Category Archives: Worship

An Addendum

I was told a couple of times I made some pretty hard hits on white church in my last entry. I wanted to make a few comments along those lines. It’s a little different from what I usually write, but I think these things should be said.

1. Was it too heavy handed? It may have been. But these are real thoughts that bounce around in any person’s head in cross cultural interactions (they call it red-lining in InterVarsity missions training, read about it here). What I was trying to capture was my “red-line” posture, in which I approach differences negatively. Now, just because it is common or “real” doesn’t make my rant very right. I should have put in a clear disclaimer that my posture was not a good one (And I do write later how God had to change my posture), and perhaps didn’t need to put all the details of my thoughts there. But this is the type of “red-lining” that I have to guard my heart against each day when I’m in North County- a culture that is not my own, but God has called me to make my own. That’s a huge part of missions- making the decision not to approach differences badly and to see and call out the created beauty within the culture we are called to. When we stop seeing the beauty, we fail the mission of missions.

2. Was I making too many generalities about cultures? Yes and no. Yes in that culture is full of generality- in fact, it’s not about the individual, but the collectivized and generalized actions of many individuals. But culture is slippery. It’s hard to pin down what is Asian culture, white culture, black culture, Latino culture, etc… The descriptions of white culture and Asian culture I had were synthesized from my own personal experiences that constructed specific schema for me to operate out of and assume out of. See, that’s the thing- culture is not only the actions and ideas of the group, but the perceptions of the observing individual. And then let’s not forget the unique and anomalous decisions of individuals which will always aberrate from the constructed assumptions (from within and outside) of that culture. Actually the point of the previous entry was to point out that things are easy to hate and be annoyed at (or on the flip-side have a very ignorant type of paternalistic love for) when we refuse to see the nuanced individual aberrations from culture and just pure surprises when we actually take time to get to know the individuals of a different culture.

3. So are white people evil? There is a long history of oppression by white westerners towards the rest of the world. As individualist as a white person wants to be and say that they are separate from their history, it simply is not true. We are all part of our histories, and our histories are what have put us in our specific present places (geographically, socially, etc.). Subsequently, a lot of the expressions of white culture (even when expressed healthily!) are tainted with that history from a minority’s point of view. So yes, white people are evil… but not anymore evil than any other group of people. NT Wright writes that good and evil is not a line between good and evil people, but a line that runs down the center of every single human heart. Every single person or people group has the same potential towards sin, and we all share a common history in sin with Adam and Eve. The oppressed can so easily become the oppressor. The question isn’t really if white people are evil… because the same stain of evil and sin is deep within every culture.

BUT THE GOOD NEWS: We were created by a good God, who originally saw creation and saw it good. Culture is part of that good creation. I serve a God that not only had good original intentions, but is constantly redeeming the fallen parts of our beings and cultures through the power of the cross and the resurrection. We, by ourselves, are suspended within a sinful system and are infected deep within with sin. He is the only one that can redeem us from being suspended within the endless cycles of oppression and sin.

Because I feel that white people get a lot of flack for how much they suck, I thought it would be good to put out a list of admirable things I have observed about white culture in these last several years. It is the created beauty that seems to shine out a lot in white american culture (again, refer to #2, these are generalizations, this is not all white americans, and many non-white people have these traits as well). In no particular order:

  1. Hard work and honesty- They value good hard work. It’s one of their core values. And yes, this value has been manipulated to work against others, but I think at its core, this is a good thing.
  2. Individualism- We love to hate individualism. But really, it’s something that that white American culture offers to us, and I’ve been thinking about it a lot lately. I come from a culture of heavy communalism. In its best, we know how to be family and how to have hospitality towards the stranger. We know that we have to stand up for each other and protect each other. We know that we are all connected, and that no individual’s action is done in isolation. But at its worst, it’s easy to just go with the masses and make peace instead of actually standing up for what’s right, or just my own personality. Individualism helps me to make my faith my own, instead of just what everyone else is doing. Individualism helps me know that God has created me uniquely, not for selfish purposes, but to bless others around me. However, I (and everyone else) lose that blessing if I think that I have to be like everyone else. No, God has created us uniquely to be blessings to creation.
  3. Confrontation and truth- Similar to individualism, this is also one that people steer away from. I remember always wincing at the comfortability that some of my white friends and their families had with conflict. But coming from a culture in which our (good) peace keeping tendencies can easily turn to hiding the truth, not speaking up and just being plain silent when injustice is occuring… the expression of dissatisfaction is refreshing. White people have taught me how to be a brave prophet and speak truth, even if it will offend people. In its better form, confrontation helps us speak truth so that we can love even deeper and make even stronger peace.
  4. Indie music. Coffee. Homebrewing. haha i guess hipster culture in general (I always poke fun at it, but it’s really because I admire it).
  5. Engaging the mind. This is something I notice in white worship services. The worship leader gives just as much if not more theology than the pastor that is preaching the sermon! One of my students aptly observed- white people’s services are like a college lecture. It’s not about inspiration but learning. While I am a big fan of honoring God with the emotions (I’m really emotional, in case you didn’t know), what I get from my white friends is an act of worship by offering God their minds.

