Wednesday, August 11, 2010

False Dichtomies, Post-modern Hang-overs, and the Question of Worship (the musings of an orthodox rebel)

The following is a comment I left on a post over at my buddy Josh's blog. I suggest that you read his post as it presents a very interesting concept called the "Worship Tension Spectrum". My thoughts on that spectrum inform the following comment:

Every one of the concepts that you listed are all equally true. If that is the case, then we should take them all: our worship should be performed excellently and be participated in by the congregation, it should be attractive and disciplined, diverse and specific, spontaneous and traditional.

I think the problem here is that we create false dichotomies. Who says that excellence in performance necessitates specialists? Are not some of the greatest excellencies products of/for the people (e.g., Shakespeare wrote for the groundlings as well as the aristocracy, and Dickens was definitely a writer from and for the people)? I think we need to rethink what we mean by "excellence".

Who says that discipline is unattractive? If the object in your sights is of great value to you, does not that make every "effort" and "obedience" highly attractive (e.g., St. Francis called himself the "troubadour" of God, i.e., singing songs to His beloved in the shape of poverty and aestheticism)? I think we need to rethink what we mean by "obedience".

Who says that diversification and spontaneity necessarily negates doctrine and tradition? Who says that freedom necessarily negates rules? What freedom is there without rules? What adventure is there without some authority informing you on what is and is not right and wrong, dangerous and safe?

Just as you cannot play any game (even Calvinball) without settled and specific rules, so you cannot have true artistic spontaneity and freedom without (1) a clear grasp of the basics and (2) an adherence to some kind of tradition. We all draw from something, somewhere, even in our spontaneity. I think we need to rethink what we mean by "freedom".

I see all of this as the unfortunate hang-over of post-modernism: we set at odds things that were never meant to be at odds. We create unnecessary divorces. I think worship would be greatly improved if we would reevaluate the dichotomies and categories that we use to frame the debate.

-Jon Vowell (c) 2010

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