A New Kind of Sacred – Contemplating Cultural Religion

Prelude: There is a new term out there for the up and coming Generation, and its “Millenial”.  Basically anyone born after 1980.  We are people who have watched it grow, or have always known of the internet.  I’ve read in the book “Me, Myspace, and I” that in contrast to other generations, we are very different.  I suppose because the greatest technological advance ever (more people on earth), tech and symbol and communication, and everything are changing more rapidly than ever before.  “Change” is the “stability” in my opinion.  While people will want more things not to change, culture is leaving those people behind.  These same people realize it, and then adapt as well, and they enter the Millenials world.  Our technology is people, our stability is change, and our expectations on society and culture are huge.  The whole world must change for us, by us, and our energy produces little in tangible goods.  Since machines do most of the labor, our generation does not produce warriors, or food, or product on the whole.  We consume these things.  We produce thoughts, songs, entertainments, and endless ways to escape.  That transcendence that we are looking for, produces its own religion.  Its not even materialism anymore.  That was a scary thing and we are surrounded by its effects.  But our religion is “Creation-ism”.  We have been told we can do anything, and so we are trying to accomplish the impossible.  The impossible to us, is not doing regular work – it is being a star.  So we have religious leaders.

Watch this video and read on:

Radiohead and Experience: My friend posted this on facebook today.  Its of the band “Radiohead”, an incredibly influential band in my generation.  Like many bands, they have symbols to be known by.  The dim lights, the technology surrounding them, the sounds that they make which are unique to the experience they provide.  And they work hard to create a space that people can experience in their presence.  It is an incredibly serious task.  It involves who they are (in the lyrics and the sounds their instruments make), it involves the sacred space (the place between the artist and the consumer (where the symbols are given and received and interpreted and appreciated), and there is a transcendence that elevates a person beyond normal existence (one does not experience the world like a concert in normal life).  In a world that is less and less religious, Radiohead, and countless other bands, provide a religious experience that changes peoples lives.  They leave the concert saying to themselves, “Something” happened here.  And they never forget whatever happened to them.  They process it and it stays with them for the rest of their life.  It becomes a marker, and they try to re-experience it over and over, but nothing is like the real thing- Radiohead, in person.

Religions Ferver All Over: Religion is popping up everywhere.  The passion that people used to direct toward God is now focused in other realms.  Politics, War Strategy, Patriotism, Charity Work, Entertainment, Celebrity, Family, and many other parts of living as a human in community.

A few hundred years ago, one would have had to go to a John Edward’s sermon to have a life altering experience, or a sermon by Whitfield, or Wesley, or Finney, or whatever missionary roved about.  Now the bands move from city to city, popular culture gives meaning to my fellow millenials.  There is no pulpit, but there are microphones and synthesizers. And they are listening to the sounds, whether the artists know whats moving through them or not.

I wonder what God is doing with all this?  I wonder how much of this is healthy?

The Church and a Response: Some churches are looking at this and making worship services that reach the Gen-X crowd (who were anti-program and institution in nature – think X-Files), and some are moving beyond and seeing that millennials are different and seek more intense transcendent experiences involving light and sound, that convey a moment where they are completely open to receive the Gospel.  But their quest isn’t always a healthy one considering how expensive the experiences they demand cost.  Think how much a concert ticket costs, and wonder a bit about how much you are willing to pay to go and experience worship of God.  Interesting, no?

Conclusion: All things are ultimately in the hands of a great God who will rule over all people with justice and love – and I wonder how it will all mix when Radiohead fans meet up with the peoples of ancient cultures, and all make some show of their appreciation to God for the gift of music in our lives.

New world, new symbols, but humans are still the same.  We always need a few basics, even when we want alot of things that distract us.


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