There are currently 21 television shows focused on paranormal activity. 21! Most of them are focused on ghosts. One I have watched recently is called The Dead Files. A “by the book” NYPD detective and a deeply compassionate medium travel the country exploring reports of paranormal activity connect to some unresolved crime. Each do their work independently and compare notes in front of the client. The cop goes to the local library checking old newspapers and the medium goes to the scene of the reported activity in the middle of the night interviewing the ghosts. In the end they come up with the same story. Fascinating.
America is fascinated with the invisible world…as long as it’s not in a church:)
I wonder if churches have worked so hard to connect with world around, overly focusing on the visible, immanent world, that they have lost their sense of the transcendent, the world beyond. Transcendence was what the Church offered for years. Over the centuries common people of any station of life could exit the muddy muck of their lives into a space that served as a medium to the transcendent world of God, the eternal Spirit of the universe.
I read an excellent article recently Top 10 Reasons our Kids Leave Church in which the author said, “We’ve taken a historic, 2,000 year old faith, dressed it in plaid and skinny jeans and tried to sell it as “cool” to our kids. It’s not cool. It’s not modern. What we’re packaging is a cheap knockoff of the world we’re called to evangelize.”
Many churches (not all!) have taken something mysterious and beautiful, reflecting the transcendent and eternal qualities of our Creator and turned into a prefab auditorium, something that will be in a dump in twenty years.
The problem is that the Church over the years became too cloistered and judgmental of the world “below” it. They were a city on a hill that cared not for the townspeople below. So, well-meaning Christians tried their best to not build anything resembling the mighty cold fortresses of old in order to reach the people. At the same time they threw out the transcendent qualities of worship and space.
Did you know that there are self-serve communion stations?? I imagine them in vending machines right below Twinkies and Cool Ranch Doritos.
People have not lost their hunger for a world beyond the material world, but they have gone where it is offered: the Discovery Channel, Syfy, and Travel Channel that are all packed with other-worldly themed reality shows. And these shows fascinating…but they do not offer anything life changing, only amusement.
Those ancient sacraments, liturgies, hymns, and creeds mouthed over the centuries have great value. They connect us to a world just beyond our reach, but can still be heard faintly in the silence of ancient buildings echoing through the empty halls. It can almost still be seen through the glimmer of stained glass preserved in old, cold stone.
Certainly it is impractical and unnecessary even to try to rebuild the past days of the Church, but there are still rich resources to be found in the tradition. Perhaps the most valuable thing in the Church’s treasury is prayer. Rather than speaking to a dead man’s ghost about his long-time grudge, we could speak to a Living God who offers life and be transported into the transcendent dwelling of Christ–Heaven, a world that is just a prayer away.
Each of us has been given the power to tap into this world and to offer it to anyone who is hungry for it. Bring the other-worldly world of our God with us day and night in old and new places, through old and new practices, and with old and new faith. Fascination will follow.