praise & worship & porn

September 21, 2009

I owe this idea to a very good friend who isn’t blogging at this stage. But as soon as she does, I’ll be sure to link to her thoughts on this.

I’ve been getting more and more disgusted with the Praise & Worship industry for years now. The dishonesty just got to me. The fact that I’m forced to sing about faith and God in a way that simply doesn’t match up with my own journey. The honesty of doubt and questions simply don’t exist in Praise & worship. In Praise & worship the faithful is faithful and life is good for the faithful. God is only good. Heaven is near. Real life looks somewhat different.
The first time I started thinking about porn was when one of my pastors made the comment that porn and nudity isn’t the same thing. Basic insight for anyone who’s been looking into this phenomenon, but new thought for me at that stage.
Porn seeks to simulate sex. Sex without the complexity of relationship. Porn seek to stimulate you sexually. Porn portrays an image the sexuality of another, it provides an image of how someone else is doing it. Porn portrays the image of supernatural sex, the image of bodies and sexuality that is unreachable by the mortal person in a healthy relationship. Porn makes the deepest most intimate aspects of human existance a public spectical. Porn lacks the depth that is reached when the complexity of relationship is added, when the whole person becomes part of the sexual experience, mistakes, moods, emotions and everything that comes with it.
Praise & worship seeks to simulate spiritual experience. Spirituality without the complexities inherent to a deep connection and journey with the spiritual being whom we call God. Praise & worship seek to stimulate you spiritually. Praise & worship portrays the image of the spirituality of another, it provides an image of how others are doing it. Praise & worship portrays the image of a supernatural faith, the idea of an undoubting and non-struggling faith unreachable by the mortal person in an honest relationship with a trancendent being. Praise & worship makes the deepest most intimate aspects of spirituality, whether communal or individual, a public spectical. Praise & worship lacks the depth that is reached when the complexity of faith is added, when my mind, my rational thought, my struggling ethics, my emotions, my honest questions, my doubts, fears and everything that comes with it is added.
Let me clarify. I know that their is exceptions. I know that others might also use the term Praise & worship and do something totally different from what I’m describing. Not all nudity is porn. Not all sex is porn. Not all music should be described with the porn metaphor. Not all Christian music, not even everything that use the label Praise & worship should be described with this metaphor. But when I look through this metaphor at a lot of what’s happening in the gospel and the Praise & worship scenes, then I’m deeply troubled.

I’ve been getting more and more disgusted with the Praise & Worship industry for years now. The dishonesty just got to me. The fact that I’m forced to sing about faith and God in a way that simply doesn’t match up with my own journey. The honesty of doubt and questions simply don’t exist in Praise & worship. In Praise & worship the faithful is faithful and life is good for the faithful. God is only good. Heaven is near. Real life looks somewhat different.

The first time I started thinking about porn was when one of my pastors made the comment that porn and nudity isn’t the same thing. Basic insight for anyone who’s been looking into this phenomenon, but new thought for me at that stage.

Porn seeks to simulate sex. Sex without the complexity of relationship. Porn seek to stimulate you sexually. Porn portrays an image the sexuality of another, it provides an image of how someone else is doing it. Porn portrays the image of supernatural sex, the image of bodies and sexuality that is unreachable by the mortal person in a healthy relationship. Porn makes the deepest most intimate aspects of human existance a public spectical. Porn lacks the depth that is reached when the complexity of relationship is added, when the whole person becomes part of the sexual experience, mistakes, moods, emotions and everything that comes with it.

Praise & worship seeks to simulate spiritual experience. Spirituality without the complexities inherent to a deep connection and journey with the spiritual being whom we call God. Praise & worship seek to stimulate you spiritually. Praise & worship portrays the image of the spirituality of another, it provides an image of how others are doing it. Praise & worship portrays the image of a supernatural faith, the idea of an undoubting and non-struggling faith unreachable by the mortal person in an honest relationship with a trancendent being. Praise & worship makes the deepest most intimate aspects of spirituality, whether communal or individual, a public spectical. Praise & worship lacks the depth that is reached when the complexity of faith is added, when my mind, my rational thought, my struggling ethics, my emotions, my honest questions, my doubts, fears and everything that comes with it is added.

Let me clarify. I know that their is exceptions. I know that others might also use the term Praise & worship and do something totally different from what I’m describing. Not all nudity is porn. Not all sex is porn. Not all music should be described with the porn metaphor. Not all Christian music, not even everything that use the label Praise & worship should be described with this metaphor. But when I look through this metaphor at a lot of what’s happening in the gospel and the Praise & worship scenes, then I’m deeply troubled.

Maybe Brian Mclaren says it better than I do in this videoclip:

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8 Responses to “praise & worship & porn”

  1. Mario Ferris Says:

    Our congregation is late to ‘organised’ worship, info is helpfull.

  2. Michael Says:

    It’s worth noting that many within the industry/community see this problem. I was recently at a conference where Brian Doerksen was the key-note speaker. He kept talking about how we have to make room in both our worship writing and in the way we lead worship “for people’s pain and people’s doubt”. Another speaker pointed out the “beauty of the complex of emotions expressed in the Psalms”.

    Unfortunately, it’s not so simple as saying “let’s all just sing/pray/share what we think”. Congregational gatherings have as one of their main purposes “edification”. While you are absolutely correct that there is nothing edifying about forced triumphalist lie-songs, there is also nothing edifying about sitting in a share group and listening to people complain about their issues every week (something I did for a few years and then got fed up with).

