Spectacles: David Fitch, More Clear and Concise than I

kinnon —  January 10, 2007 — 2 Comments

David says more clearly what I’ve only been muddling through on a number of posts:

Over Christmas time, Willowcreek put on Christmas Eve service(s) that they described as their most ambitious yet. Most noteworthy, according to the newspaper, they used Cirque de Soleil-style acrobats in the presentation of the Christmas story. While some of us were (admittedly) smirking over this – a friend said to me, “they are just trying to be creative in presenting the story of Christ’s birth. What could be wrong with that?” At which point I pondered – at what point is the story no longer the story? Answer – when it becomes a spectacle. According to Paul Ricouer, we know it’s a good story when we “get into it,” when we see ourselves “emploted” into the story. This is the idea behind remembering the story, rehearsing it in worship (and the Eucharist), true anamnesis (1 Cor 11:24). The spectacle however turns us passive no longer able to participate in the story. The question is: did Willowcreek turn the story of the Christ child into a spectacle with the use of acrobats? Did the acrobats becomes so mesmerizing that those who came to see were caught up in the spectral gaze, detached and mesmerized, made totally inert as onlookers no longer able to participate in the story? Because when the story becomes a spectacle, the story is no longer a story. And we have gone from an act of worship to an act of spectatorship, from an act of participation to a spectral gaze. (emphasis added)

Please read his entire post.

UPDATE: Scot McKnight weighs in, in the comments. It’s a very good and interesting discussion. Scot’s one of the premiere emerging/missional voices…and he attends Willow. He disagrees strongly with David.

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A television editor, writer & director since 1978. A Christian since 1982. More than a little frustrated with the Church in the West since late in the last millennium.

2 responses to Spectacles: David Fitch, More Clear and Concise than I

  1. Church has been morphed into an “event” for a long time…and not just in our contemporary society. That said, this is certainly an example of the great lengths to which a church can go to make its “event” something people will want to attend. It happens on all kinds of levels. Some churches dont have that kind of money and just try to make the “event” something different than the usual christmas service. The motivation is the same, however.

    I didn’t go and see Mel’s movie. I didn’t want to see it any more than I’d have wanted to see a graphic and “well done” movie that details every suffering my mother experienced as she died of cancer, or the graphic details of my best-friend’s death, showing all the details of his experiene as he fell to his death in a tragic skydiving accident. I might be able to watch a movie like that had I not had a personal, loving, interactive relationship with my mom, and my best friend. Maybe that’s why Jesus can be a “spectacle” to some. To some Jesus is just a movie-actor, an avatar, a story-book character. No matter how “graphically” you portray him, he doesn’t become “real” by doing so.

  2. Susan, those are some good thoughts. When does gathering stop becoming event, performance, presentation, spectacle and become worship? That is a question being thrown around where I am these days. One thought is to look at language that we use and do away with the term service altogether. we are exploring the term gathering and are not averse to reinforcing that we are here to worship….also, liturgies (local ones we write) and active participation during our gatherings are practiced….we hope people are moving away from seeing Sunday mornings as a God slot and more as worship that they preparedly enter into…


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