Friday, October 02, 2009

No Applause, please! (or why I don't clap my hands anymore)

I rarely watch television anymore (except baseball!). In other words, I only keep up with pop culture crises via my wife's reports (she only has a little time in the morning to watch news shows). Evidently, in the long line of public figures confessing their indiscretions, David Lettermen used his show to admit his sins and call out his extortioner. Now, there's so much to talk about here (public confession, the problem of greed in all of its forms [sexual, monetary, power, et al.], American contrition, etc.), but I want to center on the crowds reaction to Letterman's mea culpa. They laughed. They cheered him on. They applauded. As a matter of fact, when I saw part of the replay (my wife fetched me from another part of the house with the words, "you've got to see this"), I found the dissonance overwhelming: here's a man confessing he had sex with his co-workers and the audience applauded!

I hate confirming Pavlov's experiment--when humanity acts nothing more than like dogs who salivate given a certain cue. We clap our hands for anything these days. It's mindless. It's knee-jerk (pardon the mixed metaphor). It's foolish. It's the herd instinct in full force.

This is why I don't clap my hands during worship. I remember a time, growing up in a very strict SBC church, where clapping hands seemed rebellious, pentecostal, downright disruptive. Now, it's so common, we'll clap for anything. Someone sang a song (clap). Someone told a joke (clap). Someone did something nice (clap, clap).

Maybe I'm turning into the grumpy old man I remember seeing in church who snarled when his neighbors clapped their hands during church 40 years ago. No, wait. I don't snarl. I just don't see the point. I don't clap during baseball games, either.


ben cassil said...

Baseball, huh? How does that play into your exploration into the holiness of competition?

Seriously, though, I wonder if clapping in more suburban, middle class, white churches is the closest we can get to a communal "joyful noise." We often have trouble offering praise as a group, or being vocal in our affirmation and worship (I hear less shouts of "Amen" and "Hallelujah" all the time).

Chris Ryan said...

I wonder if it is that we will celebrate anything.

Or is it that we haven't made anything seem like it is especially worth celebrating? Have we so watered down the Gospel that it is just as worthy of a round of applause as rank sinfulness, no more so and no less so?

Anonymous said...

The only thing worse than clapping is being compelled into standing while clapping. The standing ovation. Especially at church when you know the lady who sang last week DIDN'T get one.

I do clap at baseball games though. But I'm a Royals fan so it happens so rarely that it must be intentional when it happens.

JR. said...

What about clapping as a form of corporate response?

I think of clapping along to a song (or foot-tapping?).

Or when we're instructed to clap as a response to something (or offer a corporate 'Amen'). I've for a long time now refused to follow corporate instruction (is that my rebellious spirit?!)

Freshwater Church said...

I had the same exact feelings when I watched the reaction of the audience to David Letterman. We have been trained to respond to the bell so well haven't we?