Sunday, January 28, 2007

Lord, What's In It For ME?

I detest modern worship music. (I could have said "I have a hard time with modern worship music" but that wouldn't be an accurate statement--I hate the stuff.)

Partially it's because I'm a traditionalist and I'm uncomfortable with electric guitars and drums and light shows in church. But mostly, it's because of the inanity of the lyrics and what my mom calls the no-brainer melodies (easier to sing along with, I realize, but awfully predictable).

Consider the song that opens Alexandra Pelosi's latest documentary "Friend of God."
The song is 4:37 long. The lyrics are:

Who am I that You are mindful of me
That You hear me when I call
Is it true that You are thinking of me
How You love me it's amazing

I am a friend of God
I am a friend of God
I am a friend of God
He calls me friend

God Almighty, Lord of Glory
You have called me friend

(Repeat Chorus)

He calls me friend
He calls me friend...

That's it. Four and a half minutes of "I am A Friend of God I am a Friend of God. He calls me friend. " It's all about me and my responding to God. Theology subsituted for a trivial emotional response. Me, ME, ME

One of the most popular praise songs, "Lord I Lift Your Name on High" goes like this:

Lord, I liftYour name on high
Lord, I love to sing Your praises
I'm so glad You're in my life
I'm so glad You came to save us
You came from heaven to earth
To show the way
From the earth to the cross
My debt to pay
From the cross to the grave
From the grave to the sky
Lord, I lift Your name on high

Again, it's about me and how God makes me feel rather than a focus on God, His Divinity, his ability to awe (not the pop culture definition).

Compare those lyrics to a traditional hymn of about the same length:

1. Crown Him with many crowns,
The Lamb upon His throne:
Hark! how the heav'nly anthem drowns
All music but its own!
Awake my soul, and sing
Of Him who died for thee,
And hail Him as thy matchless King
Thru all eternity.

2. Crown Him the Lord of love:
Behold His hands and side--
Rich wounds, yet visible above,
In beauty glorified.
No angel in the sky
Can fully bear that sight,
But downward bends his wond'ring eye
At mysteries so bright.

3. Crown Him the Lord of life:
Who triumphed o'er the grave,
Who rose victorious to the strife
For those He came to save.
His glories now we sing,
Who died and rose on high,
Who died eternal life to bring
And live that death may die.

4. Crown Him the Lord of heav'n:
One with the Father known,
One with the Spirit thru Him giv'n
From yonder glorious throne.
To Thee be endless praise,
For Thou for us hast died;
Be Thou, O Lord, thru endless days
Adored and magnified.

Lyrics that inspire both the soul and the mind. There is imagery and direct reference to scripture; there is praise and a reverence for an omniscient God. There is no ME. There is God and His creation and His victory over death.

Certainly there is good contemporary Christian music and there are horrible old hymns (my Dad's favorite is "In the Garden" and I can't sing it without busting out in hysterical laughter), but overall, contemporary worship music is a reflection of what is wrong with the evangelical movement in America: dumbed down, emotional, lacking in substance, and focused on the wrong priorities.


Keith said...

my parents' church has changed to the 'contemp(t)orary services and they loathe the "7/11" songs, so called because you simply repeat the same seven words eleven times.

mainelife said...

I LOVE that--7/11-it's so perfect. I'm glad that your parents still go to church. I've been struggling with that whole church thing and the question of faith vs. religion.

Marie said...

Amen, Melissa.
I believe and am a Christian, but the whole organized religion thing wigs me out.

Anonymous said...

An old small town farmer went to the big city one weekend and attended a big city church. He came home and his wife asked him how it was. "Well," said the farmer, "It was good. They did something different, however. They sang praise choruses instead of hymns." "Praise choruses," said his wife, "What are those?" "Oh, they're okay. They're sort of like hymns, only different," said the farmer. "Well, what's the difference?" asked the wife. The farmer said, "Well, it's like this. If I were to say to you, 'Martha, the cows are in the corn,' well that would be a hymn. If on the other hand I was to say to you, 'Martha, Martha, Martha, Oh Martha, MARTHA, MARTHA, the cows, the big cows, the brown cows, the black cows, the white cows, the black and white cows, the COWS, COWS, COWS, are in the corn, are in the corn, are in the corn, are in the corn,' well, that would be a praise chorus."

A young, new Christian was visiting a small town farmer one weekend and attended the farmer's small town church. He came home and his wife asked him how it was. "Well," said the young man, "It was good. They did something different, however. They sang hymns instead of regular songs." "Hymns," said his wife, "What are those?" "Oh, they're okay. They're sort of like regular songs, only different," said the young man. "Well, what's the difference?" asked his wife. The young man said, "Well, it's like this - If I were to say to you 'Martha, the cows are in the corn,' well that would be a regular song. If, on the other hand, I were to say to you: Oh, Martha, dear Martha, hear thou my cry. Incline thine ear to the words of my mouth. Turn thou thy whole wondrous ear by and by. To the righteous, immutable, glorious truth. For the way of the animals, who can explain? There in their heads is no shadow of sense, Hearkenest they in God's sun or His rain, Unless from the mild, tempting corn they are fenced. Yea, those cows in glad bovine, rebellious delight, Have broke free their shackles, their warm pens eschewed. Then goaded by minions of darkness and night, They all my mild Chilliwack sweet corn have chewed. So, look to that bright shining day by and by, Where all foul corruption of earth are reborn. Where no vicious animal makes my soul cry, And I no longer see those foul cows in the corn. Then, if I were to do only verses one, three and four and do a key change on the last verse, well that would be a hymn."