Tuesday, June 09, 2009

The Wise Turk on Religious Entertainment

He's not really a Turk, but we do sometimes find wisdom (of sorts) from unexpected places. I recently came across the following quotation:

"Wherever applause breaks out in the liturgy because of some human achievement, it is a sure sign that the essence of liturgy has totally disappeared and been replaced by a kind of religious entertainment." (Joseph Ratzinger, Spirit of the Liturgy, p. 198)

Far be it from me to applaud the most prominent living enemy of the Christian faith, but he's right about this issue. When there is applause during what purports to be a worship service, it is because something has gone dreadfully awry. Worship of God (and God alone) is why we are in church on the Lord's Day.

When one begins to admix entertainment into the service, one is losing sight of the focus of worship in two ways. First of all, one is focusing on the performer, rather than on God. Second of all, one is permitting oneself to be honored when the honor should be directed to God.

Worship is edifying and valuable to the worshiper, but it is not about the worshiper. The minister of God and his assistants (whoever they may be) are there to lead you in the worship of God, not to entertain and amuse you.

I am not saying that no joke may ever be told from the pulpit, but when your pastor can rival the local comedy club for the number of laughs and applause per minute from the crowd, something has gone dreadfully wrong.

In general applause is totally inappropriate in worship, as is reverence and honor being paid to anyone besides the Mighty and Jealous God whom you are there to worship. Come, pay homage to God, and hear the proclamation of his Word!

I think I can say without exaggeration that the problem of entertainment in churches is a rival to the problem of feasting instead of communion in the ancient churches. If you want to have a good laugh, go to a comedy club. If you want to hear outstanding musical performances, go to the local concert hall. The point of church is not entertain you - but for you to interact reverentially and solemnly with God.

-TurretinFan

4 comments:

natamllc said...

TF

One of my Elders brought the Word to the congregation a few Sundays back.

Here is a most interesting group of verses he brought forward to deal with this very thing, "religious entertainment":

Eze 37:24 "My servant David shall be king over them, and they shall all have one shepherd. They shall walk in my rules and be careful to obey my statutes.
Eze 37:25 They shall dwell in the land that I gave to my servant Jacob, where your fathers lived. They and their children and their children's children shall dwell there forever, and David my servant shall be their prince forever.
Eze 37:26 I will make a covenant of peace with them. It shall be an everlasting covenant with them. And I will set them in their land and multiply them, and will set my sanctuary in their midst forevermore.
Eze 37:27 My dwelling place shall be with them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.
Eze 37:28 Then the nations will know that I am the LORD who sanctifies Israel, when my sanctuary is in their midst forevermore."

His point was well taken and so is yours.

When the congregation is "bent" to be the central focus and not as the Prophet says above there, then sadly, the world won't know the difference between True Worship and a good drama or comedy!

My prayer:

[[God, help us. God, remove from us all offenses so that You will gladly place Christ in our midst and we will be free to Truly Worship You and so that the world may see and know that You sanctify Your Own!]]

amen

Rhology said...

Interested, then, to hear your thoughts on what happens at my church.
Our music minister is no groundbreaker, and he's opted for the mix of hymns with contemporary stuff, these days more contemporary stuff. I don't like the music in general, but anyway.
Every...single...Sunday, after one of the peppy songs early in the service, he'll say "Give the Lord a hand of praise" and everyone obligatorily claps. I'm getting sick of that, so I generally don't clap but rather pray praises to God. Anyway, I guess it's one thing that it's the same thing every week but not liturgy, and another that he's telling us to clap to God. I guess there's Psalm-ific backing for that practice, no?

OTOH, I remember visiting a church in London where we were told near the end of the service, "Everyone, pray in the Holy Spirit, pray in your prayer language." Ah, OK. Not quite the same. :-D I prayed in French, figured that was a glossolalia, haha.

Turretinfan said...

It may be a well-intentioned practice (who but God knows the heart!), yet it does remind one of the transparent ruse by stand-up comedians at the end of their act: "You've been a great audience, give yourself a warm round of applause."

Everyone sees through this. Does the minister ask for people to give applause to God at the end of the congregational singing? or at the end of his sermon? I doubt it. No, it looks like a mechanism for honoring the performers while putatively honoring God.

-TurretinFan

Turretinfan said...

There is another - more disturbing - alternative as well. In some case, clapping is used simply as a way of getting people excited and acting in unison. Much like a group of soldiers saluting at once, or a bunch of children playing Simon Says.

-TurretinFan