Comedian John Crist is crushing it. He’s become a social media sensation. Next year, he’s launching his Human Being tour that has 40 shows and is quickly selling out. He has a great eye for contemporary WASP culture in the American church.
Today, he released a satirical video on a new product: Virtual Reality Church, which was essentially virtual reality glasses which allowed a person to entirely customize a church service. This is said in jest, but I found this video to be a striking commentary on the church in America.
In the video, it allows for all of the aspects of a church service to be customized: the denomination, what your virtual reality avatar wears, the fashion of the worship leader, whether or not you have to interact with people, the of the worship leader, the style of the message (and the subject of the message).
In the video, Crist says: “Feeling a touch of white guilt? Add a minority worship leader.”
“No more having to endure songs that you don’t like. With Virtual Reality Church, you’re in charge.”
There are so many churches that the whole experience is like Starbucks. You can customize it whichever way you want. People pick (and stop going) to churches based on the style of preaching, the style of music, the programs they offer, the youth group, the look of the building. There are hipster churches, contemporary churches, traditional churches. There are popular churches where other churches mimic the same gimmicks.
The underlying issue with this is that it sends this bad message: church is about you and for you. Crist touches on this point too. At the end of his video he says, “Finally, an answer to the question: how can I make Sunday morning even more about me?” The video signs off by calling virtual reality “the future of church attendance.”
Sadly, that humor isn’t too far off from reality. With the popularity of mega church pastors, there are people who podcast famous pastors and value those over involvement in a local church.
And churches are largely part of the problem in feeding into this culture. In America, where we have so many options with everything, every business with which we interact lives and dies on our satisfaction.
And we often treat churches in much the same way. Like it’s just another business that we’re patronizing. Where if you’re not happy with a church, if you decide you don’t like something about a church, it’s become so easy just to uproot and go to the next church.
Ask not what the church can do for you. Ask what you can do for the church.
Crist has done other satire videos. One was a spoof of popular shows like “House Hunters,” but where they were listing the features they wanted in a church. In another parody video, Crist pretended to be an executive for a Christian music record label and poked fun at the predictability and shallowness of many popular Christian songs.
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Josh Benner is the associate pastor at Cornerstone Evangelical Free Church in Fergus Falls, Minnesota and has a Master of Divinity from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. He enjoys writing about faith and culture. He lives with his wife Kari in Minnesota.