What hath Jerusalem to do with Hollywood?
On this latter issue, my thoughts have mellowed a little over the years. I have never actually attended a US conference of over 1 000 people, though I may go to T4G next year. I am sure that such things do offer opportunities for fellowship, mutual encouragement and, on occasion, exposure to teaching that may not be available in more modest venues at a local level. On the whole, though, I continue to wonder if they represent not so much a vibrant Christian counterculture as an uncritical Christian subculture, with their inordinate preoccupation (at least at the levels of marketing and audience response) with big name speakers, large churches and success as size, i.e., American- rather than Paul-style.
Therefore, I was interested to receive a series of emails from a European friend describing his recent experience at a large American evangelical/reformed bash. I am going to offer some more reflections on this in a later post this week, but here is an excerpt from his last missive which I found particularly instructive:
"We got really good seats for the morning session, about ten rows from the front. We were there all morning and when lunch time came we left our bags on the seats to have them reserved for the afternoon (which is what everyone does), but when we came back and took our seats for the afternoon, stewards came and told us to leave these seats. They put up "VIP RESERVED" signs around the seats and - despite the fact we'd got there early in the morning to have decent seats - told us to leave as "these seats are reserved for the VIPs from now on", so we had to get up and go and sit at the back and watch the rest of it on a big screen.
"2:1 My brothers, show no partiality as you hold the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory. 2 For if a man wearing a gold ring and fine clothing comes into your assembly, and a poor man in shabby clothing also comes in, 3 and if you pay attention to the one who wears the fine clothing and say, "You sit here in a good place," while you say to the poor man, "You stand over there," or, "Sit down at my feet," 4 have you not then made distinctions among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts? 5 Listen, my beloved brothers, has not God chosen those who are poor in the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom, which he has promised to those who love him? 6 But you have dishonored the poor man. Are not the rich the ones who oppress you, and the ones who drag you into court? 7 Are they not the ones who blaspheme the honorable name by which you were called?
"The more I think about [conference name], the more I'm convinced it furthers (rather than counters) American idolatrous celebrity culture. Telling a bunch of nobodies from Europe that they had to leave their seats as the "VIPs" had to sit near the front - it's perfectly consistent with the whole package of celebrity worth and worship."
Thus wrote a nobody from Europe. It takes me back to that Gloucestershire way of identifying sheep to which I introduced readers last year: if it is white, woolly and goes 'Baa!' when you kick it, it's a sheep. Well, if it is glitzy, glamorous, and you get kicked out of your seats in the afternoon to make way for 'VIPs,' it's Hollywood.
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