Sentimentalized Worship

English philosopher, Roger Scruton, illuminates the deceptions of the cheap substitute of sentimentality for love in his book Modern Culture:

Sentimental feeling is easy to confuse with the real thing, for on the surface at least, they have the same object. The sentimental love of Judy and the real love of Judy are both directed towards Judy, and involve tender thoughts of which she is the subject. But this superficial similarity marks a deep difference. The real focus of my sentimental love is not Judy but me. To the sentimentalist it is not the object but the subject of emotion that is important. Real love focuses on the other: it is gladdened by his pleasure and grieved by his pain. The unreal love of the sentimentalist focuses on the self, and treats the pleasures and pains of its object only as an excuse for playing the role that most appeals to it. It may seem to grieve at the other’s sorrow, but it does not really grieve. For secretly sentimentalists welcomes the sorrow that prompts their tears. It is another excuse for the noble gesture, another occasion to contemplate the image of a great-hearted self…

Sentimentality and fantasy go hand in hand. For the object of sentimental emotion is, like a fantasy object, deprived of objective reality, made pliant to a subjective need, and roughly discarded when the going gets tough. He is, from the beginning, only an excuse for an emotion whose focus lies elsewhere, in the great drama of which the sentimentalist is the sole enduring hero. Hence the object of sentimental love is given no security, and will find himself quickly replaced in his lover’s affections when the script requires it. The sentimental love of Judy pretends to acknowledge her value; but in fact he has assigned her a price.

These insights apply not only to the sentimentalizing of persons but also to the deity. Sentimental worship is cheap and self-referential. It is more about the subject than the object; more about the worshiper than the worshipped. Some Evangelicals who revel in emotion-based, sentimentalized worship are moving toward the Emergent church which may just be a stop on the path to secularity. I experienced this in my start-up post-Evangelical/Emergent church before converting to Catholicism. Attendees still had a form of worship but they were tired of God being so uptight about how we comport our bodies. Worship was about expressing affection to The-Big-Happy-Daddy-in-the-Sky who was cool with whatever we wanted to do as long as it made us happy.

I compared this to the Catholic conception of God which acknowledges God as Other. Compare and contrast this:

To this:

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s