Jesus Hates Flatscreens

 “Jesus wandered over to the big church on the corner and it blew His mind (in a bad way)! He grabbed a big bat and started in, stopping first at the parking ministry booth and told them they best skee-daddle. The visitors booth, DVD sales and mega-screen operators fared no better, as Jesus cleaned house. Shaking with anger he cried, “What have you done? This looks more like a convention than a house of prayer and equality!”

– John 2:13-17  (Karl Wheeler Version for Today)

Just because something is done in Jesus’ name does not mean it is done with His permission or blessing.

I have heard that 90% of all money given in America in Jesus’ name goes to pay for buildings and salaries. At this moment, in every major U.S. city, multimillion-dollar new church and church-expansion building campaigns are under way. They will all succeed in raising the money.

The above “Karl Wheeler” version of John 2 comes from a recurring daydream of mine in which I go with Jesus to various venues. In the first, we go to the local, suburban mega-church…

“As we sit in the dark, I thought I sensed His confusion, the feeling of being overwhelmed.”

The countdown screen precisely predicted the start of the high-energy first song as the spotlight strikes a young man bouncing and singing the opening song.  The second song includes an invitation to stand, followed by some announcements and updates on the church’s various capital campaigns. They only seem to add to His bewilderment. The poignant video clip from the movie Braveheart is followed by a message filled with certainty and propositions that more faith and effort will result in a new happiness. The message nicely ends with an appeal to ask Him back into our lives.

Like a romantic comedy I know what each scene will bring, but He obviously had no clue. The service concludes with a final admonition to try harder and be quick in our exit so the next set of attendees can experience an identical service.

When we leave the service I ask him what he thinks about the service. He asks me a few questions: “How often does something like this happen? Why did only a few people say anything? Everyone seemed to be smiling, are most people really that happy? Where are my friends who are poor? How could they say I led them to build the new building, when I distinctly remember telling them ‘No! I don’t like investing in real estate?’”

I wake up after His parting words: “The only part I really liked was when they sent that basket of money around so people could take what they needed. I did that a couple of times.“

I feel such a mix of emotion. I am angry, sad and disillusioned that the church I believe Jesus wanted is not the church we have today.

But at the same time I am hopeful, because I think we can do something to change all that.

In future posts, I hope I can flesh out what I feel and what others might feel or at least suspect about the church and the ways we can live more faithfully to Jesus’ message and call. Plus, I think this might be fun…

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26 Responses to Jesus Hates Flatscreens

  1. Karl-Great start. More voices are needed to challenge the status quo by standing firm on timeless truth and keep it relevant for today. I look forward to reading your future blogs.

  2. Tami Johnson says:

    Omagosh, this is an awesome dream… Every week, my town is assaulted by the traffic and horrible destruction of property and parking by thousands of these people who just want more… Jeseus. Our entire family feels bothered by the hoards of people crossing the streets, making everyone else in town stop and wait for them so they can “go to church.”
    “Is it a cult?” my youngest son asks… So I took him in once, told him we once went to a church like this and had to stop because he was so overwhelmed he fainted and we had to call an ambulance. See these places don’t care about kids with special needs who can’t do the sensory overload of LOUD music, BRIGHT light, CRAZY graphics, TONS of overstimulating jumping around activity for the kids, and HUGE classes. They have nice dances especially for those “poor mentally challenged folks” though, isn’t that nice and Christian of them??? (NO–what happened to just including everyone in real high school prom instead of re-creating a “special” one for the “retardos?”)
    So we quit going… The flatscreens were an enemy to us because they and the huge sound that came with them overstimulated our little guy–and they hated us when they had to callus out of service to get him–looked down their noses at us.
    Then there was that one church I worked as a janitor at… Fired me while I was in the hospital getting treatment for PTSD… Oh, and when we asked for help paying for our daughter’s glasses (because I was fired), said “we don’t do that here.” They were about to start their capital campaign for a new building, so were needing to kick out the food pantry to make more space for storage of the children’s ministry stuff, so they couldn’t be bothered.
    Karl, it’s a dream, and I hope it can come true… I’ve certainly seen the possibilities, but not in these fat monsters that are embarassing to be called churches or christians… I love what I’m seeing in the smaller, more intimate settings— if that could be done again and again in many places, people might actually get a voice and become friends, and who knows… We might meet Jesus.

    • karlw says:

      oh my, the stories of pain are legion. we may not change anything much, but what if just a few folks found a safe place that would let them show up? and do it cheap…
      love you, thanks for reading and sharing

  3. yourprotagonist says:

    Just wondering if there was enough in the basket that was sent around so that it actually met the need of anyone in this crazy society? We need to operate OUT OF DEBT so that we can LIVE WILDLY AND FREELY AS UNTO THE LORD and in service to each other. Karl! This blog is so funny…ruefully funny. And, yeaaaay! You are making a difference for a couple or a few. Hug.

    • karlw says:

      that is why i love you, you have always laughed at the appropriate times-
      your encouragement always means so much, and for 36 years we have had a crazy kindred spirit!

  4. Oh, I definitely think this will be fun. I’ve come to like making people mad. 😉 I am so very much struggling with this right now. I got sick of church shopping with myself, so I finally just chose one. They have Recovery and although I wasn’t sure why I was going, I just knew I wanted to. Well I’ll be darned, I never knew. This 12-step groups feels more like church than anything I’ve ever experienced before. I’ll probably be skipping Sunday mornings and just going to Recovery. It’s definitely the kind of place I’d invite my unchurched friends to. Love you, Karl. You and April are two of the best “things” that have ever happened to me.

