The Virtue of Boredom

27 03 2010

Sometimes I wonder if I’m alone on this, but I have on occasion encountered circumstances in which I was greatly enthusiastic about something, only to get shot down by criticism from friends and others.  I think something is great and exciting, and they think me a fool for it.  Times like that make the safest possible reaction to all things to be boredom and disinterest.  If I’m the unamused one, then I’m the only one in any position to mock or ridicule.  Coolness has the false appearance of strength.  Negativity is the safest position.  A critical person is often the hardest person to criticize.

This is most unfortunate, but therein lies a very real principle that boredom is, in fact, used as a defense mechanism.  The more critical the environment, the more it seems to call for an indifferent response.

Where else can we find a hostile environment than within the four walls of a church?  It is a place of stark criticism.  In one sense, we do need to evaluate our faith and reasoning, but the harsh reality of it is that an unintended side effect can be an unforgiving environment in which a person is not free to worship at will, nor free to be excited about anything.  The trend in many churches, today, is to reject anything extraordinary, even despite the fact that the faith is founded inherently upon the miraculous.  The church is quickly losing its childlike wonder.  They have managed to confine the Holy Spirit to a box.  Prophecy has been reduced to good preaching.  Miraculous healing has been reduced to comforting people and helping them to accept their sickness.  Inspiration means a cut-and-paste of scripture, with no room for real life application.  We don’t have wisdom.  We parrot.  This is surely the safest habit.  Or, it seems so because it is the least extraordinary.

In worship, one would think that the most solemn (boring) means are the holiest.  Hence, we can rest assured that the hymn and the organ are the tools of choice for sending God our… enthusiastic praise.  Is that worship?  Or, is worship a matter of being willing to make a fool of one’s self from an abundance of joy in God?  Ancient Israel and the early church used to dance and sing before Yahweh.  I challenge anyone to dance to a hymn.  Perhaps solemnity has its place, but perhaps we are being too easy on ourselves.

There is no end to this trend.  The Amish have mastered it.  God tells us not to conform to the image of this world, so they have rejected everything about the world.   Whatever the world does, they spurn.  Whatever the world enjoys, they condemn.  The Amish have mastered it, but fundamentalist Christians, of which I am one, are also party to it.  Scripture tells us to be in the world but not of it.  Whatever trends the world embraces, we reject.

Yet, there are two ways to conform to this world.  The first is obvious: we assimilate into it and become part of it.  The second is subtle: we become whatever the world is not.  Never mind what the Bible says, if the world likes rap, then we hate it.  If the world likes rock, then we hate it.  If the world hates strophic chorus, then we love it.  If they speak casually, then we speak like a living concordance.  If they’re accepting, then we sternly reject.  If they wear denim, then we wear polyester.  Whatever they disregard, we hold to steadfastly.

But, not conforming to this world doesn’t mean being anti-world.  Most of the time, this may seem to be true.  The nature of the world is against God to its very core.  But we do not define ourselves by our relation to the world, whether for or against.  We do not follow them, but we do not simply live to antagonize them, either.  We are not here to spite the world, but we are to be godly in spite of it.

The problem with reactionism is that the reactionist is defined by the thing that he opposes.  If we simply live to oppose the world, then our identity is defined by the world.  We must not simply reject a thing because it is worldly.  We must reject it because it is ungodly.  God has nowhere in scripture defined what style of music we shouldn’t sing, nor what materials we shouldn’t wear, nor a variety of other things that Christians so quickly condemn.

Entertainment has a high place in the world around us.  People think that they read the news to be informed, but this is not really true.  They read it to be entertained.  The vast majority of what they read has no practical value and not much accuracy.  Entertainment is what caused you to visit this blog.  Entertainment is what will decide what you do next.  People even eat to be entertained.  They tend to vote for the most entertaining politicians.  To some extent, they even seek entertaining employment.  The church’s response, naturally, is to seek boredom and solemnity.  Not all of us do.  It’s just enough to become a problem.  The idea of Christian entertainment seems somehow blasphemous to some people.  I say that they follow the route of least resistance.  They defend themselves through the virtue/vice of boredom.  They find it safer.  A Christian is not called to be entertained, they say.  Never mind that this is nowhere to be found in the Bible.  In truth, their efforts to become less worldly have actually made them more worldly, even if in a negative sense.

A truly God-centered Christian does not concern himself with what the world does.  If I and my unbelieving friend can find common ground in entertainment, then so much the better!  I am free in Christ.  I am not called to be bored out of my mind.

Boredom is not a virtue.




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