I noticed an interesting juxtaposition in the recent issue of a church newsletter I receive: an advertisement for a book about Heaven and Hell ("the only two possible destinations after death") and the right-hand page, and an advertisement for smoothies--available in strawberry and mango (apparently the only two possible smoothie flavors, despite the stock photo).
I'm not trying to ridicule belief in Hell, as I believe that Hell exists in some form. However, I also believe that our megachurches have stopped being primarily about life's big questions--Heaven or Hell--and have moved to the little choices. "I Have Decided to Shop at Sendik's" might be the hymn of white suburbanites. Our consumer choices make us right not with some deity, but rather right with White. Anything not to have to rub shoulders with the great unwashed and their mass-produced fast food, Wal-Mart shopping and Mayfair race riots. Our religion is not about how we relate to God so much as enculturation that is used to attract and retain a middle and upper-class white consumer base in urban areas. After all, as the statistics I posted late last week make clear, targeting whites is an offer no marketer can refuse: not only does that target an increasing percentage of wealth, it bypassed those who are irrelevant from a wealth perspective. Ironically and tragically, from my perspective, is that we likewise bypass the conditions that earn our society a Big Gulp-sized serving of Hell: systematic exploitation of the poor by the rich and, perhaps even more, an unwillingness to pay attention to such matters.