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  • What Racism, Human Trafficking, and Abortion All Have in Common

    Creation of Adam, Michelangelo, Sistene Chapel

    Racism, human trafficking, and abortion all share a common source to their evil – the fundamental denial of human dignity – more specifically the creator endowed dignity of being made in the image of God.  This is unilaterally accomplished by carving out groups of people (by ethnicity, gender, vulnerability, or age) who are classified as sub-human and therefore not treated as equal human beings.

    Racism
    Racism denies the image of God in a particular ethnicity, people group, or tribal affiliation.  It seeks to make the persons of such groups or affiliations lesser than your group or affiliation. In doing so it assails the inherent worth endowed by God.  There are several idols at work in racism – power, control, pride, and ironically likely both self-love and self-hatred.

    Human Trafficking
    Human trafficking denies the image of God in humanity by treating certain humans as not being human at all, but rather property.  All sense of dignity and worth must be deconstructed in order to justify the human as property.  There are several idols at work in human trafficking, most notably, greed, power, control, and lust.

    Abortion
    Abortion denies the image of God in those of a certain size, age, gestation, or relative level of “wantedness.”  The human is made to be sub-human because it is small, young, not yet viable, and has not travelled the magical 6″ journey down the birth canal that suddenly and mysteriously imbues it with life, human rights, and legal status.  Their are several idols at work here, most notably, lust, selfishness, comfort, and escape.

    While perhaps difficult to personally engage heavily on all three fronts, I find it ironic that my own age demographic seem inclined to care about the first 2 of these 3 and not the third.  I don’t know if this is for reasons of ignorance, idolatry, apathy, or all of the above.  It will be interesting how history plays itself out on this particular issue… but I am willing to wager that our grand children will think of abortion with a similar disdain that our generation holds toward the Holocaust.  

    The Banality of Evil and Our Cultural Morass

    I hope we would see ourselves as being more dignified than to cut up our children for the pursuit of the ideal body, the next ladder rung of the career, or the perfect orgasm.  I hope we would see ourselves as being more dignified than to allow persons to be treated as property for sex or for unpaid work for the pursuit of cheaper goods, uncommitted and intimacy-less sex (rape).  I hope we would see ourselves as being more dignified than to allow other ethnicities to be treated as less worthwhile, less valuable, and sub-human for the pursuit of feeling good about one’s own tribe at the expense of another tribe.

    There is a certain banality to evil that lulls us into going along and getting along. It was the same banality that anesthetized the very bright German people into the wholesale slaughter of persons categorized as sub-human.

    What we want is what we worship and what we worship controls us.  This is true if we are pagans, atheists, agnostics, or Christians. We are all slaves to our wants.  Those wants drive our ideas… And ideas have consequences… Often dire ones.  

    What the heart loves, the will chooses, the mind justifies – Thomas Cranmer

  • Secular Worship Services, Part Two: The Superbowl

    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.  

    February 3, 2014 • Creed, Culture, Evangelism, Sports, Worship • Views: 531

  • Secular Worship Services, Part One: The Grammys

    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:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aa6pTgEWvvY

    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.

    January 29, 2014 • Culture, Video, Worship • Views: 531