“Man is a strange sort of creature, a ray of heaven united with a clod of earth; at death these are separated, and each goes to the place whence it came.”
— Matthew Henry
The Christians at Lookout Valley Presbyterian church, after years of struggle to convince themselves otherwise, have tossed aside an important clump of local economy.
And that is personal relationships. Warm in-close relationships are implied in worshiping God as a group in a single room. This Sunday the church launched an 8:45 a.m. “drive through” service where worshipers are invited not to share a space, but maintain their own bubbles in their respective automobiles. “We really do want to make it as easy as possible for people to meet Jesus Christ,” the minister, Grady Davidson, told TV9. One member balanced her breakfast on her steering wheel during the service.
The rationale for the drive-in church is that nonbelievers may find the idea attractive since the service to a holy God is not in a building with a spire. “We believe that the greatest need for men, women, boys and girls is to have a personal relationship with God through Jesus Christ,” the church says at a website, “and that no obstacle should come between Jesus and those He seeks to love, forgive, and save. Drive-in Worship is a creative effort we are launching *** to bring people that one step closer to Jesus.”
In this concept is something of the idea that worship services are not bootcamp and pep rally for believers, but suitable for the skeptic, agnostic, rebel, sensualist, materialist and doubter. All that is alien and hostile in Christianity to paganism and the modern and post-modern idea is intended to be tucked away and tamped down, its rough, puncturing edges and sharp points buffed down to curves and nubs.
Cultural isolation — not already bad enough?
I question the drive-through church just as I question, in a different context, interstate highways and drive-through eateries. Drive-through restaurants have their sway in the world today, just as a central dining table at Wimpies’ Family Restaurant in Soddy-Daisy as its place as representative of the old world concept of personal relationship and personal communion.
National economy and corporate culture seem to have won; despairing of getting a hearing, Lookout Valley Presbyterian seems to have nodded its agreement with the automobile culture and the sense that Christianity is fading, even collapsing — as if time, somehow, is near its end and all the church can do is desperately save a soul here and there.
Christianity is premised on the idea of a totally personal God creating a totally personal universe. Whenever Christendom has strayed from the promise of a personal relationship with God and amicable relationships among men, it allows creation of such phenomenon as we enjoy today the United States — empires, national economies, corporate persons and bureaucratic stratificaton. A local worship service where God’s people and interested visitors stay in their cars seems indeed to push people to stay in their rut — keeping apart, keeping to themselves, favoring networks (if you will) over community.
The power of superhighway in destroying localism and local economy is seen by people from a variety of perspectives, including the left. Here is a delightful snippet from a think tank that dreams Lenin’s “withering away” of the state dream.
But some government spending — infrastructure, education, welfare and so on — is “progressive,” right? We know progressives love infrastructure. You can’t sit through an MSNBC commercial break without seeing Rachel Maddow equating the Hoover Dam with “big things” and national greatness. But infrastructure projects like big dams and the Interstate Highway System were created to make the mid-20th century model of centralized, bureaucratic, mass-production capitalism profitable. You can thank the Interstate’s artificially cheap long-distance shipping costs, in large part, for driving local canneries and breweries out of business, making large-scale agribusiness competitive against local food production, and for the Walmart “warehouses on wheels” distribution model that’s destroyed Main Street retail. *** The goods at Walmart or the lettuce in a bag at the supermarket may look cheap, but you pay the hidden cost[.]
Kevin Carson writes for Center for a Stateless Society, “a left market anarchist think tank and media center.” His essay, appearing April 14, is titled “How Much ‘Civilization’ Does your Tax Money Buy?”
He points out that the interstate system destroys local economy and subsidizes big business that ships its goods across state lines. Wendell Berry, the agrarian novelist and Kentucky university professor, makes a similar argument about how highways destroy the concept of localism and place. Before I started taking the claims of local economy seriously, I would have guffawed at such an attack on the American transportation staple, the federal interstate highway. I am seeing our city and our nation differently, and am willing to share in the critique of the anarchist dreamer.
To stabilize things, the state steps in and redistributes just enough of the stolen rents to augment aggregate demand and prevent the system from collapsing. And the state runs a permanent deficit to fund those big blockbuster infrastructure projects and the prison-industrial and military-industrial complexes, in order to utilize all that excess production capacity and lower the unemployment rate. Even when the regulatory and welfare state makes corporate capitalism more bearable than it otherwise would be, it’s a case of the capitalists acting through their state to clean up their own mess at public expense. The state, by its very nature, is the executive committee of a ruling class. It’s the mechanism by which landlords, usurers, bureaucrats and rentiers extract wealth from the majority of the population. That’s the “civilization” your taxes are paying for. (Italics added)
Commercial government, as Mr. Carson tells it, holds local economy in contempt and operates for the profit of its hidden owners. The nation-state, the national government he describes, our own theory of local economy perceives.
Holy communion vs. the frazzle of atomization
For many area churches, the first day of the month is when church governments administer the Lord’s Supper. That’s how it is my church. A key idea there is communion with Christ, at His table. How does a worship service where everyone stays in a car structurally mimic the lovely picture of Christ sharing a meal at His table with his former enemies, now converted into sons and daughters? The meal is spiritual and symbolic, a memorial of the first Lord’s Supper. Still, a worship service where people start their engines and tool out of the parking lot at the last “amen” draws a picture at variance with the intimacy Christ invites.
Christianity implies the argument for local economy because Christianity accepts and lives within time and space. The gospel claims reflected in civilization, industry and culture are premised on our physical limitations, or living within one time, and in one geographical spot at a time. It accepts we are spirit-breathed clods of dirt.
The doctrines of Christ and the Christian religion have much to overcome within the structure of American culture. Why in its neighborhoods do often people not know a single neighbor? Because of the automobile, the garage, the supermarket and the great distances that impel use of the automobile. The solution is not Agenda 21, with its desire for total civil planning in a hugely shrunken city serving a greatly slashed world head-count.
It is Christianity, which overcomes people isolated in cars and individual houses, and which sees the operation of national power against the common man as a temptation.
Sources; Jonquil Newland, “Local church opens drive in service” (sic), Wrcbtv.com, May 5, 2013
Kevin Carson, “How Much ‘Civilization’ Does your Tax Money Buy?,” Center for a Stateless Society, c4ss.org