KEYWORDS: church, churchy, youth, world

Vanity Fair

David Berg

—MO June 13, 1972 NO.170—GP

P. O. Box 31‚ London WC2E 7LX, England or B.P. 752 75123 Paris Cedex 03 France

My Dear Little Children! Greetings in Jesus' Precious Name! I had just been reading an expensive and colourful brochure highly advertising a new, huge, Christian Youth Conference to be held on the fairgrounds of a certain American city‚ at which they were expecting 100‚000 in attendance and as high as a quarter of a million at one grand finale mass rally from all over the world featuring some of the biggest stars and entertainers of the Christian world! I had also noticed, by the high prices listed‚ that the admission fees were at least twice as high as those charged at some of the world's biggest fairs! It really costs something to be a Christian nowadays!

2. TWO HUNDRED LEADERS OF THE CHRISTIAN STELLAR WORLD and four hundred of their organisations were supposed to participate! They had a multitude of entertaining programmes announced to appeal to every taste: "Blacks, Mass media, Music, Athletes, Military, Seminarians, Pastors, Youth Workers‚" etc. A real show!—And their advertising sounded like the Barnum & Bailey Circus claim to be "The Greatest Show on Earth"!

3. WHAT CHRISTIAN WOULDN'T WANT TO ATTEND THIS GREAT SHOW "to help saturate the world with the Good News"! It would "enable you to share Christ as a way of life"! As "exhilarating" as it was supposed to be, this great show was still not to be the "end" of all ends! It was going to "sweep the Nation with the Good News" as "an interdenominational student Christian movement which stresses the importance of the local church, and as a cooperative arm, seeks to work closely with all churches and Christian groups," and touted by its honorary high priest, a world-famous evangelist and guest speaker, as "the most significant and historic student gathering of our Century"!

4. WE ALSO NOTED, WITH SOME AMUSEMENT AND A CHUCKLE, that almost without exception, their pictures of their youth were all of the clean-cut, GI-Military, and typical System church and college types‚ with only one longhair in the whole bunch, and he well-hidden and buried deep behind their obvious preference for short cuts, although there was one moustache and two beards‚ because it's a little difficult to get a picture of even a System group of young people today without at least a touch of hair!

5. I ALSO NOTICED, WITH A SMILE, THAT I HAD NOT YET RECEIVED MY INVITATION to be one of the two hundred great leaders, nor were the hippie Children of God invited to participate as one of the four hundred Christian organisations, although we have made more news in the last three years than all these other so-called Christian organisations have made in the past several hundred years! I wonder why?

6. I WAS ALSO WONDERING WHY THEY WERE EXPECTING TO MAKE NEWS with another massive meeting of the Christian masses for another church mass when mass evangelism and mass meetings of Christians are old hat to the rest of the world and couldn't be any less news than the churches with their typically churchy musical programmes‚ churchy speakers, churchy meetings, and with the usual churchy lack of results!—Which couldn't possibly appeal to anybody in this world except church people!

7. THE VAST MAJORITY OF THE WORLD AND ITS YOUTH HAVE PASSED THE CHURCH BY AND ARE ONLY NAUSEATED BY ITS RIDICULOUS ATTEMPTS TO REVIVE itself with such grandiose displays of expensive, showy, and glossy glamour! Someone said, "Maybe they're trying to show that the Church is still alive and kicking, though unnoticed by the Press in preference to us of late". To which I retorted wryly: "Its' dying body may still be alive, but merely twitching, not kicking!" It's just one more twitch!

8. AS I WAS FALLING ASLEEP, STILL RATHER AMUSED at this particular statement of this great‚ churchy, youth organisation, that they were a "movement which stresses the importance of the local church and as a cooperative arm, seeks to work closely with all churches"‚ I could plainly see that they were trying to make it clear, quite clear, that their youth group and all their youth, were all for the churches, an obvious put down of any other group you may have read a lot about lately in the papers who do not approve of the churches!—Like us, for example, to be specific, without exactly naming any names!

