Wednesday, February 06, 2008

I can't live without you...

Well, basically, I think that a Christian praise song or rock song is no good if you can't tell whether the song is about Jesus or the singer's lover.
(I'm going to try and not let this post get side-tracked about the difference between such rock/praise songs as being used in church as opposed to simply listening to them in the car or wherever. For the purposes of this post, let's treat them as just being listened to, but with the intent of praising God through them.)
ok, so, a song with a refrain that repeats over and over, "I can't live without you," actually doesn't really give any honor or glory whatsoever to Christ. It is so self-centered and egocentric. Whether or not you think you can live without God doesn't praise any of His attributes!
Even most of the contemporary Christian songs today (this is a generalization of course,) focus on "You died for ME," "I thank you for loving ME," "You'll never let ME go," "MY one desire is to be with you..." anyhow, you get the point. The theology is...elementary at best, or simply nonexistent.
Actually, as I think about it more, perhaps part of that reason is because that is basically what Protestant "non-denom" theology is, as in, just focused on the one time event of Jesus dying for ME, so that I could have the one-time experience of "being saved." (contrasted of course to solid Catholic theology which is so rich with praises and prayers of no-strings-attached-adoration to God.)
I'm not saying Protestant praise music has to be this way; I would love to see it become much richer and purer if it based its theology on the Psalms (think: pure and simple adoration and praise of God. There is the occasional, "I praise you for you drew me out of the pit," but in general the Psalms are mostly "Blessed be the Lord! Alleluia!" --and what's that say about ME?! Nothing!)
And of course let's not even go down the path comparing this to what most Catholic contemporary music has become!
So...can we just leave the me out of worship of God?

(I particularly liked my point about substituting a boyfriends name or whatever in for "Jesus." On most of the songs I'm referring to, they would make perfectly great love songs! And that, I believe is a flaw.)

4 comments:

lvschant said...

I agree with you completely. And... referring to praise music that has oozed its way into Catholic liturgies, it certainly has a lot more about the 'me' than about God. Aside from the sappy-sounding tunes and maudlin appeal to the sentimental, this focus on self makes it inappropriate to the liturgy (imo).

I was taking a road trip across Texas a few months back (and radio reception is spotty on the western half of the state). I had listened to all my chant CD's and was thinking I needed a change... other than Country or Pop 40 stations (meaning rap), I could only get one Christian radio station, so I listened to that awhile. Not bad... but I just couldn't help thinking that, although I certainly think it has a certain value and was much better than so much of the other stuff, it has no place in the liturgy.

Janet (vox feminae)

Cantor said...

The bit about subbing in a guy/girl’s name for Jesus/God in lots of Christian pop songs is a very valid point that is not infrequently made in discerning conversation.

Really, I still think a lot of what it is is that people simply don’t want “churchy” music.

In the defense of many folks, I do know some who enjoy the pop praise music in their spare time but do have a sense that liturgical music should “sound” like ritual.

BONIFACE said...

Mara-

I've been brewing on this post for a long while and waiting to respond, and I have to say that I disagree with you.

First of all, let's get it straight that (as you mentioned) we are not talking about liturgical music, just casual listening music. I want to make sure I make this distinction because the way I feel about liturgical music is the complete opposite of the way I feel about casual or listening-to-in-the-car music. Just wanted to make sure we are on the same track.

Second, who said that Christian rock has to be about just praising God? That is a very limited topic. Why can't Christian rock be about the multitude of human emotions and events that happen to us, but seen and written through the eyes of faith. Can't we have Christian songs about mourning for a dead friend, lamenting a broken heart, admiring a beautiful sunset (or person?), or even struggling through depression and anxiety and looking for God's consolation? All of these themes could be written about from a Christian perspective, and they would all be "Christian" music, even if they weren't explicitly praising God. I frequently write "Christian" songs that do not even mention the word God (like the Book of Esther, by the way) because the song is simply not about praise. It might be a love song or a song expressing deep anguish. Maybe God may be referred to as "You" or "He" but I think in general we need to expand our understanding of what Christian music is.

Next, it is more than just a few of the Psalms which are written in first person and it is a huge understatement to say that the first person is only "occasional." I'd venture to say most of them are. Using a biblical concordance and doing a search for the word "I" in the Psalms we can see that all the following Psalms are written in the first person:

2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10,11,12,13,16,19,20,22,23,25,26,27,28,30,31,32,34,35,37,38,39,40,41,42,43,44,45,51,52,5455,56,57,59,60,61,62,63,66,69,70,7173,75,77,84,86,88,89,91,101,102,108,116,119(the longest psalm),120,130,131,137,138,139,140,141,142,143

That's 75 Psalms, or half of them, are all written in 1st person. There are even more where the words "we" or "us" are used instead of just "I." Counting those, I'd say almost 90% are first person singular or plural. These are the liturgical prayers of the Church, so relating to God in this way cannot be all bad.

Next, why shouldn't we relate to God by understanding His sacrifice as being personally for us? It was, and it is Church teaching that Christ died for each of us individually. In the song you just had us sing today ("My Song is Love Unknown", 3rd Sunday), there was the following lines:

"O who am I that for my sake my Lord shall take frail flesh and die?"

and

"O my friend, my friend indeed, who at my need His life did spend."

Now, they are kind of "poetic" as the boss pointed out, but how are these lines any different than the stuff you were saying was too self centered in your post? It is the same focus: Christ's death personally for "me." The difference is this song is a liturgical song, while the stuff you were talking about is just non-liturgical rock music.

As for words sounding like it is talking about one's boyfriend, have you never read the writings of Teresa of Avila or Therese of Liseux? What about the Canticle of Canticles in the Bible? "Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth" (Cant. 1:2). This is not even trying to make it sound like God is their boyfried; it is very explicitly doing it on purpose. And this is in the Scriptures!

I understand where you are coming from, Mara, but when we are talking about just casual Christian rock, I think these arguments do not hold water.

Mara Joy said...

Interesting. Don't think that I'm ignoring you, but I'm not sure that I will respond further.