Via Media

I actually was going to write something else in that previous post that fits the title. Let’s try again.

We Catholics agonize a great deal about liturgy and attendant issues, and in the midst of the woe, we tend to think we’re all alone. We look about, and all we see, on one hand, is Orthodox reverence, solidity and amazing chant, and on the other, enthusiastic mobs packing in evangelical mega-churches and leaving Catholicism behind for whatever they’re finding there.

But anyone who’s well-read in religion knows that liturgy wars are not, by any means unique to Catholicism. Music issues make Protestants break out in hives, took, and there’s great debate brewing about post-modernism, emergent churches and liturgical issues.

For example, take a look at my favorite Reformed blogger living in Kentucky, The Internet Monk, who, in this post, lets out a heartfelt crie de coeur, inspired by a Mere Comments post:

I’m not an elitist. I’m not some truly reformed sheriff patrolling the creative wilderness shooting anyone who dares innovate. I’m supportive of a lot of the creative, innovative, mission driven developments in evangelicalism. I am not against new tunes, drama or the prudent use of technology. Don’t miss me here. I do not hope for the uncriticized past, for organs and choirs. I simply long for some semblance of dignity; some sense of the greatness of God and the glory of the Gospel. I simply want worship to be worthy of the God who calls us to worship, and not simply to be a pale travesty inbibing the worst of the current cultural pollutants.

It is almost impossible to find a worship leader- or worship participants- who have any idea of what Biblical worship means or ought to look like. Everyone, everywhere is doing the same things, the same way, in a mad competition for numbers. The triumph of evangelical entertainment and sappy, happy, clappy sentiment is nearly complete. Of course, in my ministry setting at a Christian school with many visiting worship leaders, I see what the effect is of all of this on high school and middle school students. (I should say I can also observe the effect of such worship on adults as well, as the majority stay far away if possible, for reasons varying from having experienced 45 minutes of this "praise and worship" menu at their own church to simply being unable to stomach what happens when young people get to "have it their way.") Everything must have hand motions and be greeted with applause. We must never, ever be bored. All is feelings. Thought and proclamation are the enemy. Visuals and stimulation are worshipped. Corporate worship these days needs cheerleaders- real cheerleaders- right there on the sidelines, to keep us all interested. The unchecked, increasing eagerness to depart from anything resembling classic Christian worship and to embrace some new, low and distinctively unspiritual experience is everywhere.

Michael (the Internet Monk) wrote something a few months ago that struck me as just deeply, deeply true, not just for Protestants, but for some Catholics as well:

I must have 300 letters from people asking where to find a liturgical church that preaches the Bible.

That’s it, I thought. That’s it. Sola Scriptura matters aside, more thoughtful readers here don’t need a sign. You get it. If we want to be precisely Catholic in our formulation, we would put it a bit differently, expanding "Bible" to take in tradition, and just the entire beauty of God reaching to us through Church, revealing Himself to us, loving us, forgiving us.

There is such hunger out there, and for so long we Catholics have succumbed, in dangerous ways, to the cultural ethos that frames religion as one more effort to SuperSize Me. McDonald’s is big, profitable, shiny and crowded. But where does it leave us? Unfed, with the illusion of feeling full.

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