Worship: The Anti-Selfie

So it turns out so far in 2015, there have been 12 deaths resulting from selfie mishaps while there have only been 8 deaths resulting in shark attacks. 

We can roll our eyes at the selfie and think that those who take them are a narcissistic bunch. Maybe that is true, but the way I see it, the selfie is less an expression of narcissism and more an expression of how we in the Western part of the world value the individual.

In the U.S.A., the emphasis on the individual has entered into the mainstream debate almost every time you encounter the news.

  • Does an individual have the right to take a gun anywhere they want to, even in places where guns had historically been banned?

  • Does an individual have a right to privacy?

  • Does an individual have the right to refuse a public office if part of the public office violates the individual’s beliefs?

We see the rights of the individual taken to extreme examples when people walk up to celebrities and take selfies with them, without the permission of the celebrity.

In 2006 TIME Magazine declared that the person of the year was “You”.

The rise of the individual has also brought with it a great number of goods. Women’s suffrage, Voting Rights Act of 1965, freedom to choose where and how to worship, social integration, and personal responsibility are just a few ways we are indebted to individualism.

I am not saying that individualism is good or bad, but rather that if we think that the youngest generations are selfish, entitled or freeloaders because they are somehow inferior as a people we may be missing a critical point here. These expressions of the individual may not reflect a narcissistic generation but a generation that has only expanded on the values of individualism they inherited.

And perhaps because individualism is a dominant value of our time is why we worship.

At the core, worship is the anti-selfie. Corporate worship is one of the last places in the world that is designed to de-center us from our own lives

Everything in worship is a de-centering practice. For instance:

  • you follow a script that you did not write

  • you are invited to sing - in public - when you might not normally do so

  • you do not get to choose the words in the creeds

  • you do not get to choose who preaches

  • you do not get to choose where every dollar we give goes to

  • you don’t get to choose how God will speak to us or what God will say

And perhaps because worship is the “anti-selfie” we see a number of people of all ages who do not like worship. Even the very idea of liking worship still places the the emphasis on personal preferences and not on de-centering oneself.

The very act of corporate worship is counter-cultural in the days of individualism because corporate worship forces us to step down off our individual throne from an hour and de-center ourselves.