional event.
Another illustration. The music of the church: band, small orchestra. piano, organ, etc etc etc. Hymnals aren’t used. A screen, or multiple screens, are used to flash the chorus being sung. Hands begin to raise in the air. Swaying ensues. Chorus sung over. And over. And over. And over. Again. Again. Again. Emotions are flying and tears are streaming. Upheavals in the music. Crescendoes. Diminuendos.
And if you want another performance (read: fix), there is/are one service on Saturday evening, 3 services on Sunday mornings, one on Sunday evening, and another on Wednesday evening. Each of these just as powerful as the last.
Church has evolved to an orchestrated event for the express intention of evoking an upsurge of emotions that will be directly contributed to the power of the Holy Spirit’s movement within that place and that person.
Those in attendance to witness and to participate in this pageant of emotions will define their connection to God for that day in proportion to their emotional involvement within the performance.
“For Feuerbach, Christian theology has tended to interpret the externalized image of ‘feeling’ of self=consciousness as a wholly other, absolute essence, whereas in fact it is a ‘self-feeling feeling’: human religious feelings or experience cannot be interpreted as an awareness of God, but only as a misunderstood self-awareness. ‘If feeling is the essential instrumentality or organ of religion, then God’s nature is nothing other than an expression of the nature of feeling. The divine essence, which is comprehended by feeling, is actually nothing other than the essence of feeling, enraptured and delight with itself — nothing but self-intoxicated, self-contended feeling’ ” (McGrath, Christian Theology, 429).
Christianity has “devolved” into a sound bite of religious histrionics devoid of, or at least seriously lacking in, Biblical content. When congregants leave the service, how they judge whether the service was “good” or “bad” is how affected they were by the performance. Those said congregants have over time become addicted to this religious drug and will continue to attend, not because of the spiritual truth that they receive at each service, but because they’ve drained through their supply of spiritual medication and need a fresh hit.
(I’m neither implying or outright stating that the Holy Spirit doesn’t move in powerful ways. What I AM stating, loud and clear, is that the Holy Spirit doesn’t need help. From the pastor. From the musicians. From the choir. The Holy Spirit is strong enough and capable of enough of speaking to and moving within the individuals of that service on His own. He doesn’t need the scripted performance to facilitate or even enhance His actions.)
And if you doubt my assertion, divorce yourself from the sentimentality the next several times you attend your church. Separate yourself, if you can, from the music, the changes in tone of voice from the pastor, the facial expressions of divine rapture from the choir and congregants. Observe the service as an outsider, a sceptic. Truly listen to the content of the sermon. How much does he read the Word and preach from it, or is he merely offering his commentary to the Word, or worse offering story after story to illustrate his point? (Those aren’t the same thing, by the way!) Is he presenting the Word for what it is or for what he believes it is?
” ‘If feeling is the essential instrumentality or organ of religion, then God’s nature is nothing other than an expression of the nature of feeling.’ “