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Moneychangers, All Of Us

Wanting to know more about G. Jeffrey MacDonald, who wrote the Ground Zero Mosque/Chick-fil-A bit I blogged about earlier, I found this interview with him about his 2010 book, “Thieves In the Temple: The Christian Church and the Selling of the American Soul.” It turns out that MacDonald is not only a professional journalist, he is […]

Wanting to know more about G. Jeffrey MacDonald, who wrote the Ground Zero Mosque/Chick-fil-A bit I blogged about earlier, I found this interview with him about his 2010 book, “Thieves In the Temple: The Christian Church and the Selling of the American Soul.” It turns out that MacDonald is not only a professional journalist, he is also an ordained pastor. His book is about how consumerism has, well, consumed organized religion in America. Excerpts:

 

Among the parts of Thieves in the Temple that I found most compelling were your personal anecdotes of struggling to find a congregation that connected with your vision for the Church.  How much did your own professional experience as an ordained minister spark your thesis – and convince you that this was an issue someone needed to address?

As a newly ordained pastor, I was surprised and dismayed by the ego-centric, consumerist approach to religion that I found to be rife in my congregation. When fellow pastors confided similar concerns about their own congregations, I began to wonder whether this “please me” approach to faith was in fact taking hold in churches across the country. What I found in my news reporting suggested that it was. I then asked the deeper question: can churches, including my own, shape people for the better if they’re constantly pressured to affirm and please people just as they are? I hypothesized no: churches fail to shape character when they serve up, in ordinary business fashion, the entertainment and therapy that churchgoers increasingly demand. My research, sadly and unequivocally, confirmed my hypothesis. This phenomenon has huge implications for American society, but no one else is telling the story. That’s why I wrote the book.

Here’s an excerpt of the book to let you know more of where he’s coming from. It makes me think of Philip Gorski’s piece wondering if there’s still a “vital center” in American politics. I’m wondering if there’s a “vital center” in American religion, where churchgoers experience both the comforts of religious life, but also experience in a real way the call to holiness, including real repentance, and doing good works. For me, the quintessential modern American religious moment was standing at mass on Ash Wednesday, and being told by the pastor in our bourgeois parish that Lent was a time in which we should all focus on loving ourselves more.

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