Ever have one of those random things you read/watch/hear end up sticking with you to the point that it flavors your vocabulary? Years ago I read a newsletter from a well-known ministry in which this guy was talking about going to a fast-food place and ordering a chocolate shake. The teenage cashier went to the machine, pushed the chocolate button, filled the shake cup and gave it to the man–but the shake was vanilla instead of chocolate. The man returned the shake and explained that it was the wrong flavor. So the teenager went to the machine again, pushes the same button, and out comes the same shake–vanilla, not chocolate. Then it happened a third time the same way.
By this time the man was getting impatient. “I ordered a chocolate shake, and you keep filling the cup with vanilla. Something must be wrong with your machine.”
The confused teenager’s reply? “But I pushed the chocolate button!”
Despite the man’s continued attempts to reason with him, for some reason this kid could not wrap his mind around the idea that the machine was broken, that someone needed to open it up and make changes. In his mind, if he pushed the chocolate button, what comes out must be chocolate. He did his job; he pushed the chocolate button. Anything else was outside his reality.
The first thing that comes to mind is some scathing social commentary on how we’re not teaching our children to think anymore–we’ll save that for some other post. But I never forgot this story, and when I see similar examples of shallow-mindedness or incompetency–usually at fast-food places–I’ll say aloud, “I pushed the chocolate button.” My family chuckles knowingly; other people just look at me like I have Turrets or something.
Funny as this story might be, it paints a picture in my mind of something similar happening on a larger scale. Over time, I’ve come to see institutional Christianity–the system most of us Christians have lived in–as a machine. It’s a machine that worked for awhile, produced some results, but now it’s not doing so good. We’re losing touch with our culture despite our attempts to “stay relevant.” Lots of people are getting hurt, being alienated, and walking away. And spiritual leaders (and their husbands, wives, and children) are caving to the pressure and falling left and right. But most of us–and particularly leaders who rely on the machine for emotional and financial stability–still can’t bring ourselves to admit that the machine isn’t working the way it used to. Something is wrong with machine, but we keep pushing the chocolate button, hoping that this time the milkshake will come out chocolate.
This analogy will carry us for awhile, so when I mention the chocolate button again in future posts, you’ll know what I’m talking about. 🙂 More soon…
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