Coming soon to a movie theatre near you: Big Screen Sermons!
A few years back I published a little book called The Warhol Gang. It follows the misadventures of a man who works in neuromarketing, getting his brain scanned in response to imaginary products, until he begins to lose his mind. He starts going out to accidents at night to get a dose of reality, where he falls in with a group of anti-mall activists. Things get crazy from there.
Almost everything I wrote about in The Warhol Gang existed at the time, just not in any meaningful scale. I wasn’t writing realism so much as I was trying to write the headlines of tomorrow — somewhere in between realism and sci-fi. As it turns out, I got a lot of it right — although that doesn’t exactly make me happy. Neuromarketing is a growing field, we’re increasingly live streaming terrorist attacks and political protests, we’re obsessed with the viral video — and we have sermons in movie theatres. One of the scenes in The Warhol Gang features our hapless narrator stumbling into a cinema in the middle of a religious service broadcast live on the screen. It’s the closest he can get to a real spiritual experience in his world, and he tries to get closer to the screen for a moment of communion. When I wrote the scene, I wondered if I was pushing things a bit too far. But I wondered that about almost everything in the book.
Today I checked out my news feeds and came across an article about people attending church sermons in much larger numbers than I projected in my novel.
Every Sunday morning, about 6,000 people get up early, pack up the family in the car and drive to one of 15 movie theatres across Southern Ontario.
The attraction isn’t the latest Disney mega-hit or action franchise blockbuster. It’s the gospel of Jesus – delivered by charismatic pastor Bruxy Cavey in Oakville, Ontario, broadcast on movie screens throughout the province and reaching as far as China, once the sermons are posted online.
The article takes pains to establish the difference between some of these new cinematic evangelists and the more old-school ones, who were often more fraud artists than genuine preachers.
I should point out I didn’t have any interest in writing an anti-religious experience in The Warhol Gang, any more than I did in writing the crazy church service in “Jesus Cured My Herpes” from my first book, Please. Instead, I just wanted to write about someone who felt cut off from religion and spirituality — a common situation in our time. In some ways, my Cross books get at similar things, although in a much different context.
At any rate, it’s interesting to see these things play out in real life. I hope the Ikea shootout that frames The Warhol Gang doesn’t ever come to pass. But having just watched the takeover of the Lindt chocolate shop, I’m not optimistic about our future.
Have you read…?
The Warhol Gang is a black comedy for anyone who’s ever been trapped in an endless mall or fantasized about taking revenge on everyone in the office. Click here for more details.