Desires, Liturgies and the Kingdom: Part 2, The Hypocrisy of Not Raising Your Hands

A big part of the discussion about liturgies at Streaming last fall responding to the work of James K. Smith was that liturgies engage our bodies and emotions.

We aren't, to use Smith's phrase, just "brains on sticks." The brain is connected to and affected by the body. Consequently, if we want to reform and reshape our loves and desires our liturgies must target our bodies and our guts.

But as I mentioned in the last post, Smith tends to describe Christian liturgy as it appears in the Protestant mainline traditions. And again, that's great. I love The Book of Common Prayer.

But here's the question I asked Smith after one of his sessions: What about charismatic and Pentecostal worship?

At the end of the day, given how Smith defines liturgy as habitual practices directing our love toward the kingdom, every church is a liturgical church. In their habitual worship practices a charismatic church is just as liturgical as an Episcopalian church. True, these liturgies look very, very different, but both churches have habitual worship practices that direct our desires toward the kingdom of God.

Which brings me back to the question I asked. If we are looking for liturgies that engage our bodies and our emotions it seems to me that charismatic worship might be just as or even more potent than a high-church liturgy. And interestingly, where mainline churches are struggling in the West charismatic churches are thriving worldwide.

Maybe, per my last post, liturgy can be potent in spiritual formation but we need to expand what we mean by liturgy.

For example, when we call for more embodied, emotional and Incarnational worship maybe we should think more about raising our hands, along with The Book of Common Prayer.

But here's a strange thing. A lot of the people touting the need for more embodied worship are the very last people who would raise their hands in worship. A lot of people who call for worship to be more Incarnational are the very last people who would dance in the aisles.

There's a disjoint. Theologically, we say we need embodied and Incarnational worship, but when it comes to actual worship we're dismissive of charismatic displays and enthusiasms.

To be clear, I'm not a very demonstrative worshiper. I'm not a big hand raiser.

But after I tout the need for Incarnational worship I'm acutely aware of my hypocrisy when I don't raise my hands.

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