by G. D. Andreano
My departure from Protestantism was a change that occurred very slowly over the course of multiple years. However, before I begin talking about the problems I have found in my examination of Protestantism (which are largely my reasons for leaving), I want to preface this by saying that I am very grateful for my past experiences in every aspect of my journey. The experiences Protestantism has given me are invaluable, and they ultimately prepared and led me to where I am today.
As you read through my testimonial critique (which goes through many of my thoughts and arguments), know that despite any sharpness in my words, my heart is not one of bitterness or slander, but rather one of an honest detailed analysis across a wide spectrum of Protestant traditions (These traditions include Pentecostal, Charismatic, Baptist, Reformed, Presbyterian, Mennonite, and various Non-denominational congregations).
Another note: this is not a critique about Protestant people, it’s about Protestantism as a framework. Think of me less as some offended cynic ranting with furrowed brows, and more like an ecclesiastical auditor writing an honest evaluation about problems I’ve discovered. That said, let us talk about some of the reasons why I left Protestantism…
The Problem of Consumerism
“Do not be conformed to this world…” -Romans 12:2a
One of the reasons I left Protestantism was simply because I stopped having an individualistic consumer mentality. I stopped being conformed to an American paradigm. After living within it for so many years, deeply observing every little detail, I eventually had an epiphany…What I thought was my home revealed itself to be a hotel.
There are very few instances when the accuracy of a metaphor grips my heart, and this is one of those instances. From the boring walls to the dated carpet, many Protestant churches of America mirror hotels even on a literal level. Of course, it does not end there. It is much more than a visual reality, because it is also a spiritual reality. Hotels are for consumers wanting to be served. Whether they market their size, programs, technology, the Bible in every side-table, food, or coffee, hotels want you to have a good experience so you stay for a long time and pay lots of money for the services. My wife and I love going to hotels. However, trying to live in one would get old quickly.
This framework is nearly identical to how many Protestant churches function. Many people go to church to be served with good music, food, coffee, and motivational speeches from smiling faces, and even motivational speeches about why you should not go to church for any of these reasons. Others prefer verbal spankings from red faces. Either way, most people are entering churches not because God grips them, but because “church” is programmed to feed the existing passions and preferences of the individual (much like amazon ads are programmed to show you what you already want). For example, if you’re a depressed and angry individual who struggles with gluttony, you will most likely end up under a preacher that emphasizes
(1) the condemnation of sin (rather than practical steps on how to not sin),
(2) God’s wrath (rather than God’s love), and
(3) your own God-given liberty to enjoy meat during lent (rather than growing self-control through fasting).
Even though it is not the case that all Protestant churches are plagued with the same degree of consumerism, all Protestant churches are plagued with some degree of consumerism.
Protestantism does not seem to have anything in place to prevent consumerism, because the Enlightenment ideals of individualism, capitalism, and ‘The American Dream’ were created by people living in a Protestant culture. Ever since the Reformation, individualism is woven into the fabric of Protestant DNA, and it is impossible for a worldview to not be individualistic and remain Protestant.
Protestants rebelled against the spiritual authority of Rome (and later the political authority of Great Britain) in order to be self-ruled. Autonomy has always been the one doctrine upon which all Protestants agree. However, in light of so many contradictory denominations, I have failed to see the success of this ideology.
The biggest problem with the consumerism permeating the Protestant framework is the fact that it is contingent upon a cyclical “supply and demand” business strategy that progressively revolves around the current trend.
When traditional services lose their demand, the price of fog machines increase. When contemporary services lose their demand, the price of pews increase. When some services overemphasize doctrine, others demand an emphasis on experience. It’s a pendulum that forever swings back and forth, revealing the unstable foundation of this framework.
Read Part 2: The Problem of Authority HERE
Michael Bauman says
Ah yes, consumerism. We live in as fish live in the ocean. There is little that we do or think (if anything) that is not marinated in it. It is the mind of the world. Choice! What am innocuous seeming word.
In the US Orthodox experience it shows in different ways perhaps but it is strongly present. Parish hopping and Bishop sgopping; the fragramented nature of our existence that means we have to travel hours in some cases to get to an Orthodox Church. That same distance and fragmentation means that it is next to impossible to live a life based on sacramental time and purpose. Simply getting to a Liturgy can seem a bit like a mini-pilgrimage especially if children are involved.
So G.D I hope you are not disillusioned by the consumerism in your new hostel.
Echoing the title of David Bentley Hart’s fine essay: the choice is Christ or nothing. Consumerism is the product of a denatured soul that is prophesized by Nietzche and named by him, the herd.
He urged rebellion and destruction so that the greatest would rule in God’s place.
In reality our freedom lies in obedience with as little choice as possible. As Elder Sophrony said, the way down is the way up.
Lord have mercy.
Fr. John says
Michael, have read the entire series before publication, I can confidently say that GD is just fine. 🙂
Michael Bauman says
That is wonderful. God grant him many years. I am making my way through it as I can.