gratitude & hoopla: On Indulgences in the Modern Church

gratitude & hoopla

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

29.6.06

On Indulgences in the Modern Church

Yesterday's post seemed to touch a soft spot for several people. American consumer culture makes us all its victims, treats us all as nothing more than sources of profit, and the deceit-ridden promotional strategies by which that culture perpetuates its existence does so first by drawing our hearts and minds to believe preposterous claims, and thereby causing us to volunteer the cash from our wallets (which is, after all, the whole point). We have all been acculturated to this process and hardly recognize the lies any more. The sad thing is, this mindset, these strategies, are endemic in the American consumer church, and yet we all seem perfectly willing to play the game.

Please understand me: I am not against selling. I am not against buying books and videos and going to conferences. But what appalls me is that the secular world's methods have been accepted hook line and sinker as the way to promote these products. Appeals to human vanity and pride, promotion of insecurity if you don't buy the product, over-the-top promises--and all this leading to a lifestyle of incessant consumption as we search for the one product that will finally fulfill its promises.

But what if God cannot be bought in the marketplace? What if freedom and joy were priceless, beyond the purchasing power even of Buffett and Gates, and the only way to receive it was as a gift? Surely the Christian marketplace undermines the reception of this truth even as thoroughly as, say, the indulgence-sellers of Martin Luther's day. If there is ever to be a new reformation, we will have to once again throw the profiteers out of the temple.

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