Finally, the other day I listened to a female Anglican priest discuss equality and privilege. The first four minutes of her talk was filled with every single buzzword in the current Christian pop culture.
I didn’t know what she was talking about. It was as if I hadn’t been given the cipher to her coded talk. Her talk gave mostly her opinion about the issue of equality, some odd retelling of the Creation narrative found in Genesis, and then some application points based only on her own experience.
By the end of her talk, I felt like I had heard every other talk given by every other hip Christian who’s in “the know” on the issue of gender equality.
I’m listing these examples only to show that there seems to be a massive amount of culture parroting. I see this in the writing world as new (and old) authors parrot the writers they love best with regard to style.
Which is fine, but eventually you must speak with, and write with, your own voice. And this requires some thinking, discovering, and a good bit of time in the wilderness, not to mention humility.
I think we have mistakenly taken ideas like “brave” and “courageous” and appropriated them to suit our own desire to express ourselves without accountability.
4. The worship of spectacle coupled with the absence of beauty.
I could talk for days on this. How churches make thoughtless decisions, usually based on utility, with regard to building and architecture, all in the name of utility, stewardship, and relevance.
Have you ever wondered why nearly all modern Evangelical churches are dark boxes crammed with sound equipment?
Where are the windows?
Where is nature?
Where is the light?
Some theologians believe our contemporary nihilism will eventually destroy our belief in beauty itself.
One of the preeminent thinkers on beauty was Hans Urs Von Balthasar. He says this about the potential loss of beauty:
“No longer loved or fostered by religion, beauty is lifted from its face as a mask, and its absence exposes features on that face which threaten to become incomprehensible to man
“We no longer dare to believe in beauty and we make of it a mere appearance in order the more easily to dispose of it.
“We can be sure that whoever sneers at her name as if she were the ornament of a bourgeois past–whether he admits it or not–can no longer pray and soon will no longer be able to love. …
“In a world without beauty … the good also loses its attractiveness. … Man stands before the good and asks himself why it must be done and not rather its alternative, evil.
“For this, too, is a possibility, and even the more exciting one: Why not investigate Satan’s depths? In a world that no longer has any confidence in itself to affirm the beautiful, the proofs of the truth have lost their cogency.
“In other words, syllogisms may still dutifully clatter away like rotary presses or computers which infallibly spew out an exact number of answers by the minute. But the logic of these answers is itself a mechanism which no longer captivates anyone.”
What is the consequence of not only a world without beauty but a Church that no longer values beauty?
“But Tim,” you say, “It’s preposterous to think that such evil will invade the Church like that. We’d catch it if it did.”
“Really?” I say, “Have you not read The Screwtape Letters? Do you think evil just marches in all black and hideous and starts spraying evil juices everywhere? Of course not. It moves in subtly. It takes a bit here, another bit there, until you realize, quite suddenly, that you are very far off your mark.”
Have you ever looked at Instagram on Sunday and viewed all the worship leaders and churches posting photographs of their worship service? It’s usually of the performers! What are we promoting?
Beauty, when viewed from the Christian lens, pulls the viewer away from her self. When beauty alights upon the Church, it is accompanied by awe and wonder, not manufactured with lights and manipulative love songs.
As a musician, I love moody music and atmosphere. But there is a kind of stench in the church right now, and it’s coming from modern worship gatherings. It is the decay of beauty and the worship of spectacle.
But we don’t really think about it, do we? It’s just how it is.
“This what the culture wants, Tim.”