9. NEVERTHELESS, I WAS FEELING THAT THESE DEAR CHRISTIAN BRETHREN WERE SOMEWHAT DELIBERATELY AND PURPOSELY IGNORING THE GREATEST REVIVAL OF CHRISTIANITY IN MODERN TIMES by leaving the Jesus Revolution totally out of their great and glorious celebration of Christian glamour! It was also evident that they intended to totally ignore this great modern religious Revolution's leadership, the Children of God!—Although they were, perhaps also purposely, conducting their great convention in our own Headquarter's city, perhaps even as a challenge to us to try to show us they're not afraid of us, and an attempt to show that they can make news, too, and that they're still alive and twitching!

10. HOW APPROPRIATE‚ I THOUGHT THAT THEY SHOULD HOLD THIS GREAT CHRISTIAN AFFAIR AFTER THE FASHION OF THIS WORLD, AT ONE OF THE WORLD'S FAIRGROUNDS! Still‚ I thought drowsily, look how many of them there are, when there are so few of us! How do we ever accomplish anything? They apparently have millions of dollars in financial backing, also, to conduct such a great Christian fair with a flair, when we have so little, Lord—nothing but You! Immediately He replied, "My Little Ones, you have accomplished more by the power of My Arm of My Spirit than they have accomplished with all their power, wealth, and numbers as a mere fleshly arm of the churches!"

11. HALLELUJAH! PRAISE THE LORD! WITH THAT WONDERFULLY ENCOURAGING ANSWER FROM THE LORD, I WENT HAPPILY TO SLEEP! But the Lord was not through! At the end of my good night's rest, just before awakening in the morning, I had a very funny dream, one of those typically vivid and outstanding dreams from the Lord from which He almost always awakens you immediately afterward so you can clearly remember every detail!

12. HOWEVER‚ IT MADE ME LAUGH BECAUSE IT ALL SEEMED SO SILLY, and I couldn't think of any spiritual meaning to it whatsoever, it seemed like such a childish little adventure! But while lying there musing about it in prayer, He began unfolding the interpretation thereof to me, so simple, so amusing, and so funny that I actually laughed out loud, it was all so fitting and such a satirical illustration of the whole subject I'd been praying about the night before! First I'll tell you the dream exactly as I saw it so you can understand how mystified I was as to its meaning:

13. WE WERE LOOKING FOR A PIECE OF PROPERTY which we could use for one of our training camps for our young witnesses for the Lord, when we saw this ad which described this very large place, about two city blocks in size, with many great buildings on it available for no down-payment which could be purchased for the price of only the back taxes. So we went to see it.

14. IT WAS EVIDENTLY SOME KIND OF RELIGIOUS PROPERTY‚ since it was dominated by a very large temple-like building featuring a star of David on the front and surrounded by several other large educational-like buildings, each three or four storeys in height, all vacant for some time now and in a general state of neglect and disrepair.

15. I REMEMBER THINKING HOW SAD IT WAS THAT SUCH ONCE GLORIOUS BUILDINGS HAD BEEN ALLOWED TO DETERIORATE INTO SUCH A DILAPIDATED STATE and remain vacant so long and so terribly unused and wasted when we needed property so badly to house our young Revolutionaries! Vandals had broken many of the windows and destroyed many of its lovely decorations, and it was now so weather-beaten that it seemed on the point of collapse.

16. I WAS THINKING THAT IT MUST HAVE BEEN SOME OLD JEWISH SYNAGOGUE and rabbinical seminary or Hebrew college before it had been abandoned and declined to such a condition. Just the same, I thought, Wow!—We could sure use it, but it sure would take a lot of costly repairs and I wonder how much the back taxes are? To my dismay, our guide said they would amount to several million dollars, as they hadn't been paid for several hundred years!—Besides, he said, it would take so much to fix it up that I hardly think you could afford it, even if it were possible, considering how few years you have left to use it!

17. ANYHOW, HE SAID, I'M AFRAID YOU'RE TOO LATE! ANOTHER GROUP HAS JUST TAKEN IT OVER AND ARE ALREADY TRYING TO USE IT, REMODEL IT, and modernise it to suit their needs for today. Although a little disappointed, we seemed actually somewhat relieved that we wouldn't have to undertake the monumental task of repairing and redoing all these old buildings in order to make them the least bit usable, and I was especially relieved that we weren't going to get stuck with that colossal tax bill! The whole property just didn't seem worth it!

