Tag Archives: holiness

Mega-Churches Are the Factory Farms of Christianity

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We have seen the cost of monoculture in agriculture settings and the cost to the food system.  We have seen that the movement of God in creation is division and separation (that is to say that God, in creation, separates light from dark, water below from water above [sky], fish and birds, etc.).  And we have seen the link between holiness and this movement of God to control chaos through diversity.

Now, we have to imagine the additional problems of monoculture and factory farming and the interesting allusion to the way we see church moving.   The imagery is as powerful as anything could be.  You see the rows of corn, chickens, cattle, pigs and in the same way, you can clearly see the rows of Baptists, Pentecostals, Nazarenes, and Methodists.

One of the things that has brought us to this point, both in farm factories and church factories is the idea of “best practices.”  For years, both in my work in corporate settings as well as church settings, the phrase “best practices” has been tossed around as though it were the perfect Roundup solution to the weed ridden soil into which the Gospel is cast.  What are the best practices to pastoring or leading a church to reach that goal of 1,000 members?  What are the best practices for reaching that goal of multiple services, satellite campuses, bigger and better ministries, manufactured facilities, coffee shops, bookstores, cafes, etc.?   What are the best practices to producing 10,000 or 30,000 head of cattle or pork?  What are the best practices that result in chicken farms that deliver 200,000 chickens to Tyson or Monsanto?

The connection of factory farms and factory churches is undeniable and it lies in the seemingly sexy idea of best practices.  The problem with best practices is that best practices ignore the individual.  Who is the individual?  St. Photini (the Samaritan woman) met Jesus at the well.  She was no factory farmed chicken or cattle.  There was nothing about Photini that best practices could have convinced to follow Jesus.  Rather, Jesus does something different.  Jesus asks for a drink.

Best practices would throw ten or fifteen photinis into the factory floor, use soft coercive techniques to “reach” her, place her in a row of pews or chairs with other christians who have “been through what she’s been through” to help her begin her journey with Jesus.  Best practices result in the throwing out of the injured and deformed, as they are not the desired product of the church.

Jesus asked for a drink.  Surely this does not conform with the best practices of outreach and the missional church.  Jesus said,  ‘but those who drink of the water that I will give them will never be thirsty. The water that I will give will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life.’ 

I know a very qualified and successful well driller, a whole family of them, in fact, and I can tell you that what Jesus was offering was not so-called best practices.  It’s time for us as the Body of Christ to stop supposing that we have “best practices” in what we do and start relying upon the power and presence of the Holy Spirit.  When we stop relying on factory church production, perhaps we can build the relationships we need to build to give hope to a world that needs the love, grace, and sustainable holiness of Jesus Christ.

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Eating as Sacramental Holiness

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“The industrial eater is, in fact, one who does not know that eating is an agricultural act, who no longer knows or imagines the connections between eating and the land, and who is therefore necessarily passive and uncritical – in short, a victim. When food, in the minds of eaters, is no longer associated with farming and with the land, then the eaters are suffering a kind of cultural amnesia that is misleading and dangerous.  The current version of the ‘dream home’ of the future involves ‘effortless’ shopping from a list of available goods on a television monitor and heating precooked food by remote control. Of course, this implies and depends on a perfect ignorance of the history of the food that is consumed.  It requires that the citizenry should give up their hereditary and sensible aversion to buying a pig in a poke.  It wishes to make the selling of pigs in pokes an honorable and glamorous activity.  The dreamer in this dream home will perforce know nothing about the kind or quality of this food, or where it came from, or how it was produced and prepared, or what ingredients, additives, and residues it contains – unless, that is, the dreamer undertakes a close and constant study of the food industry, in which case he or she might as well wake up and play an active and responsible part in the economy of food.”  (Wendell Berry, “The Pleasures of Eating” 1989 article republished in Bringing It to the Table: On Farming and Food)

In this amazing passage  Berry offers a critique of eating without consciously understanding the ingredients, origins, and full context of what is being eaten.  The dream offered by so-called scientific advancement is a dream that offers static, flat, and lazy food enjoyed by none, but efficient.  Except that it is not.

One of the amazing things about Holy Eucharist is its medicinal quality.  It is a particularly powerful medicine of the Holy Spirit that binds us together and feeds us as the Body of Christ and it doesn’t do it efficiently.  According to the scriptures the bread is the body of Christ and the wine/juice is the blood of Christ.  It is a constant and blinding reminder that we are not called to the convenience of letting God’s creation fall apart.  Rather, we are called to the death, suffering, and damnation of Jesus Christ; we are called to partner with God in the reconciliation of all things (Colossians 1).

We are invited to the table to be consciously aware of who Jesus is, who we are as people called to be the body of Christ redeemed by his blood.  It is slow and we never do it alone.  This is communal medicine, for the whole body.

This should affect how we eat other meals as well.  Now, don’t hear me saying these things as one who has attained such a grand accomplishment.  Like holiness, it is not easy.  It might begin with a sort of revelation, but it does not end with said revelation.  It is a slow process of recognizing that whole foods sustains us more efficiently (for our bodies, not our schedules).  Local foods don’t just heal our bodies and the bodies of our families, but they heal local economies (while money spent at national chains only returns 13.6% of revenue to the local economy, money spent in local businesses returns 52% to the local economy).

Slow food, grown locally, bought locally heals the body, the community, and the Body.  It is a Eucharistic endeavor that should push us all to do a little more.  Take the next good step.

Holiness and Emptiness

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After reading Rudolf Otto’s classic The Idea of the Holy I want to play with his idea focussed on the Wholly Other’s invasion of holiness upon a person and subsequent emptying of that person followed by the only possible response, which is awe or fear or mysterium tremendum.

With this in mind, the idea of the holy is empty of meaning of itself.  Holiness is something that comes from God; holy is not God; other than the immanence of God holiness is void of meaning.

With this in mind we can see holiness most clearly in Genesis 1 as God is dividing creation and diversifying that which God creates to the culmination of perfect balance when God creates sabbath.  This is a sort of mobile whereupon if any piece of this great diversity of God’s is removed, then the entire mobile is moved to imbalance. We also see this holiness even more clearly in “Jesus’ suffering, death, damnation, i.e., where the old order had maintained that God could not be glorified.  Thus God’s holiness is a freedom for what is far gone from holiness.” (Craig Keen from his appendix in  Mannoia and Thorsen’s The Holiness Manifesto)

This would be a sort of kenotic apocalyptic vision of holiness that engages creation as well as calls the invadee to respond and build upon the invasion and subsequent mysterium tremendum.  The seed must die to give life in the plant.  It is suffering, death and damnation that restores balance to the mobile.

Just some thoughts I’m working through.  Comments are always welcome.