In the interest of What Was Good: I really enjoyed and benefited from the interviews with prominent people from all kinds of backgrounds.

The reason is, probably like most, I tend to think of them as soulless and of no interest until I hear the story. Hearing the occasional tale of someone ordinary with an extraordinary experience, OK. That is like Reader’s Digest. But becoming aware that persons of high skill, erudition, influence or authority also may be persons of faith is a way of lifting us out of a jaded, stereotype-driven view of our society’s movers and shakers. If it means interviews become only an occasional feature of worship, that would be reasonable. Our media culture discourages acknowledgement of the religious life of our various leaders, which gives a false impression of who we all are. Political correctness is leaching traces of religious faith out of our schools—our citizen nurseries. Young people are trained, at least by default, in school and through the media to believe in nothing. How scary is that? Witnessing is important especially if the ministry is one of reaching out to the “unchurched” or alienated.

And I think if the interviewee is willing to come to the service for the interview, it brings him/her into the sphere of the congregation. That the congregation might be transported to his/her native sphere is fun perhaps, but it is one more video illusion. Being visited is the way God worked it out with us…. the visitor is for real!  A live exchange occurs all ‘round.

And applause… it is our learned behavior to express appreciation for a stirring performance, but it does shift the focus away from the music as a worshipful offering; it certainly shatters the listener's private moment of absorption and closure immediately after.  Probably for the performers it is an inevitable ego trap…who/what got the most applause? That defeats the whole concept of offering: performance for approval is horizontal; performance for worship is vertical and carries everyone along, together.

It also reminds me of announcers during events like parades or Olympic competitions, and of docents’ patter during tours of museums etc— sometimes you want to be allowed your own intake, processing and reaction. Our omnipresent media culture has taught us to be uncomfortable with thoughtful or respectful silence,  as if we were not capable of taking anything in without someone else cramming it at us. Our culture has become very dependent on sophisticated visual input (the art part), but in the service of talk and hyper-activity.  Thoughtful intake and expression—quietly--are not much encouraged. (To his credit, I recall Bobby’s service at the CC included a silent, solitary period for the congregation, something that would flop on TV.)

So indeed, we are in a new era that requires new approaches that hopefully will not result in the baby thrown out with the bath water.

Op-ed: A Critical Analysis of  “What was good”

by Susan Green – Alfred Station, NY

Posted December 29, 2014

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