Tag Archives: change

Different drummers and keeping step

As I increasingly find myself marching to the beat of a different drummer than those around me, I’m trying to learn how to keep step with the church. I don’t worry too much about society in general; I don’t mind not fitting in there. But I need to know how to love and serve in a church (broad sense, not local church) where many see things differently than I.

It’s funny. When you’re younger, it almost seems appropriate to feel out of step. You’re a rebellious youth, with new vision and a spirit of restoration. You’re calling the church back to what it should be.

As it gets older, if you’re not in step, then you’re holding the church back. You’re not following the Spirit. You’re clinging to tradition.

For my money, the two situations are virtually identical. The question is how to find the grace to deal with the situation.


Essay 2, Chapter 3: The Christian Right

We’re taking a chapter by chapter stroll through James Davison Hunter’s To Change The World. It’s a book with a relevant message for today. It’s also far from an easy read. That’s why we’re taking it slow.

Here’s the abstract of the second essay chapter 3 “The Christian Right” from Hunter’s website:

Politically conservative Christians are animate by a mythic ideal concerned with the “right-ordering” of society. They want the world in which they live to reflect their own likeness. A legacy of a Christian origin is understood as providing a sense of ownership over America and “radical secularists” have taken this away. The effect is harming to America, and people of faith, marginalizing them in public life. Their response has been one of political engagement, often conflating Christian faith and national identity in the political imagination.

There are changes occurring among the Religious Right. However, though the tactics have expanded to include worldview and culture, the logic at work—that America has been taken over by secularists, that it is time to “take back the culture” for Christ—is identical to the longstanding approach of the Christian Right. This is because the underlying myth that defines their goals and strategy of action has not changed.


This chapter is full of an amazing number of quotes (130 footnotes in this chapter alone!), quotes from Focus on the Family, American Values, Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson, Family Research Council, Christian Coalition, etc. As Hunter says, “the tone is as important as the content” (p. 112), so the large number of quotes is important.

In the quotes we can clearly see the two elements mentioned in the last chapter, the quest for power and the sense of ressentiment. He outlines the Christian Right’s interpretation of history, their fear and anger at “what they’ve done to us,” and how these feelings motivate them to action. There is a two-pronged call: prayer and action, and action invariably refers to political activity.

The Conservative Right places a great amount of hope in politics, expressing a clear desire for dominance, a controlling influence over the government. The logic is simple: America has been taken over by secularists and the main duty of Christians is to acquire and use political power to revert the situation.

Worship a la carte

So how do we deal with differing tastes, differing convictions, differing needs and differing desires? When some want variety and others predictability? Or when some want nothing but modern praise songs and others want classic hymns? Or when some want stoicism and others want passion?

Some of the answers:

  • Majority rules—whatever most people want goes
  • Tradition rules—whatever we’ve always done goes
  • Age rules—the younger folks can do it their way when their time comes
  • Separate but equal services—one service for one group, another for the other
  • Worship style determined by each week’s praise leader—different men in the congregation take turns leading, with each one determining what style will be used that week
  • My way or the highway—if some folks don’t like it, they can find themselves somewhere else to worship

Are there other suggestions? What’s the best way to handle our differences?

Liturgy vs. variety

C.S. Lewis was no fan of change within worship services. He wrote, “Every service is a structure of acts and words through which we receive a sacrament, or repent, or supplicate, or adore. And it enables us to do these things best—if you like it, it ‘works’ best—when, through long familiarity, we don’t have to think about it.…But every novelty prevents this. It fixes our attention on the service itself…” He goes on to quote an unnamed source that said, “I wish they’d remember that the charge to Peter was Feed my sheep; not Try experiments on my rats, or even Teach my performing dogs new tricks.” (The Joyful Christian, pp. 80-81)

Personally, though I highly esteem Lewis as a thinker and a writer, I don’t agree with his views on familiarity in worship. I find that familiarity often breeds unthinking repetition. It becomes too easy to “go through the motions,” without being aware of what we’re doing or why. We say things without even thinking what they mean. We sing without being aware of who we’re singing to (is it a song of encouragement to my brothers or a song of worship to God?). We instinctively reach for our checkbook while sipping the homogenized grape juice from the plastic cup.

I think that we need change at times if only to make us aware of what we’re doing. My high school choir director used to say, “A rut is just a grave with both ends knocked out.” We need to be conscious of the forms of what we’re doing and the meanings behind those forms.

What do you find to be true? Is change a distraction or a call to awareness? Is routine an aid to worship or a hindrance to our worshiping with our minds as well as our actions?

[Edit: Changed the title of the post; had used “spontaneity,” which really didn’t fit]