18. HOWEVER, CURIOUS AS TO WHO THE NEW OCCUPANTS WERE that were trying to remodel the property at such a horrendous cost, we wandered on through the grounds until we heard music and singing, and we discovered that they had turned the entire upper end of the grounds into a sort of Fair Park, with all kinds of interesting and exciting rides for the kiddies!

19. YOU HAD TO PAY DEARLY FOR ALL THESE RIDES AND NEW IMPROVEMENTS‚ BUT THEIR TRIPS NEVER GOT YOU VERY FAR OFF THE GROUND! I've always enjoyed the thrill of a plane ride so I though I'd try one of these! There were all kinds, little ones and big ones. The little planes seemed to be individually operated and would take off, circle the field once, and land again, never going very high. Such short trips, I thought! I'd better take one of the bigger group flights in one of the larger planes so I'll get a little longer ride! But‚ much to my dismay, the big plane was so heavily loaded it could barely get off the ground, circled the field only once at a very low altitude, and promptly landed again to pick up another payload.

20. I NOTED THAT THE WHOLE OPERATION SEEMED TO BE MORE INTERESTED IN RAISING MONEY TO IMPROVE THE PROPERTY, THAN IN TRULY SATISFYING the customers with a real good trip or complete ride! In fact, my whole impression was that I was really getting short-changed and gypped, because the rides never got anywhere and the trips were never long enough to enjoy, and everything just kept going around in circles while a little man on the ground kept running around directly beneath each plane, holding some kind of cord attached to the planes and controlling them and shouting at them to come back down quick for another payload so they could never get out of his control or very far away‚ much less completely free! So I gave up the rides in disgust, and decided to enter one of the buildings, from which I heard soft music emanating. It was then I learned the new operators were the group conducting the convention!

21. THIS RATHER OLD "YOUTH" GROUP‚ MOST OF WHOM SEEMED TO BE IN THEIR THIRTIES AND FORTIES AND LOOKING VERY CONVENTIONAL, CONSERVATIVE, AND CHURCHY, WERE TRYING TO MODERNISE AND REMODEL THE OLD BUILDINGS, repair and prop them up, improve the music‚ and streamline the meetings with more of the Youth-for-Christ type of entertainment and a few more modern innovations and methods, like the playground and rides outside in order to try to attract more young people into the decrepit old place!

22. WE WERE DISCUSSING THE HOPELESSNESS OF THEIR EFFORTS at renovation when we were told to be quiet‚ we were disturbing the service! So we walked toward the back, meaning to leave the building, where we were shocked to see this huge book and magazine display occupying the entire rear end of the church! I'd seen church bookstalls before, but never with such a modern and gaudy display of some of the most lurid and sensuous magazines and scandalous newspapers!

23. AS I MANIFESTED MY SHOCKED SURPRISE AT THE NATURE OF THESE BRAZEN EXHIBITS, I was informed by one of the salesmen that it was necessary and modern to have such a commercial enterprise in the rear of their temple in order to attract modern young people and raise lots of money to keep these old buildings going. As I began to storm my objections at such mercenary and gutter-level methods, I was told to keep quiet or I would be thrown out!

24. ONE OF MY OWN GROUP THEN WHISPERED TO ME, "THAT LITERATURE DISPLAY IS THEIR WORST TRAP OF ALL!—Don't go near it! Come on, let's get out of here!" As we were about to depart through the front door and leave all this flamboyant, flaunting of highly publicised affluence and modernised religion, an elderly usher suggested we once again try the rides. I said, No thanks‚ I'd had enough of those brief cheap thrills that left me nauseated, empty, and unsatisfied!

25. HE THEN SAID HE WAS VERY SORRY, BUT THAT THEIR BEST RIDE, WHICH HE THOUGHT I MIGHT HAVE LIKED, WAS QUITE A LENGTHY OVERSEAS BOAT TRIP, CALLED THE "MISSIONARY RIDE", but the little boat was so small and getting so old, like one of those little wooden island boats in the Bahamas, it had finally sunk yesterday in a storm!

