It used to be that employee management was called the personnel department, but then it was changed to human resources. Most people don’t think about the name change, but in my opinion it was deliberate (by some at least; others would dispute this): to devalue human beings into mere resources, cogs in wheels, things to be exploited and consumed. This is a theme that has been reinforced through entertainment of all kinds, where space aliens are only here to either eat us or make us their slaves, because all we are to them is a consumable product. In effect, it is much like human trafficking, where the “aliens” are our own kind.
Even the churches have adopted this mentality, referring to people not as precious souls for whom Christ died but as giving units. And as that article shows, what should have been the cultivation of generosity has devolved instead into something like accountants debating how to categorize a particular asset or liability. This is yet another piece of evidence for my long-argued point that “the church” has long ago ceased to be focused on the care of souls and turned instead to the business of counting “nickels and noses”. We reduce Christian life and worship to calculations and marketing strategies. And we put inordinate amounts of time and effort into the management of this practice, yet call it “serving the Lord”, just as we have long called a lot of other church “busy-ness” as “serving the Lord”, be it music rehearsals or landscaping or seminars on increasing attendance--- because that means increasing income.
And why do churches want to increase income? Is it to help more of the poor, to send out more missionaries, to print more Bibles? In theory all the churches would say ’yes’, but in practice it is to put up bigger “houses of worship”, hire more professional or talented worship leaders and orators (preachers), and generally make the churches more comfortable and attractive. As I’ve said, there’s nothing wrong with being comfortable or running Christian clubs, but it must be emphasized that this is a luxury, not the basic nature of the faith. And I seriously question such self-indulgence in a world of poverty and suffering and depravity.
Just as it is small business rather than the multi-national corporation which is responsible for a strong economy and many innovations, so also it is not the mega-church which will evangelize the world and help the downtrodden, but the prayers and generosity of individuals filled with the Holy Spirit. In today’s interconnected world, an individual with passion and vision can mobilize a global army for a cause in a short time. Like small business, small groups of believers can more quickly adapt to changing circumstances and are not encumbered by middle-men or bureaucracy.
But beware: the very social media we use to accomplish these things can be our worst enemy. We are routinely spied upon because we are, to the controllers of those media, “human resources”, a vast field to be data-mined. These services are free because we are of much greater value to advertisers for our personal data. That is, free social media does not exist to serve those who join, but to serve the advertisers. Advertising drives the modern global economy, and as a result the goal is not to improve the human condition but to maximize profits. They know that if you only throw people a few crumbs they will remain oblivious to their own exploitation.
And the churches know this all too well: keep people entertained and comfortable, and the money keeps flowing to their leaders. Sure, a small percentage might actually go toward missions and Bible printing and feeding the poor, but this paradigm is incredibly inefficient; it’s poor stewardship. Of course there are exceptions; of course there are fairly large churches that have not strayed as far from the roots of the faith. But this is the same issue as in the political realm: big government vs. small government, welfare state vs. personal responsibility, mega-church vs. “where two or three are gathered” in Jesus’ name. If we took the money we’re now using to make ourselves comfortable and entertained and gave it directly to helping first our own poor and then the lost poor, I can guarantee you that the world we’re supposed to be salt and light in would change dramatically.
In spite of my years in school I can honestly say that I’ve learned more for free online in the last ten years than I ever did in school. Likewise, I’ve learned more about theology and what the Christian faith is all about via the internet than I did in almost 50 years of Sunday School-- that “school” where no one ever graduates. What should have been “equipping the saints” has instead been story time for children, career planning for teens/young adults, and group therapy for everyone else. And we love it this way, because actual learning is a lot of work. But this is the “product” that the churches crank out: happy but harmless multitudes who won’t ask uncomfortable questions--- or stop paying “tuition”.
Yet the “day of reckoning” is as much at hand for the churches as it is for the global economy. People are wising up to both corrupt international banking and empty, spiritless religion. Some think that the solution is to abandon “capitalism” (really corporatism) or faith in God, which will only make things worse (but how would they know, given the poor quality of their
education indoctrination?). But others realize that the solution is to stop paying large organizations and bureaucracies to do what we as individuals and small groups should do. As Christians we need to remember that our faith is a personal relationship with Jesus rather than as something like an appliance that needs to “plug in” to an outlet in a Christian clubhouse. We must take personal responsibility for our spiritual growth, for true “charity”, for spreading the gospel, and for passing on the truths of our faith to the next generation.
For too long we’ve been delegating all this to others, and not even supervising them as we (hopefully) would a secular charity. For too long we have been selling ourselves as slaves and “human resources” and “giving units” to a few hirelings. For too long we have allowed “the king’s children” to beg in the streets for true spiritual food. For too long we have argued about how much women or “people of color” or Jews are allowed to do, while the essential tenets of the faith are forgotten.
The solution will never be found as long as we hang on to the very thing that has held us down: the institutional mentality, the business model, the hierarchy of management layers. Neither will it be found in any other equally-misguided systems: “When the Greeks got the gospel, they turned it into a philosophy; when the Romans got it, they turned it into a government; when the Europeans got it, they turned it into a culture; and when the Americans got it, they turned it into a business” (source). Another quote from that website nicely sums up what I’ve been trying to say:
(There is a) brand of Christianity and lifestyle being peddled that is not a true apostolic community of faith, but instead a corporate system dispensing bite-size doses of spiritual relief, creating dependent believers who stay perpetually needy and immature. This brand creates a system that discourages the believer from personally being involved in ministry. Instead, believers are thrown into an endless treadmill of activities, programs, and rehashed ideas that have long ago lost their effectiveness. The emphasis: ’Come to our activities and stay busy. Oh yeah, and take some responsibility but not too much.’