Thursday, October 13, 2011

worship songs - again

Last November I posted a piece about my struggle with theology in worship songs... that often I cringe at the theological implications or statements in a song but the music or another part of the song really works for me.  I'm facing it again.  In that post, I shared my fear that people get more of their theology from the songs they sing than anywhere else, so my song choices are doubly important.

Next week we're having a missionary - Corenne Smith -  visit us and share her work.  (She and her husband Philip have a wonderful ministry in Brazil. Check it out in the link on her name and the video below.)  So, I asked her for suggestions for songs and she gave me one - God of This City.  I really like the general message of the song - that God is at work and has a vision for what we will become in this local.  Except the first verse really grates on me.  "You're the God in this city."  I don't know what city they're talking about but I've never been in a city without multiple "gods" and certainly have never experienced one where God is truly seen as God.  Still, I could almost let that line slide.  "You're the King of these people."  Same argument, but much stronger.  Again, I might let it slide, thinking that it is referring to the people singing the song.   "You're the Lord of this nation."  That one is just untrue... and as a true believer in separation of church and state, really makes me squirm.  I don't want it to be true.  For a slew of reasons, I just can't sing that or have the members of Cambridge Drive sing that.

On the other hand, I love verse 2
You're the Light in this darkness 
You're the Hope to the hopeless 
You're the Peace to the restless
And I love the chorus...
For greater things have yet to come And greater things are still to be done in this city Greater thing have yet to comeAnd greater things are still to be done in this city  
So... what do I do?  Just delete the first verse?  Maybe.  Or change the words a bit... it is tricky to make them fit but work for my theology.  "You're the God who loves this city" for example...  Still, it feels a bit parochial and requires a few more syllables to get squeezed in...  Maybe, "God is in this city... God loves these people... God loves this nation..." or do I just skip the song?  What do you think?

here's a video, sharing Corenne & Philip's work.


Steph said...

Hi! I'm glad someone besides me examines religious lyrics! They often grate on me, too. The problem is that one could argue NONE of the verses is ok - whose 'darkness' and hopelessness? Maybe God is NOT light to some people, and not peace for some who are restless? What about the perspective of atheists or agnostics? So..isn't it kinda 'all or nothing'? If you have a issue with some lyrics, maybe there is an issue, in some way or another, with them all? Which leads to the conclusion..That maybe they're all ok and acceptable. To have religious lyrics at all, maybe it just needs to be accepted that they're inevitably from one perspective - you can never totally shake perspective when you're writing from within a certain theology, and maybe it's impossible for lyrics to apply to and be inclusive of all people's idea (or lack of idea) of God within that theology..In any worship song, someone or some group is necessarily excluded, which is the kind of division that some agnostics I know take issue with when it comes to religion. So if religion exsists and those within it ok with the fact it's a group than embraces a certain theology that by definition will exclude some others, then by the same token they should be ok with pretty much any lyric, as the lyric's only as inclusive or exclusive as the religion itself..??

roy said...

In large degree, Steph, I do not disagree with you. Here's the rub... when I choose songs to be sung by a specific worshipping community - in this case, Cambridge Drive Community Church - I have both the responsibility and the prerogative to choose songs that either reflect where they currently are or where I'd like them to go. I have to and get to make theological judgements regarding what we will sing and in that, what we will absorb.
It is clear that even the most inclusive of religious communities still has its barriers. For example, CDCC is a Christian church. We are not exclusivistic about that and we certainly welcome folk who are not Christian, but we are and that is why we gather. We also have a general theology in the congregation that says something about who we as group understand God to be. Again, by definition that excludes some folk. I can live with that, but I want to be sure that they are barriers that I at least can affirm. It is both my prerogative and my responsibility to choose the songs we will sing on Sunday morning in a Christian worship service... I want to be sure they're communicating what I want them to communicate... in this case, what I believe about God and about the community in which we live.

Steph said...

As ever, an honest and introspective response from you..Refreshing :)That's what I love about you and your theology - and that you're willing to examine it. 'Again, by definition that excludes some folk. I can live with that, but I want to be sure that they are barriers that I at least can affirm'. Only one little point - what if the congregation are ok w/a lyric with which you are not..if there's only a nuance of difference in their interpretation that makes it ok for them, but not for you? (I guess that's yr point - that yr job is, ultimately, to make that call as pastor).

roy said...

yep... the hard part is finding material that I like musically (and that I think will go over OK with the congregation) and fits theologically.