I had a dream this morning that I was attending church on Easter. It isn’t my church or one I’ve ever been in, but in the dream I’d been there before, because I knew the music was going to be different.
Before church I heard people talking about how they had come because the candy was better at this church. As the music started, people started crying and laying down on the floor. I wasn’t scared, but I was disgusted. The music was awful. The second song was supposed to be special. It was heavy rock. I moved so that I wasn’t in front of the speakers. The third song started, and was announced to also have a special instrument involved… a chain saw. At the same time, people were coming to the front, crying and praying and having hands laid on them, while altar workers stood with clickers, counting the number of people ‘saved’ or who spoke in tongues, I’m not sure which. One was from my first church, and the altar worker and a friend of hers were fighting over whether she should be counted.
The friend walked past me as she went back to her seat. She recognized me and saw my pants (not allowed in her religion). She told me she’d just had a sobbing moment, because she wouldn’t be able to spend Christmas with me because I was obviously lost, wearing pants. We hadn’t had plans; we hadn’t spoken for ten years!
And then I noticed what the congregation was singing: Your love like a river flows through me.
Gimmicks. Candy, special songs, special instruments, encouraging people to worship more ahead of time, counting responses… all are gimmicks. They can be used, within reason, to encourage people to come to a church (or to any other sales event) but they aren’t about God. They’re marketing techniques. But what disturbed me most was not the gimmicks in the dream (not even the chain saw music) or the rejection of my former friend, but the fact that in the middle of all the gimmicks, the fight, and the rejection, the song being sung repeated the words “Your love like a river flows through me.” That’s what haunted me as I woke up. The hypocrisy.