Negative Rituals


I was thinking about how consumer culture seems to favour cultivatiing the sense of the 'sacred' by asserting our agency and freedom to enter into spaces, use any stories we want to, pick and mix narrations, synthesize and and use any symbols and aesthetics freely, or maybe if I can use Émile Durkheim's terminology, it favours 'Positive Rituals', that anything it wants is available by choice.

Except for an admission fee, is there any iconostasis, or veiling of the sacred, the notion that there is the need for time, and process in experiencing the sacred, a negative aspect to rituals, that consumerism seems to know nothing about? This is a question Vincent Miller asks in "Consuming Religion".

When everything can be reduced to a consumable commodity, are there Christian traditions that are more like negative rituals, that consumerism is unable to use? Whereas Christian have unnecessarily excluded people with their beliefs and practices (I am not arguing for witholding access for the sake of it), are there aspects of the Christian faith, that should not be immediately accessable?

If that premise is true (and I'm not sure it is, I'm just mulling it over), how might it be applied? Maybe we see it in communion, where we examine ourselves and if we aren't in a good place with God and others, we withold receiving it? Maybe fasting, penance, and other disciplines, have there place, that speak against the purchase of shallow immediacy.

Then with the statistics that show that despite church attendance being at 7% in the UK (yet as low as 1-2% in major towns and cities, including people who attend only at Christmas and Easter or by their own liturgical calendar), 97% of people undertake a religious funeral service (almost all Christian in rite), and over 20% of children are baptised/Christened (in fact Christenings are increasing signifcantly), whilst church marriages are around 40% of the people who marry (figures are from the UK 2001 National Census).

Is there the case for Churches to withhold funerals for people, christenings and marriages? I became a Christian in an evangelical background where Christian rites of funerals, marriages and christenings were seen as soley for Christians, yet over time I have moved to see them as significant spaces and times for the church to connect to non christians, and have conducted several funerals for non christian families or example.

Yet for the reasons above, I am now questioning whether they should be freely available? If they are purely acts of civil religion and culture, they have surely lost their true meaning, but if on the other hand they are indeed rites of Christian practice and belief is that a reason to withhold them?

I'm not drawing lines, just mulling over this issue and trying to consider how it might relate to practicing Christian faith in a post-christian culture, like the UK. Anyone have any thoughts?