Looking for a theology of entertainment.

club-pic.JPG For a number of years now we have been developing our expertise in creative ways to use technology in worship. We have been encouraging church leaders to embrace technology. However there is a need for training and theological reflection on the whole issue. In this short article I hope some dialogue could lead to a development that will help church leaders out there understand the purpose and scope of their communication. There is little doubt that we are in the midst of a communication revolution that is having far reaching effects on the lives of individuals and local communities. The rolling out of broadband into more and more localities around the world means that there is going to be virtually nowhere in the world where you cannot access internet. As more churches embrace the potential of this digital revolution in technology we also need to be aware of its limitations and dangers as well as its amazing potential to engage our attention when worshipping. There is a new kind of entertainment that is almost synonymous with electronic media and technology. It has been this technological entertainment that first caused me to think about a theology of entertainment. We have at our fingertips, thanks to the advances in computer technology, the ability to create and display in public for all to see any image or sound we desire. This raises the whole issue of imagery in worship. It calls use back to the first commandment inviting us to once again engage with the texts of ancient scripture and re-evaluate what it means to worship God in an electronic age. Like past generations the seeds of our spiritual demise may well be found in the seduction of our own cleverness. If we are going to use electronic media within the context of worshipping communities, we also have to ask questions of ourselves in order that we understand the principles and the drivers that are taking us down a particular route. It is not enough to embrace electronic media because we can. The reasoning must go deeper and to find these reasons we may have to wrestle with ourselves and ask searching questions relating to our motives and intensions. A screen and a projector is no easy fix to falling church attendance. If it is about looking modern, up- to-date and ‘switched on', we have created a rod for our backs. Always remember the software and computer will be out of date six months after the purchase. Other issues will centre around freedom and control. Who owns the words and the image on the screen? Should the worshipper not bring his or her own imagination to worship? Is the Spirit of God being usurped by a computer generated image? Writers and film makers have been exploring these themes of word over image and social decay, for many decades. Its time the church began to address some of these questions in the light of the visual language that is now more readily available to its ministers. Some of the questions will relate to the church in general others will demand a more personal response. Have we become the slaves to the technology we have created? Have we made ourselves a series of electronic gods that we now watch and listen to endlessly? Are we now introducing them into the place of worship? Will our appetite for gadgetry that entertains be a parable for another civilisation after our present one disappears? Will our 21st century become known in history as the folly of a hi - tech society that could communicate instantly with the masses to entertain or control, but ignored the personal needs of the individual. Will this be our doomsday scenario - the death of humanity through a hi-tech world. I believe we need to engage with these big questions without becoming iconoclasts, or iconifiers. I am convinced the time has come for a theology of entertainment to be articulated. It is even more important now because we are seeing the rise of a Christian sub - culture that is almost certainly mirroring pop culture in an attempt to communicate the gospel. Out of this culture there arises all sorts of issues that seem to be in conflict with the gospel it seeks to promote. One area that has never been addressed theologically is the gospel implications of registering copyright for worship material be it songs, film, or liturgy. Can anyone say they own the rights of material that has been written for the communal worship of Almighty God? Then there is the increasing use of copyright material being used in worship settings. Can worship be authentic if the material being used has not been granted permission for use in public ? I believe answers can be found to all these questions but they need to be thought out biblically and they may require lawful agreements to be drawn up to allow a creative dialogue to develop between the world of the arts and the Christian Church.

Posted By: Liz   On: 30 Mar 2007   At: 11:25pm

Thanks for your encouragement to start an informed debate. I’ve long been concerned about churches flaunting copyright laws - it doesn’t seem in keeping with the spirit of love in worship. There are also many colleagues who are quite precious about materials created. I’ve always been impressed by your team’s generosity and sharing. And the whole question of just because we can, should we? Or, from another perspective, where its not easy, should we strive to introduce modern technology? Will listen and participate with enthusiasm in this doing of theology.


Posted By: Pomum   On: 29 Mar 2007   At: 1:11am

Question: Is worship the entertainment of God by us?

Leave a reply