Just Shut Up And Take It Like A Man

The title might look shocking, and it is. And yet, there are too many Christians and churches that are happy to tell their brethren to act like this as their answer when sincerely and honestly questioned, all for the sake of maintaing “the bond of peace”. The problem is, it’s very good to be a peacemaker unless you get the short end of the peacemaking stick.

Doug McHone of Coffee Swirls fame has written along these lines in Worship Wars. See, for example:

If it is someone who says that Jesus is not eternally God it is one thing. If it is someone who prefers to sing only a capella, it is another. The controversy may be important or it may just be a matter of preference. If it is preference, share your preference, but guard your heart from legalism.

This is another formulation of the same old thing: Worship is non-essential. Therefore, if you don’t see that the worship (and this goes to the choice of musical styles) is OK, the title applies: just shut up and take it like a man. Otherwise, you will be labeled as a divisive, whining, troublesome jerk.

Obviously I am overstating the case, but I hope you see the point. Doug’s article is excellent in many levels, and is a passionate plea for unity in non essentails, and the use of Christian charity when we have to deal with non essential things we don’t like. If only all worship leaders and planners were like Doug I’m certain that worship “skirmishes” would be far less traumatic.

The problem however, is that Doug, like so many other Christian leaders, take worship, or rather, the particular choice of styles of delivery during public worship of our Lord, as a non essential. That is, I am afraid, not entirely true.

I understand that it is hard to argue against one style and favor another, because most of the time it is just a matter of taste. However, this begs the question: which taste?

I tried to set forth the importance of an appropriate worship style on aesthetics grounds on The Aesthetics of Christian Worship. True worship should express Beauty in the most sublime form allowed by the particular culture we’re immersed in. If our worship is not commensurate with sublime Beauty in our culture, i.e., if it is just a manifestation of tasteless kitsch, it is not worthy of our Lord.

Additionally, worship is an expression of how do we view God. Who is the One we approach in worship? Is a holy, terrible, just yet merciful Person, or is just a jolly good fellow? The answer to this question will impact forcefully on our worship style.

But there is another issue that is somehow relative, yet important: Worship is a public expression of our loving of the Lord. It is public display of love for love’s sake. It is the most intimate of the public encounters with the triune Lord God. And this should bring a pastoral concern: Imposing worship style changes is imposing changes in our way of expressing public love to our Lord. This is done all the time, and the ones who dare to protest are treated with the whole “just shut up and…” mantra.

Now, think for a moment: If someone tells you that you are no longer allowed to kiss your significant other in public, and that instead of it you should just wink with one eye, would you take that? What if you dare to protest, and your concerns are dismissed, and you are treated like a “divisive”, “troublemaker”, and other less edifying labels?

Worship wars aren’t wars just for nothing. You are dealing with the intimate and the sacred. Until this fact is properly dealt with by worship “engineers” or leaders, the casualties will escalate.


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