Turning Down the Volume

By Paul Koch –

Our world is full of an insane amount of noise—not just the sounds of the freeway or the airplanes overhead. There is the contestant hum of electronic interference that comes into our lives as visual noise and mental noise. We live distracted and fragmented lives. While sitting with our families, we check Facebook and text people disconnected from our daily lives. We watch YouTube videos in our private theaters while we go to the bathroom. And at night, we fall asleep to the warm glow of the TV waiting for it all to start again.

It may take a village to raise a child, but the village raising your children has no loyalty to you, no fidelity to your convictions and beliefs. It is the great marketplace, the consumer-driven society in which we live, that lends its gracious hand to help guide and nurture little Johnny.

It is all a bit terrifying if we stop to think about it, but we don’t stop. We can’t stop. We want to fit in. We want to be a part of the conversation. We want to have the same reference points as everyone else. Even if that reference point is to know who won what season of The Bachelor or how well your bracket played out by the end of the Final 4. We embrace our entertainment with such ferocity that we hardly make distinctions between education, religion, and consumerism. They all meld together into one big blob, and we marvel at the prophetic words of the Vandals many moons ago, who said,

“So he turns to TV for help and for guidance
A lot of his virtues he picked up from Linus
Fonzie taught him what it means to be cool
From Doogie he learned that he must go to school
Three’s Company taught him that just acting gay
Could lower the actual rent he would pay
Cops showed beating your wife and your neighbor
Could immortalize you and your double wide trailer.”

And so, the kids get enrolled in the right enrichment programs (of both the athletic and artistic sort), and the personal electronic nannies are purchased so that they will be well-adjusted children in our world of noise. And we are so proud of their ability to navigate the World Wide Web as they are welcomed into a world guided by coveting and are encouraged to embrace their new-found village. No longer is it Three’s Company or Happy Days that are guiding them. Now it’s HGTV and Ridiculousness.

How can the Church compete? How can the proclamation of a word of grace stand out against the noise-saturated lives of the overfed consumer sitting in the pews? Do we even try to compete? Does that even make sense? Do we bring the entertainment level up in our service? Do we cater to their desires? Do we define ourselves by the ideals of consumerism?

I fear that this is exactly what we do. At the end of the day, it is consumerism that drives much of what we do in the Church—just as it does in our schools and in our homes. To quote Tyler Durden,

“Do you know what a duvet is? It’s a blanket. Just a blanket. Now why do guys like you and me know what a duvet is? Is this essential to our survival, in the hunter-gatherer sense of the word? No. What are we then? We are consumers. We’re the byproducts of a lifestyle obsession.”

The only way that I see through all this is to rely on the only thing that has a chance to change the status quo. The only way for us to be able to turn down the volume is to add one clear voice to it—one that has the power to drown everything else out. For it is a voice that does not emanate from within, a voice that does not encourage us to find our own strength and desire. It does not inspire and uplift the consumer within and cheer him on. Rather, the voice of our Savior is a voice that turns us in the exact opposite direction; it turns us outward, to the cross alone.

It is in the proclamation of the cross that the volume of our lives gets turned down. It is there that hope and assurance find their way through our appetite for entertainment. It is in the gifts of Christ alone that we are finally satisfied.

Let us stop playing the games of consumerism and let the proclamation go forth!