A few weeks ago, I saw an advertisement on Facebook: a bluegrass group was coming to town:
“A spirited night of singin’, laughin’, and stompin’ yer boots.
It’ll be the show you can’t stop talking about – the event of the fall!“
The concert was free, but we needed to register, so we did. I was really looking forward to getting out of the house (which also is where I work remotely), in the fresh air, and hopefully safely distanced (thanks to Covid) from people to enjoy a relaxing night of music.
We then realized it was located at a local church’s outdoor venue. Hmmm…..the original advertisement didn’t say that. Ok, so upon further investigation, we discovered this was a Christian bluegrass group. Well, ok, that should be fine. But once again, that’s not how it was advertised.
When we got to the venue (which was really cool, btw), it felt like a church service. They began the “concert” with the church’s worship band and held a worship service.
Um . . . there was nothing advertised about going to a worship service. This was advertised as a bluegrass concert.
We listened to approximately 30 min. of this worship service. As they worshiped, the audience was asked to stand. We stood. When the leader started to pray, we bowed our heads. I don’t think I was that into it. Hey, we were there for the advertised concert. I immediately felt guilty that my heart wasn’t aligned with them in this. Do I like worshipping? Sure. But this felt weird to me – like I drove to the wrong place.
The advertised band then came to the stage and started to perform. They were really good musicians. But . . . as I said earlier, they were Christian, and this was not just about a night of playing fun bluegrass music, there was an intentional agenda. And we were forced to be on this bait-and-switch ride as we sat front and center in our lawn chairs.
After only a few songs, we were directed to watch the screen while the leader talked about their recent trip to an impoverished African country. He set the mood and tone talking about oppressed families who had escaped their war-torn country and moved to refugee camps in a neighboring country. His voice cracked as he talked about the children, some who came with family members as they escaped, others who came as orphans with no known family members.
The video showed a bus with adults and children arriving at the refugee camp. But then the video zoomed in primarily on the band members, who were obviously overcome with emotion. I kept wanting to see the bus and people leaving the bus, but the camera focused on the teary-eyed band members. We were held captive to pay attention to this sponsor-a-child sales pitch (unless we were to abruptly leave, which we could have done, but is kind of embarrassing when you’re both over 6 feet tall and sitting near the front). When the video was over, band members passed out paperwork and invited people in the audience to sign up to sponsor a child.
This was absolutely not the atmosphere they presented as “A spirited night of singin’, laughin’, and stompin’ yer boots” in their advertisement. I felt my mind and emotions being yanked around, forced to think about these defenseless children and immediately felt sad and depressed and angry all at once.
The band leader told us that at the concert they performed the previous night, 50 kids were “sponsored.” I think he said that as an attempt to say we could and should do better with our larger crowd size . . . . sigh.
I just wanted to go to a concert. To hear cool music. To get out of my home/work environment. To enjoy the fresh air. To enjoy the time with my son.
After that, the band leader said they would take an intermission while they collected paperwork from those who had signed up to sponsor kids. He also encouraged us to check out the band’s swag near the entrance as people got up to stretch. This was to last about 15 min. I was struck that they had an intermission after so few songs . . . because so much time was spent on the video. This really wasn’t much of a concert at all.
My son and I looked at each other and decided that we didn’t need to stay any longer. On the way home we discussed how the concert was advertised and what was clearly left out. We both felt like we were taken for a ride . . . by Christians. And we are Christian.
I don’t like bait-and-switch Christianity. There is no reason why this could not have been billed as an outreach to raise funds for orphans and displaced families in war-torn African countries. This is not something that needs to be hidden. And I certainly don’t object to coming alongside efforts to help those in harm’s way. But let’s be transparent and honest in our behavior. This is what gives Christianity a bad name.