gratitude & hoopla: A Brisk Market in Christian Idols

gratitude & hoopla

"Nothing taken for granted; everything received with gratitude; everything passed on with grace." G. K. Chesterton

28.6.06

A Brisk Market in Christian Idols

Yesterday I quoted extensively from Eugene Peterson's Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places, and I'm going to stay with it a little bit longer. Drawing his cues from the reactions of the various witnesses to the resurrection, he says that the attitude of wonder prompted by the sight of the risen Lord had five components:

1) Unpreparedness--no one was ready for a resurrection like this.
2) The uselessness of experts--no one can master awe. The "experts" were all wrong.
3) The prominence of marginal companions--this thing is not just for VIPs.
4) The quiet out-of-the-wayness--no spotlights, media alerts, showmanship
5) Fear--holy flabbergasted fearful wonder.

These five are typical characteristics of the human response to resurrection. Peterson sums it up in the common word, "wonder." He says that the reawakening of this kind of wonder is a part of our new life in Christ, but that life in this world--and especially in the workplace--tends to crush it out of us. In response, we learn to accept the wonderless drudgery of the workplace and seek spiritual highs in other settings. Here's how Peterson puts it:
A huge religious marketplace has been set up in North America to meet the needs of people just like us. There are conferences and gatherings custom-designed to give us the lift we need. Books and videos and seminars promise to let us in on the Christian "secret" of whatever we feel is lacking in our life: financial security, weight-loss, exotic sex, travel to holy sites, exciting worship, celebrity teachers. The people who promote these goods and services all smile a lot and are good looking. They are obviously not bored.

It isn't long before we are standing in line to buy whatever is being offered. And because none of the purchases does what we had hoped for, or at least not for long, we are soon back to buy another, and then another. The process is addictive. We have become consumers of packaged spiritualities.

This also is idolatry. We never think of using this term for it since everything we are buying or paying for is defined by the adjective "Christian." But idolatry it is nevertheless: God packaged as a product; God depersonalized and made available as a technique or program. The Christian market in idols has never been more brisk or lucrative.

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