    • karlw says:

      singing my tune! we have laughed for years that we are just a 12 step group with occasional music.
      anxious to see you and hear all ’bout it this summer
      thanks for the love, back to you and jackson!

  5. I have felt this same way for years now. The “corporate” part of “church” has tuned me away from such places now and I only seek “community” anymore around a poker table or cigar shop or other such places. Carl, I’m glad you still have hope for change and I hope that you are right. Because when I look inside those places, I don’t see anything that draws me closer to Christ. I most distressed at how these places “shoot their wounded and neglect their members in need because they are already saved”. But that’s a story for another time. Thank you for your voice and insight and I look forward to more to come.

    • karlw says:

      maybe we can find each other, those with a flicker of hope that all is not lost.
      btw, who made the rule that hanging with friends at cigar shops or around poker tables is not church?
      a little grape juice and a piece of bread doth make church! (ok, don’t have to have the juice and bread and it is still church, but it might be fun!)

  6. I love, love this. Reminds me of a story. This old guy walks into a church. He smells of the streets and while he has never been inside this church before, something beckoned him on this particular Sunday morning. He came just to sit with God a bit. He boldly took his place in the second pew and was there well before the service started. No sooner had he sat down did a gentlemen walk up announcing himself as one of the elders of the church. With a hand hard pressed against his shoulder, the man said, “I’m sorry sir, but you can’t sit here. In fact, I must ask that you leave our church at once. We have no seat for you hear this morning.” With tears dripping down the old guy’s face, he slowly and with great humility got up and left the building. Outside, as the doors closed behind him, he sat on the steps of the church and began to cry. Another hand was placed on his shoulder, friendly than the last. As he looked up, he was looking into the face of Jesus. “Please don’t cry,” Jesus said, “They won’t let me in either.”

    Karl, love your post. Keep it up. Made me think and made me laugh.

  7. bluesbro says:

    Well you’ve got me thinking. Of course, I don’t think he would feel that way in my church…but who does think he would hate their church? I don’t know if he would be as clueless or sad as you make him out to be, but you do have me asking the right questions: how would/does Jesus feel about what my community does in his name? Would he see it as an expression of what he had in mind or would he see it as a big show? This will haunt me all the way through church tomorrow.
    Thanks…I think.

    • karlw says:

      i a with you man, and thinking is all we can do. truth is, no one has it right- not the point, but to always be questioning and filtering through those who have been left out is usually helpful.
      togther we won’t solve it, but i think we can improve it…
      peace on your way

  8. besasama says:

    Your post reminds me of a conversation I once had with a woman at a Pagan convention. We had just met, and I don’t think she knew, yet, that I follow Yeshua (Jesus). We got talking about nonprofit status, and she wound up telling me a story about when her teenage son visited a big church with his friend. She listed, with growing rage, all the expensive, worthless things this church had in their youth room: three big-screen tvs, multiple high-end game systems, designer furniture. No doubt the church in question wanted to make their youth room a fun, welcoming place for teenagers. Her son, she was proud to tell me, had not said a word, out of respect for his friend’s beliefs, while he was in his friend’s sacred space. When he got home, though, he told his mother that if this was what Christians did with donated money, he was glad that, in his home, they looked to their generous, compassionate Goddess.

    I’ve read so many books where my Christian brothers and sisters bash earth-based spiritual paths, insisting that a focus on self and earthly things leads to selfishness and materialism. You can almost hear them praying, “Thank you, Lord, that I am not like that tax collector.” Magick, they are certain, must be the resort of the greedy, whereas their God, and therefore their religion, is transcendent and loving. I see what they mean, but I would love to challenge them with a few questions:
    When did Jesus take up a collection, and what did he do with what he received? What did he teach us, his disciples, to pray for and receive? Given the budget of a modern megachurch, what would Jesus buy?

    • karlw says:

      that is prophetic and profound, never thought of it in that way.
      it is scary, but you could get the idea that generosity might have been more important to Jesus than morals?
      yikes, i feel the flames licking at my feet…

  9. We have a Top 50 megachurch here in Mount Pleasant SC and I attended there for about 7 years. was fortunate to have a wonderful small group early in my journey. I left when they had a capital campaign for $14 million. Reading the “Stages of the Journey” I was stuck in Stage 3: The Productive Life “Doing things FOR God”. I got through “The Wall” with reading, experiencing other faiths, acceptance, friends, my wife, attending a Unity Church and forgiveness. I’ll be following your posts, Kathy’s and the refuge from Mount “Plastic”, as we affectionately refer to our town. I’m in.

    • karlw says:

      thanks randy for letting us know you are out there, as you know from kathy, it can feel like we are alone and crazy, but in fact our number is legion. most of us have had a giving up (is that the same as losing your life) to find a new way. glad to have brother to share the load.

  10. Kevin Short says:

    Love what you are doing here, Karl. Keep up the great work, questioning, searching and probing. I’m always stretched and better for listening with you.

    • karlw says:

      thanks my brother, i love how you wrestle with important stuff, looking for a way to infect people with love and truth.
      can’t wait, less than a month!

  11. Well, I could “go off”, but suffice it to say, this is quite a different picture than the one painted in the book of Acts.

  12. Pingback: of logs and stones | kathy escobar.

    • karlw says:

      i dont know how i missed this but i did. of all people i think yours is the only one to not get a response!
      tragic, that most budgeting is designed to reach people not help people.

  13. Anonymous says:

    Karl, you must talk to Joel, I didn’t read your whole page, but I think you are traveling down some familar roads is this phase of life. Thanks, Debbie Banham

  14. Pingback: love’s the thread & it’s stronger than we think | kathy escobar.

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