Friday, February 12, 2016

Alpha Mail: Gamma in Popular American Church Worship Music

This analysis of Christian music is a guest post by a reader.

"Heart of Worship" by Michael W. Smith is an extremely common contemporary evangelical Christian praise song. I have heard it sung with regularity by white Anglo Christians on both sides of the Earth. In fact, I'd argue that frequency of this pop hymn is a key classificatory indicator for American evangelicalism.

Listen to a few bars and see whether you don't recognize it. Released in 2001, the song shows no sign of declining in popularity. It's always a crowd pleaser: the congregants slowly swaying with hands uplifted beneath dimmed lights, caught up in deep emotional catharsis.

 It's also entirely gamma. Examine the lyrics below.
When the music fades
All is stripped away
And I simply come
Longing just to bring
Something that's of worth
That will bless Your heart
I'll
bring You more than a song
For a song in itself
Is not what You have required
You search much deeper within
Through the way things appear
You're looking into my heart

This song is ostensibly about Jesus. However, the actual narrative focus is solipsistically upon the singer's internal emotional experience. It is a trance induction.

I'm
coming back to the heart of worship
And it's all about You,
It's all about You, Jesus

The song is actually all about how sincere the singer is in telling Jesus that the singer's worship is all about Jesus. This is self-refuting.

I'm sorry, Lord, for the thing I've made it
When it's all about You,
It's all about You, Jesus

Well, at least Michael had the decency to include an apology.

King of endless worth
No one could express
How much You deserve
Though I'm weak and poor
All I have is Yours
Every single breath
I'll bring You more than a song
For a song in itself
Is not what You have required
You search much deeper within
Through the way things appear
You're looking into my heart

The focus is squarely on the internal trance induction experience of the singer. Jesus is merely a convenient psychological boyfriend prop.

First the environment is acknowledged, then internal focus is commanded, and the exterior world fades away. Once introspection is firmly established, self-flagellation commences, producing suitable generalized feelings of contrition for nothing in particular. Here the natural gamma insecurity is expressed. This is then followed by cathartic holiness-posturing as the singer is redeemed, basking in the attention paid by a non-judgmental deity to the singer's individual internal state.

Such are the pleasures of the gamma male. Michael even looks gamma.

Should an honest Christian need to wash that foul taste from his mouth, here are some outward-focused, courageous lyrics of praise from another, better era:

"A Mighty Fortress is our God" by Martin Luther
A mighty fortress is our God,
a bulwark never failing;
our helper he amid the flood
of mortal ills prevailing.
For still our ancient foe
doth seek to work us woe;
his craft and power are great,
and armed with cruel hate,
on earth is not his equal.

Did we in our own strength confide,
our striving would be losing,
were not the right man on our side,
the man of God's own choosing.
Dost ask who that may be?
Christ Jesus, it is he;
Lord Sabaoth, his name,
from age to age the same,
and he must win the battle.

And though this world, with devils filled,
should threaten to undo us,
we will not fear, for God hath willed
his truth to triumph through us.
The Prince of Darkness grim,
we tremble not for him;
his rage we can endure,
for lo, his doom is sure;
one little word shall fell him.

That word above all earthly powers,
no thanks to them, abideth;
the Spirit and the gifts are ours,
thru him who with us sideth.
Let goods and kindred go,
this mortal life also;
the body they may kill;
God's truth abideth still;
his kingdom is forever.

This song offers far fewer opportunities for "praise 'n worship" leaders to glory in the power of their charismatic prowess as they bare their perfectly attuned souls to the audience. However, it does actually praise God rather than the celebrant.

64 comments:

Res Ipsa said...

This was an insightful post.

I've never gotten the modern fascination of so called "Christian men" standing around in a room singing love songs to another man. "Praise and Worship" music is more like modern pop teenie popper crush crap than anything resembling actual praise or worship. Then again I don't believe in trying to make "Church relevant" or "seeker friendly".

I don't pretend to have it all figured out in terms of applied theology. I do understand that in the beginning God made them male and female and said that it was very good. Hashem never told any man to get in touch with his feminine side. Because, Men don't have a feminine side. If anything we have wives and that's as close as we need to get.

Pseudo-males trying to keep the chicks happy have run more men away from Christ than any atheist propaganda. Mostly those guys can be found in the pulpit and at ladies luncheons.

John rockwell said...

The origin of the cringeworthy songs lay in the "Bridal mysticism" Theology of the middle ages:
http://www.podles.org/files/Church-Impotent/ChurchImpotent_Chapter6.pdf

Here the believer is the bride of Christ rather than the church as a whole as a bride of Christ. A "Woman" in romantic relationship with Husband Jesus.

A relationship that is barfworthy in its eroticism.

Mr.MantraMan said...

Damn that is embarrassing, it reads like a teeny girl's diary, if she could still write and that is not a given these days.

"Does Jesus still love me?" "If not I think the devil does, and gosh that devil is cute, what a bad boy."

From the outside this feminine behavior centered about virtue signalling looks sociopathic, and frankly white females and effeminate men are off the charts with this behavior, the last gasp of "white supremacy."

darrenl said...

