Modern Pensées

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Posts Tagged ‘Liturgy

Secular Worship Services, Part Two: The Superbowl

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Seattle Seahawks Russell Willson lifts Superbowl Trophy with Confetti

Sorry to all the Denver Broncos fans out there – that was pretty rough.  The Seahawks out executed in every phase of the game.  Hats off to a humble, classy, and non-flashy Russell Wilson for his quiet leadership and on-field play.

There are two very distinct kinds of liturgies at work in the Superbowl:  The Superbowl the Game (and half-time show), and The Superbowl the Commercials.  The game and the commercials overlap at points and in many ways are inextricably linked but also diverge at points as well.  This post will cover the topic of the Superbowl the game and the next post will analyze the Superbowl the commercials.  After analyzing a number of various forms of secular worship we will then discuss what these secular liturgies mean on a cultural level, a religious level, and an individual level. 

The Superbowl the Game

In many ways sports provides for men (and women also) a pressure relief valve on their bottled up, suppressed, repressed, or unexpressed emotions.  Sports can function as a kind of surrogate intimacy to other failed or stunted intimacies – this is why some men who are entirely dispassionate in other spheres (marriage, vocation, parenthood…) all of a sudden come alive in the arena or in front of the flatscreen.

Liturgies follow formats and rhythms of expected time, space, color, and aesthetics.  In many ways, most sports liturgies follow the same liturgy:

The Pregame (Welcome, Greeting, and Sacrament)

The pregame is filled several elements that invite the sports worshiper into the liturgy to follow.  Elements of the pregame involve storylines of the forthcoming game, analysis of the players and teams involved, and perhaps also preliminary indulgence into the sacramental table of the expected food and drink (tailgating, BBQ… etc.).

The Grove at Ole Miss

The Grove at Ole Miss

There are obvious corollaries between the tailgate and the Lord’s Supper (or eucharist); both are inviting the worshiper deeper into the liturgy (game and camaraderie)  to follow as well as serve to unite the participants into community with one another.

National Anthem (Call to Worship)

This is a moment of civil religiosity where we find unity in our commonality as residents (or citizens) of the United States of America.  This can also function as a kind of call to worship for the events that are about to happen on field.  It provides a very least common denominator unity to all in attendance regardless of their team allegiance.

The Game Itself (Worship in Song, Creed Recitation, Iconography, Benediction)

The game itself is participatory in many ways.  Most teams have some sort of team song(s) – this is common also among other sports – particularly college football, soccer, and rugby.  The songs serve to unite, provide camaraderie, and a sense of belonging.  Most teams also have at least one, often more than one creed, chant, or rally cry.  It could be as simple as an idea – Seattle Seahawk’s (aka. TAMU) Twelfth Man or longer form chants or cheers like University of Florida’s We are the Boys from Old FloridaAlabama’s Rammer Jammer Cheer, or Ole Miss’ Hotty Toddy.  Many of these serve to make great the dynasty of one’s own tribe to the detriment of the rivals.  There is also highly developed iconography associated with sport.  The icons serve far more than to merely brand but serve to identify allegiance to the particular tribe.  Most teams will also have some form of a victory cheer or chant as well.  These chants function in many ways similar to a benediction to a worship service (provided your team wins).

Peyton Manning - Sad Face - Superbowl - Denver Broncos

Sports can provide great elation and crushing agony (just ask Peyton Manning).  These ranges of emotions are natural because we worship with the heart – hence, success is met with great joy and defeat brings frustration, anger, and a whole host of other emotions.  We cheer when our team scores a touchdown or wins the big game and we get ticked and want a new coach when our team goes 4-8 (#Muschamp).

Sports as Evangelism (Mission)

Sports fans want other people to be a part of their tribe.  Sports is inherently evangelistic.  It is by nature evangelistic because it is human nature to want other people to enjoy the things that we enjoy.  Hence, there is a significant missional component that is hard wired into sports, particularly the Superbowl in America.

This post is the second in a series of post on Secular Worship Services, the first analyzed The Grammys.  Up next, we will take a look at The Superbowl with respect to the commercials.  

Written by Michael Graham

February 3, 2014 at 9:04 pm

Secular Worship Services, Part One: The Grammys

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Stained Glass Macklemore Ryan Lewis Madonna at Grammys 2014

The longer I live the more convinced I become that all of life is worship.  The only thing that changes is the object or subject of our affection.  With such a view in mind, you begin to see liturgies emerge in common cultural forms.  Liturgy is just a fancy theological term for a customary worship service.  This post is the first of a series of posts examining several common secular worship services in America.  Later posts will examine the Superbowl, the Oscars, Disney, and college football.

I caught the lion share of the 2014 Grammy’s after the fact, hence the tardiness of this post. I’ve never been super big on all the hype, pomp, and patting on the back – not to mention the huge amounts of filler, commercials, and non-musical content.  What was particularly interesting was the sharp focus of the Grammy liturgy.  The whole show was bizarre, raunchy, and exactly what you would expect as a liturgy of the secular decline of the West.  Pop culture in particular has embodied the descent of Western civilization back into a season of sensate culture.  The liturgy roughly follows something of Western Christian worship service:

Welcome

LL Cool J rehashes more or less the same speech he gave last year about how music unites humanity.

