Marshmallow Christianity

My family and I recently completed a road trip from Shreveport, Louisiana to Denver, Colorado and back.  During the trip we saw a lot of churches, all different kinds and flavors.  You name your interest; there was a church for you.

There were cowboy churches, Hispanic churches, Gospel churches, mega-churches, family churches, community churches, and on and on.  Signs out front of most pronounced their "brand name" and their pastor's name — and occasionally a message or worship schedule.  As we pulled into many of the towns, we observed billboards enticing potential "customers" to attend their Bible study or to "join us for fun, family-oriented worship!"  While I can be pretty certain it was not their intent, the advertisements appeared to turn Jesus Christ into a commodity to be sold like the newest soft drink.

 I'm not bashing anyone, and I'm sure the "cowboy churches" and the others I saw held many committed Christians who love the Lord.  Certainly there is also much good fruit born from this love of Christ.  But I couldn't help thinking that the people and their "worship leaders" had fallen into the trap of allowing people to conform themselves to each other rather than Christ.  Having a virtually endless variety of worship styles and an inexhaustible supply of pastors, their worship, being without the Eucharist, had become more sugar and air than spiritual nutrition.

Now, I like marshmallows — they are sweet and light and fun to eat.  But I cannot make a meal of them because they have very little nutritional value.  The truth is that marshmallows cannot satisfy my need for real food, and real food is necessary for my survival.

So it is with worship.  It is true that wherever two or more are gathered in Jesus' name, He is there also, and so in that respect, the "marshmallow churches" have Jesus among them in their worship.  But there is a grand difference between Jesus present in Spirit and Jesus present in the Flesh.

More to the point, it is the Eucharist that we must hunger for, not the fluffy sweetness of non-Eucharistic worship.  To fully and properly worship Christ, we must have the Eucharist, which is His Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity. 

The Catechism underscores this:  "The Eucharist is 'the source and summit of the Christian life.' 'The other sacraments, and indeed all ecclesiastical ministries and works of the apostolate, are bound up with the Eucharist and are oriented toward it. For in the blessed Eucharist is contained the whole spiritual good of the Church, namely Christ himself, our Pasch'" (#1324).

No marshmallows here, but good, soul-sticking, spiritual food.  We are nourished by the Eucharist, literally, fed by Christ Himself.  There is no need to settle for marshmallows, no matter how sweet they taste, when good solid food is available.  We need not go hungry.

In the end, we have to ask: do we love Jesus, or do we love the sweetness?  If we become enamored with the sweetness, we will never get closer to Jesus than greeting card sentimentality.  But if we love Jesus Christ, then we must seek Him out and, through the workings of grace by the Spirit in our lives, allow ourselves to be conformed to Him rather than vice versa.

The Lord's Table has open seating.  May I save you a seat this Sunday?

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  • Guest

    I agree whole-heartedly!!  I was visiting a friend in Germany, and we went to a Catholic Mass, and then we joined his group of his friends for their "non-denominational" service.  They sang a few songs, a gentleman gave a nice reflection of a Bible passage, and they passed around wafers and little thimbles of wine or grape juice.  And it felt so empty.


    One of the teens at my church put it well.  We posed the question "What can you do to more deeply appreciate the Eucharist?"  He answered "Attend a Protestant worship.  You'll realize just how much you miss it & need it."

  • Guest

    Proverbs, definitely on the money!  Earlier this week I attended a funeral for a non-Catholic friend.  The ceremony was reverent and prayerful, with beautiful music.  However, there was no Eucharist!  You really do have to attend a Protestant worship to experience this "marshmallow" Christianity —  it's kind of like having to eat a croissant when what you really want is an enjoyable, hearty, nutritious feast.  I thank God for the Mass all the time.  Other services I've attended have been OK, but without the Eucharist, there is definitely something missing! 

  • Guest

    Interesting thing about your article and marhmallows.

    Marshmallows are the most insidious of choking foods!

    Because of the texture, if someone were to aspirate on a marshmallow, unlike other foods, the mashmallow expands in moisture, becomes more sticky, and therefore, cannot be forced out through coughing or the Heimlich maneuver!  We had a lady from our parish in her 60's choke on a tiny marshmallow and pass away.  The cause of death?  Asphyxiation!  On a tiny marshmallow!

    The reason I point this out is that these folks whose "worship styles" are those that fit their lifestyle are in grave spiritual danger.  They go spiritually where they are "comfortable" & "accepted".  I don't ever remember reading any where in Scripture where Jesus told us that we were to find him in comfort & acceptance!  Everywhere I read in the Bible about finding Jesus, it deals with taking up the cross, going into the desert, being tried in fire and being found true!  Jesus calls us to battle!  For the poor, against injustice, to become our best so that we may share our gifts with other. 

