(In an indirect way, this ties in with my recent post The Rape of the Media…)
By now, former Alaska governor Sarah Palin’s Christianity (and Pentecostal) roots are well known. We know this primarily because of YouTube. Someone shot video of some prayer times and something Sarah Palin said in church about the war, and thanks to YouTube, that stuff can now go all over the web. When Palin became the VP candidate, and it came time for the press to do its dirty work, they didn’t even have to dig for it–the video pretty much came to them.
I’m not defending the video footage, just using it as an example; but from what I saw of the video, I can certainly understand why it would concern some folks who didn’t have any context for what they were seeing or hearing. For me, I’ve spent enough time in similar circles to know that there was a whole context and vibe going on in that room that you simply would not be able to catch on a YouTube video. You would have had to be there to understand that probably what was being said and done was not all that freaky when put into context. I can’t say that for sure, because I was not there. And chances are, neither were you.
And that’s just my point–we were not there. And the video isn’t going to capture it all.
I’ve grown up in Christian circles, and charismatic circles in particular. I’ve witnessed healings and miracles, and experienced some, too. I’ve heard fiery preaching (and preaching that put me to sleep). I’ve felt the presence of God in ways I cannot describe in words. But even with my experience, I still get uncomfortable when I see some of the stuff we Christians put on TV from our church meetings. And it isn’t that I’m ashamed of Christ (although I do sometimes feel ashamed by things Christians say and do in the name of Christ). Chances are, I could be in the room while that video was shot, and have no problem with what was happening. But seeing it on a little box in the living room…something gets lost in translation. I know that people who see it will not get it–they will likely misinterpret what they see, and add to an already growing negative opinion about the church in general.
Let’s face it…with all the diversity of expressions of Christianity, it’s easy for us to get freaked out with one another over some of the stuff we do in our worship gatherings that other camps do not understand. If we’re so prone to misinterpret one another, why in the world do we insist on putting everything we do on video for the masses to see?
Now, don’t misunderstand…I’m not saying we should make our gatherings private or secret. I’m not saying we have anything to hide. Throw the doors open, if you want. And I’m not opposed to videotaping in general; in fact, there have been lots of televised moments, both in worship and preaching, that have genuinely blessed me. I’m just saying that whatever “flavor” of Christianity we happen to be talking about…when we meet as the church, something spiritual is happening–a dynamic that often can only be fully appreciated by those who are in the room when it’s happening. Those are the intangibles that the video camera is just not going to pick up. And sometimes, without that spiritual dynamic, what the video camera does pick up does not do justice. Yes, the camera doesn’t lie; but that doesn’t mean it can see the whole truth.
In other words…sometimes, you just have to be there.
Sometimes, what is happening in worship is an intimate spiritual moment between God and His people at that time. It isn’t that it is shameful or flaky; it’s just that it isn’t for everyone who wasn’t there to experience it.
It’s one of the downfalls, particularly of the institutional forms of church, that we have adopted the mentality that church is a program, that church is a presentation. If that’s all it is, it would sort of make sense to video everything. But it isn’t. Church–Christianity–is a relationship, between God and His people, and with one another. And just as with any relationship, when it comes to the relationship between God and His people (or let’s say, Jesus and His bride)…some things just aren’t for mass consumption. An onlooker watching on a little box screen is not going to come away with the right idea.
Look…as vicious and cutthroat as some members of the press might be…even they know that sometimes, you just choose to turn the camera off. Out of respect.
There’s a saying going around that carries a lot of truth with it: “The media is the message.” In other words, media is not neutral; it is going to shape and influence whatever is being communicated, no matter how we might try to prevent it. So while some things are good for the camera, other things are best communicated by other means–in writing, or spoken word…or experienced live. The media is the message. When using media to communicate, we need to be sensitive to what will convey the message best. And sometimes, video isn’t it. I guess that’s what I’m trying to say here. Is any of this making sense?
So, church…you do not have to put everything on video. Much less on YouTube. Just my opinion.