Thursday, September 10, 2009

A Response to Worship and Theology, Post 6: Mediocrity is Not Sufficient

Rich has posted the latest in our series on worship and theology over on his blog and here is a response to it:

Ahh, So I see the gloves have come off, eh?

I have some thoughts on your blog:

First, I think you miss read my post regarding U2. I was in no way holding them up as exemplary, especially for church music. Here is how the argument [was intended] to flow: We have lots of professional musicians in Christendom. Their music is extremely popular (I’ll address some thoughts on this in a bit). They are so popular they sound like arguably the most popular band in the world. (At this point I whole heartedly agree with your thoughts on the quality of U2, but that is exactly not the point I am making) As great as these bands seem to be, both commercially and otherwise, they are theologically vacant and therefore failing. Even if Handel recomposed the music to the songs I mention in my post, they would still be vacant. (The dichotomy issue will be addressed, wait for it.)

Second are the issues of popularity and portability. You make a number of statements elevating technically correct music as the ideal. You say people should work to understand worship in the paragraph concerning burgers and filets. There is an element of Christianity that has always been blue collar. The most powerful movements of the Spirit in history have almost always been born out of the marginalized. Christianity is a populist religion, not an elitist religion. (I am, by and by, fully aware of the irony of this statement given the fact that I work in one of the less populist denominations) I guess what I am saying is that if Stan the Roofer doesn’t understand the music being played at his church, have we over aristocri-sized the church? And this problem is exacerbated as we think of Christianity on a global scale. Should we expect excellence in worship (by the standards of your post) in a church plant in Papua New Guinea? We can and should expect theological excellence; after all they have the authoritative guide on worship, the scriptures. That is to say that theological excellence in worship is universally applicable, while musical excellence is, by its necessary cultural moorings, subjective. Musical excellence in aboriginal Africa will look incredibly different than in the West.

I guess this means I am copping out (at best) or perhaps engaging in lazy thinking (at worst)

Lastly, it may perhaps be helpful to revisit the categories of post 3. It seems that you are blurring the lines between services of worship and worshipful services. While our services of worship should be excellent musically, each Sunday does not need to be a Sistine Chapel. Kathy brings up the issue of Scientist and other professionals, which we need to remember fall into categories (at least for our purposes in this series) of worshipful services. When we begin to blur these lines, which may be helpful in terms of vocation, we obscure the issue at hand.

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