Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Are You Manipulated?

A guest post by Richard C. Pierce of Alpha & Omega Ministries

The world has been laughing at Christianity for hundreds of years. This video shows how "Christianity" has surrendered the ground by reversing the roles and employing the manipulative techniques that Hollywood and Madison Avenue perfected years ago. It is, of course, a parody, but it is also a perfect example of how everything that goes on in the modern church, the lights, the décor, the music, the “sermon”; everything is calculated to exude a particular reaction from the congregation.

The music makes you feel a particular way? They tell you, “That's the Holy Spirit! Now you’re worshiping!” (Don't mention that this is the very technique that Mormons use and call “a burning in the bosom.”) The pastor makes you feel guilty about something half a world away? Give more money and don't think about the fact that they are tracking and analyzing how much each and every heart string that they pull yields in cash. The message is disjointed and watered down. Little effort is made to actually examine the text at hand, and the “pastor” is an expert at knowing when to make you feel guilty, yet he also knows exactly when to switch over to making you feel good about yourself so that you will be back next week. And everything is orchestrated, manipulated, poll-driven, focus-group tested, and tracked for accuracy.

Seriously, this really goes on! They count on the fact that music affects us that way and they know how to use it. This video didn't come out of thin air. It is an accurate portrayal of the “market-driven” mentality that sees church as just another commodity to be sold. The whole “marketing-driven” character of modern worship has the stench of deception about it, and it’s time that God’s people woke up to the smell!

Two things:

First, I would remind everyone of the great hymn lyric, "turn your eyes upon Jesus....and the things of the world will grow strangely dim," which reminds us that our eyes are to be upon Jesus, not ourselves or on the people up front.

Second, I want to point out how any religious event makes us "feel" is a poor standard for right worship. Proverbs 14:12 and Jeremiah 17:9 make clear that our hearts are Satan's playground. He uses our hearts to manipulate us and our feelings cannot be trusted. Yes there are lots of things in church life that make us feel good, but what happens when difficulty comes and we have grown dependent on those feelings? Have we not then traded the humble obedience and self denial that is called for in Romans 12 for a self centered, "I have to get X, Y, and Z out of church or I am not going back,” mentality?

Of course, if anyone thinks this is an issue about music, they have missed the point entirely.

Music consists of instruments and singing, and is shown in the Scriptures to be a normal part of worship (Ephesians 5:19). Musical styles, whether contemporary or traditional or whatever, are not the issue, but rather the use of music to manipulate the “target audience.” Evangelicalism is being seduced by people who have been trained to know just how to manipulate the emotions of others in order to prod them into performing a desired result. And the style of music doesn’t matter at all. Take, for example, the Baptist preacher who plays 27 stanzas of "Just As I Am" during an altar call. It is all just an effort at manipulating people into doing what they want and then telling them to be led by the "Holy Spirit." It’s all a big con and works very well, even to the point that those being conned feel that they can't "worship" without it. I often wonder what would happen to these people if the power went out or even if the church burned down with all of the toys inside. Would they still be able to "worship" without all the trappings? What would they do if they found themselves in a situation of persecution where they had to worship quietly for fear of being discovered? Would they still go to church?

Disturbingly, this entire marketing-based movement is what leads to the whole “cult of personality” culture with “celebrity pastors” who are more interested in self-promotion then they are in proclaiming the truth.

Something to think about.

~Richard C. Pierce