‘It is the road of every Christian man, who starts from the senses, who is endowed with reason as a dialectical principle which, in the drama of his earthly life, must make a decision between ever increasing participation and eternal defection,’ Erich Auerbach, Dante, Poet of the Secular World
It is indeed Lent, my dear readers, and for me and mine it should prove quite a theodrama. You see, I’ve concluded, all executive-like, that it is high time we finally joined a parish in that most official of ways, and that we must come to this end by the end of Lent itself. Given that we are a week into said Season, and have made no progress toward this goal, it seems to me that we are indeed pushing a deadline most earnest.
Why now, why so urgent, why the deadline, you ask all at once without giving me a chance to answer…just be patient, will you?! Ahem, anyway…to answer all questions all at once, it has been twelve years give or take since I was a real, bona fide member of a parish for more than, say, a couple of months. I have wandered, and my bride has wandered with me, from Orthodox to Catholic to Anglican (continuing and, well, not) to Missouri Synod to anything in between, including a pleasant Orthodox Presbyterian congregation where I just could not take the plunge because, well, they’re just wrong about some things. This wandering was set in motion by the final rejection of your humble writer by his former seminary, where he had applied for readmission in 2000 after dropping out three years before. Their rejection was. in hindsight, quite reasonable, and I am glad it worked out as it did -but it was also, in its manner, quite cruel and incomprehensible. As I had only been a member of that particular communion for about 13 years, and as I had no more ties to it after being cast to the outer darkness by the seminary community, I set about roaming the ecclesial wasteland, looking for, well, something.
Now, after twelve years, I wish to return to my formal theological studies. I want to preach again, and to teach. I could even make a good chaplain – I quite liked working as a student chaplain in what the elect call CPE. How, how, how to get back, how to get in, that is the question that haunts me. Well, of course, you say, all is moot if the erstwhile candidate for ministry is not even the member of a parish – and there’s the rub, as they say. I must settle down, accept the reality of parish life, get out of this habit of picking up and leaving as soon as something annoys me.
What annoys me? Well, it can be anything from the trivial, to the dire – in the later category, let us place that feature of the modrin ecclesial wasteland that breeds heresy, kills all joy, and is most likely a manifestation of divine wrath to rival the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. Yes, dear reader, I speak of The Praise Band.
I hate The Praise Band. Note that I speak not in the plural, as though there were many different praise bands out there. No, they are all merely reflections of The Praise Band, and its minions, The Praise Band Collective. I am convinced that there is such a thing, because for years, everywhere I went, whatever congregation, parish, gaggle I visited, if I remained for more than a few weeks, they got themselves a damned reflection of The Praise Band! The Praise Band Collective was obviously on to me – this, almost more than any other reason, is why I cannot join the Orthodox Church. I can see it now – within weeks of my chrismation, my parish would become the first in Orthodox history to abandon the classical liturgical order and hire a reflection of The freaking Praise Band.
Really, though, I hate praise bands, and that larger phenomenon, so-called Contemporary Worship. Pay no never mind to the fact that it’s about as ephemeral as a soap bubble, that it plays to debased tastes and infantile desires; no, the worst thing about Contemporary Worship is that it creates schisms within parishes. Mind you, having more than one Eucharist on a Sunday is problematic, but if all speak the same language, pray the same prayers, learn the same order of worship, then they will at least over time have a good chance of believing the same things and confessing those same things, and they’ll be able to recognize one another’s faith at the church picnic and suchlike. But if the larger parish splits along the lines of one service, usually designated ‘Traditional’ and held at o dark thirty, because that’s when the Old People are up, and another designated ‘Contemporary’, well, those two groups will learn, over time, different faiths. They will cease to be able to speak the same language.
What’s worse, the group that learns their faith the ‘Contemporary’ Way, will learn a debased, faddish, heretical jumble of fantasy and hysteria. Yes, that’s right, I will never give a reflection of The Praise Band the time of day, because in the end, they, and the ‘Contemporary Worship’ movement they are a part of, do not just teach heresy, but reflect a heretical, disordered, discordant, violent, willful, adolescent form of something that only vaguely resembles the classic Christian faith.
I’m telling you, if you oppose Gay Marriage, and think it’s all right to have a ‘Rockin’ Praise Band’, then you have a case of cognitive dissonance. If you won’t ordain women, but love ‘Contemporary Worship’, then you need to rethink, well, just everything. If you think you can in any way have some form of ‘traditional’ Christianity, whether it be of Lutheran, Calvinist, Anglican, or any other vintage, with all those supposedly great ‘Traditional Values’, and you want a kick-ass band and ‘vibrant, laid-back’ worship, then you’re so screwed up no amount of argument, evidence, or reasoning will reach you – that will only come out through prayer and fasting. Of course, fasting only really makes sense in the context of the classical liturgical order of daily prayer and such, so you might just be screwed.
Then again, so am I, because again, everywhere I go, the ‘Contemporary Worship Movement’ seems to catch up with me. This is especially distressing amongst the Anglicans, who I hoped would remain stolidly immersed in their Prayer Book tradition, but no. Since they gutted the Prayer Book in 1979, it seems that there is no limit to their reckless dismantling of all liturgical order, all decorum, all doctrinal density and seriousness.
Truly, it’s possible to have all the liturgical traditions, and fall afoul of the True Faith, in which case the traditions become empty rituals that usually reflect nostalgia rather than a true desire for Christ. All the same, without that liturgical order; without a weekly immersion in a language not your own, a language we must borrow if we are to speak of God, or ourselves, in any meaningful way; without a manner of reckoning time that is alien to our measured and carefully parceled work week; without the solemnity that befits repentance and is the truest expression of joy; without something, in short, that is not the product of our sheer will to novelty and self-justification; we will remain stunted, self-centered children.
So, like, I hate praise bands and their Praise Band Progenitor, the Contemporary Worship Movement. (We could probably subsume under that the Emergent Church Movement as well, which is as puerile as Radical Orthodoxy, or any other self-assigned sense of Coolness.) This leaves me at a loss, because even if I could find a parish within forty miles of my home that did not have a ‘Contemporary Service’ of some kind, there is no guarantee that such a parish won’t develop a fit of collective idiocy, and up and form one of the damned things. See, since I can’t join the Orthodox, or the Romans – although I yield to none in my affection for them – I’m left with the heirs of the Reformation, all of whom seem to have gone completely insane. In all of them, you see, it seems that all one needs to do is hold a vote, and should a majority of idiots say they want a praise band, well, dammit, they’ll form a praise band.
Obviously, I speak of those so-called ‘Conservative’, ‘Confessional’ communions, those that have formed in opposition to reckless innovations in doctrine and practice, those whose guiding principles are supposedly rooted in Scripture, yada whatever…again, if they fail to see how ‘Contemporary Worship’ reflects the same will to power, the same adolescent rebellion, the same lunacy that begot the aberrations they fled in the first place, the folks in these communions deserve to be assaulted by every transgendered beauty pageant, mass Gay Wedding, and leather parade in the land.
So, what am I to do, dear reader? Where am I to go? Is there no stability to be found? Can no one find a place where folks just receive what they’ve been given, where they can hold to a still point in the turning world? Perhaps not.
But then again, I ask you, I beg you to tell me – where can I go? Where can I take us? Is there no salvation to be found? How do I make that decision for ever increasing participation in the face of my innate desire for eternal defection, when every single fucking communion on the damned earth seems determined to make it easy to defect?
That’s all I want to know…