My friend Paul has this theory* that if you squint at the culture, you can get a pretty good idea of where the church will be in 20 years. His theory, put simply, is that the church is 20 years behind what ever the dominate cultural fad is, as demonstrated by things like Christian rock, and the grungy multi-media productions that are the mega-churches today. Although both the Christian and secular circles have cycled through this particular set of ideas before (here Michael would quip, “All the great heresies were invented by 300AD“), All Nations Christian Center has managed to jump on the Name It and Claim It, Blab It and Grab It, Prosperity theology simultaneously with The Secret and the Law of Attraction in the broader culture.
After a half hour of singing along with a music team that was set waaaaay too loud for the small sanctuary, “The Rev.” Landon Schott came out, and began what I thought was the sermon, but turned out to be the offertory, which involved first passing out little envelopes, and then collecting it [them] in plastic buckets. What is the deal with plastic buckets and church offerings? I don’t know that I think a church needs to have fancy offering plates or anything . . . but we’re talking about gallon-and-a-half white plastic buckets . . . like something you’d pick up at the dollar store before you realized it was too small to be a mop bucket, and put it into service as a tiny waste basket, or a garden hand tool caddie. So he launches into how tithing is important; how it’s better to obey than to make a sacrifice; and how, if we give to the church, God has to come through for us. Apparently God’s bound to some contract that, if you tithe regularly, he must honor your giving. God’s like a rule-bound toddler — he can’t not follow his own rules. If you tithe, he had got to do it . . . he should have to shoot the elephant after all. No, wait . . . that’s Orwell.
He moved quickly onto the sermon, which was entitled “Get Your Faith Up,” which he began by asking the largely white, suburban crowd to exhort one another with that phrase, “Get your faith up,” which most people obligingly did. He started with one of the mustard seed parables — Matt. 17:19-20 — but seemed a little confused about the size of a mustard seed, as he kept cupping his hand and pantomiming an avocado pit. (This confusion came to a head a bit later, when, in complete disregard for the geography of Dijon (France), Bavaria(Germany), or even the middle east, he announced that “mustard grows in warm, tropical climates” in order to illustrate that we should plant our faith in the “right location.”
He went on to say, in the ranting, rambling style of tent revival preachers, which seemed weird coming from a young white man with far too much hair product in the pacific northwest (but would have been right in place in a tent in the south east) that we must speak faith, think good things, that speaking faith was positive and that praised the Lord — “if it’s happy; it’s faith” –that we must speak promotion and prosperity . . . speak life, faith, promotional, happy things.
If this is all sounding kind of familiar, let’s harken back to the principles underlying the Law of Attraction:
* Know what one desires and ask the universe for it. (The “universe” is mentioned broadly, stating that it can be anything the individual envisions it to be, from God to an unknown source of energy.)
* Focus one’s thought upon the thing desired with great feeling such as enthusiasm or gratitude.
* Feel and behave as if the object of one’s desire is already acquired.
* Be open to receiving it.
Thinking of what one does not have, they say, manifests itself in the perpetuation of not having, while if one abides by these principles, and avoids “negative” thoughts, the Universe will manifest a person’s desires.
Or The Secret:
Ask ~ Know what you want and ask the universe for it. This is where you need to get clear on what it is you want to create and visualise what you want as being as ‘real’ as possible.
Believe ~ Feel and behave as if the object of your desire is on its way. Focus your thoughts and your language on what it is you want to attract. You want to feel the feeling of really ‘knowing’ that what you desire is on its way to you, even if you have to trick yourself into believing it – do it.
Receive ~ Be open to receiving it. Pay attention to your intuitive messages, synchronicities, signs from the Universe to help you along the way as assurance you are on the ‘right’ path. As you align yourself with the Universe and open yourself up to receiving, the very thing you are wanting to manifest will show up.
It was interesting watching which portions of his patter he had “down” and which he fumbled from lack of practice. It would be interesting to see a series of sermons to note what gets more play.
Toward the end, he told a story about his mother, who was traveling in Hawaii and passing through an area that had a lot of street performers and musicians busking. At first I thought it was a flub, but he equated the street performers and the poor persons who were begging (“asking for alms” he said) over and again. His mother, he said, spends a lot of time looking at the ground, and often picks up change from the street, and, in this crowded area filled with street performers and “bums” she saw what she thought was a dollar bill, but turned out to be a roll of twenties.
I thought perhaps she would try to find the rightful owner. That wasn’t it.
I thought perhaps she’d open the roll, and start distributing the bills to the buskers and beggars. That wasn’t it.
Nope, his point was that here were all these people trying to get ahead and make some money, and all the while they were “overlooking the treasure in their midst.”
I’m not sure where in the Gospel we’re supposed to overlook people in need, keep our eyes on the gutter, and hope for bundles of money to manifest themselves . . . it’s probably right after the bit where we tithe, and thus indebt God to do our bidding.
*Paul’s wife informs me that Paul says this is from Francis Schaefer, but Francis Schaefer never said it to me, so I’m going to attribute it to Paul, who did say it to me.