"Bridging the gap between faith and culture"
By Paul Cannon, Dave Lefurgey, Rolanda Ward, Lisa Zambarano
Introducing Contemporary Praise Worship in a Local Church Setting
By Dave LefurgeyMore on Sociology of Religion: Worship as Ritual
In his book The Sacred Canopy, Peter Berger (Berger 1967, 3-81) tells us that society is a human product, the result of the three-step, dialectic process of externalization: the human involvement and activity in building a meaningful life; objectivation: the results of this human involvement and activity in the world; and internalization: the accepting of and living within the resulting social reality. The construction of a social world is an attempt to bring meaningful order--nomos--to the participating individuals. This nomos acts as a shield against the terror of anomy, the meaninglessness and disorder that would exist without the society. When the nomos is accepted as the natural order, it takes on a powerful cosmos effect. According to Berger, this is where religion comes into the argument. It is in religion that a sacred cosmos is established.
Berger goes on to say that socially constructed worlds are precarious. Destructive forces--doubt, unbelief, self-interest, foreign influences--seem always to be actively present, working against the nomos. Legitimation seeks to maintain the peace and stability of the society by affirming the structure of the society and reminding the members why it is this way. Religion can be a powerful legitimation of society. Its rituals and sacred history and stories place the society in a divine and cosmic setting, transcending human challenge. Religion, being a plausibility structure, is inherently precarious in its own reality and must seek to maintain itself against the ever-present challenge of chaos. It does this through legitimation, and this legitimation can be and is expressed through ritual.
Based on a study of primitive societies, Emile Durkheim, one of the founders of modern sociological theory, posited the idea "that religion functions as a symbolic representation of society in which the beliefs and practices relative to the sacred continually reaffirm communal values" (Jary 1991, 134).
There are those who take a more religious or transcendent view than Durkheim. "According to Rudolf Otto and Mircea Eliade, for example, ritual arises from and celebrates the encounter with the 'numinous,' or 'sacred,' the mysterious reality that is always manifested as of a wholly different order from ordinary or 'natural' realities" (Eliade 1987, 405).
"In general, a ritual is a pattern of speech or behavior that is used to create or sustain the sense of connection to a social system. At sporting events the ritualistic singing of national anthems helps to reinforce national unity. In religious ceremonies, ritual serves to affirm the social relationship among believers as well as the relationship between believers and various forms taken by supernational forces (in those religions that include belief in the existence of such forces). Religious rituals differ a great deal in their complexity and the use of sacred objects, and in their formality, spontaneity, and allowance for displays of emotion" (italics added), (Johnson 1995, 236).
What does all of this mean? Society is a human invention developed through human interaction with the common goal of living together in a stable, harmonious environment. When accepted, the societal structure takes on cosmological importance. Religion can be a powerful legitimization for society, and religious rituals play a vital role in maintaining an harmonious and stable state for the participants in both society as well as with their transcendent being. Contemporary praise-worship music can be an effective form of religious ritual to help bridge the gap between the Christian church and culture.