I’m married to a man who despises going to the doctor. So naturally he enjoys visiting my rota of physicians with me on what feels like a weekly basis. When he wrenched his back a month ago he opted for the Gut It Out cure employed by all who hate doctors and doctor bills. He was finally at wits’ end yesterday morning and I told him I’d book a doctor appointment. He balked and so I suggested a chiropractor; I went to one for a weight-training injury about 15 years ago and it worked fine. They hooked me up to a TENS unit, did x-rays, gave me a bit of a massage and cracked my back. I figured the same thing would sort Husband just fine.
When we walked into this new chiropractic office–chosen for its high ratings and proximity to our house–I immediately felt off-center. The walls were painted a soothing shade of moss-green, and relentlessly positive quotes were stenciled on every available wall. People of various sizes and shapes filtered in to work with the ropes hanging from walls and to wiggle around on plastic balls placed on rows of chairs in front of a television where a man talked about how MegaSuperWellBody (or whatever the name of it was) cured him from his stage 3 melanoma. There was a jar on the sign-in counter labled “drug freedom jar”, where you’re supposed to put your now unneeded pills. Every bottle was strategically positioned within the jar to obscure the name of the medication it had contained, so I have no idea what drugs MSWB is supposed to release you from.
They gave us a tour of the office and showed us a “kids’ play area”, complete with toys on the floor and Veggie Tales painted on the wall. The cheery woman giving the tour said they see “lots of families” and treat “babies so they don’t grow up with the same problems we have”. All I could picture was the chiropractor cracking a baby’s spine and it was frankly upsetting. After the tour–which included a wall of credentials, most of which were certificates of participation in seminars–we went into a room where Husband was asked to take off his shirt. The assistant ran a device down the length of his back that looked something like a checkout scanner on wheels. She said it sensed the “heat from his nerves” so they could see where the problems were. When I asked how the device could differentiate between heat from nerves as opposed to heat from blood she said “that’s a good question.” I repeated the question to the doctor who said that it “reads deep, like an ultrasound, and the nerves are deeper than the blood.” A speech was given about how a pinched nerve will shut down your organs and how the pain in Husband’s lower back was from a subluxation in his neck. They then took X-rays. Then the doctor said “I need to develop the X-rays, so I can be very specific during the adjustment. I want to see you first thing tomorrow for a soft adjustment and we’ll go over your treatment plan.” We left some amount lighter in our pocketbook, without any improvement at all. They didn’t even hook him up to a TENS unit to relieve the pain. Instead they dangled pain relief like a carrot. “Come back tomorrow, pay another $45 and we’ll start helping you feel better.”
The whole thing got me to thinking that this is how many modern American congregations of Christian Sunday churches look to outsiders. There’s a layer of friendly, upbeat, positive-think speak. Underneath that is a threat of serious illness and a vague promise of relief. Just keep coming back and giving money. You’ll hit upon the cure eventually.
The metamorphosis that many American churches have undergone in the last thirty years has made them indistinguishable from other slickly marketed packages of hope. I’m pretty sure this wasn’t where we were intended to go and I’m also pretty sure that this may be one reason that so many people don’t go to churches anymore. The Hope doesn’t feel genuine. The Grace feels like a gimmick. And just as we left the chiropractor with no cure in sight these church experiences leave so many without having seen Christ.