    The modern worship leader (including me!) is in a catch-22. Many of the most popular songs being written are written for conferences and not for local church. As an example, ‘United’ spend their lives touring from one big event to the next. The people at these events come wanting to be challenged and inspired in their faith. In a sense, these writers get stuck in a permanent youth-camp syndrome. The unreal optimism and enthusiasm they experience are not a realistic expression of what people really believe and what they really need to express to God.

    This is why I believe in the necessity of reclaiming the expression of worship for the local Church. People in local Churches need to write their own expressions and create their own worship spaces. This will allow for a more vulnerable, honest heart in our worship.

    There have always been emphases in the writing of any decade. This decade has been marked by a focus on triumphalism and the role of the Church in the community. The focus has to a large degree moved from praising the attributes of God to challenging the attributes of the Church. AND THAT’S A PROBLEM!

    The bottom line is that worship leaders have to make very careful, prayerful decisions about what God wants from and for their communities.

    Wow… sorry for the essay. I obviously have strong opinions about this subject.

  3. tiaan Says:

    Baie raak gestel. Dit hou ‘n beeld voor van iets wat nie is soos dit vir jou is nie, en stel dit as die “ultimate” of enigste geldige weergawe. Terwyl musiek eintlik ‘n taal is waarmee ons kontak met God moet/kan maak. Kyk ‘n slag hoeveel Psalms (liedere!) is klaagpsalms, psalms waar hulle kwaad is en/of hulle diepste gevoelens verwoord. Nie omdat dit hierdie mooi koortjie het of liedjiestruktuur van verse-chorus-verse-chorus-bridge-chorus-chorus nie.
    As ons dit anders doen, hoef ons nie te skree WIE HET JESUS NOG LIEF!!!!!!!!!????!!!! nie. Ons sal sommer self kan sien.

  4. Michael Says:

    This comment series would do well to focus more on possible solutions than problems. Most worship leaders I know are aware of the problem. What we don’t know for certain is: “How then can we worship differently if we are not willing to abandon all semblance of form and all liturgy (worship programming)?” Many people would suggest we reject all forms of organised gathering for worship, but the bald fact is that the vast majority of professing Christians simply will not do this.

  5. Matthew Says:

    Michael asked above…

    “How then can we worship differently if we are not willing to abandon all semblance of form and all liturgy (worship programming)?”

    I think the key to answering your question is to first answer, “To do good worship in our context MUST we ‘abandon all semblance of form and all liturgy’ or are there other options?”

    There are ways to work together with other worship leaders and worshippers to weave together contextual liturgy that speaks to the diverse realities of the community and that leave space and time open for rejoicing and praise as well as questioning and mourning. Even our preaching in worship if we are truly open to getting rid of insider language and willing to help people meet the Living Word from within their context can be and will be transformed from simple proclamation to a more conversational form of preaching that strives to ask more questions than just making statements or sharing comments made by other writers.

  6. Lourens Grobbelaar Says:

    Remember that P&W are written to be sung by Christians. And many Christians do believe this, and many have reason to believe this, especially if they come from developed countries like Europe, North America and Australia. Often for many that is their experience of God.

    I am also reminded of what Bruegemann said about Israel’s worship and experience of God. We have their primary witness to God being good and looking after them. Then we have their counter-witnness of when God is abscent. It is the same in churches and the lives of their people. Our context and circumstances determines our primary witness. And what if the worship leader truly believes that this is to be his/her witness for that day/tour? Even the Psalms are not all doom and gloom, dirges, lamentations. Some begin happy and end happy. What about the Hallel Psalms 145-150? Should we remove these from Psalms? Most people do not only listen to P&W. They go home and have other influences in their lives. For many these events are a time to recharge for the rest of their weeks. This post views it more as if that is what these people do all day for the rest of their lives.

    I do however believe that Brian Maclaren is right when he says that worship leaders are pressured to always deliver some kind of experience due to pressure by people in churches etc. This is similar to our problems with peoples hangups on Organ Music, the pew etc. in church. It is similar to people always looking for better preachers to stimulate them. People have gotten selfish in all facets of their lives. This is just another example of consumerism entering the church. The problem is not however with the one making the music, but to the one listening it with a selfish attitude of “Please me or I complain”. Seek God earnestly at all times and some times you may find God. Why did one go to a P&W event, to get what you wanted/desired (either ecstacy or real life might be such a desire) or did one go to truly worship God at that moment? Is our song not directed at God, in joy or in pain? What we desire is not always what we get. If we go with agendas we often miss what is there and receive/experience nothing.

  7. Michael Says:

    Interesting article (esp. from an evangelical point of view) to read about this subject is “Maintaining dynamic tension” by Mary L. Conway in the “McMaster Journal of Theology and Ministry 7 (2006) 132-159]”

    She mentions the need for maintaining tension between (for instance), Joy and Lament. To quote:

    “The word “praise” has become almost interchangeable with “worship” and our songs express this. They are upbeat, positive and encouraging, and affirm that we have moved from death to life. No one wants to go to church to be depressed. Or do they?
    Morganthaler affirms, “There is a widespread, almost insatiable craving for vulnerability and authenticity” (Morganthaler 1999: 110, her italics). Many people do not want to pretend that their lives are one long litany of unsullied perfection and joy; they struggle, fail, hurt, mourn and hope, and are looking for a venue where these emotions can be expressed and validated. Should we sing only songs such as “Joyful,Joyful, We Adore Thee” or “He Has Made Me Glad” in praise, or include “Be Still My Soul” or “We Come to Your Throne with Weeping,” in lament?”

    Worth a read.


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