Church, Inc.


Picture this– you’re on a road trip, and around lunchtime you reach an unfamiliar city. On the main strip, you scope out potential spots for a delicious lunch. The familiar signs greet you; McDonalds on the right, KFC on the left, followed by Burger King, Jack in the Box, Carl’s Jr., Starbucks… Need I list anymore?

Looking for more tempting culinary offerings, you turn off onto a nearby side street. You seem to have found Church Row, and the familiar signs greet you; Nazarene on the right, Baptist on the left, followed by Presbyterian, Lutheran, Methodists, Foursquare, Pentecostal… Need I go on?

“But Bethany,” you may think, “Why are you comparing Christianity to corporate fast food chains?”

How, dear reader, are they so different?

People go to McDonald’s to satiate their physical hunger, and they go to church to satiate their spiritual hungers. However, the fare they receive at either location is just a temporary fix for their yearnings, and they find they’re hungry again far sooner than they ought to be. That’s because our formulaic churches and fast food joints are too McDonaldized to fulfill our true needs.

The religion of Consumption is tied inextricably to McDonaldization of anything.

For example, most protestant churches try hard to be “relevant to today’s culture,” featuring a pastor who doesn’t wear church clothes and cracks jokes from the pulpit. He (or she) will probably also make at least one pop culture reference per sermon, and the worship team will probably be mostly young adults with a 30-something male with spiked hair singing passionately into the microphone.

This is a wonderful example of the Predictability characteristic of McDonalization. (Predictability- Standardization and uniform services. “Predictability” means that no matter where a person goes, they will receive the same service and receive the same product every time when interacting with the McDonaldized organization. This also applies to the workers in those organizations. Their tasks are highly repetitive, highly routine, and predictable.)

I present to you this thought: “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” (Romans 12:2)

Since when is giving people exactly what they expect not conforming to the patterns of the world?

Most denominations are moving into the digital age. No worries about that– I don’t expect people to live like fossils. Most churches have email lists of prayer requests which they’ll send out to any members who asked to be on the list.

This eliminates the need to pray one-on-one with people, and perfectly represents another characteristic of McDonalization– Efficiency. ( the optimal method for accomplishing a task. The optimal method equates to the fastest method to get from point A to point B. Efficiency in McDonaldization means that every aspect of the organization is geared toward the minimization of time.)

1 Thessalonians 5:11 says “Therefore encourage one another and build each other up,” but how are we doing this by sending out emails that people probably don’t even read?

Digitization of church interaction also exemplifies the Control aspect of McDonalization – standardized, replacement of human by non-human technologies.

Whether or not you realize it, your immersion in the culture we live in has made you a Consumerist.

Whether or not you realize it, your religion is probably the religion of Consumption.

Whether or not you agree with me, the fact that you’re surrounded by Consumerism colors your view of spirituality, and the protestant church caters to that wholeheartedly, making promises about what they can do for you and how they can change your life– you, the customer, the consumer of their product; Jesus.

Jesus is not your product.

I am reminded of the cyclopian Bible salesman in the movie O Brother, Where Art Thou? He expounds on how there is a great deal of wealth to be made in the Good Lord’s Service, but exemplifies the very principles the Gospels are against.

Jesus preached love. What does our McChurch have to do with loving people? Nothing.

Nothing.

All church is in 21st century America  is a club for people to go and pat each other and themselves on the back for how good they are at being good.

Is there room in the church for real, broken sinners? Ladies and gentlemen, I was raised in church. For years I went to church and I have enjoyed it at times. I have been to several different denominations.

Never have I been in a church in which people are truly able to share their struggles without being ostracized. Gross people aren’t allowed unless they’re there to be fixed, and if they won’t be fixed, they’re gently excluded from the “inner circles” of good people until they finally get the message and go away.

This is probably why I have never been able to stay at any one church for more than a few years. Eventually I come up against a struggle that is too gross to share with the shiny church people who have it all together.

If I told church people the things I struggle with at home alone at night, they would need to fix me even more than they already do.

Yes, I am broken. No, you may not fix me.

When was the last time you saw the ugly side of McDonald’s?

Is one of these things not like the others?

Corporate ideology and our religion of consumption, whether or not we acknowledge it, is ruining Jesus Christ for us. I struggle with not becoming jaded with Christianity– how about them apples?

One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?” “The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12:28-30)

The only difference between church culture and corporate America is that the people I’ll meet in Wal-Mart won’t ostracize me from their group for publishing this blog.

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  1. Everything is very open with a clear description of
    the issues. It was really informative. Your site is useful.

    Thanks for sharing!

  1. January 10th, 2012

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