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Noisy Worship
Joyful Noises

There is ample Biblical warrant for noisy worship. And indeed, noisemaking is a feature of many different religious traditions.

Published on: September 24, 2014
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  • wigwag

    Speaking of “Joyful Noises” we shouldn’t forget the Song of Solomon. It is one of the few books of the bible that doesn’t mention the covenant or the deity; what it does mention is sex. That’s about as “joyful” an experience that human beings can have (at least acutely); isn’t it?

    I wonder whether the gesticulations, ecstatic utterances and exuberant movements to be found in various religious services are really sexual sublimation. Professor Berger mentions the summer vacations in the Berkshires with his family many years ago. Surely on at least one of these vacations, he paid a visit to Hancock Shaker Village; of the largest restored Shaker communities in the United States.

    The Shakers were celibate. Men and women lived in different quarters and interacted in only a formalized manner, When married people entered the community (as a fair number did), they agreed to eschew sexual relations and live apart.

    The sexual frustration that this inspired in both the male and female members of the community most have been palpable. Could this be what inspired the “liturgical paroxysms and “wild physical gyrations” that characterized the sect?

  • Arkeygeezer

    The instances of loud churches being fined usually involve Mosques with loud amplifiers blasting daily prayers. or church carillons being amplified outdoors. I don’t disagree with making a joyful noise to the Lord, but you don’t have to amplify it outdoors.

    And, by the way, we Lutherans do our part with joyful congregational singing in our services. At least we are taught to carry a tune.

  • ShadrachSmith

    We all love/need to share Joyful Noises. Shared Joyful Noises fall clearly within the definition of a blessing of faith. Some claim similar blessings from beer. Those faiths that do without alcohol must somehow replace those joyful experiences that the rest of us get drinking beer at a football game.
    That’s my theory 🙂

  • Wayne Lusvardi

    Did the Mountain come to Mohammed; or did Mohammed go to the mountain? The same principle works under nuisance law. Did the nuisance go to the neighborhood; or did the neighborhood go to the nuisance?

    If you have an airport in a remote area and then houses are built around the airport, the homeowners cannot say that the could not foresee the noise from aircraft when they bought their home. However in reverse, when an airport is constructed in a built-up area then the homeowners can say when they bought their home the airport noise was not foreseeable. So there is the “foreseeability” test in the law when it comes to nuisance damage claims. If the damage was foreseeable there is no damage.

    However, this doesn’t deter nearby property owners from filing in court to abate a nuisance even if the nuisance was foreseeable.

    It also doesn’t stop property owners from putting pressure on local politicians to get the airport to pay for double pane windows and other sound proofing measures for surrounding homes.

    In the South Caroline case cited above by Peter Berger, I would think the city is culpable for zoning homes nearby a church. Perhaps the city should offer to soundproof the homes? or maybe the church? or both?

    The Christian version of the Mohammedan mountain story is when Jesus is reported to have said in the Gospel of Matthew 21:21 that you “should have faith to move mountains”; or in Matthew 17:20 where he says: “if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, then you can say to this mountain, move from here to there.”

    I hope the South Carolina pastor and his congregation have faith enough that the city will mitigate their own self-created impact (to put this in the secular language of zoning technocrats).

  • Gary Novak

    Wigwag seems puzzled by Professor Berger’s
    inability to see in all those shaking Shaker booties clear evidence of
    frustrated sexual desire. No doubt he hasn’t heard of Freud’s theory of
    sublimated sexuality. It would be easier to forgive him for not keeping up with
    such late-breaking news if the theory were not already implicit in the Song of
    Solomon, which clearly presupposes the biological function of libido and eschews
    any obfuscating indulgence in romantic poetry.

    What the Song of Solomon actually suggests, of
    course, is that sex IS sublime (unless it is desublimated). As Roger Scruton
    observes in “The Face of God,” . . .”the great mystics and
    religious poets, when they endeavor to describe the love that the soul has for
    God, almost always follow Plato’s example, and take erotic love as their
    analogical base. [Analogy is not reduction.] This is true of St John of the
    Cross, of St Teresa of Avila, of Rumi and Hafiz.” That’s the Rumi that
    Berger closes with. If we do not hear the deity in the Song of Solomon, perhaps
    He is speaking to us in His silence.

    • ljgude

      Yes, I think you have made the essential connection between sexual energy and spiritual experience. I would suspect that the Shakers were, in Eastern terms, raising Kundalini. That suspicion would seem to be confirmed by their shaking separately and not having children. That would seem a recipe for sublimation or the transformation of sexual energy by redirecting it up the spine found in esoteric Tantric practices and even more directly in Taoist sexual cultivation.

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