Responding to Critics

Haters hate.  That’s what they were saying in the aftermath of NBC’s live broadcast of “The Sound of Music” starring Carrie Underwood.  While I missed the live event and the buzz (mostly negative) in the Twitterverse, I did catch it OnDemand to try to make an educated decision for myself about the performance.

sound-of-music-carrie-underwoodLet me say at the start that “The Sound of Music” holds a special place in my heart.  When I was a sophomore in high school, I scored the lead role of Captain von Trapp.  I was fairly inexperienced in big theater and was being paired up with a fairly experienced leading lady.  My sophomore year holds many dear memories that I recall very vividly to this day and my time in rehearsals and performances of “The Sound of Music” were among the greatest of those memories.

Any time that you are dealing with something that someone holds near and dear to their heart, you are treading on dangerous ground.  It’s almost as if you’re profaning what is sacred.  There are many things in pop culture that we revere to the point of idolizing.  Whenever this happens, you’re probably best not to touch it with a ten foot pole.  In fact, in the aftermath of the criticism that was lobbed at NBC, Underwood, and the whole production, one news organization wrote, “there are some things that are so revered in pop culture it’s nearly criminal to try to re-introduce them.”

We can probably all name what some of those things are for us.  For me, I can name them without much thought.  It’s a Wonderful Life, Citizen Kane, Audrey Hepburn movies, certain Johnny Cash, Bob Dylan, and Beatles songs.  That’s without really giving it much thought.  But even with such strong feelings for these things, I’m pretty sure that they could be touched and I wouldn’t spew vitriol against those who were reimagining them.

As I was reading all of the stories coming out about everyone’s opinions of Carrie Underwood and her missing the mark, I couldn’t help but think about how territorial we are with things that have grown sacred to us.  As soon as you begin to mess with things that people have attached nostalgia and memories to, you can find yourself in some serious hot water.  Why do we do this?

Memories are sacred to us.  We can all recall memories of where we were when we heard something or saw something for the first time.  Maybe we became a big fan of Barbra Streisand because our mom played her for us all the time.  We might have become attached to a certain kind of food or a picture or a movie because of the sentimental attachments that we had made to it.  The stronger the sentimental connections with something, the stronger our reaction when someone decides that they want to reimagine it or change it around.

Let’s be honest, trying to hold a candle to Julie Andrews’ iconic performance in “The Sound of Music” is pretty near impossible.  I don’t think Carrie Underwood was trying to equal the performance of Julie Andrews, she just wanted to take it on as her own.  If we left everything alone that had some sentimental meaning attached to it, we would be watching dust accumulate on a lot of classics.  Carrie Underwood didn’t hold a candle to Julie Andrews, but who said that she was trying to?  Could it be that she just wanted to play Maria herself, seeing how she could perform in the role?

This is a topic that’s near and dear to my heart.  I’ve seen this happen in the church TOO often.  Maybe you’ve been to a Christmas Eve service where someone sang “O Holy Night” and it was the most atrocious performance you had ever heard, but it had risen to an almost sacred level for people as they had heard the same version every year for the past decade.  Maybe it was that church dinner that only a handful of people come to but it’s been around for so long that no one really remembers exactly why it was started to begin with.  Perhaps it’s a painting or a pew that has a little plaque on it stating that it was donated in memory of someone many years earlier, because of the memory attached to it, no one will even think about getting rid of it for something more current.

We all need to hold on loosely to the things to which we have emotionally attached ourselves.  I’ve learned this lesson so strongly over the last few years.  I’ve realized the things that are most important to me, and most of those things are people and relationships.  That’s not to say that there aren’t “things” to which I have attached myself, but when we make the intangible tangible, we are in danger of being disappointed when we lose what’s tangible.

Carrie Underwood will live to see and sing another day, despite what her critics have said.  The future will be full of other “sacred cows” which get dragged out and reimagined, and the results will most likely be similar.  All of us need to determine what’s important to us and why we hold things with such sacredness, and if it’s appropriate.  If we’re not careful we will begin to idolize things that once pointed us towards memories, making objects more important than what they represent.

Everything is fleeting, nothing lasts forever except for the love of Christ.  Entering into this Advent season, I am reminded of the gift that is sacred and lasting, the one that won’t break or go out of style, it won’t fade away, rip, or need repair.  I can attach value, emotion, and sentimentality to it and I won’t be disappointed.  Haters will hate, but God’s love will break through.  This is the truth that can keep me grounded amidst distractions, criticism, and other things.  My prayer is that I attach importance to the right things.  If I don’t , I’m just creating sacred cows which other people are going to step on.  If I am, then I need to believe that the importance of those things will be strong enough for them to stand on their own, no matter what anyone does to them.

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