Wednesday, August 03, 2005

My Sad Musical World

I love music. Truly I do. At least, I used to love music, and I loved to sing as loud as I could, for good or for ill. But now, things have changed. Music often aggravates me. Actually, it's not the music; it's the musical lyrics.

While others can pretend that lyrics do not matter to them, I must state emphatically that they matter to me. I cringe and shudder at bad lyrics. If they are poetically cheesy, I am instantly aggravated no matter how pretty the chorus.

Briefly, let me describe what has happened to me. Before I was a Christian, I loved "grunge" music. Yes, I was a Pearl Jam fan. I had all of their albums, even the bootleg ones. In fact, my first ever trip to Louisiana was to see them in concert in New Orleans. That was when I decided that the hot, stinky, humid place of South Louisiana was like a monster armpit. Yet, God in His mercy would later call me here to minister. :)

Well, then I became a Christian in college and I still liked to rock. I was a Campus Crusader zealot who had memorized every Third Day CD on the market. If you pulled up next to me at a red light, I be blasting the music with the windows rolled down and singing to the top of my lungs. I was witnessing, of course.

Then, over the course of time, something strange happened. I began to learn theology. Also, I started getting old. I did not like loud music anymore. I actually walked out of a Third Day concert because it hurt my ears. (But I did meet the woman from Selah in the lobby where no one else was! Woohoo!)

To make matters worse, I found out that Phillips, Craig, and Dean were Modalists. (I told you I had learned some theology!) Also, I began to noticed that the lyrics to alot of the Christian Contemporary songs were, dare I say it, sissified? Steve Camp has it right when he calls them "God is my girlfriend" songs. I wanted something more manly, like "A Mighty Fortress is our God." I wanted a song that I could sing as I went into battle, not something that Barry Manilow might sing.

I also noticed that the CCM seemed extremely "man-centered." This often led to outlandish claims. Take the perriniel K-Love favorite Point of Grace's song, "God Loves People More than Anything." Oh yeah? God loves people more than anything? Actually, God doesn't love people more than anything. He loves His perfections and glory more than anything (thank you Mr. Piper). On a recent children's camp I heard the Nicole Nordeman song "Why" for the first time. I renamed it "The Clueless Jesus Song." How about Michael W. Smith's version of the song "Above All." Was Jesus thinking of me "Above All", or was He thinking of the will of the Father?

See, things like this mess me up in music. So, I have determined that I have gotten old, picky, Calvinistic, and more traditional in my old age. (I'm 30.) I have been listening to Michael Card's "Starkindler" for more years than I can count. I also have Rich Mullin's greatest hits. That's about it. Well...I actually think that Eric Clapton's "Live" CD is about the greatest CD ever made, and I look at the Blues as a sort of Proverbs come to life sort of music. Isn't it sad that I find some blues music more Biblical than Contemporary Christian music?! What is wrong with me!! Truly, in my heart dwells no good thing.

There is my musical problem, and it is why I am in musical limbo. I've been listening to the same CD's now for umpteen years, and I still like them. Plus, I love hymns. I LOVE them. They just don't write them like they used to. Oh Isaac Watts, where did you go!! If he had a CD, I be listening to it for the next fifty years.


Sue said...

I know what you mean [nodding in sympathy] Though I don't like ALL hymns, and I emphatically don't like them played at walking pace on an elderly organ. I like the lively ones, with a good drummer and a jazz-trained pianist, and perhaps a bit of sax on the side. There's nothing like singing 'Be thou my vision' to a cha-cha rhythm.

Also, there are a few good modern songs with potential to last. Some of Graham Kendrick's are still going strong 20 years after he wrote them, and that's something in the CCM world. Some of his lyrics are very powerful: 'Hands that flung stars into space to cruel nails surrendered'still has the power to bring goosebumps to my arms.

And for turn-of-the century songs, there's Stuart Townend. 'How deep the Father's love' is very moving, and I think that'll last for future generations.

Waterfall said...

I dislike most CCM. The "praise band" played "Above All" a couple of weeks ago at our church, and I just felt like it was the WRONG kind of thing to sing. But I didn't say anything because I tend to think everyone else knows better than I do, especially when it relates to church matters. It seems like a lot of the CCM & praise music I've heard is very focused on "me, me, me." I already focus on myself entirely too much; the last thing I want to do at church (or anywhere else) is sing MORE about me, me, me and how I feel.

I, too, love hymns--the old ones. Hymns are the first music I ever remember, and they're the first music I ever played on the piano.

I really love listening to J.S. Bach's music. It's a long way from Pearl Jam, I know. But if the "St. Matthew Passion" or "Mass in B Minor" can't move you, then you're a lost cause. Musically, I mean. ;)

Paula said...

