Friday, May 11, 2007

Las "Vegas in a can" Religion

The Dopamine-Driven Church: Part 8

Dopamine Beverage Co. Vegas In A Can!

16NOV2006 16:45 
Published by OrbitalCommander
Dopamine Beverage Company is launching a new and exciting product: Dopamine Energy Drink - Vegas in a can! 100% of people who have tasted and compared this drink simply love it! We believe that it is the best on the market today.

Las “Vegas in a can”?! A dopamine-producing drink?! Doesn’t that speak to the effects of dopamine? Apparently it isn’t enough that the modern advertising industry works hard at heightening people’s dopamine reactions in order to boost sales. Now they’ve actually created a dopamine-producing product! A dopamine-driven culture seeks for Las Vegas type experiences. Which, sadly, can lead to full-fledged addictions, such as gambling. The promo continues:

“Orbital Enterprises, a publicly traded company under the stock symbol: OBLE, has announced the launch of its subsidiary - Dopamine Beverage Company, Inc. (a Nevada Corporation). Orbital will design and create numerous television commercials for Dopamine, and will assist in the company's internet marketing as well. Check out the website that Orbital is currently developing for Dopamine located at”

The transformation of the secular marketing business has crossed over into the evangelical world. To create dopamine highs, believers now encounter staged events that heighten emotions with artificially created experiences, orchestrated spiritual-like activities, and induced fanatic enthusiasms that breed excessive brand loyalty by hitching on to evangelical rising stars.

A few examples from the secular marketing world will show how this works. The book No Logo by Naomi Klein (Picador, 2002), which we began reviewing in the previous post, illustrates the spiritualization of branding by delving into several corporate branding campaigns from the 1990s, among them Starbucks and Nike.

Describing Starbucks as a brand that tries to “’establish emotional ties’ with their customers” through a “Starbucks Experience,” Klein points out that this isn’t about coffee, the product. “It’s the romance of the coffee experience, the feeling of warmth and community people get in Starbucks stores,” says Starbucks CEO Howard Shulz. (p. 20)

Haven’t you heard the same remarks about transformation churches? That people aren’t there for the “product,” i.e., the Gospel. To paraphrase, they are there for the “romance" of the religious "experience," the "feeling of warmth and community.” Church becomes an experience that triggers dopamine.

Klein quotes Scott Bedbury, Starbucks’ vice president of marketing, to give an example of the techniques used to “infuse” brands with “meaning.” And that "meaning" is attached to “purpose” and “experience.”

“Nike, for example, is leveraging the deep emotional connection that people have with sports and fitness. With Starbucks, we see how coffee has woven itself into the fabric of people’s lives, and that’s our opportunity for emotional leverage. . . . A great brand raises the bar – it adds a greater sense of purpose to the experience, whether it’s the challenge to do your best in sports and fitness or the affirmation that the cup of coffee you’re drinking really matters.” (p. 21) [emphasis added]

Paraphrasing again, a “great church has woven itself into the fabric of people’s lives” which is a brand-maker’s opportunity to wield “emotional leverage.” And a “great church raises the bar” by adding to a “greater sense of purpose to the experience” So, for instance, if you add the Global P.E.A.C.E. Plan to your church's purpose, you get a sense that what you’re doing at church “really matters.”

Perhaps by now you are getting a glimmer of how a mega-marketing purpose-driven branding campaign might work. Keep in mind that the threat of bad or guilt-producing feelings also works. Have you ever gotten “bad feelings” from an ad because your toothpaste is ineffective, inefficient, not white enough, not bright enough, and doesn’t have breath-cleansing properties? Are you in danger of losing the pretty girl? The chance for a promotion at work? That’s an advertising gimmick that promises a new life if you simply switch brands.

Value-added meaning, producing dopamine-driven hope. Buy Brand X toothpaste, get a girl, get a higher-paying job. Live happily ever after.

Likewise, pastors are promised: change your church program to experience-driven, get new members, make more money, build more buildings, dream more dreams, buy a condo in Florida for your retirement.

The same marketing philosophy works for motivating hundreds of thousands of purpose-driven converts who seek a meaningful "purpose" in life. Tired of working out in the church gym? Need a fresh “purpose” for your life? Desire accomplishment? Enlist today in the "billion man army" and do something to "make a difference" globally. “Be all that you can be.” Satisfy self. Impress others.

Notice how dopamine bypasses reason and judgment? Pay attention to marketing maneuvers the next time an ad pops up in front of you. The purpose of stimulating dopamine is to create instant reactions. Don’t think before you leap. Jump into the experience. Live the feeling. “There’s a sucker born every minute.” The dopamine trigger is meant to bypass the will and go straight to the emotions.

But Scripture tells us another way -- a narrow way that requires a sober mind, a will, and the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit. . . .

How to AVOID Being Dopamine-Driven

  • 1) Take the Scripture literally:

“Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.” (1 John 2:15)

  • 2) Notice key trigger points for dopamine-producing experiences. The Bible calls this “lust.”

“For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.” (1 John 2:16)

  • 3) Take note of the long-range outcome:

“And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever.” (1 John 2:17)

  • 4) Guard your mind. And then change the way you live:

“And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.” (Romans 12:2)

  • 5) Avoid identifying yourself with evangelical brand name stars who market sensuality:

“For they that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly; and by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple.” (Romans 16:18)

  • 6) Thou shalt not covet. Marketing induces covetousness. Covetousness hinders your prayers:
“Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts.” (James 4:3)

  • 7) If you seek a deeper walk with Jesus, here is the way:

“Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts ye double-minded.” (James 4:8)

  • 8) FLEE. Don’t even put yourself in the path of temptation. Flee not only in your mind (lustful thoughts) but flee from the circumstances that produce lust. Turn off the media that incessantly pumps your mind with lusts:

“Flee from idolatry.” (1 Corinthians 10:14b)

“Flee fornication.” (1 Corinthians 6:18a)

“Flee also youthful lusts.” (2 Timothy 2:22a)

“Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” (James 4:7)

“But they that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition. . . . But thou, O man of God, flee these things. . . .” (I Timothy 6:9, 11a)

  • 9) Be sober-minded:

“For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world.” (Titus 2:12)

  • 10) Take all of this seriously:

“Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? Whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God.” (James 4:4)

Matthew Henry’s Commentary says of the above verse, James 4:4:

“Covetousness is elsewhere called idolatry, and it is here called adultery; it is a forsaking of Him to whom we are devoted and espoused, to cleave to other things. enmity: There is this brand put upon worldly-mindedness – enmity to God. enemy of God: A man may have a competent portion of the good things of this life, and yet may keep himself in the love of God; but he who sets his heart upon the world, who places his happiness in it, and will conform to it, and do anything rather than lose its friendship, he is an enemy to God. It is treason and rebellion against God to set the world upon His throne in our hearts.” (Study Bible [World, 1994], p. 2616)