Friday, June 12, 2009

Confronting Entertainment

HT to Rev. James McDonald.

Rev. John Piper is a Reformed/Baptist pastor. His critique of the entertainment culture is especially timely among us Lutherans. From every level of our LCMS bureaucracy, we are being pressured to turn our sanctuaries into show-stages - whether in the form of chancel drama, pop music (which we've managed to export to Lutherans worldwide), comedy shows, karate demonstrations, dancing girls, coffee houses, sex talks, etc.

In our culture, entertainment and worship go hand in hand. In fact, entertainment is itself a cult. Like kudzu, it eventually overtakes everything. It is no longer a distraction to be enjoyed in our spare time - it is our very lifeblood.

And our church leaders, instead of standing against this profane invasion of our holy spaces, are encouraging more "profanity" (not in the sense of dirty words, but in the sense of mixing the sacred with the profane, that is, the worldly).

We Lutherans have a built-in defense against the entertainment cult: the traditional liturgy. The ancient liturgical forms (to which we're bound if we still actually believed the words of our own Confessions (e.g. Apology 24:1), are a kind of inoculation against the me-centered entertainment virus. If we had remained true to our own confessional subscription, we would never have the issue of worship becoming entertainment.

This is what happens when we put our faith in numbers, psychology, and the cult of self-centeredness over and above the Word of God. In some places, we now have two generations of Lutherans who have never experienced a traditional liturgy.

And although he doesn't come from a tradition that includes a traditional reverent liturgy rooted in our Lord's physical miraculous Presence in the sanctuary, Rev. Piper is correct that our religion is a serious matter. It only becomes frivolous when it becomes "unreal." It is a matter of faith, of belief. Real belief is serious. The encroachment of entertainment into the ecclesiastical is an invitation for people to lose their faith and trade the meat of the Gospel for pop-religion twinkies.

I think God could quote Rev. Dr. David Scaer: "I am not here for your entertainment." But then again, if He did, He might get called a "speed bump" or accused of not having a heart for missions or some such.

LCMS pastor (recent Fort Wayne grad) and parishioner before the Holy Altar


Matthias Flacius said...

Fr. Hollywood (ironic name for your blog),

You hit the nail on the head. Those links you provided were depressing.

If I am ever in New Orleans on a Sunday, I know where to attend church.


Latif Haki Gaba, SSP said...

What especially troubles me about the entertainment trend in Lutheran worship is to see that it is utterly encouraged from the top down, as the opening worship of the South Wisconsin District Convention a few days ago shows. Witnesses attest that it was indeed a show, complete with big screen, and "courageous" lack of respect for even the minimal requirements of the synod constitution that would have us use only doctrinally pure hymnbooks, etc. (And what would a synod convention be without the homiletical stylings of PLI executive leader Norbert Oesch?)

I pray God blesses & furthers the ministry of men like Fr. Beecroft, whose liturgical "pharisaism," as some like to label traditionalist liturgical practice, stand in bold and refreshing contrast to the synodical zeitgeist. And may He increase the number of such men.

Latif Haki Gaba, SSP said...

Your image of a Fort Wayne grad in action is interesting, by the way. It goes to show how "dangerous to our congregations" those "Fort Wayne types" really can be.

Father Hollywood said...

Dear Matt:

Who doesn't love irony? :-)

Come see us sometime!

Father Hollywood said...

Dear Latif:

I think Fr Duddlewell's observation: "'Tis enough to make St. Jude himself despair" applies.

I'm afraid our synod has become so hostile to traditionalism and so open to every form of experimentalism that many of our brightest and best have left, and a lot of our laypeople have been scandalized to the point of leaving us as well (we just don't hear about them too often).

But hopefully, there will be enough of a stubborn remnant to eventually turn the Titanic around.

Yeah, lucky for us, the faculty at the Fort is protecting us from men in the ministry whose practice would be a scandal.

Remember the good old days when people were merely scandalized by the music at Praise Lutheran Church? Goodness, now just having contemporary worship *without martial arts in the sanctuary* would be a step up.

I'm just wondering what we'll be seeing next.

Mrs. H. actually had a nightmare a couple days ago involving liturgical dancers at Kramer chapel.

Christopher Gillespie said...

"Mrs. H. actually had a nightmare a couple days ago involving liturgical dancers at Kramer chapel."

Ouch. I had to read that twice. I thought I might be missing all the action during summer chapel.

Check out: . Watch the video. Its exhilarating (except that part with the Karate mats in the nave).

Mike Green said...

Fr. Hollywood, are you saying the Divine Liturgy is more powerful...than...Chuck Norris?

Mike Keith said...

Being in Lutheran Church Canada I am an outsider to the LCMS but far from being entirely removed and we are most certainly influenced by what happens in our sister church body to the south. However, and please forgive my naivete, but you are truly pushed from all levels of beaurocracy to institute "entertainment" style services, contemprary styles, etc?

I find this surprising. Certainly in LCC you will find the "contemprary" style of service in many congregations but I do not believe there is much of a push from the District or Synod. It seems to me this is more often a push from the people in the pews. I can honestly say I have never felt pressure from District or Synod to adopt such practices and now that I sit on the District BOD I can say that it most certainly is not the case in our District.

how is this pressure applied?

Fr. D. said...

It may be that what has passed for public education during the latter half century or so coupled with the advent of television or video rather than books as the primary source of learning has now become manifest in many contemporary churches. (run on sentence? check some of St. Paul's Epistles) If the Gospel and the Body and Blood of our Lord are trumped by secular entertainment than the camel is in the tent standing fully erect. As a non Lutheran I can report that these practices are nearly unversal in every denomination.
Fr. D.

empesoumetha said...

In regards to liturgical dance at Kramer Chapel...

Liturgical banners were recently waved about at the recent call day services at the Chapel of SS. Timothy & Titus. Interesting.

Jeremy Clifton said...

Mr. Keith,

(I am making the assumption you are a layman since you are on the Board of Directors; if I am incorrect, please forgive me.)

The synod is in the process of developing an abomination known as the "Transforming Church Network," which you can begin reading about here:

I'm sorry to say that this program had its genesis in my own Mid-South District, and recently our congregation voted to invite the team to come and give us our five prescriptions so we could 'revitalize' our congregation. I can attest that there is a bit of pressure to adopt worship styles that are 'more friendly' to the 'unchurched.' Our congregation already has a more contemporary service, so the pressure wasn't just to jazz things up a bit while keep the traditional liturgy. Our congregation did not vote to begin the "revitalization" process, but they did later vote to adopt a similar program, albeit without the backing of the district.

In addition, I just returned from the Mid-South District Convention where we were bombarded with the message that we needed to get with the program and find more culturally relevant ways to communicate with folks outside of the church.

I also have a friend who is Pastor of a congregation a few hours north of me, and he has told me of the pressure he encountered from the district to introduce contemporary worship.

So, yes, there is pressure from the district and synod to move in that direction. That's not to say that there isn't congregational pressure (and at my church, I would still say that there is more pressure from certain elements in the congregation than from the district or synod), but it's definitely there.

Fr. Hollywood,

"...and a lot of our laypeople have been scandalized to the point of leaving us as well."

I certainly have come close. I readily admit to what is probably an unhealthy fascination with the Anglo-Catholic wing of Anglicanism, but I simply can't stomach the fuzziness of the 39 Articles on what the Eucharist actually is and the other differences from a quia subscription to the Symbols, etc. In the end, doctrine trumps the traditional liturgy, but I sure would love to not have to choose between the two.