It may be time to update that old bumper sticker to ?God is my drone-pilot,” because it’s officially ?drone month” at one Texas megachurch. And not the type of drones that friendly nerds fly on Sunday afternoons in your neighborhood park, more like the kind the CIA uses to assassinate terrorists in Yemen.
Earlier this month, Pastor Ed Young, leader of the Fellowship Church in the Dallas suburb of Grapevine, Tex., started running ads in front of the Marvel blockbuster Guardians of Galaxy at local move theaters promoting his church through the use of drone imagery.
“Who you are when no one’s looking is who you are. What would it be like if someone saw everything you do?,” Young asks in the video. “Today we are about drones. Drones know it all, they see it all. The reality is God sees and knows everything. If we really understood that, would it change our lives? I believe the answer is yes.”
True to his word, Young has spent recent weeks exploring the connection between the unknowable, all-seeing creator of the universe and the unknowable, all-seeing U.S. miltary program that’s killed more than 2,400 people in the past five years.
Young himself likely doesn’t need a drone. A 2010 investigation by a local ABC News station found that the charismatic pastor has been about to parlay his his popular ministry into a lavish lifestyle that includes an $8.4 million personal jet.
The God-as-a-drone metaphor probably would have worked just as well for the NSA’s omnipresent electronic surveillance programs, but, evidently even drones have a more welcoming reputation. If you’re applying for that open PR job at the NSA, this is another piece of evidence that you probably have your work cut out for you.
Unsurprisingly, some people are bristling at Young’s suggestion. In a post on Medium, Matthew Gault slammed the whole concept of “drone month” as insensitive to the serious problems presented by drones:
You read that right. Young used the most terrifying and controversial aspects of drones—their ubiquity and potential for force—as a metaphor for God. Young is a powerful speaker and his theology is pretty standard for Texas. Baptist churches all over the state speak of God in much the same way.
But the drone metaphor is a terrible and disturbing one. It trivializes the big questions about a scary new technology and equates God with a weapon of war.
The American public, on the whole, is profoundly uncomfortable with drones, at least when it comes to their domestic use. A recent Pew poll found that nearly two-thirds of Americans oppose allowing more drones in the skies above their heads. Although, if the drone technology Disney recently patented as a way to add giant, drone-controlled puppets to its nightly theme park shows becomes a reality, a lot of those negative opinions about drones may just change.
The recent focus on drones isn’t the first time Young’s methods have courted controversy. In 2008, he called for his parishioners to participate in a week-long sex marathon. Well, technically, he urged married couples to have sex once a day for a week as a way to renew intimacy, and combat both adultery and the use of pornography.
He topped off the whole stunt by spending 24 hours onstage at church lying in a bed with his wife, but no public sex was apparently had.
“Today we’re beginning this sexperiment, seven days of sex,” Young told the New York Times during a sermon at the time. “How to move from whining about the economy to whoopee!”
The Federal Aviation Administration has imposed a ban on commercial drone use, meaning Young couldn’t fly drones as part of his church. But, since all of the drones at the Fellowship Church are metaphorical, that doesn’t seem to have been a problem.
H/T San Antonio Express News | Photo by eschipul/flickr (CC BY 2.0)