The Statism of Standing up in Church

That’s a very click bait-y title, i’m pretty proud of it to be honest.

“When Satan offers to give him all the kingdoms of the earth, Jesus refuses, but the church accepts.” – Jacques Ellul

I’ve noticed it’s commonplace for many of friends who didn’t grow up in Christianity to get confused and even annoyed by all the standing up during church services. Sit down, stand up, sit down, kneel, repeat. Even many of my friends who did grow up in that community still seem to misunderstand the origins of the seemingly pointless repetitive action. Having the luxury of growing up as the child of a very intellectual Episcopal preacher, I’ve learned a lot about services and rituals, most importantly the term “Liturgical service”.

Worship services in different Christian denominations can be categorized as Liturgical or Non-Liturgical. The Non-Liturgical service is one of simplicity, it can be seen in branches of Christianity that are less formal and more interested in personalized worship. Denominations such as the Nazarene church worship with Non-Liturgical services. Music is typically more contemporary, and the extent of collective actions is usually limited to saying “Amen” or singing; rarely do you find scheduled collective kneeling or mass recitation of a scripted prayer. In contrast, liturgical services are inherently structured and exaggerated. The stereotypical Mass of Catholicism, categorized by its somewhat frustrating scripted switching between standing, kneeling, and sitting, and its books of common prayer, is the poster child of liturgical services.

The word liturgy comes from the Greek leitourgia, almost directly translating as“rich people funding public/state services”. The practice, commonplace in most Greek Democracies, involved the wealthiest individuals in the community paying politicians to distribute the money into the community through services. Seemingly to demonstrate some sort of obligation the wealthiest in society had to the community, the rich either developed a mutually beneficial relationship with Greek politicians or felt they were being robbed in the name of the common good. Regardless of the intentions or end result, liturgy was seen as a “Public Service”. Though the practice should have been seen as a form of private charity, assumptions of government as the representative of the public made money extorted go directly into the government’s “public treasury” instead of going directly to the real public.

Many of branches of Christianity that practice “Liturgical services” happen to be forms of Christianity with long historical relationships with the state and ruling elite. Catholicism and the Anglican Church (or the Church of England), found themselves in positions directly influenced by and influencing public/state activity, sometimes even functioning as advocates for political power. The most obvious example of this crony relationship was the representation of the ruling families as anointed by God. These branches of Christianity began as recipients of forms of literacy from Post-Greek Democracy. The church grew in wealth due to riches funneled into it through the state under the name of public good and obligation of the rich elite to the state and public. Much of the wealth was used to add a theatrical component to church services, something seen as a “Public Service” to church-goers. Mystical rituals and powerful baroque music intended to pull in citizens who might otherwise find church to be a boring practice of worship. One of the new theoretical innovations was the infamous switching from standing, sitting and kneeling. Ignoring the fact that ritualistic repetitive actions are a great tool for brainwashing (a subject for another time), standing and sitting was was an additional elaborate practice adding to the display of publicly extorted wealth under the label of public service.

In short, switching between standing, sitting and kneeling during church is the equivalent of standing during the Pledge of Allegiance in a publicly funded concert. Standing during church could be said to be a sort of statism.

This is obviously a working theory good chance i’m wrong about the correlation.

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