Christian Worship is Boring

The Holy Eucharist is supposed to be boring. So claims the Catholic theologian James Alison. He says, “When people tell me that they find Mass boring, I want to say to them: it’s supposed to be boring, or at least seriously underwhelming. It’s a long term education in becoming un-excited.”

He’s right, I think. Let me explain.

Alison’s claim about the Mass being boring or unexciting comes in the course of his contrasting false worship with True Worship. Alison has a broad understanding about what counts as worship. In a manner similar to James K.A. Smith’s arguments about liturgy, Alison finds instances of worship in many cultural practices: “football matches, celebrity cults, raves, initiation hazings, newspaper sales techniques and so on,” pretty much any cultural practice that involves the formation of a group of people. For Alison, all these forms of worship are part of the warp and woof of the violence of this devastated world. So, while Christian worship is analogically related to these forms of false worship, it is more dissimilar than similar. To drive home the distinction, Alison uses the Nuremberg Rallies as the example par excellence of (false) worship: worship unqualified is death-dealing and dehumanizing. In stark contrast, Christian worship is “the un-Nuremberg.” The thrust of Alison’s talk is to delineate the difference.


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