"Be Thou my vision, O Lord of my heart...Still be my vision, O Ruler of all." Words have always counted. That's why I like Michael Card and Rich Mullens as contemporary lyricists too, I guess.
Man, you nailed it for me. Thanks. I sing in my church's choir and sometimes I go in prayer longer than others before I sing to make sure my heart is right since I don't get to pick the music. I just go in obedience. Thanks for this post, Sojourner.

pappy said...

Here is one I heard yesterday on KLOVE:

'Cause You would rather die
than to ever live without me

There is truth to the line, but it is just so MAN CENTERED. It doesn't justify what they say, but our culture is so wrapped up in humanism that most people just don't know any better. I was there (a humanist Christian) 3 years ago and didn't know anything was wrong with my theology. I thank God that he showed me better. We take the Gospel and twist it to make ourselves the centerpiece instead of Christ. How utterly shameful! Oh, forgive us, Lord.

ColinM said...

Man, I am with you. I went out and bought several cds with hymns (until I found one that actually had lyrics) because I wanted to praise God while driving and I just couldn't do it with KLOVE- (way)too much time between good songs.
I grew up listening to country and grunge/rock. Pearl Jam, Smashing Pumpkins, NIN, Toadies, Weezer...all the above. After I was saved, when I heard that music, or a tune entered my head, I had to get rid of it. Those songs invoke feelings in me of angst, rebellion against God, carelessness, etc. I cannot even listen to country music too much anymore. I often wonder where is the dividing line in "avoid every kind of evil..." Finney and Ravenhill were clear on where it was.

I recently began using an old hymnal to praise God in my prayer time. I came across an old hymn called, "Have You Prayed It Through." It is incredible, and one I would like to hear in worship services...

Seeker said...

I personally love both praise & worship and some hymns. I would prefer to hear hymns set to a 5 piece band, but I enjoy pianos and organs too. Really, its not about me anyway, and my opinion on the music really doesn't matter anyway. Some people just like things that I don't like...and that's ok. Most of the praise & worship songs are based on fact, they are usually scriptures set to music. I don't believe that all of the praise & worship songs are all about "me". There are horizontal songs which are about God, and then there are vertical songs that are from me to God. When we pray, we do pray for ourselves...for wisdom, understanding, to see God, etc. What's wrong with singing a prayer to God during worship? What's wrong with voicing your feelings about God or asking him for things in song? How is that different from "Give us this day our daily bread & forgive us our trespasses." Yes, some of the theology is wrong, but its no excuse to dismiss all praise & worship songs. What irritates me more than the music is the people with opinions about the music...when people choose to sing or not to sing during a worship service based on what kind of music they prefer. Or when people choose churches based totally on the music or the instruments used to play the music. Has anyone ever read Matt Redman's book about why he wrote the beautiful praise & worship song "The Heart of Worship"? A vertical song praise and worship song...I might add. Sometimes I like to sing in 21st century lyrics.

centuri0n said...

There's a difference between listening to music on the radio or while you're working out and singing songs in church.

I can't believe you don't like Third Day anymore. They rock.

Sojourner said...

Well, I do like them somewhat. I just like easier listening now. It must be the creeping of old age.

Waterfall said...

Heh ... I dreamed for 20 years of being able to see Bruce Springsteen in concert. Finally, a couple of years ago, I shelled out the money for the $80 tickets and went with a few friends.

I spent the entire concert with my fingers in my ears, and actually had to go out to the lobby, and then into the bathroom, to get away from the sound.

Things sure change when you get old! ;-)

ColinM said...

Well, by God's providence you posted this blog for my eyes to see. I just found out our church is having Randy Phillips (of Phillips, Craig and Dean) as a guest preacher one Sunday evening this month. Would you have this man in your pulpit? And, if you were attending this large, conservative Baptist church in Austin, what would you say to your pastor?

Sojourner said...


First, I would check out what I said about Randy Phillips and make certain that he was a modalist. (I've read it at several sources, so it shouldn't be too difficult to find.) Then, I would ask my pastor if he were aware of this and see what his response would be.

If your pastor was not concerned about this, then I'd be grieved.

Anonymous said...

Have to agree with this one!! (Just located your blog here from your other site). And MUSIC is important to worship! People these days do not take it seriously enough! It CAN be a HORRID detriment to worship as well. LOUD is not always better! It is odd but as we age, though our hearing has begun to go, both hubby and I just cannot stand such loudness anymore. We were never crazy about the latest music anyway, at any time in our lives and still prefer a lot of hymns. More than that, is the way most churches have done away with music in a on earth do they think most of us learned to read music anyway? Mostly at church!! I guess that is the plan though. The dumber the folk, the easier time the shepherd has perhaps? Not sure on that...but we have seen it TOTALLY take over most every single church in the denomination we were raised why does every single church HAVE to have the EXACT same music setup? Where is the room for the setup being something that fits the congregation...each one may be a bit different in makeup and thus need something a bit different in music. Ah, but we live in a society fast approaching no diversity of thought and opinion at all. Or so it seems to me. Thanks for this gives those of us hope who are in the next generation ahead of you!!