Addictive “Worship”

General, Theology

So, my brother, who is a worship leader, brought this to my attention this week. Its an article that theorizes that “mega-church worship” has qualities that can be highly addictive.

“Through the influence of our consumer culture we’ve come to believe that transformation is attained through  external experiences. We’ve come to regard our church buildings, with their multimedia theatrical equipment, as mountaintops where God’s glory may be encountered. Many of us ascend this mountain every Sunday morning wanting to have an experience with God, and many of us leave with a degree of genuine transformation. We feel “pumped up,” “fed,” or “on fire for the Lord.”

No doubt many, like Moses, have an authentic encounter with God through these events. But new research indicates another explanation for our spiritual highs. A University of Washington study has found that megachurch worship experiences actually trigger an “oxytocin cocktail” in the brain that can become chemically addictive. The same has been found at large sporting events and concerts, but attenders to these gatherings don’t usually attribute the “high” to God.

“The upbeat modern music, cameras that scan the audience and project smiling, dancing, singing, or crying worshipers on large screens, and an extremely charismatic leader whose sermons touch individuals on an emotional level … serve to create these strong positive emotional experiences,” said Katie Corcoran, a Ph.D. candidate who co-authored the study.”

I found this article interesting on the level that someone is questioning the validity of “mountain-top” experiences. However, I would note that these types of experinces have exsisted throughout time and that they are part and parcel to the human interaction with the divine.

What I most liked was my brother’s response to the article – I thought it so good, I include it here in it’s entirety.

1.  I hate the Yankees, they have all the money, players and fans.  Easy to be a mega church hater.
2.  The same argument could be used for any worship style: Liturgical, Catholic, Old Fundamental KJV Hymn singers.  Any time we only look for God in a system or specific place its off.
3.  The most dangerous view may be that you can find God in all of those places and more.
4.  God says if you seek Him, you will find Him and I’ve found that to be true.  When I don’t seek Him, I can get way off track and only see darkness.  When I do seek Him, I see Him everywhere.  Kinda like a Rich Mullins song I used to listen to.  “And everywhere I go, I see you…”
5.  Even in the dark I see Him if I seek Him.  The face of a chinese orphan who will probably never hear of Him, a rock in Scotland, a good story, a piece of art, the devotion of a muslim.  See?  Told you that was dangerous.  But God is dangerous and His stamp is everywhere.
6.  We all have those warm fuzzy places where we go to find the divine.  Some, its a mega church rock and roll show.  Some?  Bill Gaither.  Still others?  A quiet place in the woods dressed in camo. Me?  I like a good secular concert.   I love it when I meet someone who “gets” this concept.  They are a cool person.
7.  That article makes me hate my job.  I’ll never make anyone happy.  Maybe the debate will get the author some speaking gigs and his wife will be able to buy that dress from Abercrombie.

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