October 20, 2015


Every generation has its own media, its own celebrities, its own pop culture. And at some point, that media and those celebrities and that pop culture are replaced with new media and new celebrities and new pop culture. And at some point, those who came of age with that media and those celebrities and that pop culture will all look back and say “oh, remember that? That was the best! I wish it was still like that”

For my generation, this is currently taking the form of movies made from our childhood cartoons and comics (the Marvel movies, Transformers, and Ender’s Game, to name a few), an infinite number of movie sequels (why do it once when you can have many at many times the price?), reboots of old shows on Netflix (Gilmore girls, anyone?), and facebook quizzes set up to determine how much of the ’80’s or ’90’s we remember. It’s about getting “teh feels.”

But it’s not just us; every generation has its own brand of nostalgia.

In possibly unrelated news, finding images for this post was incredibly difficult, in that there were so many from which to choose.

Nostalgia is a tricky thing. Playing to the things of the past gives the player massive culture points - “you understand me!” the masses will say. It pokes at a certain set of emotions associated with the perceived prime of life for that generation. But nostalgia is entirely past- and self-focused; the desire to return to a time when things were different is actually a clever trick of a self-interested, consumer-driven world.

I once saw someone write that every year, American culture embarks on a massive project to carefully recreate the Christmases of baby boomers’ childhoods. I’ve referenced it before, because this is nostalgia at its finest - an entire cultural industry taking a single season of the year and playing it up because it pokes the feel-good bones of those who have the most money. It’s almost like - or maybe it simply IS - selling feelings. And so every year you hear the same songs on perpetual repeat from radio stations. You can even get internet radio year-round that does the same thing.

For a price.

Think about that: Christmas is now an INDUSTRY because of nostalgia.

Planning our worship gatherings CANNOT be driven by nostalgia, but must be driven by a desire to curate space for people to respond to their Creator together. While nostalgia is about evoking self-focused emotion, our corporate worship must give people space for self-abandoning responses to God's mercy. Nostalgia says "I remember how awesome I/we/the world used to be, I wish I/we/the world was still that awesome.” In good corporate worship gatherings, on the other hand, we tell stories of the past that help us remember what God has done, and then use them as a means to invite us to trust Him both now AND in the future. Nostalgia wishes to remain in a warm, fuzzy blanket of positive emotion in which we ignore the needs of others; good corporate worship sends us out to be agents of transformation in the world for the sake of the world.