What form of Christian Worship? – discussion in the comments & American Idol

I’ve been having a good back and forth in the comments with “orthodox protestant” – part of it over the role of music in worship. Dennis and I for the 4th Sunday’s (last Sunday didn’t count becuase it was Memorial Day which overrides other elements) have been searching though “modern” music. By modern we attempt to say 1980’s or later. Not really contemporary, but more one of those ipod shuffle radio stations.

One of the real questions in a religion with a 2000 year history is how much wieght/vote does the past get? Our hymanls are by and large a reflection of a sifting and sorting of hymns/songs over the years. The ones that get to us have been judged by the past as worthy. Every time a new hymnal comes out some hymns get retired and others get added reflecting, at probably a generation time lag, the changing modern tastes. My guess is that Lutheran Service Book will be the end of a chain. It would be interesting to do the work (if I knew German) to see how many hymns from the gesangabuch of the 1800’s are in LSB (probably quite a few). It would also be my guess that this is the last edition that will contain many of the German heritage hymns that are slow moving and musically complex. (I’d point to A Lamb Goes Uncomplaining Forth as an example, but that one has too many intellectual advocates.) LSB is also already out of date just because of the strange decision to use anachonistic pronouns. I find myself singing the you and yours instead of the thee and thous that LSB left in (after they had been updated already in Lutheran Worship ?!?)

Without that prior sorting, the job is tough finding something that passes the “non-cringe inducing” test and is also singable by a congregation. Many contemporary hymns/songs are really meant for performance professionals. Witness this year’s American Idol where two of the final three contestants were Praise Band creations. TMATT at the getreligion blog asks a great question.

So you have two straight church guys vs. the “Wicked” guy with Style…Frankly, I would also love to ask this question: Has Sunday morning in megachurch America already turned into the American Idol minor leagues? Is this victory a sign that the dreaded Contemporary Christian Music niche is getting more or less powerful? Should we start a betting pool on the release date for the big Kris Allen worship-music disc?

That “non-cringe inducing test” might be best summarized by Hank Hill of the now canceled King of the Hill. (HT Rod Dreher)

when Bobby Hill gets involved with some hipster Christians, upsetting his father. Hank remonstrates with the cool dude pastor: “Can’t you see you’re not making Christianity better, you’re just making rock ‘n roll worse?!”

The tricky walk is to find hymns, psalms and spiritual songs that are faithful expressions of the gospel that speak to the contemporary society. The very best of those are timeless and cross cultures – Amazing Grace or O Come, O Come Emmanuel (a 12th century latin original). Some are completely bound in time and culture – Shine Jesus Shine (an example of a catchy turn of the century USA song that has been passe for a few years already.) Personally I don’t find the time/culture bound songs wrong, but what I fear is Hank Hill’s worry about Bobby if the scale would tip too far in that direction…

BOBBY: When I turn 18, I’m going to do whatever I want for the Lord. Tattoos, piercings, you name it.
HANK: Well, I’ll take that chance. Come here, there’s something I want you to see. (Hank takes down a box from the shelf and opens it up) Remember this?

BOBBY: My beanbag buddy? Oh, man, I can’t believe I collected those things. They’re so lame.

HANK: You didn’t think so five years ago. And how about your virtual pet? You used to carry this thing everywhere. Then you got tired of it, forgot to feed it, and it died.

BOBBY (looks at a photo of himself in a Ninja Turtles costume): I look like such a dork.

HANK: I know how you feel. I never thought that “Members Only” jacket would go out of style, but it did. I know you think stuff you’re doing now is cool, but in a few years you’re going to think it’s lame. And I don’t want the Lord to end up in this box.

2 thoughts on “What form of Christian Worship? – discussion in the comments & American Idol

  1. What, in Lutheran worship, would you label as non-negotiables? Those things that, at all cost, must be kept out of the box.

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