Sunday, June 5, 2011

Dog On No God

In week five of The Apprentice, one team produced and marketed a brand of pet-food called "Every Dog". The philosophy behind the brand was simple: manufacture a product that can be sold to as many dog-owners as possible. Own a labrador? Try Every Dog. Own a poodle? Try Every Dog. Own a rottweiler? Try Every Dog.

The creators of Every Dog would not stop there, however. Their plans were global, with the "Every" series reaching out to cats, goldfish, hamsters, and possibly even humans one day if all goes well. "Every Human: For every day, there's Every Human. Now available in North Korea."

While the goal of creating a food suitable for every dog proved to be unattainable, the philosophy behind the project is surely in step with the age we live in: appeal to as many as possible, monopolise the market, make people's choice the same as everybody else's.

With that in mind, allow me to formally introduce you to the latest brand that has swept across the globe at an incredible rate. It is called Every Worship. "For every Sunday, there's Every Worship". It shares the same philosophy as its pet-food counterpart, but the difference is that this brand can be (in fact, has proved to be) a huge success. Go to any local church and the chances are you'll experience the generic, universal delights of Every Worship...though it must be said that some churches are much better at it than others. There is a science to it; a formula to be followed. But there is no art, because art is particular. There is no art, because art is cultural, and Every Worship suppresses culture.

What we don't hear about amidst the subtle takeover that Every Worship has achieved is the cost -- the opportunity cost -- of its hegemony. What does Irish music sound like in Irish churches? What particular words do Irish men, women and children have to sing to their God? We do not know, because most of us have drunk deeply from the Every Worship well, and in doing so have forgotten that we can drink from our own.

What's more, attend an Irish church and hopefully you will be joining with people from tribes and tongues that are foreign to these shores. That is part of the gospel's beauty. But by consuming Every Worship, we have created an easy unity through cultureless worship, and thus tamed the explosive power of the gospel to create a diverse community out of strangers. What if, instead, our worship was expressed through all the different cultures that participate in it? It would be clumsy and awkward for a few and for a while, but it would be rich in meaning and artistry and truthfulness. It would be a taste of new creation, creating an undomesticated understanding and unity between diverse peoples as only the sharing of our musical and lyrical heritage can create.

This is particular worship, participated in by particular people in particular times and places.

Every Worship must be named for what it is - the suppression of cultural diversity, creative artistry, and particular truthfulness. In other words, the suppression of what the church is called to embody.


  1. So, what are you going to do about this? :)

  2. I'm leading worship on Sunday...want to plan it for me?!

    I'm enjoying your blog.

  3. "The imagination must come before the implementation".

    I honestly don't know what I -- or anyone else -- can do about this, but for now I'm happy to begin imagining what an alternative to Every Worship might look like. That's the most pressing task at the moment for the church's musicians. We can worry about implementation later :-)

  4. Some of us in MCC write worship songs, usually a 'cry out' in response to a situation or inspired by a particular piece of Scripture and we sing it as a church as part of our worship services. We may not always have a Celtic lilt (!) or Getty standard of music but it feels like an indigenous, original effort to worship God from who and where we are, and within the context of our own community and in our own language. Next challenge is to write in Irish!

    I would say that if you have a problem with generic, one-size-fits-all songs and worship services from certain continents, that you should simply get praying, writing and sharing. You have the musical gifting, a solid theological background and a faith journey. All that is left is song-writing practice and the Holy Spirit, right? :)