I’m writing a paper right now that argues that sabbath-keeping and other forms of Christian practice (monasticism, prayer disciplines, even liturgy I suppose) are a form of resistance to the numbing, homogenizing, market-driven forces of what some cultural critics term “the culture industry” or “spectacle.” I think this is interesting for a number of reasons: first it offers an interesting alternative to the kinds of resistance evidenced by subcultural avant-garde movements like dada or punk. It does similar work – a resounding “no” to the cultural forces that tell us to buy our identities and force us into monotonous existence. But it does it in a different way. It is in some ways less radical – only one day a week, we choose to not participate. In other ways it is better because it is a turn, not only away from consumerism and competition and unending labor, but TOWARD something. Rather than leave us with the nihilism of Debord and others, Christian practice like Sabbath-keeping gives us something to affirm as well: communion with God, human community, our own health. Of course, this argument is not without problems. Punks and Situationists would reject this solution out of hand – isn’t the church just the Man we’re trying to stick it to? Sabbath-keeping isn’t remotely as sexy as avant-garde art and rebellion. Also, the affirmation of community that I see as a positive outcome of Christian practice runs counter to the extreme individualism and autonomy intended by these other resistant movements.
I posted about this Barbara Brown Taylor article that supports my argument nearly a year ago. I’m now exploring the ways that this works and the problems with it, and for whom it works. Those interested in reading a longer exploration can ask for the paper in a few weeks. I just thought I’d throw the ideas out there for the benefit/discussion of my interested readers.