Monday, October 7, 2013

Star Trek, Star Wars, and Church Worship Style

What's the similarity between Star Trek, Star Wars, and worship styles in Christian congregations? There's people very passionate (and vocal) about how to do each of them right.

A couple of months ago, my wife and I watched the documentary, The People v. George Lucas, an entertaining exploration of Star Wars fans' relationship with Lucas. One of the core elements of the documentary was how long-time Wars fans hated Episodes I-III and how Lucas modified IV-VI because of new technology. The filmmakers recognized that this dislike is not universal. But the conclusion was quite insightful, I thought: People had a strong emotional reaction and bond to Star Wars decades earlier. They wanted and expected the same experience now. Except they are different, Lucas is different, the world is different, and frankly, the Star Wars universe is different. You cannot have the same experience again. Yet many young people are experiencing Star Wars for the first time in the same way their elders did, but with new material. Does that really make the content bad, then?

The same thing is happening in the Trek universe. I'm amazed at how vitriolic some people have been towards the Abrams crew, especially Star Trek Into Darkness (SPOILER warning, if you haven't seen STID yet). Some people HATED it (no, that's not overemphasizing it). People have been ripping apart how the casting was horrible, how none of the characters are right, how the stories are ruined, and how there's too much action. I think what's really going on here is the same thing that occurred with Wars: Here is a new experience with old, beloved characters. Many of us want to recapture the old flame of things we once loved.

In the documentary, people were mentioning how they saw Star Wars as synonymous with the joy of their childhood. Psychologically, it looks like they want their childhood back (some basically said that). Yet there's no way to go back. I think it's the same process with Trek now. STID is actually my favorite of all the Trek films to date. I was never terribly impressed by The Wrath of Khan film and never intimidated or scared by the original Khan. Cumberbatch's Khan is chilling and truly deviously threatening in my experience. But I wonder if I would have had a different reaction if it were my beloved TNG crew. A new Q with a young Picard? Those are characters I have attachment to, while I've never been attached to TOS. Yet I would hope I would be open to a new experience.

Recently, our congregation went from two services each Sunday to one. Not because of attendance issues, but because we want to be one intergenerational church, not split by worship style. The big issue at hand was how to reconcile conflicting worship styles (isn't that always one of the major conflicts in a congregation?). While I appreciate "traditional" music, I don't have much, if any, emotional connection to it. It doesn't evoke worshipful feelings in me. When I see many people sing it, it doesn't look like they have any emotion, either (although that can be said for many congregations singing contemporary music :) ). But I wonder why people get so attached to that style. I think in many ways, it's the same process going on with Trek and Wars. People grew up hearing a particular type of music. They have warm memories of other experiences, which become paired with the music. The music reminds them of the past. And it's hard to let go and have a new experience. The same exact thing can be true for people to stuck on contemporary music. Or any other aspect of worship. During the first Sunday of the new schedule, one of our long-time (as in 50+ years attending) congregants shared about her experience of worship. She was so insightful, talking about how familiarity of style was welcoming, but how something different could be very valuable. Our pastor gave a wonderful sermon explaining the history and philosophy of worship in that congregation. I loved how he ended by saying that he hopes everyone found something they loved in the service. And something they disliked. Because that would be an area of growth to tolerate and appreciate differences.

We can honor the old experiences, but we have to remember we can never go back to before (just as said in the musical, Ragtime). We need to determine what we need now and what experiences will help facilitate that in the present. That may mean we need Chris Pine more than William Shatner. But that doesn't mean Shatner is less valid or less important. Without the Shatner Kirks, there would be no Pine Kirks...

No comments:

Post a Comment


Got a question, struggle, or doubt you'd like to see addressed here? Contact me, and I'll try to discuss it (and may even help you get an answer).