Call to Worship

Beyonce – Drunk in Love.  Visuals are inappropriate for print here.  Suffice to say that it is an ode to drunken fornication.  Beyonce’s visuals matched the raunch of the lyrical content.  More of the same Cold War sexual arms race for Western attention.

Worship in Song

Katy Perry – Dark Horse.  This performance was equal parts Illuminati (cue the conspiracy theorists) and witchcraft.  It featured more of the same attempts to distance herself from her evangelical upbringing by summoning disparate and cliche ridden neo-pagan mixed metaphors.

Katy Perry Burning at Stake at Grammys 2014

Sermon/Homily/Sacrament

Macklemore, Ryan Lewis, and Madonna – Same Love.  The sermon came from Queen Latifah.  The concert hall is visually transformed into something like a cathedral and a kind of wedding ceremony ensues.  We are invited to take part in the sacrament of the 33 heterosexual and homosexual couples as they exchange their wedding vows.  You can watch it here:

Benediction

Nine Inch Nails – Copy of a.  This final performance was drenched with irony from Trent Reznor.  The lyrics heavily resound with a scathing critique of our sensate culture and reverberate with echoes of Ecclesiastes:

I am just a copy of a copy of a copy

Everything I say has come before

Assembled into something into something into something I am never certain anymore

I am just a shadow of a shadow of a shadow

Always trying to catch up with myself

I am just an echo of an echo of an echo

Listening to someone’s cry for help

There is nothing new under the sun…

Check back for the next in the series.

Written by Michael Graham

January 29, 2014 at 4:41 pm

Thoughts on Evangelicalism Past, Present, and Future… Part 7

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Neocalvinism

Neocalvinism

It is easier to write about the past than to predict the future. Evangelicalism is quite broad today, perhaps so broad as to question the veracity of its use as a technical term.  Regardless of whether evangelicalism remains the technical term to describe conservative Protestants, I shall try to look at some potential future (and semi-present) trends.

Networks of churches will be more common:  Groups of churches, organized either locally/geographically and/or doctrinally, will be more common.  Organizations like Acts29 will be a more attractive option for new churches planted over against denominations.

Multi-site:  the multi-site movement is where one church has multiple campuses and the main pastor’s sermon is broadcast/simulcast to the other sites.  I think we will see a movement here towards multi-sites that are geographically distant from the original site – this leads to…

Branding:  I can envision some multi-site groups with a nationally (or internationally) recognizable pastor seeking to do multi-site in other cities across the country.   Instead of one self-identifying with being, “Southern Baptist,” one might identify with going to “Superstar Pastor, Chicago” or “Superstar Pastor, Memphis.”

Church Planting:  The church planting movement will continue to grow.  As liberal churches continue to bleed, there will continue to be a need for church planting.

Denominational decline and growth:  Denominations that fail to adhere to orthodox beliefs will decline heavily.  I am sure some denominations will go unorthodox on a variety of theological issues.  I can imagine social theological issues like abortion, homosexuality, and bioethics being some gateways to denominational error.  Denominations that adhere to orthodox faith and seek balance of reaching their city and the world will grow.

Liturgy:  There will be a growth in people who want more of God’s transcendence in the service in reaction over against the more entertainment and pop oriented worship.

Consumerism, Megachurch, and Smaller Local Churches:  Consumerism has failed the church – ie. the church with the great ______ program(s).  It makes for lousy discipleship and many people thinking they are legitimate believers when they are not.  I think that there will be a decline in the megachurch movement.  Megachurches will not go away because there will always be those drawn to a more anonymous worship experience and consumerism will always infiltrate evangelicalism on some level.  However, I think people many (not all) will trend away from the megachurch, preferring real community.  I think this will be in reaction to the great irony of globalization – as the world gets smaller and closer, it becomes more fractured and less communal.  This will be a driving factor for many to leave the anonymous megachurch and go to a place where they can know and have friendship with real people.

Missional Church Movement:  Time will tell if the missional church movement overemphasizes the local mission, an equal and opposite reaction to the imbalance of evangelicalism towards defining mission as unreached or international only.  My guess is that the missional church will seek some balance and develop a positive identity that does not require a defunct evangelism as a host in order to survive (ie. post-modernity needing modernity).

Open Source and Kingdom Mentality:  The redeeming principles of the open source movement that began in computer science will be applied and used well to resource the global body of Christ.  Ministries like Third Millenium Ministries who collaborate across denominational lines and give away all their content for free will be more common (see also Desiring God Ministries).  This will happen as technology is utilized to make edifying data more and more available instaneously – combined with visionary kingdom minded people seek to ensure that the worldwide church is well resourced.

Neo-Calvinism (I am not sure how to define it, but try some of these links- 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5):  Neo-calvinism will continue to grow… whether as a reaction against something else (megachurch, anti-intellectualism, Dispensationalism, irrelevance, or unmissionality) or positively as an embracing of something substantive.

I fear that the internet era of podcasts and videocasts, people’s expectations of their unknown and unsung local pastors could become unrealistic.  This fuels my concern over the already existing issue of celebrity and may lead to the aforementioned highly problematic branding.  I wonder if the great contribution of the non-denominational world will ultimately be de facto denominations that have all their weaknesses without all their strengths.

How things will play out will depend on the actions/reactions of evangelicalism to multiculturalism, mobility, globality, pluralism, re-urbanization, technology, capitalism, democritization, and dualism.  This concludes our look at the past, present, and future of evangelicalism as I see it.

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