Friday, April 29, 2005

Food for Thought II

I feel like I need to respond to a bit of a blowup I had in the comments section of my previous blog entry (see below.) My only comment here would be that I stress being faithful to your historical liturgical roots. I tend to shy away from ecumenism if ecumenism tends to create one big incongruent blob of christian liturgy, or as I call it Naziturgy. I think in most branches of Christianity, there is an element of uniqueness in worshipping style that should be celebrated. If you are Anglo-catholic, say your high church mass with pride because its who you are. If you are a "warm your heart by the altar" Methodist, sing Rock of Ages to beat the band. If you are a Lutheran, boogie with A Mighty Fortress is Our God. If you are a happy, clappy evangelical, then go for it.

For me, liturgy is the work of the people. If its what people want, then I am cool with it, for the most part (I draw the line at snake handling and "this little light of mine." I guess what this brings up for me is an incident in chapel the other day. We had this service in spanish. The service was well done but I walked away with this idea that the only reason we did it was tokenism. "I guess we're diverse now!" the anglican general said in a Ralph Wiggum voice with a hint of sarcasm.

Personally, I can't stand happy clappy praise music. Hymnody is important because it teaches the faith, and I find most praise music theologically vaccuous. But that's from a branch of Christianity I have never really understood, its not who I am as a Christian. I am not saying that contemporary praise music is bad. I'm sure it ministers to a good many people, and that's great. What I am saying is be true to your roots. Us fogey Anglo-types do a disservice to ourselves (and everyone else) if we try to do soul gospel music. Be proud of your tradition.


Jane Ellen+ said...

A valid point. However, it becomes a problem when one begins to worship one's worship preferences, rather than the God they are intended to glorify.

The AngloCatholic who denigrates contemporary praise music as "theologically vaccuous," is just as guilty of this as the Evangelical who sneers at formal high liturgy as "meaningless rote ritual."

In either case I find it distateful and disrespectful.

The Archer of the Forest said...

I certainly, certainly agree that when the liturgy itself becomes the the object of worship and the focus is not on God, then its a major problem. Anything taken to extremes is dangerous. And I would certainly agree that high church liturgy can be just as vaccuous if it is just meaningless ritual. That is to say, doing it because we've always done it that way. If it no longer has meaning, then maybe it is time for a change.

But my point is that change for the sake of change really behooves no one if it has no point. I say this with a certain amount of sarcasm because at my seminary, the prevailing agenda is to move the church into postmodern liturgy, damn the torpedoes full speed ahead.

To me, if liturgy is the corporate work of the people, then we (we being ministers) have to meet the people where they are at theologically. We can't push our liturgical agenda on them. That just becomes clericalism (and that's a whole other blog entry).

While I will apologize if my smack at "praise" music was out of line, in my defense, I did say, "I am not saying that contemporary praise music is bad. I'm sure it ministers to a good many people, and that's great."

That apology having been said, I do stand by my assessment. That's just my opinion, and granted its only my opinion. I'm sorry but music like "Shine Jesus Shine" just does not cognitively mean anything. You might as well be singing the lyrics to a Beatles song.

To me, this goes back to my first and primary point. Anglicanism as my friend Kyle said over on his blog: Anglicanism, loving Jesus with a slight air of superiority since AD 597. Anglicans can be cynical (okay, very, very, very cynical). We're sticks in the mud, that's who we are and its reflected in our liturgy oftentimes.

That is not to say we are beyond criticism. We should be criticized on a number of fronts. But, as I said, you have to meet people where they are, and that's how use Anglicans are. Its a cultural thing. We are very analytical and disdain of emotionalism. That's typical of who we are, pardon the stereotypes.

We all have things to learn from other branches of Christianity. That is my point. Be unique in your brand of Christianity. To deny who we are culturally and liturgically is to lose something that is unique, dare I say special. When the unique is lost, the world loses out.

Voyager said...

I agree that it is very important to worship in ways that you are comfortable. I have always found (coming from a Pentecostal perspective) hymns to be very powerful, but the melodies themselves do not grab my attention. They do not make me want to worship... Not that I don't want to worship anyway, but... well, thats another story entirely.

I was once told that a hymn was a way of singing about God, whereas a praise song was a way of singing to God. Im not really sure how much truth there is to that, but I find a good praise song to be liberating.

Keep in mind, I try to not confuse praise and worship songs with contemporary Christian music. There is quite a big difference, in my (not so) humble opinion. As the Archer so eloquently stated, a lot of CCM songs are really nothing more than a beat, and truly, we might as well be singing a Beatles song.

I will wax contemplative on CCM a little more in a second... Now on to Praise and worship. I think that a praise and worship song can be defined as any song, of any musical style, that you can sing in a way that edifies God and edifies your relationship with Him. Some of my favorites are "God of Wonders", "All My Life", "Lord, I Lift Your Name on High", and "My Deliverer". All of these songs are near and dear to my heart, and when I sing them, I feel drawn into God, be it singing alone in bed at night or in a group at church on Sunday Morning.

Now, I shall finish my contemplations on CCM, and then I shall close. To me, CCM is a good thing, but I think that a great deal of Christians misuse it. I hear a lot of people say that the only music they will listen to is CCM, and this somewhat disturbs me. To me, CCM is a good way to express yourself, but I have never been fond of locking oneself into a certain genre. To say that one should listen only to CCM is like saying that one should never go anywhere except to church.

I find that CCM is a wonderful style, and I enjoy it immensely. But I also know that it is just music, and through it I am not necessarily coming any closer to God. (with a few rare exceptions that cross over into a praise variety).

