Thursday, March 12, 2009

Stupid Hymns?

Ben Meyer on the Faith and Theology Blog is asking Are our hymns becoming stupider?
He refers to a rant of John Stack on his blog where he seems to be only going after Chris Tomlin - Chris Tomlin's Worship Songs: We Have Got to Do Better

Okay I confess, I don't even know who Christ Tomlin is so maybe I shouldn't even be opining about this. I am not up on my contemporary Christians music. I don't like most of it. I'll be kinder and say I find most of it trite, rather than stupid. It's repetitive. And most of the theology sucks. It's all about me and how I feel about God. I find a spirituality that is based on me and how I feel about God will eventually fail. Because I don't always feel lovey dovey about God and even when I am feeling good about God I think some of these songs that talk about God or Jesus as if he were my boyfriend kind of creepy.

I think the great hymns talk about God and what God has done, not me and how I feel about it.

On Faith and Theology, Ben Meyer claims that most of our hymns have always been stupid. It's true there are a lot of old hymns that are about "me and Jesus" "In the Garden" is probably one of the most egregious examples. He has a point but I wish he would have mentioned the great Lutheran hymnody tradition as an exception to "stupid hymns".

Now I'm reading N.T. Wright's book Surprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church and he takes on some questionable understandings of heaven in many many hymns, including some of my favorites.

The thing is if, we only used hymns without any questionable theology we'd be much poorer for it. But we do have to be careful. If people are singing a steady diet of "it's all about how I feel about Jesus" they are going to think it's all about them and how they feel.

This is why the task of choosing hymns shouldn't be just left to the organist to pick her favorites. But those who do have the task, whether it be the pastor (I choose all the hymns where I am) or a well trained and educated committee, need to think about these issues and make sure the hymns Sunday after Sunday are not contradicting your sermons.

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