There’s more. But it’s getting late, and I’m tired. Perhaps you should add. We know how white culture and history has badly affected the world… but what if we did some excavation and looked for what God’s original intention (and is still there) in white American culture?¬†I’ve seen too many white brothers and sisters either ashamed of their culture or unaware that they have one. That shame and/or unawareness only leads to more sin.¬†Shouldn’t we (and especially myself) be calling out the good in our white brothers and sisters, so as to empower and challenge them to also be blessings to the rest of us in the fullness of their cultural identities?

Forgotten Expressions

I broke down today and bought a hillsongs united album. Perhaps I actually missed hearing worship with simple chords and repetitive choruses. My self-critical artistic conscience (a.k.a. my pride) shudders at myself.

I have not bought a worship album for several years. I swear I didn’t realize what I was doing… the itunes button just got pressed. the last worship album i actually bought and paid money for, not “borrowed”… must have been…. July ’06 i bought a Charlie hall album because i heard a cool riff in it. It ended up being the only cool thing in it. I think the last worship album that I enjoyed was David Crowder’s “A Collision” back in october of 2005. and I have no idea if there was anything for a significantly long time before that album that i really enjoyed or piqued my interest.

3-4 years of blah worship music.

or is it that it’s been 3-4 years of me forgetting how to worship? Is it the music that has lost its sense of awe or is it myself that has lost its sense of awe for this God that I serve? Did the music REALLY get any worse? or is it my heart that’s gotten harder?

People used to pray over me and say I was a worshipper and had the “heart of david”. Have I really changed that much? I remember this fire inside me that burned so much that I could no longer sing but I found myself screaming and curled up on the floor, probably scaring everyone around me. It comes with a lot of emotional baggage from realizations about my own insecurities and my need to conjure up emotion and equating it with the Holy Spirit… but really- Is maturity worth the price of stifling the fire that once burned so intensely in me? “Coming back to the heart of worship” has never been more relevant yet so difficult to do for me before.

GOD RESTORE MY SENSE OF AWE.

This is where there is a moment of awkward silence because i realize I am not only writing, but people are watching me talk to and shout at myself in a strangely mentally ill state… and I change the subject in fear that they will send me to a mental asylum… but perhaps more because of a fear that more of my disbelief and pride will be exposed…

thus is the state of the post-charismatic individual. torn, wounded, as if the language of love he once used has been torn out and forgotten from his lips by himself… and the extreme regret he feels as he tries again to use the language and it comes out stumbling out in incoherent movements of his tongue and empty noises spilling out of his mouth. Now it seems like no language is his own. He has traveled all over the world in search of a language that will make his heart sing again, but it seems that sense of resonance has remained hidden and elusive.

“The third of Krios wrapped itself
in gray. The sun was merciful and
never rose. the morning brought a
breeze that stiffened to a gale. The
welcome smell of sweet young rain
became a furied hint of promises the
heavens shortly kept. Rain drenched
the earth in torrents of the love
that great Father-Spirit now scattered
in the dust.

So Terra came alive and people ran
into the streets to feel the water
and the wind. None were ashamed
to see themselves soaked in driving
blinding rain.

It was the changing of the age-
the great fulfillment of the ancient
vow the woman wrote down in her
scroll. And as the rain streamed
down his face, Anthem also praised
Earthmaker that his Beloved had come
back. He stood and shouted out
above the crowd:
‘Earthmaker rides the Wind.
The Singer has returned…’

Silence roared.
Sound ripped through density.
Communication coursed again
through human isolation. And
Anthem spoke- no longer gibberish-
but words and sentences, and all his
words were understood.

– Calvin Miller

I need words
As wide as sky
I need language wide as
This longing inside
And I need a voice
Bigger than mine
And I need a song to sing you
That I’ve yet to find”