I got an interesting phone call today from a friend about screens. Some folks at her church are wanting to put one up in the nave. She wanted my thoughts.
Well, for what they are worth:
1. First of all, let's recognize that screens are neither commanded nor forbidden in God's Word. That seems like a huge "duh" because they're a result of technology moving in ways that the folks back then couldn't even begin to imagine. Which means they fall into the technical category of adiaphora.
2. That should lead us to the next question: is their use wise? For not all things are wise which we are free to do. And that's where I'd invite us to do a bit more pondering than we are wont to do in such matters.
Here I'd ask a few more questions: What does the use of a large screen suggest about context? It's not a neutral thing. It, like most everything else, has associations in our culture. What are those typically? I would think we could agree that they tend to fall into that form of media consumption we call "entertainment." Is that a context we want carried into the Church?
Nothing against entertainment, mind you. It has its place in our lives. But is that place in that wondrous transaction where God assembles His Holy Bride to lavish upon her the gifts His Son died to win for her and lives to deliver to her?
Looking at Hebrews 12 is always helpful. Check out the summary of the Chapter: our God is an all-consuming fire. Let our worship be acceptable, therefore, that is, offered with reverence and awe. Is it possible to extricate the screen from its cultural setting (think Theatre or Man Cave) and bring it into that holy assembly without carrying along with it something casual, something bordering on the frivolous? Not saying that it cannot be done; but I am saying that it's a lot harder to do than we imagine. Somehow, it shouldn't surprise us that folks are in the theatre type seats, sipping their lattes that they bought (!) in the "narthex" and evidencing no sense of actually being in the presence of the One before whom angels veil their faces in awe; in the presence of the Lord Jesus, before whom John fell at his feet as one dead.
One final reflection: idols. The people of God have always struggled against them, these things. These creations of our own hands from which we expect every good. Surely to any impartial observer in this day and age, technology is our idol. We lie to ourselves when we talk about just "using it." No, the way our kids are with the texting on their phones, staring into screens, isn't just "using" their phones. Watch the panic when you can't connect to the net! YIKES. Hey, I know whereof I speak because I have passing familiarity with that idol too (just not the texting variety - ugh! I HATE getting or sending texts. There. I said it.). But many times when the arguments for the screen are bandied about, what runs beneath the surface is exactly idolatry over technology: "If only we could get a nice with-it screen and projector, we might get folks back...or keep the kids...or..." well, you get the idea. It's looking for from technology what we no longer trust the Word of God, simply spoken, to deliver. And we need to repent of it. It's a silly as thinking that reproducing the perfect museum piece liturgy from 17th century Magdeburg is the cure to what ails us. Um, no. That's not the solution to anything (and you know that I LOVE 17th century Magdeburg). Still I can't help but wonder if there isn't ONE place left on God's green earth where I can go and NOT be assaulted by a screen (where, underneath the entertainment, someone is usually trying to sell me something!)?
Going forward, let's have some of these conversations about screens and such. Let's affirm Christian freedom and mean it, and yet because it's Christian freedom it doesn't mean "no one can tell me what to do!" (that's old Adam's idea of freedom) - rather it means, God's Word doesn't tell us one way or the other about this, but it sure gives us some helpful questions to ask in evaluating whether or not using our freedom in this or that way would be beneficial to worship in the Church.
I hope the above might move the discussion beyond the usual:
But *I* like screens! Yeah, well *I* don't.
But I have my doubts... What are your thoughts?