Thursday, January 12, 2006

Culture: Postrel on Megachurch Christianity

Postrel takes aim at Megachurch Christianity.

Today's suburban Christianity is all about accessibility. It's been dumbed down.

Now I'm not a Christian, let alone an evangelical. If megachurches want to play bad-to-mediocre rock instead of great hymns, that's their business. But the spread of Christian pap does have spillovers, not the least of which is that devout Christian faith no longer brings with it a deep familiarity with what's actually in the Bible, as opposed to a few verses from the preacher's PowerPoint.
Megachurch Christianity may hone organizational and business skills, but it isn't teaching believers to think about abstractions or communicate in higher than "everyday" language. No wonder megachurches combine their up-to-date media with fundamentalist doctrine. It fits well on PowerPoint--no paragraphs required. Leaving aside the validity of what they preach, today's most successful evangelicals are spreading pap.
In the U.S., after all, religion is the freest market. But I'm not against the system; I'm all for it. As institutional responses to modern life, I find megachurches fascinating and productive. (I even had nice things to say about their architecture, which, while purely functional, is more interesting than its low-church Baptist predecessors.) But the most successful product is not necessarily the best on all dimensions--or on the ones I care about. And criticism is also part of the system.
Quite a few zingers there!

I've been a semi-regular reader of her blog and I have read The Future and Its Enemies. She does get on her horse occasionally!

My reaction is that I agree and disagree. I agree in that there has been a big move to making Christianity more accessible. I disagree that it is a bad thing. At least in some circumstances, accessibility is a good thing.

I think part of the "dumbing down" is simply that people come into the church today from a different starting point than perhaps in the past. If the level of Bible literacy is low as a starting point then talking about the depth and breadth and richness of Christian theology and history would simply go over the heads of the people.

St. Paul said in I Corinthians 3:2, I gave you milk to drink, not solid food; for you were not yet able to receive it. Indeed, even now you are not yet able.

And St. Peter said in I Peter 2:2, Like newborn babies, long for the pure milk of the word, so that by it you may grow in respect to salvation.

There is definitely a time and place for keeping it simple and in a phrase, getting it to the ground where sheep can get at it.

However, I agree with her that we are losing something by not having more depth. Once we get the basics down, we need to be reminded of the basics regularly but we should also be "pushed" and "stretched" to explore the richness that Christianity offers in the depth of theology and beauty of its expression in less familiar parts of the Bible and in classic literature and songs written by giants of the faith from the past.

St. Paul said in Ephesians 1:18-19, I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you will know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe.


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