Sunday, April 29, 2012

Sunglasses and Chemical Peels: Dealing with the Gospel of Self in Mega Church America

I became a sun worshiper pretty early in life, as soon as I was old enough to understand that tan is more attractive than pasty white. I am a die-hard believer that if you can't tone a jiggle, you sure as hell can tan it into being less visually offensive.   But this love of the sun has definitely taken its toll on my face.  Sometimes I think I should just have a chemical peel and let the old damaged skin shed, so the new, regenerated skin can show its flawless self once again.    While the idea of having smooth, blemish free skin sounds like a fantastic idea, the thought of having a chemical solution applied to my face that is potent enough to cause it to blister and eventually peel, is slightly intimidating.    And until I change my lifestyle, and actively protect my face from the source of the damage, the painful process would have to be repeated over time.   The long-term solution is to limit exposure, and employ the regular use of sunglasses and sunblock.

Not that I am against the idea of wearing sunglasses indoors. I mean really, I love that Capote's iconic creation, Holly Golightly wore her fabulous tinted specs indoors as much as the next person.  Any fashionable woman can appreciate having to protect their eyes from the glare of diamonds at Tiffany & Co. (as well as the elusive and mysterious “I’m hiding from the paparazzi” message it sends).   This is not a hard concept to sell. However, it is tough to buy off on the idea of having to protect my precious retinas from the glare of the blinding light show at the neighborhood mega church.  Have you been to one of these before? Do you know what I’m talking about? The high dollar lights they are so proud of seem more likely to induce an epileptic seizure than an actual worship experience.   And let me tell you honey, no chemical peel is going to undo the damage of having this type of church experience shape your worldview.   Umm, would you mind turning the lights down, I couldn’t see the train of God's robe filling the temple with glory?

One of my guilty pleasures goes by the name Sterling Archer.   Archer is an animated television series created by Adam Reed for the FX network.  Sterling Archer is an international secret agent, and despite his stealth abilities, he is less interested in being a spy than he is in using his position to enjoy a lifestyle full of world-travel, sex, alcohol, weapons, cars & gadgets, and getting into skirts of beautiful woman.   Archer is completely self-serving, has a tremendous ego, demeans everyone, and lacks even the slightest concern or empathy for anyone other than himself.    While Archer is highly skilled, he isn’t very bright.   His assignments and missions may be a success by definition, but the innocent casualties and aftermath from his undertakings are usually far greater than what was accomplished.  To me, Archer is an unfunny satire of Christianity in the American mega church.  The characters and the synopsis of the two entities are strikingly parallel. How many more casualties must we see before we realize something has gone wrong?

When there is no biblical model for a supersized mega church corporation, you have to wonder if the leaders of said church are less interested in putting feet to their faith, than they are in a fatty six-figured salary and having a huge following.     When the message from the pulpit is not lived out by leadership, what’s the point of the production?
Now, don’t get me wrong; I admire a perfectly executed and flawless show or performance (hello, Cirque du Soleil is fabulous)- but can’t that be left to Vegas?    What ever happened to a humble carpenter and his friends, the fisherman, tax collector, leper, and the whore?   “Dear Poor, Lost, and Hurting neighbors, I’m sorry you were never fed, clothed, loved or saw the Bible lived out… but holy-hell isn’t our multi-million dollar building, recording studio, and polished production flipping-fantastic?   P.S. In the future, please don’t bring your real life struggles here; this is not the place for your humanity. We find it messy, inconvenient, and unattractive.” - Mega Church, Inc.
Perhaps, when your production is bigger than your purpose, and/or your members need protective eyewear, it’s time to revaluate.

Having an ego like a parasite that possesses an unquenchable appetite can make you extremely successful in the business world or as an international spy.   However, it doesn’t seem like an appropriate way for a non-profit or a faith-based organization to be run.   Where accountability is non-existent, where there are no consequences for bad behavior, where people are not valued, and where nothing other than “self” and money matters- what is the difference?   At least publicly traded companies have audits, and active oversight by those who invest (and why is that… can you say Enron?).   Some mega churches pay professional marketing companies hundreds of thousands of dollars to drum up revenue and business.   All the while there are people in their own community that literally do not have enough to eat.  When your marketing budget is larger than your mission’s budget, you need to check your heart.

Perhaps if Archer’s spy plane flew over the crossroads of Ego & Power Trip, and crop-dusted the hearts of mega church leaders with a chemical peel… we would see a pure, regenerated approach to ministry.   In the mean time, I think I’ll “pass” on the damage to my heart and to my eyes by passing by the mega church.  Come to think of it, I know where I’ll go instead. I’ll start my Sundays by having breakfast at Tiffany’s… at least the eyewear makes more sense there.
Crossroads Community Church, Vancouver, WA


  1. So eloquently are a genius. (Ego stroke) Love you!

  2. Well said. It is rather dismaying(understatement of the year) to realize how out of touch the church in America is with Jesus' ministry model. Being in and among the lost not preaching to the "righteous".

    I laughed out loud at the subtle inclusion of a certain Mega church name in the last paragraph.... :)

  3. Oh how I love you my priceless daughter! So well put!!

  4. After your spot on depiction of the amazing Archer, I can't help but be mildly hurt that you and fumes told me I had to see the show years ago because "the Archer character is just like you, Nate". Lol! I mean, there are similarities yes, but identical? Give me a little credit. Love you. Another brilliant blog.

  5. First sentence of last paragraph - I am dying. So genious. Love you.

  6. Glasses help hide the tired look ;)
    Chemical peeling