Playing In Church
In a follow-up to last week’s thread about the Cat In The Hat Eucharist, a reader sends in this terrific post from Reader John, a choir director at an Orthodox parish in Portland, Oregon. Reader John criticizes the Seussian liturgy, asking why it is that we feel the need to make serious things childish for the sake of children. Excerpt:
We don’t pave children’s streets, build children’s houses and construct children’s airplanes? They seem to do just fine. Children always aspire to be adults. They like to approach adult-dom. I’m not sure how much they like adults to approach kid-dom. Kids assume that the realm of adult life is stable, and that kid life is in flux. Why do adults think that kids want adults to go backward and make their world the status quo? Did you, as a kid? I didn’t.
He makes other great points about the false distinction between seriousness and joy. Being gloomy and rigid in liturgy does not mean we are serious, but neither does turning something serious into something juvenile create joy. Reader John:
If in our liturgical observances and celebrations we are getting bored, the Cat in the Hat will provide no cure. If our children aren’t aspiring to be grown-ups, and are not feeling welcomed and invited in our celebrations, introducing flippant “merriment” and out-of-place “play” isn’t going to rectify that situation.
If Joy is a fruit of the Spirit, it cannot be manufactured or devised, planned or contained. It can be sinned against by hypocrisy and idolatry. It can be suppressed by the legalist and judgmental. But where the Truth is proclaimed and lived with integrity and authenticity, it will abound. And it will spread.
And children will catch it.
Read the whole thing. Really, do; it’s marvelous.
I don’t know about you, but I could never take seriously as a spiritual leader again a priest who thought something as irreverent and trivializing a Cat In The Hat mass, or a clown mass, or any such thing was appropriate. Then again, when I watched the hippie-Jesus musical Godspell for the first time a decade ago, I felt like Beavis and Butt-head gawking at a Milli Vanilli video.