I’m spending a week in KL (Kuala Lumpur) for the Chinese New Year celebrations. While here, my husband and I are spending lots of time at the local malls because that is where the action is. Yes, the locals flock to the malls here even more than they do back home.
Why you ask? I’ve been wondering the same thing. You see, outside of the glistening, modern, air-conditioned malls, I see a great deal of poverty. Buildings are old and dilapidated, dingy laundry hangs from every balcony, garbage litters the streets, the rats are large and fearless, and it seems a large portion of the population is homeless. The malls offer a place to escape that stench of poverty.
People dress in their finest and take the family to the mall where they are surrounded by affluence. For a few splendid hours they can browse the shops, sip tea at the food court, and laugh with friends in an environment second to none.
I’ve always believed that was a role the church has played in many cultures: a place to escape the drudgery and dreariness of life, and be surrounded by finery. But in the twenty-first century the malls have replaced the church. Consumerism is the religion.
I don’t have a problem with this idea. People need a place to dream, and a place to act out their dreams. I believe it inspires them in the same way the church has inspired people throughout history.
The question in my mind is, could this be the death of the church in many cultures? Time will tell.