Monday, July 30, 2012

A Thought About "Worship"

I'm a little hesitant to write this post because I'm afraid it's going to come off a lot worse than I mean for it to be. However, I've been thinking about it for awhile and then I saw this on PostSecret:

So. Here I go. 

I always loved worship time at church. The church I grew up in was a little unusual in that we had musicians who took turns playing each Sunday but they didn't prepare "sets" according to the message or according to anything. The idea was instead that they could lead a song but so could anyone else in the church. If the Spirit led you, you would just start singing the song on your heart and the rest of the church would join in as the two teenage boys that ran the projector furiously flipped through overheads until they found the words to the song. I know this sounds chaotic, but it really wasn't. You might think that multiple people would start singing different songs at the same time, but they didn't. You could stand or sit or kneel as you wanted and it (forgive me for this buzz word) all felt organic to me. Most of our songs were scripture set to simple music and I loved it. I've never known anything like it since.

Then I got older and went to a more "hip" church and worship became something different. More like a concert. Somehow, I never noticed until I had been happily participating in the concert vibe for years. Maybe it's because I hadn't been to many concerts or because all the ones I had been to were Christian bands so I had the expectation they should feel similar to worship times. I seriously never had any issue, no crankiness, no cynicism about worship time. It was always when I felt connected and could put down my questions and confusion. 

A couple years later I was at an Arcade Fire concert, my first secular concert and after a year long absence from church I felt the same feelings I used to feel during worship. Euphoria. This could be interpreted 1 of 2 ways: 1. God was making me euphoric via Arcade Fire (and later Death Cab and certain musicals) or 2. Music makes me euphoric. Wonderful, sweeping, emotional music. Now, I'm more inclined to lean toward choice 1 but I had to acknowledge that choice 2 existed. Which made me more conscious of worship times. The words I was singing. The promises I was making. The peer pressure involved. The way worship leaders tell you what to do. 

[That last bit really bothers me. "Lift your hands up! Kneel before God! Feel his presence here! Tell God you love him! Tell him you're sorry! Let's all weep for the nation!" Commands like this leave you in a place where you are forced, if you don't feel what they want you to feel, to either pretend you do or, not participate and have people wondering, "What's up with Sara?" And, don't tell me no one thinks that because they do. I know that they do. Not only have I thought that myself, but I have had people directly confront me about myself and my spouse. "Why didn't you take communion? What's going on?" None yo' business.]

Now, I've never led worship. I have no idea what the "behind the scenes" of creating a worship time is like and I have no idea if the emotional manipulation is intended or it just happens. What I do know is that it definitely happens, to me if to no one else. Also, I think, to whomever wrote in that Postsecret. 

I will not speak for anyone else or any other situation but my own. For me, worship is tricky.  It's all about feelings and feelings are not to be trusted. Worship songs today, they say things that I think aren't always true. They want me to tell God things that might not be true. I don't like that. If there is one thing I try not to do, it's lie to God. When I was a kid, the man who led chapel at my Christian school said that if we could not sing the words of a song honestly, then don't sing. It made sense to me. But now, if I go to church and I wait through a song I don't feel I can sing honestly, I feel like I'm being watched and judged. Maybe someone thinks I'm making a statement that I'm not. I don't like that either. Music stirs up my emotions. It makes me cry, it makes me laugh, it makes me think a lot. It shouldn't be treated lightly, it shouldn't be trite. 

[Two fast songs to get people excited for the message. One slow song to calm us down. [Message] Two more slow ones so we can contemplate the message and feel sad for our sin. One fast song to end church on a happy note! Tell me, does this sound familiar?]

I hate being cynical, I really do. I hate to enter a time I used to really love feeling nothing but wary, but I am. I want honesty in my life so much right now, more than anything. I don't want to be manipulated by fear or emotion. That Postsecret really shook me up. I think it's something to think about. 

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