Aimless Praise (Or, Why Reducing God to Feelings is Silly)


Howdy, y’all! So, as you all know, I just got back from a trip to Steubenville West, which is a really awesome youth conference held in my home state of Arizona. If you want to hear my thoughts of my conference experience, please go check out the post that I made about it on Unpleasant Accents. It’s totally worth the read. 🙂 But that’s not what I want to talk about today. Today, we’re going to talk about Praise and Worship music, feelings-based Christianity, and that most important aspect of Christianity- The Eucharist! 

At Steubenville West, we had a lot of time for praise and worship, but the most powerful time for that happened on Friday and Saturday night, when we mixed P&W music with Eucharistic Adoration. For those of you who don’t know what that is, it’s when the Eucharist (which Catholics believe is truly the body, blood, soul, and divinity of Jesus Christ) is put into a special container called a monstrance and that monstrance is placed somewhere where all the people can adore and worship Christ in it. It’s an intense and usually emotional event.

From Steubenville West last year- you see the monstrance, the worship and love on the faces of the people there? That's what adoration on Steubie looks like.
From Steubenville West last year- you see the monstrance, the worship and love on the faces of the people there? That’s what Adoration on Steubie looks like.

A common non-Christian rebuttal for Christianity is that we’re just praying to someone imaginary, something that makes us feel good, a supernatural teddy bear. And when you see this video, you should be able to see why they think that.

What are they singing to? Why do they have such intense expressions? Any Christian could easily tell you that they’re singing to and out of love for God. But that love appears aimless, shown as it is by a vague look to the sky and upraising of arms. God is an abstraction, or at best a feeling. You know you’re doing praise and worship right when your feelings tell you that you’ve connected with God, when you get that spiritual high, amiright? And that isn’t entirely false. But shouldn’t our praise and our worship be based on something more?

I guess what hit me strongest about adoration at Steubenville West was that we were singing that exact song, and yes our arms were raised (4600+ arms is a lot of limbs) but instead of being raised vaguely to the ceiling, every arm was pointed toward the Eucharist. Every person had oriented their bodies directly toward Christ, and took their worship right along with them. Instead of singing words to the empty air, every voice crooned a love song right to the physical Body of Christ. Instead of being swept away by intense feelings, every thought and emotion was intensely directed toward the meeting of creation and Creator. The praise and worship, instead of being an end in and of itself, was directed towards the Eucharist, towards Christ.

I’m going to just skip over all the usual arguments for/against P&W in church, and just say that all music, regardless of what instruments are being used, should be focused toward Christ, not toward making the listeners feel good or feel “spiritual.” Feelings don’t matter as much as recognizing and adoring Christ. And you can do that whether you’re crying tears of joy or sitting silent as a stone with your eyes on the monstrance. What all those people who say that we’re just Christians because it makes us feel good don’t realize is that real Christianity isn’t about feelings.  The feelings are just tools to help us grow closer to God, not gods themselves. You can adore God and recognize Him without feeling anything at all. And the easiest way to do that is to recognize Him in the Eucharist. Sure, He is there at Passion Conferences and in the soul of every person… but He is really, physically, perfectly present in the Bread and Wine in every Tabernacle and monstrance the world over. Learn to worship Him there, whether with music or silence, and it won’t even matter what you feel or if you feel nothing at all. But stop treating feelings as the measure of knowing God. He’s so, so, so much bigger than those.

Love to all!

-Tani

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