Thursday, July 30, 2009

Love Equals Stuff? and "Coraline" Thoughts

A 2008 report (that I read about here) shows a correlation between rising divorce rates and increasing toy sales. It's simple math really, one kid plus two sets of parents equals twice the toys.

The same report also notes that toy sales are high because parents are having kids later in life, therefore they have more disposable income to ... well ... dispose of on their kids. And finally, since grandparents are living longer and staying active, they are more involved with their grandkids and therefore buying them toys, also.

What does this have to do with love? (Or perhaps, what's love got to do with IT?)

I'm not sure, but one thing I know is that my kids have way too many toys, and I'm afraid that they are being conditioned to think that love equals stuff. Or more specifically, love equals stuff being given to them.

Have you seen "Coraline"? If so, read on. If not, be warned that there may be spoilers contained herein:

The other mother, who is no doubt a presentation of evil, tries to get Coraline to love her by giving Coraline everything her heart desires. More to the point, the other mother gives Coraline everything that her real parents do not - delicious food, an opportunity to play out in the rain, neat-o clothes, and such.

She does so because she thinks that Coraline will consequently love her. Or maybe she does so because she thinks Coraline will (mistakenly) believe that such attention is, in fact, love, and reciprocate.

But it's not love, it's a noisy gong and a clanging cymbal.

Let me stretch a metaphor. I may not even fully agree with it myself, but I'm going to put it out there and see what happens. Here it is:

Sometimes the church is the "other world" from the movie Coraline. People are intrigued and bedazzled by the shiny stuff and all, but the church's true agenda is to get them in the door and keep them there forever. The church sometimes mistakenly thinks that giving people exactly what they want is all there is to it. The thinking goes, If we (the church) can just have the ideal set of programs that meet every single person's need exactly as they want it too, then they'll want to stay here.

And that's all the farther we think sometimes, just getting people through the tunnel and into the door so that they'll stay. And once they do, we sew buttons on their eyes and force them to smile all the time, preparing the shiny stuff again for the next victim. We sometimes make the mistake of thinking that stuff (in the form of programming, curriculum, technology, and yes, stuff itself) is somehow a substitute for love.

So that's the metaphor. It's pretty harsh, and I'm still mulling it over to see if it works or not. I think it does part of the time, at least. Here's how:

Rather than this metaphor (however harsh it may be), the church truly should be a set of relationships grounded in divine love that empower people to go out as ambassadors of that love, offering it to others.

Like in the final scene of Coraline, when the real residents of the Pink Palace apartments (the church?) are having a garden party (a worship service? ) to which they have invited Grandma and Wybie (the neighbors?) to come and share a glass of lemonade (communion?). Nothing shiny, no magic piano, just plain red tulips.

But it's real - it's love - and maybe it's even church.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

It's the idea of "sewing on buttons" that made me recoil hard against "the church" what seems like so long ago. It's made me wary and cautious in my journey. When any establishment, be it government, organization, school, or church tells me that to be "right," I must see things only as they see them, I begin to have the kind of grave reservations that Coraline experienced in the film. I love it. Great application.