Doctor of Leadership in Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World


Written by: on February 24, 2019

The world is changing before our eyes. Things that were once sacred has become fads changing and evolving with the time. Religion has become a counter product of the newest event or program at the local church.

On any given Sunday, people can choose for an array of buffet style Christianity ranging from the traditional church service to the online church from the comfort zone of their living room if they do not like the teaching that Sunday, without a commitment to any church people, can bounce from one church to the other. We have choices now people! Go to the church that makes you feel good instead of making you feel a conviction to change!

In addition to services, people can choose for a collection of uniquely designed t-shirts, mugs and bags adorned with scriptures or Christian rhetoric on the shelves of the church’s bookstore.

Consumerism has entered into the four walls of the church causing systematic desensitization to occur. The scripture that comes to mind is Matthew 21:12-13.

Jesus entered the temple courts and drove out all who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves. “It is written,” he said to them, “‘My house will be called a house of prayer,’[a] but you are making it ‘a den of robbers.’[b]”[1]

Church attendees are exposed to a consumer way of seeing the church. Coffee aroma flows the foyer as the light show, and concert-like worship hit the stage. Lights, camera, action and the show begins.

The attractional pull of the new wave of doing service to appeal to the masses can lead to an uncomfortable stance between belief and consumption. We live in a society where there is a need to consume what we desire instead of what we need. Thus, invitations to the church given by them to others are from the same perspective, “What’s in it for me?”

Unfortunately, religion has become a victim of the consumer mindset to feed desire rather than faith itself. It seems that “when consumption becomes the dominant cultural practice, belief is systematically misdirected from traditional religious practices into consumption…Traditional practices of self-transformation are subordinated to consumer choice.”[2]

Now with this concept being “thrown into a cultural marketplace where they can be embraced enthusiastically but not put into practice”[3] it has become an uncomfortable stance between spreading the gospel and secular systematic desensitization.  Though this term often associated with a phobia; however the root of desensitization is the process of making an individual insensitive or nonreactive to a sensitizing agent[4], for the sake of this blog the agent is religion. Individuals introduced to the consumer way of viewing religion which eventually becomes desensitized to the practices of the faith and deemed those practice unnecessary, outdated and unimportant. Thus, “desensitization blurs the lines between Godliness and ungodliness, good and evil, normal and abnormal, natural and unnatural, true and false.  It turns everything into shades of gray, even as it turns thought inward, rather than outward.[5]

In 1999 Dogma, an indie film hit the mainstream, and one of the most memorable props in the movie was Buddy Christ. This parody highlights the drastic change of image of the Catholic church using Buddy Christ and the center stage of the “Catholicism Wow” campaign. In order to make Jesus more friendly, they recreated His image with Him smiling, winking, hand gestures of thumbs up and the other hand point as if to say “Here’s looking at you.” The respect for the cultural aspects of the Catholics reverence to their depiction of Jesus is tainted in the marketplace in forms of bobbleheads, action figures, and memes. This is desensitization and commodification at its peak.

Unfortunately, this is only one example of commodification and consumerism of religion. Look around and shades of gray of “consuming religion) overwhelm Facebook Christian product ads, commercials, prime time television and the music of today.

Understanding there is a need to discover new and innovative ways of reaching people for the sake of the gospel but where do we draw the line in the sand to keep what is sacred, sacred and cause the change to “another’s life and, in turn, the world”?[6] The desire to find a balance between innovation with limited consumerism is necessary to “move people to achieve something greater and more enduring than merely an exchange.”[7] How do we now bring awareness or a renewed admiration for the religion in which we serve to a world that only see through limited cultural glasses?

[1] Matt. 21:12-13 (New International Version).

[2]Vincent Miller, Consuming Religion: Christian Faith and Practice in a Consumer Culture (USA: Bloomsbury Publishing, 2005), 255.

[3] Ibid. 28

[4] Merriam-Webster, s.v. “Desensitize,” https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/desensitize.

[5] “On Cultural Desensitization to Strategies of Cultural Destruction.,” accessed February 21, 2019, https://www.catholicamericanthinker.com/desensitization.html.

[6] Daniel H. Pink, To Sell Is Human: The Surprising Truth About Moving Others (New York: Riverhead Books, 2013), 206.

[7] Ibid. 207

About the Author

Shermika Harvey

One response to “Lights…Camera…Exchange”

  1. Mary Mims says:

    Shermika, great post. Finding the balance is difficult on one side, but the other side is the extreme traditional church that will not change anything. Their sacred and secular life never meet and leads to a strange dualism. But you are right that church itself has become commodified. After I work with the children, I do come home and pick a sermon or two since I missed service. It has its benefits, but the disadvantage is I am not connected. Which is the problem I guess. The loss of connectedness with Jesus. As said in another post, being aware is halfway to solving the problem.

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