Monday, 10 February 2014

Music Matters Part 1: A Rant

So I have a problem.

((Everyone (sighing wearily) "What else is new with you, Sue?"))

Whatever. I have many (hugely important) problems, and it's my blog, so I get to talk about them here, and nobody can stop me! Except maybe bad Internet. Also that annoying Christian anti-complaining thing.

I've wanted to write this blog post for a year or so, but controlled myself because I knew it was just be all negative, without a glimmer of hope at the end of the tunnel. (Oh, the suspense. What IS she talking about?)

Let's just dive into it.

I can't stand most music that I hear at church or even at most prayer meetings. Fine, non-Christians, you can leave now, because you're like, "Ha hah! Justified! I don't have to deal with that!" But everybody else, you know what I'm talking about. Or maybe you don't. Hear me out.

I go to Mass, excited to meet Jesus. And then I spent most of the one hour cringing through the music. Or I go to any kind of prayer meeting or gathering, and I almost hate music by the end. I tense up, and want to scream "MAKE IT STOP!" (But I don't.)

(Inside my head, this is me. Don't judge me, fellow parishioners.)


Well, these are some ways I might describe both the music and the lyrics of most Mass hymns and even old charismatic songs.

Jazzy. Shallow. Flowery. Theologically unsound. (Yeah, that's a phrase I use a lot.) Chirpy. Overly simplistic. Illogical. Or just plain annoying. Aesthetically painful. Overly sentimental. Wishy washy.

But that doesn't really get to the heart of it. Maybe I'm just being picky, and hard to please, which with my overly critical mind sounds like MY problem, not anyone else's.

So I began to examine what exactly I WAS looking for. I had heard about beautiful liturgies, beauty winning people over to God, God being Truth, Beauty and Goodness. But that had not been my experience of religious practice. After a lot of reading, I was won over by Truth. After reading about the saints, seeing the fruit of Mother Teresa's work in Kolkata and meeting many living saints witnessing to a GOOD God through their lives, I believed in the Goodness of God. But where was the Beauty? If God was Beauty, why didn't our music reflect that?

Goodness in action (obligatory Pope Francis picture)

I have heard hymns that were old and boring, hymns that were new and trying very hard to be 'relevant', hymns* that talked about being better people, hymns that could almost be 'let's join our hands and change the world', hymns that forced beautiful prayers into awkward arrangements, hymns in which the lyrics almost seemed to get it, but then the music was so trite and ugly that you totally missed it, hymns that just didn't. get. it. I had met or glimpsed a beautiful, breath taking, majestic God, and I wanted to touch Him, feel Him through my senses.

Here's the thing. No matter how horrible the music is, at every Mass I DO get to touch that God, whether I feel it or not. That's because I believe Jesus' words about the Eucharist in John 6. I DO meet Him. I taste Him. I eat Him. (Yes, Catholics are weird.) So why do I need special music? What does it really matter?

It matters.

I need beautiful music to help truth sink from my mind to my heart. Beautiful music can lift the veil and reveal Beauty Himself.

So this is the kind of church music I want:

  • Music that will lift my heart to God. (Not music that makes my foot tap (It could be both, but not very likely))
  • Music that will help me see and feel the real AWESOME God (not just a shallow hippy 'peace out' nice guy Jesus)
  • Music that reminds my heart what AWE feels like (not music that reminds me of the not even subtly used secular song that they stole tune from)
  • Music that fills me up even while giving me a greater hunger for intimacy for God (not makes me want to try out my jive steps)
  • Music that inspires me to give myself more fully to God and people (not music that makes me say a little too convincingly 'THANKS BE TO GOD' when the priest says 'Go, the Mass is ended'.)
  • Music that fills me with JOY (Not frustration or even just a vague good feeling)
  • Music that helps me remember how precious the salvation that Jesus won for me is (not yeah Jesus was a good guy now let's be good people like him blah blah blah)
  • Music that helps me taste a little bit of heaven, of choirs of angels singing with beauty, joy and power (not makes me feel like I'm at a lounge bar listening to a soloist croon into the mic)
  • Music that helps me see Jesus (not makes me want to crane my neck with rest of the congregation to look at the choir)
Basically, I want music that puts me in touch with God.

Am I asking for too much?

No, I believe this is the point of music... especially religious music. And it is not happening in the Church in India today.

Since the rant part of this blog post got way too long, you get to hear my non-negative conclusion in Part II. (Yeah, bated breath, I hear it.)

*I use the word 'hymn' very loosely here.

1 comment:

  1. I almost gave a sigh of relief for the fact that you love music but only the one that connects with our God. Nice to know that. We sail in the same boat here... i have loads of music on my device, but i listen only to christian music... i hate the rock ones... but a simple vocal with a guitar in the background does justice... Have you heard Bethel Music & Amanda C Cook's - You make me me brave? (Album) and the song 'It is well' (One of my favorites!!!)

    Here it is ---

    Verse 1
    Grander earth has quaked before
    Moved by the sound of His voice
    Seas that are shaken and stirred
    Can be calmed and broken for my regard

    And through it all, through it all
    My eyes are on You
    And through it all, through it all
    It is well

    And through it all, through it all
    My eyes are on You
    It is well with me

    Verse 2
    Far be it from me to not believe
    Even when my eyes can't see

    And this mountain that's in front of me
    Will be thrown into the midst of the sea

    Through it all, through it all
    My eyes are on You
    Through it all, through it all
    It is well
    It is well

    Bridge x3
    So let go my soul and trust in Him
    The waves and wind still know His name (repeat last line during 3rd run)

    It is well with my soul
    It is well with my soul
    It is well with my soul
    It is well with my soul
    It is well it is well with my soul x3

    Chorus x2 (softly slowly)
    Through it all, through it all
    My eyes are on You
    Through it all, through it all
    It is well with me.

    Read more: Bethel Music - It Is Well Lyrics | MetroLyrics
    (You Tube :,d.d2s )