Please Don’t Try to Curate My Faith Experience

The word “curate” (and its relatives) seems to be everywhere.   Playlists are “curated,” as are skin care products, vacations, restaurant menus, and just about everything else.  For those of us who’ve been around for a while, “curate” (and its relatives) is usually associated with art and art museums, where collections and exhibits are “curated,” and there are “curators” on staff.   Now, the word is all over the  place, seemingly suggesting that even the most mundane aspects of our lives—like taking care of our skin—can have (and perhaps ought to have) an artistic, fashionable quality.

According to Merriam-Webster, the word “curate” means “carefully chosen and thoughtfully organized or presented.”  It fits, then, neatly with museums and museum exhibits.  And, I suppose the word could relate to things like playlists and restaurant menus, but could it be true that so many of the commonplace aspects of our lives are really so carefully chosen and thoughtfully organized?  Can we even discern the difference between those things that are carefully chosen and those elements of life that are haphazardly thrown together?

My plan is to stay away from the word, and to refrain from using it—except for this blog post, of course.  The excessive usage of the word suggests an element of organization that feels stifling, as if something that is curated also leads to a well-defined, curated experience.  Curated playlists of music are intended to set a certain mood.  Curated restaurant menus lead to particular taste sensations.  And so on.

Faith experiences, then, should not be “curated.”  It’s not that we shouldn’t be careful and thoughtful about religious practice, especially those of us who organize regular worship for our flock.  But, too much care, too much control, too much of our own brand of “thoughtfulness,” will likely interfere with the experience of faith, and interactions with the sacred.

For Christians, our faith stories are full of the surprising, unsettling, and not at all carefully organized experiences of the holy.  Can you imagine what the feeding of the five thousand might have looked like if it had been “curated”?  What about the birth stories of Jesus, or the healing story involving the group that manages to get their ailing friend through the roof of a house so that he could get close to Jesus, or the transfiguration or the resurrection?  What about the Prodigal Son, or the Samaritan Woman?

When it comes to the life of faith, please keep “curated” out of it.  And, let faith be—in all of its wonder, in all of its mystery, in all of its blessed and holy untidiness.

About smaxreisert

I'm a United Church of Christ pastor serving the small, faithful Old South Congregational Church, United Church of Christ, in Hallowell, Maine. I was ordained in Massachusetts in 1995, moved to Maine in 1997 and have served the Hallowell church since 2005.
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