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Thursday, August 31, 2006

Religious politics in Ohio; PowerPoint in worship.

I'm catching up on articles I missed while I was vacationing in Finland. The New Yorker ran a great story about religious politics in the corrupt state of Ohio last month, focusing not just on megachurch holy warrior Rod Parsley but also on the center-left religious response from We Believe Ohio.

And, though I'm sure no Unitarian Universalists are seriously considering PowerPointing their worship services, here's an article from the Christian Century that makes the case for just how distracting that technology is:

To use PowerPoint in worship is to unwittingly set up a competition between what's projected on the screen and the human voice doing the preaching, praying or singing. And it's a contest that PowerPoint always wins because, as Richard Lischer has observed, when the brain is asked to listen and watch at the same time, it always quits listening. What PowerPoint enthusiasts see as enhancing the worship experience — projecting pictures of water during a baptism or images of fire and wind on Pentecost — is instead a form of sensory overload that manipulates emotions and stifles imagination. It is difficult to cultivate an awareness and appreciation of ambiguity and mystery in worship when images are projected at strategically timed moments in the liturgy for the purpose of instructing worshipers what to think and feel.


(Holy Toledo, Frances Fitzgerald, New Yorker 7.31.06; PowerPointless: Video screens in worship, Debra Dean Murphy, Christian Century 7.25.06)

Copyright © 2006 by Philocrites | Posted 31 August 2006 at 8:31 AM

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h sofia:

August 31, 2006 10:10 AM | Permalink for this comment

Maybe this is what can happen when business people try to run Sunday services. Eek. But there already churches that do this; right here in Portland I know of at least one.


August 31, 2006 01:36 PM | Permalink for this comment

What about dropping that sermon thing altogether and go for more modern forms of expression instead?

I have sometimes the feeling that liberals compensate in old-fashioned liturgy what they advance in theology.


August 31, 2006 04:01 PM | Permalink for this comment

Jaume -- Like what? Name three.


August 31, 2006 07:14 PM | Permalink for this comment

What 3? Old-fashioned liturgy items?
Sermon is, for me, more than enough as an old-fashioned way of doing religion. But I guess that it works for Americans culturally speaking. I was recently browsing a book that described the importance of the sermon form since the times of the Puritans. And you only need to see those TV preachers you've got there to understand that preaching in the USA is still so important. In Europe, boring Catholic priests and empty discourses from politicians have made sermons/discourses/public preaching just unbearable. And the "don't preach me" phrase is of widespread use. I certainly don't preach in our UU gatherings. They wouldn't come the next day.


August 31, 2006 07:17 PM | Permalink for this comment

Ah, if you meant 3 modern forms of religious expression in liturgy, I think that there are many experiments in spiritual groups since the '70s, even among UUs. They just don't seem to fit well in the church model of the leading preacher and the listeners who are being preached, I guess.


August 31, 2006 10:13 PM | Permalink for this comment

I just emailed Rod P. to see if he'd like a progressive/evangelical converation. I'll let you know if they even respond.


September 1, 2006 09:32 AM | Permalink for this comment


This may sound biased as it is coming from a minister, but I have noticed that the churches that use powerpoint and video screens more greatly emphasize the sermon than ones (including Unitarians) that use a more traditional Protestant liturgy.

Mega-church and Emergent Church ministers tend to preach for 35 to 40 minutes. One mainline minister in town is rumored to go for 45 minutes. He is a Methodist, not Pentecostal/Holiness, but has adapted to what the people are looking for.

Longer preaching is the trend, and Unitarians who go for 20 minutes are now being lapped.

Jamie Goodwin:

September 2, 2006 09:20 PM | Permalink for this comment

An important point to consider here is that most evangelical churches preach from the bible. Members of those church are quite literally used to using theirs eyes and ears.

They are used to reading the verse and flipping through the bible.

In fact I have heard some say they do not like the emergent church practice of projecting the verse or key points on the sermon because they loose the ability to hold and flip through the bible. They miss being able to use another sense, feel, in their worship.

Also, as an Ohioian I thank you for pointing out the fight we have going on. It is a very frightening thing. There is a very, very likely chance that Ohio will be the first Theocracy government in the United States..

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