26. THIS, AROUSED MY INTEREST A LITTLE, AND SOUNDED A LITTLE MORE CHALLENGING‚ so I asked him why hadn't they raised and salvaged the poor little vessel? He replied, Well, you know, today is Sunday and we can't do any work like that on Sunday. We have to go to church on Sunday! To which I responded, "Well I'm not bound by your churchy traditions, I don't mind working on Sunday‚ and I'm pretty handy at fixing things; I'd be glad to go out there and see what I can do if you'll just show me where it sank."

27. WELL, HE SAID, IT WON'T BE AT ALL HARD FOR YOU TO FIND, AS IT SANK IN VERY SHALLOW WATER JUST BELOW THE SURFACE, SINCE IT NEVER GOT VERY FAR FROM SHORE! So I dashed back into the church restroom to go to the bathroom and doff my clothes for a bathing suit, much to the horror of some of the members! My little boy begged to go along, but I said it was too dangerous, he didn't have a bathing suit, and besides, his mother had him all dressed up for church. But he said, I hate church, Daddy, it's so dead and uninteresting! Please let me go along where I can do something and have some fun! So I said, OK So the next thing I knew, we were in a little rowboat above the wreck, and I dived down below to see if it could be refloated. When I came up with the report that I thought we could use it and it wouldn't take much to get'er up‚ my little boy begged me to let him dive in too, and help.

28. SO I TOLD HIS MOTHER TO TAKE OFF HIS FANCY SUNDAY SCHOOL DUDS AND JUST LET HIM DIVE IN NAKED, with only his underpants on, to which he shouted and laughed with glee, and it was hardly sooner said than done, and he was in the water with me! We swam down again to loosen the boat from some pilings between which it was wedged, when suddenly it began to move and rise out of the water, and we discovered somebody had beat us to the punch again!

29. A COUPLE EVIL-LOOKING FELLOWS, WHICH MIGHT BEST DESCRIBE AS SALVAGE PIRATES, HAD ALREADY CAST A LINE ON THE BOAT and were pulling it up out of the water onto a trailer on shore, and they promptly drove off with it before we could do a thing. But somehow‚ we managed to chase after them, stop them, and argue with them about the salvage rights‚ since I was already working on the boat down below when they yanked it out of the water and took off with it!

30. THEY SAID THAT DIDN'T MATTER, THAT SALVAGING OLD WRECKS WAS THEIR BUSINESS‚ and that if I wanted to follow them to their junkyard, they would sell me any number of old wrecks dirt cheap. As the boss moved on, his helper confided to me that none of the old wrecks was much good and that they were all pretty worn out through many years of use, and hardly any amount of patching would keep them afloat for long.

31. HOWEVER, HE ADDED BRIGHTLY AS WE NEARED HIS HUGE SALVAGE YARD, WE HAVE LOTS OF OTHER THINGS YOU MIGHT BE INTERESTED IN, such as these brand new signs that the church people like to carry nowadays! They're the same old stuff repainted in bright colours‚ but we're really making money on them as they seem to be very popular in their parades! I've just sold 60 of them at 15 dollars a piece, and that's 900 dollars, you know—not a bad moneymaker!

32. AS I LOOKED AT HIS SIGNS, I SAW WITH DISGUST THAT THEY JUST HAD THE SAME OLD CHURCHY MESSAGES ON THEM‚ ONLY IN NEW PAINT and more hip designs: "Go to church on Sunday!", "Pay your Tithes!", "Help the Building Fund!", "Come to our Programme!", "Hear our new Pastor!", "See our new Show!", Hear Our new Music!", "See our new look!", "Under New Management!", "To Be Remodelled!", "Attend our Social!"‚ "Buy our latest Rock Album!", "Come to the Gospel Festival!", "See Fair Park!", "Get an Education!", "Work for a Living!", "See our Latest Stars!" Lost amid all this clutter was one little forlorn "Jesus Saves!"

33. YOU SEE, SAID THE JUNKYARD KEEPER‚ OUR MAIN JOB IS SALVAGING AND RESELLING THIS OLD STUFF UNDER A NEW COAT OF PAINT, with a few patches, and real cheap, so the folks will really go for it, since these old things don't cost much. But, as you see, he said hopefully, we have added a few new items, such as these signs! Of course, they have the same old messages, that's true!—But they do look rather pretty all painted up with new designs, don't you think? Would you like to have a few? They're very popular now!

