Saturday, April 17, 2021

Paid Programming

A few Sundays ago, I woke up earlier than usual. I can't see my clock in the dark without my glasses on, so I was trying to figure out what time it was by determining what was on the television. I flipped to a station that I know carries news at 6 a.m. on Sundays, and all I found was an old man preaching. So it wasn't yet 6 a.m.

But he wasn't actually that bad of a preacher. He said something that I needed to hear, although right now, I couldn't tell you what it was. I decided he was worth fully rolling over in bed to try to figure out his name. So I contorted myself to see the television, squinted through un-glassed eyes, flipped on the guide, and read the words:

Paid programming.

Now, I know this station to have properly credited local churches who buy air time to run on their station. In fact, this man's sermon was followed up by an identified-by-name local church who had the next half-hour before the news. But this guy? Just paid programming. I chuckled a little because as I was contemplating this, I realized it was Easter morning. 

Some guy preaching the Gospel on television on Easter morning is now 'paid programming.' 

Say what you want - and I think there are plenty of things that we could say - but the reality is that this is where we are headed in a post-Christian age. As the world turns toward a pluralism where the defining culture of the day is the culture of individual notion, we're more and more coming into a world where Christ is nothing more than the wares a particular person happens to be selling at...5 a.m.? 

In a post-Christian world, there is no fundamental difference between the Gospel of Jesus Christ and, say, the latest wonder blender or floor scrubber or memory foam whatever. It's all paid programming. It's all some guy who has invested a large part of himself into something and wants you to invest in it with him. It's all the same. It's a message he's personally attached to, and his goal is to get you attached to it, too. That way, you're part of his mailing list. (Per se.) 

It's actually worse, I think, for the Gospel because we are a people who talk less about the love of God than we do the love we have for our newest probiotic yogurt. We are a people who have become severely commercialized, and we're all salesmen for the products that we use and love and that have 'changed our lives.' But not so much, it seems, for the Gospel. 

Has it changed our lives less than the dog grooming mitten? By our testimony (or lack thereof), you'd think it has. 

I think that it was probably just a coding error on the part of this television station, probably someone hit the wrong button somewhere and mismatched the preacher and the programming notes, but it's something that we need to pay attention to. Because the truth is that we're living in a world where our message of hope, love, mercy, and grace is quickly becoming little more than paid programming. Little more than noise in the background, something that takes up space at 5 a.m. when the world is, by and large, sleeping. Little more than the latest snake oil from someone who is a little too invested in their own idea. And the world is looking at it with the same sort of skepticism - can a little doo-dad do all that? Can Jesus do all that? 

This is where the message of Christ is going in a post-Christian age. 

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