September 05, 2003

Guess I'm just a "mere realist"

I actually felt queasy -- like I'd just suffered a bout of vertigo -- while reading "Hyper-Reality Worship" by Dr. Joseph Castleberry in Rev. Magazine 0903. In it he draws inspiration from a Matrix-seque experience he had while worshiping in a video enhanced mega-church: Which service is real, the physical one taking place on the platform, or the smoothly edited version I'm seeing on the video screen? Surprisingly, Castleberry decides the latter is the more real, the "hyper-real," and then draws conclusions for today's churches. Primary among them: In a world where "many young people...trust technology more than they trust real people," give them more of what they trust. He never stops to question whether the what they are trusting is actually trustworthy.

Though Castleberry calls The Matrix films "essential...for understanding postmodernity," it seems as though he's missed the point of the films -- and of postmodernity -- entirely. The Matrix has you, Dr. Castleberry. Or, perhaps more accurately, you've become like Cypher; you've chosen to live outside of "mere reality" because you've found the falsehood inherant in "hyper-reality" to be somehow superior.

I'm no Luddite -- in fact I'm currently looking for a cheap video projector for our church (feel free to email me with offers!) -- but I think it's dangerous to confuse the technolocgical gizmos that can enhance Christian worship with the supernatural Force that empowers worship. It's also dangerous, and ultimately self-defeating, to confuse the Matrix of the physicalities of worship with the real (yet often unseen) world of spiritual community, where real worship and real transformation take place.

Thoroughly "plugged in" to the unreality of the "hyper-real," Dr. Castleberry prophesies that "the future call to worship in many large churches may be, 'Lights, camera, action.'" Ironic coming from the academic dean of a seminary whose website is emblazened with the words, "Dangerously Authentic." =\

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