At a freethinker gathering last weekend, one gentleman suggested that people go to mega-churches for entertainment; theatre, music, and so on.
The experience of gathering for worship, though, has never been a purely cerebral event. It is a relatively new and relatively small idea that rational discourse should form the heart of any service.
We gather to remind each other that being human isn’t just about blood & sweat, about piss & shit, about mud & muck. We remind each other that humans can transcend the menial & the routine to create great and transcendent moments.
This is why worship has always contained ritual, music, theatre, poetry, stories and art. It is why churches have stained glass windows, illuminating human imagination with sunlight and carrying lessons we consider beautiful and valuable. From tribal masks to Gregorian chants, evoking a sense of wonder that we can miss in everyday life has always been part of our coming together to celebrate something higher.
While I love freethinking, the opposite of stuck thinking, the notion that rational thought is the only way that humans can lift themselves out of the swamp seems very parochial to me.
We can’t just rationalize our way out of being stuck, can’t solely open our minds. We also must open our hearts and our spirits, feeling the energy of beyond and creating the celestial out of earth, fire, air and water.
To expect others only to engage and respond to rational thought is denying the energy of imagination and play that has created art and magic through all human time.
It may well seem easier to police thought than to police expression that touches something deep and visceral in humans, but thought alone will never rescue us from the mundane and everyday.
Worship has always been about coming together to be reminded of the extrahuman possibilities of life, to celebrate the transcendent truths that can lift us above our animal functionality. We may celebrate stories, learn lessons about new ways to make better choices, be refreshed and invigorated by art & music, or just be safe in the company of others who also acknowledge the goal to be more centred and spiritual humans in their life, to stand with them to create sacred space and caring.
Not every coming together has to celebrate doctrine, and in fact most don’t. Many events may be quite secular, outside of churches or even belief, just moments out of time to connect with our shared better nature.
Gathering to celebrate what lifts humans into creators, to affirm the fact that we have and we can come together to change our world and build community, to honour the struggle for truth, beauty and grace, well, that seems important to me.
It is much more than entertainment, and much more than just rational discourse.
It is humans coming together to reach for something bigger than their bodies, bigger than their biology, bigger than themselves alone.
And that, at least to me, is magical.