A Medium of Spirituality?

In most cases of media-oriented or group worship traditions, there are many different factors to consider such as the rhetorical methods and its implications and the mode in which these worship practices are addressed in the different traditions. Thus, the formation of such religious and worship practices come into context with the prevailing method of communications, especially in our modern context – the media.

There are numerous facets of media and communications today that even spirituality attempts to plant itself on these kind of communicative phenomena. As such, a specific worship experience, perhaps commonly prevalent today, is through the television. These religious shows are mostly based on the reading and interpretation of passages from the bible through some authoritative assumptions and conclusions.

In his book, A History of Christian Spirituality, Urban Holmes categorizes the different modes of spirituality and worship traditions through a combination of four quadrants of a ‘circle of sensibility.’ The north polar end of the diagram is categorized as the rational or cognitive pole.

The south polar of the same line is the emotional or affective side. The east and west is categorized as kataphatic (for speech) and apophatic (against speech), respectively. Thus, through the combination of these four different areas, we may find some mode of spirituality categorized as kataphatic-cognitive, apophatic-affective, among others. As such, the different traditions of worship are categorized whether it appeals to the emotions, the intellect, or the preference for written/oral traditions or not.

An example of these different modes of spirituality or worship is through television shows that provide an interpretation of the scripture.

These bible-oriented interpretative shows are then categorized, according to Holmes, on the speculative-kataphatic or cognitive-kataphatic. Since most readings require interpretation during these sessions, then most spirituality expressed in these is through a interpretative method coupled with some consideration with an intellectual understanding. Also, the methods in which these lectures are addressed are also taken into consideration since varying methods of rhetorical delivery may also affect such theological understanding.

For example, a bible show that presents an argument on the goodness of God then meticulously chooses passages from the bible to support the argument (intellectual), and the interpreter then presents his or her own views regarding the subject matter. There are of course a number of speech methods that ultimately affect the interpretation of the viewers themselves as it appeals to an emotional construct of the person.

The method of inquiry through interpretation may be too diverse to explain whether such interpretations affect the intellectual or emotional aspect. In terms of spirituality, these newer methods of theological proclamation then posit two problems: first is the authenticity of the spirituality produced conveyed through a non-personal approach (e.g. television instead of live or ‘practical’ worship practices). Second is the affectivity of such methods compared to a more personal understanding of theological ideologies. We must first then consider the authenticity of such spirituality in the given circumstance.

Through television, the information conveyed by the scripture(s) becomes somehow stratified through a selective process of theological topics instead of a diverse and explorative manner of topic discussion. These shows are not wholly aimed for the purpose of elevating spiritual consciousness but rather, just like any other television program, are much more concerned on viewer ratings and the advantages to other competitions similar to that of the program.

Thus, authenticity of the spirituality espoused in these shows is in question. Can these shows provide the same level of spirituality as that of a normative worship practice? In some way, the affectivity of these may cause some further theological discussion involving the scriptural context that appeals the intellect. However, it cannot be said that these shows are a main tenet of producing spirituality in such a way that these kinds of discussions are carefully structured in order to gain more viewers instead of gaining more theological understanding.