On megachurch services

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Scott Morrison discusses freedom of religion during Hillsong conference ...

On Megachurch services: personal view


I have always looked at this type of evangelical service with disdain. Is it a genuine expression of faith? Or is it ‘worship as performance’? Is it fake spirituality? 

No doubt it gives spiritual expression to many genuine searching folk, and that is good (provided it is not manipulated by adulterous, money-grabbing pastors who are well known to us sceptics).

Nevertheless, these good folk have a legitimate spiritual need that they seek to be fulfilled. Nothing wrong with that. I just balk at the excessive ‘feel-good’ factor. Perhaps I am being a too-conservative, critical, lapsed Irish-Catholic who resists letting the singing Spirit of Joy out of its cultural cage?

My own proclivities are more toward silent, may I say, contemplative prayer. That is, it’s between me and God/Buddha/Krishna et al., and all the creatures that live in or visit my backyard garden. Or hinted at in the view from my small boat as I sail out of the Cairns Inlet toward the horizon; or perhaps in my appreciation of the arts – surely an expression of man’s longing for transcendence.

I suspect displays of over-the-top emotion (looking at you, ex PM Scotty Morrison). Although I must say that there is nothing wrong with this, I prefer the honesty and integrity of the Salvos to these celebrity preachers and their arm-flailing flock. Counterfeit, group-ecstasy.

In fact, my mystical hero, Thomas Merton, warns against the emotional ‘temporary’ pleasures that such a style of worship can induce. A temporary psychological pleasure only, which can interrupt/distract a genuine search for deep union with ultimate reality – whatever that is. Or maybe, it is a childlike narcissism which insists that we are the centre of the universe, when reality tells us otherwise.

But I look at these good people and ask myself, why not let them have a few moments of uplifting joy to help them get through the next week of work and worry. Yes. I agree. Harmless. But a manipulation nonetheless. No pastoral humility to be seen. Puffed up performers on a stage. Painted expressions of ecstasy reminding me of Chairman Mao’s red-guard dancers on a Cultural revolution stage celebrating the arrival of New Socialist Man.

And I look at this million-record seller of ‘Christian’ music; his Christian Hall of Fame celebrity; and pause and think: don’t be too judgemental, Brian, this feller might be onto something. I wonder if he is registered on the stock exchange?

Couldn’t stop myself from joining in, though. The music is indeed uplifting.

May the Force be with you.

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