I shall think more on this subject and post again later. Honestly, I love t his topic, but I really dont have anything to say pertaining to the Eastern Orthodox church mentioned in the previous post, so sorry!

Jane Ellen+ said...

First, I have some understanding of Anglicanism; as well as one can, I suppose. I've been Episcopalian all my life, in a family that goes back several generations in the ECUSA. I have no intention of denying that heritage, God knows. Given that reality, I find the rather heavy-handed explanation of "how we Anglicans are" to be irritating, as that does not reflect my experience within our tradition.

Secondly, I hardly think that moving to high church Eucharist as a regular Monday practice (for instance) is reflective of a "prevailing agenda is to move the church into postmodern liturgy, damn the torpedoes full speed ahead."

Additionally, and while I'd agree that the book juggling in chapel is disconcerting and could be much better planned, I will also admit I've learned a great deal about the resources available in the church for worship that way. It's left me much better able to say with some confidence which options I prefer, and why. And that learning is part of the legitimate function of a seminary.

That being said, a more helpful definition of liturgy, I've learned, is private work done for the public good. Originally the term (as I'm sure you know) referred to maintenance of roads, etc., done by individual citizens to benefit the larger community.

I find this helpful in remembering that the work I do in liturgy is both for personal and corporate benefit, for the glory of God and the edification of the Body. And members of the body will find that edification in a variety of ways.

Finally, I'd agree that some contemporary music (and "Shine, Jesus Shine" is a perfect example) is way less than helpful in this regard. However, there are myriad instances to be found in traditional hymnody (even in the sacred Hymnal 1982!) about which the same thing could be said. Isn't it better to find and use that music (contemporary as well as traditional) which effectively allows the soul's praise of God, than to condemn wholesale one style that may be another's path to Christ?

Stephen Newell said...

That's exactly what "becoming all things to all men" is supposed to be about.

It's not a philosophical or theological concept, it's a practical one. The Bible commands us to "redeem the time," and as such that is why we become all things to all men.

Just as some missionaries in the past tried to assimilate themselves into the culture they were reaching, we as Christians (notice I'm going universal, not denominational here) must be willing to get ourselves involved in the cultures of those who are lost, with the goal of bringing them to Christ. That does not mean sacrificing the Gospel, but rather claiming the seeker's culture for the Gospel.

Bikers are a good example of that--most ordinary Christians would turn their noses up at them! Yet there are many Christian biker groups who have penetrated this culture and are winning people. These groups are generally respected, as far as I have heard, by the culture they are part of. Why shouldn't we do the same with seekers and those for whom contemporary praise touches?

Kyle said...

Man, Ryan, you finally see some discussion and it's a blowup? You must be a real Anglophile, you're so polite.

My take on the happy clappiness isn't so neutral. Perhaps "vacuous" is a bit strong and derisive, but some musical pieces and entire genres have rich theological agendas, and others are more "bare bones," even simplistic.

I have been more concerned with CCM of late, I must say. It's a primary theological medium for too many Christians, and many of those folks have the theological depth of a flock of meerkats.

Meerkats are cute and I like to watch them, but they are a long way off from being teachers of the Church.

(what the hell does that even mean?)

My point is, I guess, Steven Curtis Chapman should be forced to get a graduate degree in Theology before he writes another damn song.

captain sacrament

Ryan said...

This is a fascinating discussion, but I find it a bit too polarizing. I've posted an extended comment on the subject over at my blog, but I do want to say a thing or two here.

Kyle - it is a mistake to get all your theology from any one source, but it is also a mistake to pejoratively refer to all the saints and the priesthood of all believers as "meekrats". It is, after all, the meek who will inherit the earth. If you take Steven Curtis Chapman for a teacher of the church for yourself, then perhaps it is fine for you to demand of him the highest educational level possible. But, if you consider him to be just another faithful Christian struggling through this life alongside us all, then perhaps you can take his experiences as just that and appreciate them for what they are. If they don't matter much to you, then that is fine, but let's not get carried away with anathemas.


Anonymous said...

by "that's just how anglicanism is..." perhaps you mean "that's just how episcopalians are"? step outside of your american bubble and learn about ANGLICANISM and realize that it is not nearly so "fuddy duddy" as the ECUSA.

as far as taking shots against your seminary... if you don't like it, transfer. or do something more than post on your blog to change it.

Ryan said...

Anon -

These are pretty bold statements from someone hiding behind the skirts of anonymity. How do you know the Archer is confined within an "American bubble"? How do you know he is not doing things besides posting in order to change his experience of seminary? Furthermore, no one said you ahd to read it.


Kyle said...

What the hell is a "meekrat"?

And I thought my own humor was weird. You win this round, Mr. Whitley.

By virtue of their platforms and the size of their audiences, those Xn artists have a responsibility to produce much more than fluff.

Any kind of religion isn't good religion.

The Archer of the Forest said...

I did not intend my blog on CCM to be as devisive as it become. I don't have any problem with contemporary christian music as long as it has a solid theological message. I say the same things about hymns to be fair.

I think one of my hangups about CCM is that Christianity should inspire us to excellence. To put it in terms of CCM, we worship an awesome God. Our worship should therefore be excellent. I personally find most CCM to be trite and not the best effort many of these artists are capable of. They just slap some stuff together and know people will buy it because its CCM, regardless of quality control. And again, I could say this about certain hymns in the hymn book.

The worship of God should be the best you can do artistically; I just find most CCM lacking in that regard. Instead of creating a Handel's Messiah, we settle for the Spice Girls.