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When God Becomes A Commodity For Self-Gratification

Category Articles
Date June 22, 2005

“. . . since we are all tempted to some form of idolatry, it is helpful to know where we need to erect some defenses. If the rock myth does involve the tacit endorsement of pantheistic, primitivistic [this is, per the author, the noble savage idea of Jean-Jacques Rousseau] celebration of the self and the senses, there must be something in the music that somehow corresponds to the myth. It is not likely that rock will make professing pantheists out of many people, but its place in our society does pose some other challenges . . . rock’s threat to religion is that is forces churches to compete [with rock-dominated culture] on the basis of their ability to titillate the instincts of their worshippers, thereby making religious leaders entrepreneurs of emotional stimulation. Once God becomes a commodity for self-gratification, his fortunes depend on the vagaries of the emotional marketplace, and his claim to command allegiance on the basis of omnipotence of omniscience banishes in a blaze of solipsism [the theory that the self is the only thing that can be known and verified. The theory or view that the self is the only reality] as his priests and shamans pander to the feeling, not the faith, of their customers.’

“How much of the liturgical and educational life of our churches has been influenced by this need for emotional stimulation, whether or not the music we sing sounds at all like rock? How many sermons are shaped by the necessity of communicating to a culture dominated by this new sensibility?

“The charismatic claim was that non-intellective bodily and emotional forms of communication from God were a central aspect of true piety. One must ask to what extent the controversy over this claim was settled by the power of exegetical proof from the Scriptures, and to what extent the controversy simply died down because the new cultural sensibility of instinctiveness made it difficult to sustain any argument, especially an argument concerning ecstatic utterance. One must also ask to what extent the popularity of the charismatic claim is due to the work of the Heiliger Geist (Holy Ghost) and how much was simply the effect of the Zeitgeist. . . The evangelical churches in America by and large consented to the legitimacy of the charismatic claim at about the same time they stopped fussing about rock ‘n’ roll.”

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