Sunday, October 07, 2007

A Word About Worship Music, Mariah Carey, and God’s Communicative Condescension (in liturgy)
[I noticed this post lacked the title I wrote, which ruins the humor of the first few lines.]

A title like that, on account of its sheer pomposity, had better be about something important. But how could it be? “You just placed God’s communicating with us in the same phrase with Mariah Carey,” you protest. And it’s risky, I know. But stay here; I think I’m going somewhere. (As an aside, this blog and its owner’s music collection might be “MC” Fan Central. I own all but two releases. Therefore, please allow me to theologize in some manner consonant with my cultural context. Translation: Back off!) The other day, I found myself listening to Ms. Carey’s 1993 release, Music Box, and specifically, the title track. Musically, it’s beautiful, the very essence of 1990s vocal-pop/R&B; it is written to display those uncommon vocal talents, which, in 1993, were at their peak. As the words go, I hate it. Here you go. You can sense worship music possibilities here—and that’s exactly the problem. American contemporary worship is going bad. You can’t tell if we’re worshipping God, or singing about how much Mariah loves her boy. We’ve been so focused on how we feel that we’re missing the point. (The funny/sad part here is that when I Googled this song, there was an ad for worship music ringtones right there, I kid you not.) But I can’t just say that; I must back it up. What are we doing when we gather as Christians on Sunday? We’re not scoring points for heaven, for one. We’re probably not aiming to be entertained; I’d just as soon watch the Packers if that were the case. (We ought not aim for that, at least) The short answer is that we are worshipping God in a special way on that day because He is glorious, deserving of our worship, and as the Father would have it, the God-man, our Redeemer Jesus, was raised from the dead on a Sunday. Also, that’s as good a time as any for most people to take their Sabbath rest. Jesus even promises to be with us as we meet to honor him, and carry out our task. The assembly of God’s people (Greek, ekklesia) should naturally begin to know that He is their God, by virtue of His presence. Indeed, these Scriptures speak most clearly. Therefore, it’s not a place or an occasion for the individual to spiritually re-charge (though learning one’s place within the body is very rewarding) as it is God renewing his covenant with us, and us with him. If that is true at all, then we will draw the lost to Christ when we are absolutely clear who we are as individuals, and as the body of Christ. Why do we modify what we sing or what we say to reach people, when the obvious result is a loss of clarity as to our identity as the Church? How misguided! I’m not saying all modern worship music is bad; there are shining examples of great “contemporary” music. But where did we get the idea that we had to trick people with catchy songs to bring them to Christ? More importantly, where did we get the idea that weekly Eucharist/Lord’s Supper/Communion (at least) would make us stale? Only an American could come up with an idea so stupid. Did Jesus not say this? That’s what I thought. And maybe that zeal to have the Bible expounded in long sermons (not knocking the preaching of the Word) has led us to stretch a few of our pastors beyond their skills. The longer one talks off-the-cuff, the more error comes in. And a pressure to be ‘relevant’ and interesting or funny has caused problems. What I’m saying is that I want and need a shot of God, not a God-tinged foo-foo drink. Can I get a witness?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

That was very well said, it has always been my belief that if Jesus is not thr focus of what we experience in worship and life we are straying from His will. Thanks for expressing this so eloquently.

I'll be checking in here more.