Sunday, November 20, 2011

The Holy Spirit Doesn't Mind Tacky

Anglicans share a "deep seated belief that God always and everywhere is the arbiter of good taste," a friend of mine observed in an email to me.

"But the Holy Spirit doesn't mind tacky," I shot back.

My correspondent thought that in saying this I was, perhaps, advocating bad art, or even tacky liturgical music (Marty Haugen / David Haas), which I wasn't. So I elaborated as follows ...

Not long after my conversion I was reading our local non-conformist alternate weekly newspaper (which is exactly like all the other non-conformist alternate weekly newspapers in America and probably owned by the same company). It featured an article on a Pentecostal weekly gathering in rural Missouri, a holy roller church that was causing quite a stir and attracting large numbers of visitors. Since tired liberals in sweaters (the kind who write for and read the non-conformist alternate weeklies) are the snobbiest of snobs, the article was condescending and sneering. It made fun of fat ladies from Wal-Mart speaking in tongues; red neck teen-agers rolling on the floor; hick young men with mullets dancing in the aisles. And I thought, "Well, you folks might look down on these simpletons - but I doubt the Holy Spirit would." That is to say, Protestant heresies aside, the Third Person of the Trinity would no more mind the bad breath and gun-racks of Show Me State hill-billies than the Second Person of the Trinity minded the smell of animal dung in that stable so long ago.

In other words, the Holy Spirit doesn't mind working through tacky. He'll even work through the snobs who hate tacky. Sloppy "hoosiers" (as we call them) and immaculate "metro-sexuals", both. God embraces the butts of the jokes of cynical yuppies as well as the cynical yuppies making the jokes. We might be squeamish about either kind of neighbor (snobs and red necks), but the Holy Spirit isn't.

This is not to say we should aspire for tackiness - especially in the things we offer overtly to God. For instance, there's no reason the music at the typical Catholic parish should be an affront to all that is human, while the music at the nearly empty Episcopal parish down the block is reverent and beautiful.

But if bad taste alone kept God from redeeming us, there's not a suburban music minister I know of who would make it to heaven.

Yes, we must offer our best to God. But He offers His best to us even when we're at our worst.

That's my point.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for the humility reminder. It is soooo easy to be "puffed up" but if we are listening (and reading blogs like yours), we usually get the message.

Love the White Castle background which is a picture, right?

Peg in Denver CO

Anonymous said...

This is a great post! Reminds me of Flannery O'Connor stories, where the holy person is often the sloppy oddball rather than the mannered church lady who thinks proper taste is next to godliness. Thanks! -Tacky in Dayton

SherryTex said...

Awesome reminder and beautiful insight.

We are more beautiful than we ever imagine and more wretchedly tacky than we'd ever dare allow ourselves think.