In my previous post I wrote that I could understand the perspective of Spencer Burke, who seemed to be articulating that the church was not consumer-driven enough, in that she isn’t offering the "services" Christians are requiring. But I go back and forth on this stuff, as regular readers may be aware.
In the first chapter of Lesslie Newbigin’s The Gospel in a Pluralist Society he speaks of how Christians in the 18th century, in response to culture newfound obsession with reason and scientific knowledge, sought to show that Christianity was a "reasonable" faith, but that this was in fact a wrong-headed move, in the sense that instead of letting the Bible challenge the worldview that says "reason" is the only reliable path to knowledge, the apologists in fact condeded to the Enlightenment worldview, and tried to make Christianity fit into it, with mostly disastrous results. In short, those who sought to defend the faith against the attacks of the humanists largely accepted the assumptions of their assailants.
I wonder if the same thing can be said of our recent obsession with thinking of the church as an organization that provides services to its clients. When things aren’t working and people are leaving the church, we begin to think about how we can offer new goods and services to attract new clients. (This creates an interesting "us/them" split as well – the people leaving or coming are "them", and the people offering the goods and servies are "us" – a new clergy/laity differentiation?). But perhaps in trying to defend the church against the attacks of a consumeristic culture, we have inadvertantly accepted the assumptions of our assailants. We’ve looked at the situation and tried to make the church work inside the worldview of consumerism, simply because it is so prevalent. But I wonder if we’re shooting ourselves in the foot by accepting the assumptions of consumerism (attendance and financial support in exchange for goods and services). Perhaps attendance and financial support ought to be based on something entirely different from "what I get out of it". Perhaps a truly Christian worldview would subvert and challenge a consumeristic worldview, where I only engage myself in things that give me benefit in return. In this sense, the cross is the most anti-consumerism symbol there is. Perhaps Christians ought to be consummate anti-consumers.