I went to church the other day with my mom. It was not a Catholic church, which is what I usually attend. It was a "Community Fellowship" church. The foyer looked like a career fair, except the booths were not luring you into the Army, they were luring you into the KidZone program or All+In (the young adult program) or Missions with Meaning. The people at the tables were literally hawking their programs, calling out to everyone to "Take a chance on God!" or "Join us for the pancake prayer breakfast Saturday!" or "Register for AWANA!" I do not know what AWANA stands for, but I believe it is some sort of religious Boy Scout substitute where you learn Bible verses instead of how to make fire.
The general chaos of the area was augmented by the loud rock-ish music emanating from the amphitheater. As I stopped to get my bearings, a teenage girl next to me was exclaiming about some Christian concert she was going to attend, "I mean, what better to rap about than Jesus?!?" My mom returned with lattes from the Coffee Corner (caffeine addictions must not be a problem...) and we entered the main area.
The stage was flashing with pink, green, blue, purple, and white lights, and the band was in full swing. The drummer held court behind a plexiglass screen, ensuring that the splintered shards flying from his sticks would not fly into the eyes of parishioners. Or perhaps to protect him from the panties sure to fly from the audience after his solo. There were large screens on either side of the stage, projecting soundscapes in time to the music. The pastor, wearing designer jeans and a fashionably rumpled button-up shirt, reached over his head, clapping in time to the music, urging others to do the same. The spotlight lit the electric guitar in time for a shredding solo.
It was wild. After "worship", the pastor sat down at his bar-height table on the stage, drinking a bottle of Evian as he confided in us, his rapt audience, that he had gotten his $50 shirt at Goodwill for $3 ("That's how you know God loves you!") and that all of his audiences, regardless of age, giggled at fart jokes.
Trippy. He faded out at one point, and the lights dimmed. The projection screens lit up with... the pastor. Except wearing a slightly different shirt, his hair artfully mussed as he looked into the camera and told us that the Lord had put ONE PERSON in the audience on his mind, specifically. That this ONE PERSON was going through a really hard time, and needed to know that he or she should GIVE IN TO THE POWER OF JESUS, should let him TAKE CONTROL of their life. That it could be more than one person! But there was SOMEONE THERE TODAY that Jesus had laid on his heart.
The lights came up slowly, he paced, he cajoled, he threw out a joke to lighten the mood. The worship band slowly played as he tugged our heartstrings. The lights dimmed again, this time for a mini-movie on the screens about the various Bible characters who had given control of their lives to God, "people just like you and me."
I mean, there was nothing overtly heretical or offensive in the sermon. But it was just... so not my style. So maudlin. So weighted on the side of emotional manipulation. After a sound and light show at the end, a prayer that we all said together so you couldn't refrain without looking like you hated God, a collection, and some sort of illustration using a leaf blower, the service ended, and everyone trickled into the marketplace again to dodge through the booths into the parking lot.
"SO!" My mom, proudly. "What did you think?"
It was wild.