Consumerist churches bending their practices to the needs of popular appeal simply cannot carry on their worship in traditional ways that convey deep solemnity, sacredness, gravity, intellectual maturity and seriousness. They cannot add to that a sense of the supernaturally mystical; awe, wonder, and personal smallness when confronted with the majestic presence of the divine; and overwhelming significance, even across the distance of earthly intermediation.
There are many other substitutes and opportunities for “fun group events” in modern life (indeed, this is part of the problem). But there is no alternative for the routine reminding and re-grounding in theological metaphysics. For the reorientation from the mundane and worldly to the deep foundation of everything in the miraculous divine. To preserve one’s animating enchantment with everything as rooted in and emanating from God’s cosmic order, such that one feels compelled to live one’s life in harmony with that order instead of by mere whim.
There is of course plenty of room for the occasional fun holiday celebration and other outlets for youthful energies. But that ‘carnival concert’ spirit simply cannot become the regular mode of worship without coming off as puerile, off-putting, and low-brow to the smarter, higher-status, and more successful members of the congregation. These people constitute the natural aristocracy and indispensable pool of leaders of the religious community, and they will naturally balk and defect at the constant carnival. Instead, they will preferentially associate with the rest of their class, which is increasingly atheistic. They will need substance that induces a more contemplative frame of mind, when one can exercise higher intellectual skills and meditate and reflect on the meaning and implication of the overall theological framework.
This is an entirely different problem from merely being ‘weird’. Movements which are merely ‘weird’ don’t show any systemic disability in attracting intelligent leaders, and often start out with a cadre of highly intelligent people focusing on a new, ‘weird’ idea.
This isn’t about being a kind of elitist snob, just for tastes in churching. If the church, or Christianity, or religion in general becomes perceived as a low-brow pursuit of low-intellect, low-status, low-class people, then it will shed higher-status members below the critical mass it needs to function as an institution capable of providing deeply spiritual and intellectual fulfillment. Sadly, things have already moved a long way in this direction. A longer way than many people would like to admit… read more >>