While discussing heavenly and new creation worship, as describe in Revelation, a friend bought the following quote to my attention:
“Here’s what I think is really sad. When I looked up internet search engines for pictures of Christian worship, 99% of the pictures were of people with their hands raised above them. But when I looked up general pictures of worship from other religions there was a surplus of people bowing down on a mat with their heads on the ground while giving homage to a fake god.” Jacqueline Hadley (2010).
My thoughts were as follows…
While preparing to reflect on the statement by Hadley (as outlined above), I decided to conduct a similar search. Using Google as as the search engine and with the two delimiters of “Christian” and “Worship” my search also produced many images of uplifted hands, but it also depicted people in a posture of prayer as well as the display of the Eucharist (among many other illustrative representations). A similar search for “World Religions Worship” did not produce a ‘surplus of people bowing down’ until I narrowed the search string to “Muslim Worship”; only then did my PC screen fill with photos of worshippers “with their heads on the ground.”
Regardless, I guess what Hadley is striking at, albeit in a manner that is designed to be inflammatory and invoke debate, is that the archetypal picture of the Western Christian has become the backlit torso with arms upheld in a gesture of praise and adoration to an unseen God (who is presumably out of shot ). Why aren’t Christians regularly depicted in the submissive stance of bowing low to the ground? I wonder whether the rugged individualism that has been weaved into the fabric of our being as a result of the modernist revolt against the communal subservience of the medieval era has left us with an inherent unwillingness to ‘bow the knee’ to the incumbent monarch.
Furthermore, as Webber (2004) highlights “The Enlightenment [modernism] taught that only that which could be proven could be believed. We evangelicals have been greatly influenced by the modern demand for proof” (p. 150). Has this requirement of proof left our western sensibilities requiring hard evidence before we bend our erect self-righteousness to anything or anyone who is unseen, not to mention unneeded and unwanted. God have mercy! We have lost our awareness for God’s true weightiness in being.
What strikes me about the passages in Revelation is the central knowingness of God’s vast person. In Revelation God is simply accepted as “I am” because He is! In writing about God’s ontic weight John Jefferson Davis (2010) highlights that “this notion of the weightiness of God as the truly, densely, intensely and profoundly ‘real’ is an expression of what has been traditionally in Christian theology called the aseity of God” (p. 50). The aseity of God, literally taken to mean “being from himself” (Cross et al, 2005, p. 115), is fully expressed and revealed throughout John’s Revelation. Praise God that we have a written record of John’s ‘reality dream’ because it reminds us of our temporal being and how all of creation is ultimately, like it or not, subservient to the one who was before all that is. I forget this to my own peril. I pray that I am found with bent knees of submission, upraised hands of adoration and a contrite spirit of repentance.
Cross, F. L., & Livingstone, E. A. (2005). The Oxford dictionary of the Christian Church (3rd ed. rev.). Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press.
Davis, J. J. (2010). Worship and the reality of God: An evangelical theology of real presence. Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic.
Webber, R. E. (2004). Ancient-future time: Forming spirituality through the christian year. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.