Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Exalting convenience

I do not ordinarily watch The Simpsons, but I remember laughing at a line in an episode called "Exit Through the Kwik-E-Mart," when Apu the convenience store owner is carried away while yelling, "Convenience forever; freshness never!"

That's as pithy a summary of a common business model as you're likely to hear anywhere, and it's also a sentiment that doughnut-loving Homer Simpson has no problem accepting. I sometimes worry, though, that convenience in our culture has absconded with a cloak of authority it was never meant to wear.

On this Ash Wednesday, for example, ABC News profiled an Episcopal church in Georgia that experimented with a program called "Ashes to Go." The story also mentioned an Episcopal congregation in Michigan with the same idea. In both cases, a clutch of ministers stood in a parking lot, dispensing ashes and quick blessings to anyone who drove up asking for them. You could get a cross of ashes on your forehead and be on your merry way in 30 seconds, without ever taking your hands off the steering wheel.

Something about that approach makes me sad, and I think it's because any drive-thru "service" can never be solemn or reflective. In catering to the manic pace of modern life, it throws mystery overboard. Defenders of the practice make a point of saying that any blessing is better than no blessing. They've got the "Jesus always meets you where you are" part of Christian belief memorized. As far as I know, however, that thought is incomplete. If saints through the ages are unanimous about any insight more bite-size than the Nicene Creed, it's that Jesus meets you where you are, but He never lets you stay there.

1 comment:

  1. Oh, my. Now that's just sad. But the Kwik-e-mart reference cheered me up.