On a recent visit to St. Paul’s Cathedral in London I was shocked by the corruption of the Christian ethic.
Here in the capital city of England is a glorious monument of faith, built by the church to demonstrate the power and majesty of God. To see it, is to be astonished at all the human endeavour involved, the complexity, the design, the perfect symmetry… all dedicated to the infinite love and compassion of Christ and His teachings.
Except you have to pay to see it.
Now I’m not an expert on religious buildings but I thought their function was to inspire people into believing that there is a God and he is worth checking out. To do that, people have to be able to visit the building and see it for themselves. Only now, the poor, the disenfranchised and the lonely aren’t welcome any more. These were the people who formed the bedrock of the church and built it up through their obedient following and service. But now they have served their purpose, the church is very successful and powerful thank you very much and they don’t require the attendance of such destitute people as it doesn’t help their coffers any, so go away now please.
As I stood in the reception area of the commercial faith machine (I refused to pay on principle), I saw a young man sitting in front of a cash register working conscientiously at taking in the money. Isn’t there a passage in the bible about Jesus coming to a church and finding the money lenders trading in it. And wasn’t Jesus furious about it and physically threw them out? I thought so.
So what would Jesus do if he came back and decided to visit one of his dad’s houses, say, St. Paul’s in London? Would he have changed his tone and say something like, “Well, yeah, these cathedrals don’t build themselves you know and the maintenance bill is, how many pieces of silver? Anyway, most of the people who come here are only sight seers, so they don’t count when it comes to joining the Heaven party and they can probably afford it too”.
So much for the largesse of the church. It doesn’t matter that the Catholic church, for example, is one of the richest organisations in the world, to be awed by its artistic acquisitions, is an experience that requires a large admission fee.
To be fair, there was a begrudging sign up in the reception area that said if someone really wanted to worship, they could do so at no charge when a service was being held – but get out quickly when the service has finished!
Okay, I made that last bit up, but you couldn’t help get the feeling that the entire concept of worshipping God had been abandoned and it was all about worshipping the money now.
It made me consider what the business models of the future might look like.
Information wants to be free, someone famously said. The digital age makes that a reality, so what is left that can be charged for?
Spectacle demands attendance, I now famously say, and St. Pauls is a classic example of how this works. No YouTube video is going to do it justice. You have to be there to appreciate the massive grandeur. It is a unique experience and as that experience can be controlled, it can be monetised.
The music industry has slowly woken up to this fact. An mp3 costs nothing to reproduce and distribute ergo it is worthless. A live performance on the other hand is a unique experience, which demands attendance, which means it can be controlled and therefore monetised.
Film making will become the spectacle – those willing to pay will see the process in action – and the actual finished film will become a mere artefact, a free memento of the experience. The stars of the films will have to get used to being paid a much reduced working fee and make do with the fame alone and possibly some creative satisfaction. Clever writers of screenplays will accommodate the commercial exigencies of the new film making process by allowing for a large paying audience to gather on the set in as many locations as possible so people don’t have to travel too far to attend.
People will still be able to make films but the films will look a lot different.