Sunday, September 19, 2004

Evangelical Hymnody

I'm not a fan of "happy-clappy" church songs. Here are the ways I judge a church song:
  • Number of "I/me"s per line. The more the worse.
In my writers' group I noticed that the poems that were most powerful spoke to the human condition, to everyman. Those that had a lot of I/Me references just sounded like they were bragging, or whining (depending upon whether the poem was recounting something positive or negative). Conversely, we've all felt betrayal. A poem should tie into that universal feeling and does so without personalizing it in the speaker.

Similarly, a church song can tie into the positive aspects of Christianity more powerfully if it avoids the use of I/Me.
  • God as cosmic boyfriend.
The times I most want to puke in church is when they put up a song on powerpoint AND that song is the Evangelical equivalent of "Yummy, yummy, yummy, I've got love in my tummy." (let's see, can we change "love" to "God" or change tummy to something else that rhymes with tummy...)

God is not your cosmic boyfriend. If you think he is, you've made an idol in your mind. See commandment #2. If you sing songs this frivilous about deity, I think you are also violating commandment #3.
  • The song works as well for Allah or Buddha
This criterion would be better posed in the positive. The best hymns refer specifically to Christ and what he did. When I get really annoyed, I goto the hymnal index and find the songs we're not singing by Toplady, Watts, Newton.

Trouble with this approach is that the Psalms are often translated into songs that speak accurately of God, but don't mention Christ.
  • It's a 7/11 song: 7 words repeated 11 times
I get bored with these. Maybe they are good aerobic exercize.

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