Video Satire on Many Evangelical Church Worship Services

Any thoughts or responses?

Published by Drew G. I. Hart, PhD

Drew G. I. Hart is a theology professor in the Biblical & Religious Studies department at Messiah College with ten years of pastoral experience. Hart majored in Biblical Studies at Messiah College as an undergraduate student, he attained his M.Div. with an urban concentration from Missio Seminary in Philadelphia, and he received his Ph.D. in theology and ethics from Lutheran Theological Seminary-Philadelphia. Drew was born and raised in Norristown, Pa and has lived extensively in Philadelphia and Harrisburg, PA as well. Dr. Hart’s dissertation research explored how Christian discipleship, as framed by Black theologies and contemporary Anabaptist theologies, gesture the Church towards untangling the forces of white supremacy and the inertia of western Christendom which have plagued its witness in society for too long. As two traditions that emerged from the underside of violent and oppressive western Christian societies, he found Black theology and Anabaptism each repeatedly turning to the particularity of Jesus in the gospel narratives. From that arises an ethic of solidarity with the oppressed and pursuing liberation in Black theology and an ethic of radical peacemaking and ecclesial nonconformity in the Anabaptist tradition. Each challenge the violent and oppressive logics of mainstream western Christianity and salvage the call to follow the way of Christ. Together in dialogue they deepen our analysis of the churches failures and the need for Jesus-shaped repentance. His work beyond teaching and writing has included pastoring in Harrisburg and Philadelphia, working for an inner-city afterschool program for black and brown middle school boys, delivering lectures and leading anti-racism workshops, collaborating with local faith-based organizers and activists in his city, and doing a broad range of public theology. He is also a co-leader for a local Harrisburg faith-based relational network called FREE Together which has collaborated with POWER Interfaith, MILPA, the Shut Down Berks Detention Center movement, and a little with the Poor People’s Campaign. Trouble I’ve Seen: Changing the Way the Church Views Racism by Drew Hart, has received great reviews by Publisher’s Weekly and Englewood Review of Books. Endorsing this resource, Shane Claiborne said, “This book is a gift from the heart of one of the sharpest young theologians in the United States. Hold it carefully, and allow it to transform you--and our blood-stained streets.” As a text, Trouble I’ve Seen utilizes personal and everyday stories, Jesus-shaped theological ethics, and anti-racism frameworks to transform the church’s understanding and social witness. Trouble I’ve Seen focuses on white supremacy as an overarching framework for understanding racism, with careful attention to its systemic and socializing dimensions. However, unlike sociology textbooks on the subject Dr. Hart also considers the subversive vocation of Jesus and the nonviolent yet revolutionary implications his life ought to have for his followers today. His newest book project is entitled Who Will Be a Witness?: Igniting Activism for God’s Justice, Love, and Deliverance and will be published September 1, 2020. Who Will Be A Witness? invites the church to liberate its centuries long captivity to supremacist practices, and to expand its restricted political imagination in view of Jesus’ messianic reign. The book guides disciples of Jesus into joining God’s delivering presence through scriptural reasoning, historical reflection, practical theology for congregational life, social change theory, and the Christian call to love our neighbor. It is written for congregations, leaders, and students that understand that pursuing God’s justice goes way beyond waiting around for electoral seasons to come around. It is about the ongoing vocation of the Church right now, at the grassroots level, seeking after the wellbeing of their neighbors through faithful, strategic, and concrete action. Drew recently joined the Inverse Podcast team serving as a cohost along with Australian peace activist Jarrod Mckenna. Together they interview interesting people and explore how scripture can turn our ethical imagination and the violent and unjust systems of our world upside-down, which contrasts with interpreting the Bible as a tool for the status quo. Dr. Drew Hart was the recipient of bcmPEACE’s 2017 Peacemaker Award, a 2019 W.E.B. Dubois Award from a Disciples of Christ congregation, and in October 2019, Dr. Hart was chosen as Elizabethtown College’s 2019 Peace Fellow. Each award recognized him for his local and national justice work and public theology. You can find Drew Hart on Twitter and Facebook, or you can catch him as he travels and speaks regularly across the country to colleges, conferences, and churches. Drew and Renee, and their three boys (Micah, Dietrich, and Vincent) live in Harrisburg, PA and attend Harrisburg First Church of the Brethren.

2 thoughts on “Video Satire on Many Evangelical Church Worship Services

  1. Dear Mr. Hart,

    Having been raised in what I call Southern California Christianity, I find no inconsistencies whatever in this satire. In fact, were I as devout as I was in my youth, I would probably have exulted in this, rather than felt animosity, shame, disgrace, or indignation. I likely would have thought, “My God, someone’s finally noticed. Will things change now? God, how I hope they do!”

    When the Christian hardcore music movement happened, a schism happened among the Christian youth of that day. There were the kids who worshiped with powerful, passionate music, blatant, socially responsible lyrics, and slam dancing every bit as spirited as what generally goes on in Los Angeles punk rock shows; and then there were all the starry eyed girls and young men who just didn’t have it in them.

    We never took church seriously, because it was as transparent to us then as it is to the producers of this film, it seems. We took Jesus and the Bible seriously (too seriously, to be fair) but we scorned the popular culture of our religion, detested the constant patronizing of the adults and other kids, the attitude which seemed to say, “We know you’re all going through a phase, but this is the normal Christian music you should be listening to, the music you’ll grow into someday, when you find God again.”

    — But it wasn’t just about the music. It was crappy tee-shirts with insipid pastel slogans on them, like a parody of Gold’s Gym that showed Jesus doing a bloody push-up with the cross on his back which read, “GOD’S GYM” on it. It was sex-ed videos that seemed written by people who knew as little about sex as we did. Everyone was very supportive of anything mainstream, because if it were the number one seller at Crossroads Bookstore, then it simply had to be “of God,” another phrase we really didn’t care for.

    Anyhow, yeah. It’s been a long time, now, and I can’t help but feel that there’s a teenager inside me who sees a cultural tide turning — very, very slowly turning — and if I were in ministry, or even part of a congregation, I would take this video as seriously as global thermonuclear war, because mainstream fundamentalist culture has learned to turn blind eyes to secular criticism, and that’s fatal.

    It’s much more than merely fatal, however, when much of that criticism and scorn happens amongst the flock, though, yes? It’s more like civil war, or suicide, under those circumstances.

    Thanks for sharing, Sir.

    Yours Truly,

    -BothEyesShut

  2. I have been to this kind of service maybe a dozen times and I can’t imagine I’m the only one who feels constantly distracted by those moving lights. I always leave thinking I suffer from some sort of adult ADHD due to them. And I can never decide whether to watch the pastor or the video feed of the pastor 40 feet above his head.

    Anyway, the video is pretty much spot on when it comes to the mega church scene. It is the assembly line manufacturing that bothers me the most. In an attempt to become powerful and authentic it loses its power and authenticity due to its programmed nature. I don’t disagree necessarily with the messages presented or the songs played, and to their credit some mega churches have seemed to begin to grasp the call to pair social justice with biblical teaching. However, by conforming to the desires and comforts of people it loses its ability to be an effective conduit of either.

    This is just my opinion. I don’t wish to heap judgment upon these types of services – especially not the hearts of the individuals involved in the production or congregation.

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