This week thousands will have to cut out expenses like their trips to coffee shops and travel to Atlanta, Georgia of all places to attend the Catalyst 2010 conference. (The price for one admission to its three days ranged from $270-320!) Its by far the most hyped up and charged of all the various conferences promising to change your life forever (or at least until next year when you need your next dose).
Oh man there is just so much we could say about this.
Maybe it’s best to make it a show, and not tell:
Let’s be honest – this thing is like the apex of cool. Their website is dazzling, their performances reach great heights, the speakers put goose bumps on your arm, and the lights raise your blood pressure more than sugary snacks….
Advertisers and marketers are well trained individuals. They know how to tap into and appeal to our sub-conscious. Their job is to strike that chord that brings us to our knees. They do their job well, with precision and effeciency.
Advertisers know our sense of smell is powerful and tied to our memory, associations and emotions – which is why you can smell chocolate in a section of a mall where the nearest shop is in a totally different corridor. It’s why the advertisers of baby products speak of their item in a way that leads parents to believe they won’t be able to live without it.
In my opinion, Christians are discovering their own ways to manipulate our emotions, just like marketing professionals. This is why so much of worship music sounds the same: the atmospheric synthesizers, the thumping bass lines and the piercing guitar that rings and pummels your heart til it breaks down. (And we have The Edge of U2, whom I love, to thank for the style that so many Christian musicians have “borrowed” and hear in so many worship songs).
This is why modern churches don’t call what they do “services” but instead “experiences.” Of course you feel your emotions rise when thousands people are singing and the lights are pulsing and the music is anthemic and the energy in the room is snowballing.
Hear me out: I’m not saying that you can’t feel the presence of God during those events. But I’m also aware that we are trying to simulate the presence of God through emotional manipulation. And that’s alarming. I understand why we do it, its a lot easier to manipulate than rely on an elusive God, but ultimately its why many Christians become church conference junkies – they begin to believe they only experience the highs of God through music and lights and cool stages. And then they fail to see him in the rain, in good food, in their neighbor’s heart or the infinite other places God lives.