A central faith question for our time: “What would religion be if it weren’t trying to sell something?”
The reply is not easy to the tongue. Our religious imagination has been captured, felt up, coveted by self-serving “right hands of God,” and appeals to our most primitive emotions: fear of damnation, love of money, hope of eternal reward. Yet let us inquire more deeply.
What indeed would religion be without the falsely evangelistic snake oil of the “prosperity gospel”, which, against Jesus, blesses the worldly and materialistic rich over the humble and suffering poor. What would religion be without New Age gurus selling recipes for personal/universal awareness. What would religion be if it were not simply grafted on to political campaigns to attract so-called “values voters” (yet another term of vanity). “Holier than thou. Holier than thou,” proclaims the bankrupt faith whose coffers are bursting with coin.
In the last week we are “graced” with the launch of GodTube.com, the “Christian answer to YouTube,” according to the recent March 26th Newsweek. We witness a “BattleCry” rally attracting tens of thousands of Christian youth to San Francisco (the den of the devil I suppose) to rail against materialism (while using a wholly corporate, materialist format—rock concerts, etc.—to do so). We have a mega-rich celebrity Brazilian husband and wife televangelist team trademarking the word “gospel” and getting caught smuggling in 9,000 dollars IN A BIBLE into the United States (New York Times, March 19, 2007, A3). Talk about an apt metaphor. You can’t make this stuff up.
This is not the first time that the powers in the world have attempted to dominate and obscure the presence of spirit, and I’m quite sure it will not be the last. However, this is a time of acute and unrecognized irony. “The love of money is the root of all evil.” Yet, the love of money (and its attendants, status, power, ego, and ideology) seem to be America’s unifying religion. The idol of the almighty dollar is confused with an almighty God. Money is religion! Capitalism is democracy! Poor people deserve it! We are chosen! The absurdity is evident. The mistake of the Pharisees (the falsely pious of Jesus’ time) is resurrected for yet another run.
When irony has lost its power, and spiritual kitsch substitutes for conscience, is there a way out of the mess?
Responses to “Selling Religion”