Wednesday, February 15, 2006

The Liturgy in Transformation: A Clarification

In my last post, I'm afraid I may have created the impression that liturgy needed to be legitimated in terms of something outside of itself (its role in forming a worldview, its statement to the culture about power and truth, its contesting of the political, etc.). That would be wrong. I worship God because, as a creature (in the words of the Book of Common Prayer), "it is meet and right so to do." I like the "no BS" way Stanley Hauerwas puts it:

The Catholics had asked me to speak about liturgy as moral formation, but I thought that very way of putting the matter was a mistake. Liturgy is not something done to provide moral motivation. The liturgy is how the church worships God and how from such worship we become a people capable of being an alternative to the world. That is why the language of the liturgy is so important. Nothing betrays the love of God more than the inelegance of the language Christians use in their worship. Some Christians seem to think we can attract people back to Christianity if we try to compete with TV, but when you do that you have already lost. The only result is that Christian worship becomes as banal and ugly as the rest of our lives.

I think it would be terrific if on entering a church people would think, "This is very frightening." God, after all, is frightening. Recently, I had a debate about the interpretation of the Bible at Southeastern Seminary in Wake Forest. One of my graduate students, a Roman Catholic, went with me. When we entered the church where the debate was to be held, she said, "Wow, is this someone's living room?" So "fundamentalists" want to make people feel at home--a home, moreover, that looks more like the living rooms of the 1950s. It is no wonder you are tempted to put an American flag in such "sanctuaries," because at least the flag adds some color. Unfortunately, the colors, at least when they are part of the same piece of cloth, are not liturgically appropriate.

Read the rest of the interview here.

I think Daniel's comment (if I read between the lines) gets at the rather pathetic ways churches bend over backwards to be "culturally relevant" (and in doing so become less relevant to him). Someone once told me that when the church tries to be relevant, it only shows how "irrelevant" it really is. I would add to Hauerwas' "1950s living room" churches that imagine sacred space along the lines of AA meetings, movie theatres, and shopping malls--all in the name of being relevant or "seeker friendly". I wanted to blog about this earlier in the year after visiting a good friend's church complex which was built like a corporate HQ, with a movie theatre-type sanctuary, individual lift-up seats, coffee cup holders instead of bible and hymnbook racks, and nary a symbol in sight. It was impressive, in a non-churchy way. (Now, of course I'm only talking about the physical space, not the actual Sunday morning worship service. Though these can't really be separated, I realize I don't have the full picture). Perhaps I'll dig my thoughts out sometime, and invite my friend's response.

Until then, I'll keep ramblin' on.

No comments: