The Church and the Mall

Over the years I’ve heard or read about the idea of “redeeming” music or literature or education or government…you get the picture. If it exists and functions in society as an institution of some sort, there’s always someone in the Church that wants to sound the call to redeem it. What they really mean is that they want to sanitize it in order to make it palatable or useful according to whatever manner of constructs that their pietistic sensibilities have conjured up.

These days the term cultural appropriation is most often employed with respect to the african-american community, particularly in areas of fashion and music. But there is another type of appropriation that occurs, on perhaps a grander scale and with much more conscientiousness and intention. One that not only displays a disdain for culture as such but also a dissatisfaction with the simplicity of christian devotion and worship. We could quite easily and quite justifiably refer to it as a liturgical appropriation, because it’s done in the knowledge that what we entertain ourselves with have a formative influence upon us, it says something about who we are but whom we intend to become. And because they function in ways that we might frame as liturgies, based upon both the repetitive nature and culturally normative nestling of these activities and artistic expressions.

And undoubtedly in Protestantism, the type of cultural appropriation that we are confronted with is linked in very concrete ways with the iconography and ritual of consumerism. But the extent and ramifications of this sort of appropriation doesn’t quite come into focus until we see, quite appropriately I believe, that it is not a difference of sacred and secular, of faith and reason, of cult and culture, but of two competing belief systems that ultimately intend toward a particular vision of the kingdom or good life, replete with liturgical structure, places of worship and congregation, methods of evangelism and sacramental activity.