Earlier today, while flipping through radio stations here in Seattle, I happened to land on a local Christian station. It’s a station I don’t particularly like, mostly because they play a lot of bland praise and worship, as well as continuing to overplay hit songs from 3-5 years ago. But I was bored, so I paused briefly to see what they might be playing. What I got was a commercial for some local church. Already, this was a bad sign, as local commercials for ANY business, especially homemade ones by the business owners, tend to be pretty bad. So, what did this pastor decide to talk about to try and get people to come to his church?
This was his pitch: Church is like a baked potato. Too many people (in his opinion) pile all kinds of stuff on top of their church potato in order to make it palatable. And this, random radio listeners, is WRONG.
Why is it wrong? Because JESUS IS THE POTATO. And he, by himself, should be enough.
THIS IS A REAL COMMERCIAL.
The pastor ended by plugging his church, saying that it has “no artificial flavors or additives”.
Let’s break this awful metaphor down, shall we?
Leaving aside the idea of the potato being both the church AND Jesus, there’s one big problem with this analogy: POTATOES ARE BORING. That’s what makes them so great to cook with. On their own, they have very little flavor, and therefore become a kind of blank canvas, absorbing the flavors they’re cooked with. A plain baked potato with nothing on it, not even salt or pepper would be bland, boring, and probably a little bit gross. THIS IS HOW HE’S DESCRIBING HIS CHURCH.
But let’s delve into what this guy is actually talking about. Without meeting him, just based on this commercial, I can tell you exactly what he’s actually responding to. The Megachurch movement has grown up in part because of millennials who are sick to death of boring, uninspiring church services. The new Megachurches try to remedy that by having professional sounding, often concert quality music, flashier services, and a strong social media presence. A lot of the old guard find this offensive. Not because there’s anything wrong with it necessarily (although they’ll try and find excuses for why it IS SO wrong), but because it’s not what they’re used to, and they’re scared of being irrelevant.
But let’s get back to the potato. This guy is advocating for church to be like a bland and boring baked potato, arguing that this is makes it “authentic”, while churches that pile a bunch of stuff onto their Jesus/Church potato are making it LESS authentic because what they’re adding is “artificial” colors and flavors.
Here’s a question: who adds artificial ANYTHING to a baked potato? Think about it: what are the most common things added to potatoes? Salt, pepper, butter, cheese, bacon, sour cream, and chives. NONE OF THESE THINGS IS ARTIFICIAL. They’re all natural ingredients that make the potato taste good.
Believe it or not, this cuts to the heart of why this stupid, stupid analogy doesn’t work (besides the fact that it’s REALLY REALLY STUPID). A flashy service, good quality music, and computer savviness doesn’t make a church less “authentic”. There’s a segment of American Christianity that is deeply suspicious of any Christian product that is clearly made with quality, and that includes church. To these people, quality is equated with pride, which is equated with EVIL. To this pastor, having a church/Jesus potato that is actually appetizing, attractive, and enticing means that there is something wrong with it. And, furthermore, there is something wrong with YOU if that’s the kind of potato you want.
This pastor represents the kind of Christian I will NEVER get along with. I don’t believe that church has to be boring to be church. I don’t believe that poor quality is the same thing as authenticity. And I don’t believe that some idiot on the radio who can’t even construct a consistent metaphor should be dictating anyone’s spiritual life. Let him have his bland, boring potato. I’m going to find one that satisfies ME.
In conclusion, it’s your potato. Eat it any way you choose, and don’t let anyone tell you it’s wrong.