I see a whole bunch of Christian pastors and intellectuals going online to articulate a Theory of Worship for Coronavirustide. But of course those theories widely diverge. Here’s why we must livestream … Here’s why we must not livestream. Here are our precedents. Here are our theological guardrails.
Come on, folks. We’re trying to build this plane while flying it. We don’t get to patiently articulate a theory and then generate from that theory a practice. The only theory applicable to our situation is the theory of bricolage — of DIY, of making-it-up, of using-what’s-to-hand.
In The Savage Mind (1952) Claude Levi-Strauss writes, “The characteristic feature of mythical thought is that it expresses itself by means of a heterogeneous repertoire which, even if extensive, is nevertheless limited. It has to use this repertoire, however, whatever the task in hand because it has nothing else at its disposal. Mythical thought is therefore a kind of intellectual ‘bricolage.’” In coronavirustide, ritual action takes on the traits of mythical thought: it has to have recourse to a “heterogeneous repertoire” of acts and gestures, ways and means.
Let’s just accept the necessity of so heterogeneous a repertoire and see what comes of it. And let us do this in good hope! Levi-Strauss writes, “Like ‘bricolage’ on the technical plane, mythical reflection can reach brilliant unforeseen results on the intellectual plane.” I think I’m already seeing some of those “brilliant unforeseen results.” Let’s not worry too much about the theory and just play this out, using whatever resources are to hand, and while we’re doing so make sure to say, “This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.”