“A Torrent of Clichés” and “As superficial and monotonous as the music at its centre”
I don't usually comment before reading or watching something for myself, but these lines, from the New York Times and Newsday's critics of the movie Hillsong: Let Hope Rise brought an image to mind as I reflected on the subjective nature of a life of faith.
Because to appreciate (in both senses of the word, I.e. To understand rightly/ to comprehend, and to hold in regard/attribute any value to) any artistic or personal expression of religious worship, one needs to get past the music "at its centre" to the centre of the music. The reason for the worship itself.
The image that came unbidden to my mind was one that will be familiar to those of a certain age. (Youngsters can substitute their favourite digital equivalents!) So common it has become stereotypical, are the 'delights' in store when after being invited out to a meal the lights are dimmed and a screen propped up in a corner ready to receive a stream of colour slides or worse, some 8mm home movies.**
How many ways can one respond with delight to pictures of unknown children around poorly focussed birthday cakes that, if you imagine hard enough, bear a passing resemblance to the colour plates in the Women's Weekly Children's Cake Book?
Perhaps instead a travelogue of 'Kodak' moments identical in framing with those taken by hundreds if not thousands of other tourists, slightly washed out and maybe with a random tour bus photo-bombing the background. All of a place you have no interest in visiting, or perhaps passed through but stopped in such a dodgy cafe that you have since relegated it to the dim recesses of your memory.
Superficial and monotonous?... Very likely. But... If you have held and laughed and loved some of those faces in the faded photos, all of a sudden the attraction of visiting them again and again seems not quite so odd.
A torrent of cliches?... Certainly. But... If you have walked the same streets and remember the wonder at seeing the same landmarks, all of a sudden the experience is enriched. Not in any way because of the quality, or lack, in the celluloid, but because of something in you, the one watching, remembering, reliving, rejoicing.
As it stands as a documentary, the critics may be entirely fair in their comments of Hillsong: Let Hope Rise. If they think the centre of it all is merely the music, that would hardly surprise me. But I am sure that the "music at its centre" is not regarded as nothing more than superficial and monotonous by those who have ventured further in, to the centre beneath the centre. Worship is a reaction to an encounter with the Divine. Adoration that springs from Awe.
Don't mistake the music for the muse.
Chris Rowney "UpPericope" Blog www.chrisrowney.com
(*) (**) with apologies to all those I have subjected to after dinner slide shows!... And for the Aramaic pun...