Simple vs. Spectacle

On Sunday night, Jason and I watched the 54th Grammy Awards. I kind of have a crush on Adele, so I wanted to hear her come-back performance. And wow. She did not disappoint.

'Adele' photo (c) 2009, CHRISTOPHER MACSURAK - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/Honestly, when I said above that we watched the Grammys, that’s not really true. They were on and I also had my laptop beside me so I could follow the awards on Twitter. It was entertaining to watch various reactions to the performances (and performers) during the program.

Tweets after Adele’s powerhouse performance were all very complimentary. Statements about her voice, her hair, her dress – all pointed to people being impressed with her ability to come out and perform without any gimmicks, just her voice.

You can add me to the list of people who loved how simple her performance was. There is something wonderful about enjoying a performer bare their soul in such an honest and soulful way. It feels very intimate, and it allows us to connect with them in a more meaningful way.

'Lady GAGA, GMA Concert, Lady GAGA, GMA Concert, Lady GAGA GMA Concert,' photo (c) 2011, TJ  Sengel - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/However, I am also an unabashed fan of Lady Gaga and her performances. A really great spectacle can be a lot of fun. Meat dresses, floating in a glass cage above the stage, an entire cast of people singing and dancing behind you – I like this just as much as I do the simple performance.

Simple versus spectacle. This seems to be a regular disagreement that we encounter in the Church.

People who like things simple scoff at those who like the big performance. It’s too showy. It’s too “me” focused. It’s too phony. It only cares about comfort and not about any kind of actual change.

And it’s just as bad on the other side. Those who like the spectacle will shake their heads at the folks who want to scale things back. It’s not relevant. It’s not connecting with enough people. It’s not taking advantage of all of the different kinds of ways that artists express themselves.

From my perspective, there are legitimate complaints on both sides. It’s true that the bigger and more bombastic your performance, the less you are going to be able to connect with people one-on-one. And it’s true that the more simplistic you are, the less you will be able to take advantage of the artist who expresses themselves through light design or dance.

I’m perfectly fine with personal preferences. They are part of what make us unique individuals. But as part of the same body, it’s important for us to look for the positive in what our brothers and sisters are doing and support that. We can have our disagreements about style, but we don’t have to denigrate one in order to build up our favorites.

That’s simply the kind of spectacle that no one likes.

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Do you fall more to the simple or spectacle side or somewhere in the middle? What is something positive you can say today about the “other side” of the simple/spectacle divide?

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  • http://thinkingworship.com/ Stacey Gleddiesmith

    Alise, I see what you are saying, but I think there is a theological issue you have missed here. While there may sometimes be a place for spectical in the church, it is important to reflect on the theological reason for gathered worship in order to understand how we are to move within that.

    The primary reason we gather to worship is to be continuously formed, together, into the body of Christ. “Spectical” infers that the congregation is watching as opposed to participating, and I think this is a genuine problem for corporate worship – because it is not a corporate action at all. Now, I would not suggest that you can never have a full band – or that you can never have lights or multi-media productions – but I do suggest that we need to be very careful when we add too many “sit back and watch/listen” elements to our services.

    I, like you, am a lover of both simplicity and spectical – but I do think that Christians are not called to be spectators in the life of Christ.

    Would be interested to hear what you think about this!