Just as worship is an act of the entire community of faith, so it is an act of the whole person—intellect, esthetic sense, body, emotion. Literal truth is too confining: We would lose Beethoven, Rembrandt, Shakespeare and maybe even Emerson with a creedal test. Many important decisions—such as choosing one’s spouse—are not made simply by intellectual calculation. Pure emotional appeals are too transitory to reorder one's vision with clarity. The liturgy demands our presence as whole persons involved with one another, and thus reconnects us.
This sometimes means singing or saying something we may not literally believe but which, from another perspective, informs our experience. Many of us left Christian churches that required literal acceptance of creedal statements, and offered few alternative modes of expression. What is important is not so much the words but rather the experiencing of legitimate religious moods and modes, no one of which can be taken as final and completely comprehensive.
We find it easy to enjoy different kinds of people and viewpoints. We can rejoice in many languages. We can love Dante even if we cannot accept his cosmology; we can sing the Beethoven Credo even if we cannot subscribe to it; we can feel and revere the 1905 Symphony of Shostakovitch though we abhor communism; we can participate in a Hindu chant without compromising our own mythologies; we can enjoy Christian communion without patching it up to fit our own prejudices; we can teach "Silent Night" to our children though we disbelieve the Virgin Birth; we can be moved by Hamlet while we deny the existence of ghosts. We can sing, we can dance, we can rejoice without censoring any honest hallelujah or plea for help. Our genius is being able to see God, the Void or Whatever, working in every person and place.
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Last updated on Monday, April 11, 2011.
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