34. BUT I TURNED MY BACK IN DISGUST ON HIS "NEW" OLD SIGNS, as well as his "new" old wrecks and his junky old salvage yard run by all his smooth-talking‚ evil-looking salesmen, and walked away leading my little boy by the hand, wondering if I'd ever find the real thing—a property really new and in good condition, thinking, "Wow! It would cost more and take more trouble and time to get rid of all those old buildings and all that ancient junk, much less try to repair and fix them up, than it would to start all over again on a nice‚ new‚ clean piece of property with no buildings at all! It would be easier to build a new camp somewhere else without those people, rides and buildings!"

35. AND THAT'S ALL, FOLKS! THE SHOW WAS OVER! I PROMPTLY AWOKE‚ remembering every vivid detail of this funny dream, but still not understanding it, until I asked the Lord for the interpretation! Maybe He's already given it to you! It seemed pretty simple after I got it and it was so fitting that I laughed out loud! Maybe you've guessed by now what some of these things mean, but, if not, would you like to know?

36. HERE'S WHAT ITS SYMBOLS SIGNIFIED: The ad was God's Call, or Invitation to use the property, or the land on which the building stood as one of his opportunities of service‚ if we wanted it. But it was already so full of the futile and ruinous and ridiculous efforts of the past that it was almost unusable! New and more modern groups were desperately trying to patch up this old, worn-out and now almost totally unserviceable Churchianity System of the past, while adding a few little new trips and rides to try to make it appeal to young people.

37. THEIR CHURCH SERVICE INSIDE REPRESENTED A HANG–OVER OF THE SAME OLD CHURCHY METHODS WITH THE ADDITION OF MORE EDUCATION in more modern literature, again to try to make it more attractive to youth, but with little success. They were stooping to the lowest levels of hypocrisy and compromise to try to keep their children in the Church. Even those fairly sincere ones who were challenged by the "Missionary Trip" found it was too small, too, old, too inadequate, and too unreliable to keep it afloat, and had sunk sometime ago in shallow water during the storm of the opposition of modern civilisation and its more radical politics!

38. THE JUNK MEN WERE THE DEVIL AND HIS HENCHMEN busily engaged in continually trying to patch up these old, useless, and unsuccessful methods and make them look like something new, so they could resell them as new ideas to be used in the same old churchy System in the same old churchy way, with only a few rare new innovations, like the signs, but with the same old messages, nothing new!—The same old stuff, the same old cut-rate religion they've tried to foist on us for years as being a bargain, but actually costly at any price, considering the junk it really is, even the Jesus People signs! It was still the same old phoneys under faddish new labels, and a fakey gyp, no matter how cheap!

39. THE REMOVAL OF FORMAL CLOTHING IN THE WASHROOM AND THE DONNING OF A BATHING SUIT FOR BOTH ME AND YOU, MY LITTLE BOY‚ certainly symbolised an attempt at a complete change of vesture, appearance, and custom, with the defiance of the traditional Sunday-go-to-meeting attitude and the elimination of the conventional church trappings for something more effective, useful‚ and with more exciting action and more actual accomplishment, which could even appeal to a child!

40. THE DEVIL'S STEALING THE SUNKEN WORN-OUT AND TOO-SMALL MISSIONARY BOAT clearly represented the elimination of our last hope of salvaging any part of the old system whatsoever‚ even its formerly good parts and futile little attempts to do the right thing!

41. I HAD TO REALLY LAUGH WHEN I THOUGHT HOW CLEARLY THIS PICTURED THE ATTEMPTS OF SOME SLIGHTLY MORE MODERN GROUPS, like those who are holding that huge youth convention of churchy young people, to try to patch up, paint up, dress up, salvage‚ and resell at cut prices‚ the same old churchy shit that has failed for centuries to reach the world! It's easier and less costly in many ways not to try to pay the monumental unpaid debts the Church System owes God for its colossal failures of the past‚ or be held liable for them by inheriting them as members. It's far better to be a new family in a new house! (Mat.9:17.)