cutting the chord

About two months ago, on a fateful Saturday morning, I had the most horrible thing imaginable happen. The free cable service I had been enjoying for over a year was inexplicably cut off. Since that time I have been going through withdrawals, summer without baseball is winter without Christmas. Leading up to the severing of the co-axial cable was an increasing annoyance and combative determination in my spirit against everything the advertisers and shows were trying to put on me. I have loathed commercials for this reason most of my life. I could sense that the advertisers where like cult leaders trying to entice me away from my own ideas of the good life and join in their mad parade of wanton consumerism in a desperate manic attempt to fill the void and fuel the unquenchable fire of longing. The cult leaders were trying to induce, “… loyalty beyond reason” noting that, “… people join brands for the same reasons they join cults and religions: to belong and to make meaning.”[1] This mis-formation caused such friction in my soul that long before the cable man appeared on that fateful day I had visions of ripping the cable out of the wall initiating an era of peace in my home. The counterfeit, mis-informative, and destructive propaganda pimped out 24 hours a day has the vacuous power to suck even the most well informed and adjusted person into its downward spiral, supplanting the God ordained vision of the good life for their own. As Smith writes, “… our cultural criticism should not be asking what ideas or beliefs are being bandied about in ‘culture’; rather, we should be discerning to what ends all sorts of cultural institutions are seeking to direct our love.”[2] Although the provocative promise of advertisers allures there is a still greater ‘pedagogy of desire’ in our world- beauty.

 

In the flurry of clamoring voices if one is quiet enough you can sit by a riverbank and listen to the song of the herons. Despite the best efforts of Mt. Dew or Axe body spray they cannot lead me to the top of Sharp Top Mountain on the Appalachian Trail at sunrise where the grandeur of God is on full display. And no amount of supermodels and sports cars can come near to the sense of fulfillment and love found in the embrace of my wife. The world would spin its carnal and mystical web around my mind causing disorientation and dissatisfaction but beauty is the compass that leads me home.   Because, “… what impels the soul, what converts its futile wanderings into pilgrimage and quest and destination, is its first being awakened to a sense of beauty.”[3]

Balthasar was right in affirming that when we lose, “… the sense of objective beauty, of the Forms of the fabric of the world”, we lose the ability to pray.[4] Without prayer, contemplation, meditation, scripture reading and certain mnemonic devices used by monks in the Middle Ages we are a ship tossed to and fro by every wave of pop-psychology and the erratic blustering winds of culture. Most alarming in modern/post/post-post modern times is the lack of silence… i.e. the shear lack of reflection, meditation and formation of the virtues. Reintroducing, promoting and teaching these disciplines are essential to revive worship in the Body of Christ. As a worship leader I recommended less smoke machines, lasers, and hype and more prayer, contemplation, and confession. After all it is the prayers of the saints, which rise up like incense to the throne of God not the dry ice induced haze of the smoke machine. I vote for the incense of a heart ablaze over the strivings of a heart astray. Both will arrive at their telos but only one will find the face of God when the smoke clears.


[1] James Smith, Desiring the Kingdom Worship, Worldview and Cultural Formation (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2009), 102.

 

[2] Ibid., 73.

 

[3] Daniel Treier, Mark Husbands, & Roger Lundin eds., The Beauty of God Theology and the Arts (Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2007), 165.

 

[4] Stratford Caldecott, Beauty for Truth’s Sake (Grand Rapids: Brazo, 2009), 125.

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