I have been trying to find a definition which captures the concept of worship when it expands out into “normal” activities. Without question, our relationship to various “idols” — sports idols, music idols, the famous, the beautiful, the powerful can constitute worship. A college football looks like worship.
But there is also the worship of the mall (James K.A. Smith’s first chapter in Desiring the Kingdom is brilliant on this point). How do we capture work as worship? And how do we distinguish appropriate human action is appropriate and not as sinful worship? How do I go to a football game or a concert and not “worship” the performer?
This is still tentative:
Every worldview — even if it is inarticulate — grapples with the “wrong” in the world, the way it is not supposed to be. The most thoughtless person still struggles against something wrong. There is some Fall, some Sin which haunts us all — even if we don’t think of it in “religious” terms.
There is a solution to that something wrong: If you will, there is Sin and there is Salvation.
The object of worship is that thing, person, whatever, which the human worshiper believes will resolve the “what is wrong with the world” problem. It might be the outcome of political election or new shoes.
The act of worship is that set of actions and affections which seek to obtain the benefit of the object hoped in.
There may be more than one object of worship necessary to resolve the problem as understood by the human worshipper.
Seen in this way, not all worship will entail distinctly “religious” means. The act of worship is fit to the object of worship.
“Religious” acts of worship take place where the object of worship is principally spiritual.
However, where the objet of worship is a material object the practice of worship will not appear to be “religious”. If it is an objection and action which is common to a particular culture, it will appear “normal” and be largely invisible.