Friday, November 11, 2011

Hip hoppin out of bed on Sundays to go to church? Fo shizzle

I've written several times about the modern worship wars many churches, particularly mainline Protestant but also Roman Catholics, find themselves in. I've also lamented that for the purpose of becoming "culturally relevant" and "pro-growth" many western confessions have abandoned the various western rites in favor of a new paradigm which is hip and fresh and designed to appeal to people's entertainment than the proper worship due to God. The continued insistence by many clergy and leaders of such churches that the only way to reach people is by embracing the pop culture of the world has done nothing to explain why a great many people, who may have been reared in the Christian faith, still prefer to stay home on Sunday.

Reading this article was really no surprise to me. It rehashes the tired old arguments that the church needs to "spice up" its message and make it "relevant" to young people. The article begins:

It's hard enough to get young people out of bed and into the pews on a Sunday morning, but two leading black seminaries think they have found a way to grab the next generation: hip-hop.

"If we're going to take young people seriously, we have no choice," said Alton B. Pollard III, dean of the Howard University School of Divinity.

"When we talk about what's happening in the lives of young people, that's a subterranean culture that some of us just don't know how to get with."

Fo shizzle.

"We have no choice?" Yes, you do. Saying you have no choice is to make yourselves comfortable with the choice you have already made. It's self-justification at its worst.

The article goes on with testimony about how young black people are so connected to hip hop and how traditional religion is so rigid. Hip hop, in its very essence, is not a rigid "art form" but has numerous expressions under its umbrella. Nonetheless, the woman who is quoted says that the hip hop angle is necessary because she doesn't worship the tradition.

And maybe that is part of the problem that those of us who are liturgical traditionalists fail to see in our own objections to those who wish for change. For those of us who want the traditional liturgy, it may come off that we are worshiping the tradition, worshiping the creature rather than the Creator.

I am not saying that one cannot have communion with God through hip hop as opposed to Byzantine chant. It may very well be possible, though I haven't, and will never, try it. But I would challenge anyone who knows the Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom, Liturgy of St. Gregory the Great, the Liturgy of St. Basil the Great, etc. where the Liturgy is not centered around the Theanthropos, the God-Man, Jesus Christ. But, for this one woman, is she not also guilty of worshiping the tradition which is, for her, hip hop?

The problem surrounding the worship wars is not so much about style as it is about direction. Do we worship so that the church becomes more like the earth or more like the heavens? The delegates St. Vladimir sent to Constantinople in the 11th century reported that the worship was such that they knew no longer whether they were in heaven or on earth. They had been translated, mystically, to the heights. But hip hop is of this earth. A church using that as its standard is more likely to separate itself from the heavens to become one with the earth.

Our Lord says that His Reign is not of this earth. Our worship towards Him should not be either. Throwing more of the earth into a church will not help to elevate one towards the heights but constantly keep faces downcast towards what is here. And that should be depressing.

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