Vol.XVI No.X Pg.8
December 1979

Stuff About Things

Robert F. Turner

During my college days two Speech teachers tried to teach me "Oral Interpretation." One demonstrated a lot — showing us how a slight movement of the hands, a widened eye, or the inflection of a syllable, could convey different meanings to an audience. The other gave little attention to such matters, but concentrated on the meaning of the material, "syllable by syllable, nay letter by letter." His philosophy was that if we fully understood what we were saying, so that we made it our own and felt its emotions we would then convey its message to the fullest extent of our talents.

Hopefully, I learned from both; but the latter seemed best suited to my temperament. The first always reminded me of artificiality, while the last seemed to encourage genuineness. The first was easier to implant in the mind of the reader. He could put tiny notes alongside his script, such as: raise voice here, or, stomp foot. If the directions were carefully followed one could read quite life-like, and impress the listeners. But there was no mask upon the reader who had dug out the text and made it his own. I am reminded of the two who read the twenty-third Psalm publicly and were later critiqued. The first was told: "You know the Psalm very well," but the latter was told, "Apparently you know the Shepherd." These things come to mind when I see brethren trying to make their worship more "spiritual" by dimming the lights, holding hands, humming softly or "setting the stage" by other mood-makers. A mob can be worked to a frenzy by rhythmic stomping, shouting in unison, or giving undivided attention to an expert rabble-rouser. The same tactics, properly adjusted, can cause others to think they have received a direct operation of the Holy Spirit; and this is especially true if they are programmed to expect such a thing.

No doubt we have become tradition-bound to certain structured forms of "worship" — publicly and otherwise. But there is little in the growing efforts to "unstructure" that will not be "structured unstructure" in a few years. Most, if not all, that our free-wheeling "worshippers" now practice, is old hat in denominationalism.

We should not bind ourselves to human traditions, and changes in the realm of judgment help to break the threads; but nothing is better for genuine worship than genuineness. We will "feel" it best, when we "do" it!