Monday, September 20, 2004
Dogville, the Seeker and more mega
Do you like your movies extra artsy, the kind that leave you ruminating and chewing on scenes and lines days after you saw it? The kind of movies that really make you think about your life--that just make you feel something, but what you just can't put your finger on?

Check out Dogville. It's directed by Lars von Trier and stars Nicole Kidman. Talk about minimalist cinema. Okay, first of all the story is about a woman who seeks refuge from gangsters in the rural mountain village of Dogville. She has two weeks to prove her herself to the skeptical townfolk, but eventually things go horribly awry. The catch to watching this is, imagine you took a film camera and shot your local community theater's production of Our Town. The entire three-hour movie is shot on a stage with no set, save a few sparse props and the town landmarks labeled with chalk, i.e., "Tom's House" and "Elm St." All this does some wacky stuff to your perception of what everything is about. This is a movie about people and their interaction with each other. For one thing, the lack of any walls gives a constant reminder of the fish-bowl feeling of transparency in a small town.

It just has my mind spinning all sorts of places about community, acceptance, human nature, sin, grace and Incarnation. It's no accident that the name of the woman who interrupts this quaint town is Grace. Just don't stretch the allegory too far.

If watching people talk for three hours without a change of scenery just isn't your cup of tea, and you prefer stuff gettin' blowed up real good, you can disregard all of the above.


This morning I visited Quest Community Church. Unfortunately, I was about 15 minutes late. I always seem to miss the turn when I'm visiting a new church. If there was music, I missed it. When I walked in a young woman was sharing her story/testimony. There were some video clips, a solo musical number, and then the message. They're doing a series on "Burning Questions" and today's was "Can I really know God's will for my life?" It was good stuff. The guy sitting next to me was quite friendly, and he introduced me to a number of people. But it turned a bit awkward when he walked off and left me there with these strangers. He was quite excited about the church and the fact that there are so many new Christians there.

My one reservation the whole morning was the whole seeker sensitive culture of the place. Maybe I'm just a naive idealist but I think the "seeker sensitive" philisophy of church is a bunch of rubbish. I think this for a couple of reasons.

First of all, by designing programs that target specific niches of the spiritually mature, there is the inherent danger of developing a spiritual caste system within the church. The spiritually immature go to this service on this day, and the spiritually elite go to that service on that day. The idea seems to be that the church does some weird things in a service that need to be stripped out so that the uninitiated won't be all uncomfortable and, God forbid, offended.

On the contrary, what in heaven's name does the Church need to apologize for? I'm offended by a milquetoast church that bends over backwards to pander to the lowest common denominator, that foregoes it's true identity just to fit in with the "cool kids." It's the church that never graduated junior high school. Why do we feel possessed by the need to become something that we're not? As Paul says, "I'm not ashamed of the Gospel for it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone" (Romans 1:16 NIV).

Secondly, it is clear from Scripture--namely Luke chapter 15--that there is only one seeker. And that's God. No man seeks God without first being sought. We're not a church of God chasers, but a church chased after by God himself. How did we get it so backwards? It changes things drastically when we consider the unchurched-seekers-whatever-you-call-them (how about brothers and sisters in Christ who just don't know it yet?) as those chosen by God to be in the service instead of fresh bait that will bolt the second they have to endure a hymn or some piece of meaningful liturgy or sumthin' like that.

I've been in church for twenty years and I still find the Jesus of the Gospels offensive. There's no way around it. How do you sugar-coat "Take up your cross and follow me"? I believe that if the Church simply preaches the Gospel of forgiveness of sin and teaches the Scriptures, then people will flock. It is the Spirit that speaks in the hearts of the people, not the videos, the trendy music or the headache-inducing lights, and the Spirit knows the hearts of each person and speaks to them where they are.

By seeking a "seeker sensitive" community then the church is seeking a community drawn to an entertainment production, and the minute the church becomes an entertainment production that's the minute it needs to get blown to bits by the Spirit of God.

I just returned from a free concert by a popular praise and worship leader. I know I'm cranky, and it's probably just because I don't expose myself to it, but I can't distinguish between any of these modern worship leaders. They all sound the same to me. Is this really the best in musicianship and song-craftsmanship we can call "worship"?

Maybe my jaw dropped when I stepped into the host church, I think. Three escaltors lifted patrons to the moon. Maybe Babel. I don't know. A quick and dirty estimate and I figure the auditorium sits 7000, conservatively. This place dwarfs Southland. A hexagonal scoreboard looking-thingy hung from the ceiling, video screens on each side. Three more screens plastered the back wall of the semi-circle room. I asked if the place doubled as an ice hockey arena during the week. Big letters, "WORSHIP CENTER" welcome those who enter the room. All I know is that if I'm ever given the opportunity, I'd put those letters above the doors that lead out of the church building.

Call me a party-pooping literalist but a song whose only refrain is "we're gonna dance in the river" gets my nomination for Dumbest. Song. Ever.

There, I said it. Revoke my Heaven membership card if you will. I just had to get that off my chest.

posted by Peter at 1:19 AM
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