    Just like it says in Revelations 3:15-16 "I know your works; I know that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either cold or hot. So, because you are lukewarm, neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth."  These folks are awfully "lukewarm" if you ask me, and they really could use our prayers.  Sooner or later, all of those poor souls in those churches are going to hit the wall.  We need to be there to pick them up!

  • Guest

    My fellow Catholics, please note the instructions in paragraph 1400 of the Catechism about communion in non-Catholic worship services:

    "Ecclesial communities derived from the Reformation and separated from the Catholic Church, 'have not preserved the proper reality of the Eucharistic mystery in its fullness, especially because of the absence of the sacrament of Holy Orders.' It is for this reason that Eucharistic intercommunion with these communities is not possible for the Catholic Church." 

    What this means is that we should not receive communion outside of the Catholic Church. The Holy Eucharist is the highest and most visible sign of our unity in Christ. Accordinlgy, we should not share in non-Catholic communion services because we give the false impression that we share the same fullness of unity. This is simply not true and detracts from true Eucharistic devotion and the reconciliation of Christian communities.

    I'm guilty of having violated this instruction many years ago. But having since learned about it, I'm glad I was corrected. My place is in the Catholic Church where Christ is truly present.

    If we must attend a non-Catholic worship service (perhaps under extraordinary circumstances) we should be respectful of the service. However, we shouldn't participate beyond our duties which only serves to trivialize our broken Christian unity.

  • Guest

    This article hit the nail right on the head! I've moved a lot myself and have seen this, especially in my new home in Maine. There are churches of all kinds here. Even, most oddly, Jehovah Witnesses and Mormons. The JW even have two "kingdom halls" not too far apart in such a rural district and the Mormons spent tons of money (I'm guessing from out-of-state members) to build a HUGE temple and landscape surrounding it. Again, in a rather rural place where you would least expect it. Then there are churches headed by female pastors (which seem popular these days) and churches that appeal to pro-choice persons. One can't be sure if they call a Christian church if they are pro-life or not, which is shocking if you think of it (as all Christian churches should be pro-life)!


    In the article, the family did not attend any of the services, of course. I remember reading on EWTN boards that one can only attend a non-Catholic service if it is for serious reason: such as baptism of someone's relative or friend, wedding, funeral, etc. But one would never partake of non-Catholic Communion. Before Vatican II, I don't think even those excuses were allowed. It basically boils down to scandal. One would not wish to scandalize young Catholics who might not know better and make them think that going to non-Catholic churches was okay. Same with scandalizing non-Catholics whom might show up at the Catholic church and partake of Holy Communion, not realizing that they cannot receive the Eucharist. Certainly, they are welcome to come to Mass but given that most people don't talk about catechism openly, most non-Catholics today probably wouldn't realize they can't receive Communion in a Catholic church.


    Being a convert to Catholicism myself, I also remember what protestant services were like. For protestants, there is a freedom of choosing. They can just go from one church to the next, find the one that suits their political or moral style and ta da. It's basically "pick and choose" what you think the Gospel means. Some just find a church where they like the building (interior beauty) or where they like the pastor (he is friendly and/or has a great personality or does wonderful speeches). Or worse, some people just look for a church that has great music or is not boring because they have participation from the crowd.


    When I came into the Catholic Church I was stunned that anyone would wish to personalize Christ to the extent that they basically live their OWN message rather than HIS message. Going to Mass isn't about pleasing self or finding the most comfortable place to worship. In fact, a lot of parishes have much to be desired but the Sacraments are the same and the Eucharist is the same. We give to God and that is what matters.


    Excellent article!

  • Guest

    This is a great analogy.  We are such a feel-good society that the marshmallow churches are often successful in recruiting Catholics.  If they only realized what they had in the Eucharist, which is the cornerstone that does not depend on the charisma of the preacher, the quality of the music, etc.

  • Guest

    Marshmallows ARE a serious choking device!   I NEVER have mini-mellows in my house because of my small children!  I know of a family where the crawling baby choked to death on the mini mellow.  Please spread this safety message around.

    Great article!  I'd say those churches are like cotton candy too… pleasure that lingers as long as you keep licking.  Whereas the mass is fullness of liturgy (investigate the Greek understanding of this…the  8th grade Faith and Life book explains this clearly) unto which I do unite myself during every day of the week regardless of my physical location.