Thursday, October 24, 2013

A Flurm By Any Other Name Glorps as Plurk

There's a new big congregation sprouting near my home.  They're conservative and vigorously evangelical, and maintain a laserlike focus on growth.  And Lord, grow they have.  They've got a sprawling new building, lots of parking, and a pastor with a solidly selling book on Christian weight loss.  Bod4God, I think it's called.

They're on the go and up and coming, as they say, and every month or two we'll get another glossy, professionally produced mailer from them at my home.  I read them all, out of collegial interest, and the last one we got caught my eye.  It seemed notable not so much for what it said, but for what it did not say.

It was a "teaching series," an opportunity to learn practical lessons for your life.  Each part of the series had a practical theme.  Parenting.  Sexuality.  Relationships.  Money.  Work.  "Womanhood," although how their very notably not-a-woman pastor was going to speak authoritatively about that is beyond me.  

Meaning, in other words, this was what they used to call a "sermon series" back in the day.  But nowhere was the word "sermon" used.  This didn't surprise me.  Sermons, unfortunately, have something of a negative reputation, for being long and dull and judgmental.  You'd be outraged and storm out, if you hadn't been bored into a stupor beforehand.  Why? Can't? I? Move?

Sermons?  Ew icky icky ew.  Stay away from that idea.  "Not a Sermon, Just A Thought," as the local megahumongochurch pastor says in his ads, right before preaching an awkward mini-sermon.

Then I realized that the pastor of the Baptist church...and he is called their pastor on their referenced in the flyer as the "author and speaker."  The word "pastor" is never used. This seemed noteworthy.  Also noteworthy was that the "teaching series" was happening on Sunday, during what I'm sure some folks there think of as "worship."  But that term is not used.

Neither, I realized, was there any other faith content on the mailer, beyond the congregation's logo identifying them as some flavor of Baptist.  No mention of God, or of faith.  The word "Jesus" did not appear.   

Huh.  It felt oddly coy, peculiarly indirect, particularly for a solidly conservative church.  Were they Unitarians or a Humanist Chapel, sure.  That'd make sense.  But they're not.  It felt a teensy bit bait-and-switchy, like a mask.  In seeking to be more palatable, the marketing folks had blurred identity to the point where it didn't feel quite on the up and up.

Not quite like one of those cults that draws you in by talking about world peace, and the next thing you know you're living on a compound in Guatemala as the brother-husband of a stark eyed woman who claims to be an emissary from the K'tall Nebula.

But closer than should be comfortable.

I didn't know the Jesus brand was hurting that badly.  What are we, xFinity?