This one has always been my favorite:

Pange, lingua, gloriósi
Córporis mystérium,
Sanguinísque pretiósi,
Quem in mundi prétium
Fructus ventris generósi
Rex effúdit géntium.
Nobis datus, nobis natus
Ex intácta Vírgine,
Et in mundo conversátus,
Sparso verbi sémine,
Sui moras incolátus
Miro clausit órdine.
In suprémæ nocte coenæ
Recúmbens cum frátribus
Observáta lege plene
Cibis in legálibus,
Cibum turbæ duodénæ
Se dat suis mánibus.
Verbum caro, panem verum
Verbo carnem éfficit:
Fitque sanguis Christi merum,
Et si sensus déficit,
Ad firmándum cor sincérum
Sola fides súfficit.
TANTUM ERGO SACRAMÉNTUM
Venerémur cérnui:
Et antíquum documéntum
Novo cedat rítui:
Præstet fides suppleméntum
Sénsuum deféctui.
Genitóri, Genitóque
Laus et jubilátio,
Salus, honor, virtus quoque
Sit et benedíctio:
Procedénti ab utróque
Compar sit laudátio.
Amen. Alleluja.

benedictsanctus said...

Yep; when it comes to Christian prayers and hymns I'm of the school that they should form the Christian in a proper mindset not emotional burst like a piece of Gusher candy.

Gordon said...

Eh. I happen to spend a fair amount of time in a Lutheran church in the NE section of Minneapolis. Between urgently remaking the sign out front in rainbow colors to the female pastor (hyphened name, natch) I'm not sure old Martin would recognize the joint. God is mentioned now and then but that Jesus fellow? Not so much.

Bard said...

I am so glad you wrote that. For years our worship music has literally made me angry and uneasy. I felt a little guilty that I don't get into it like everyone else. We are to be mighty men like david and are unholy no longer. Self defeating garbage. Thanks vox. I am becoming i more astute from reading your blogs. Should have been able to articulate this one sooner. Obvious after you did.

grendel said...

This is right on. At the church I visited on Sunday, the long-haired hipster faggot "Worship leader" sat down at the piano and belted out his best Elton John impression of a love song to our Lord and Savior. Disgusting. For a more detailed analysis of the unmasculine modern "Church" experience read "Judge Not" by Todd Friel, or "Why Men Hate Going to Church," by David Murrow.

hadley said...

I am so utterly sick of hippie-ish, guitar-and-drum-accompanied "praise songs". Their empty expressions, their hip syncopated rhythms that no one can sing, and the droning in unison to PowerPoint lyrics drive me up a wall.

Not to mention the girl song leaders who get weepy at the end of each song and feel compelled to explain its religious significance (in the absence of any song content other than goopy feelings) since there is no actual coherent theology in the lyrics.

I finally figured out what is going on, though. To the rest of the congregation the songs are empty and awkward. The goopy singers, however, hear a fully orchestrated, fully synthesized, fully Barry Manilowed Pop Xtian record album playing in their head.

They play and hum along with this dreck for hours, over and over, at home, on their iPhone, in the shower, in their car. They literally cannot hear how crappy it sounds! The Congregation is nothing more than a human karaoke machine for their performance

JP said...

The contrast between God-centric and me-centric music is quite eye-opening.

Unknown said...

"Such are the pleasures of the gamma male. Michael even looks gamma."

In other posts, Vox characterizes gammas as usually being physically unattractive - both in terms of their facial features and their musculature/athleticism. Gamma is an attitude above all, but Vox often provides unflattering physical descriptions as well.

Michael is a handsome man. He seems to be in shape. Most of his pictures are closed mouth and when he smiles it is not an overly exaggerated feminine expression.

Still, there is something about his look, especially the closed-mouth shots, that seems off. An analysis of the difference between an alpha smirk and a Michael W. Smith smirk would be interesting. Maybe it has something to do with a ZFG attitude (or lack thereof) that gets communicated very subtly through the muscles in the face.

JCclimber said...

Here is all you need to know about "praise songs" in the modern "christian" church.
They are ALLLLLL focused on the feelings of the religious experience. Feelings to the left, right, up, and down.

Musically, they are crap. If you are a classically trained musician, or if you were raised on traditional hymns, you know that songs should be able to be sung in harmony, ideally 4 part harmony. Yeah, try that with most of the crappy "worship" music put out by WOW. Good luck.

What is incredible is how many churches pay people full time to be "worship music leaders". They are given status equal to the pastor.

paworldandtimes said...

Still, there is something about his look, especially the closed-mouth shots,

The gamma look aims for seductive, knowing gaze but comes off as daddy-baiting and button-pushing.

Hugo Schwyzer had an extreme example of that look:

https://nobodygetsoffended.files.wordpress.com/2014/03/hugo-banner.jpg

PA

slarrow said...

This kind of Gamma me-me-me focus blends in well with the modern "Jesus is my boyfriend" song genre. Blech to both.

Thomas Davidsmeier said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
David The Good said...

The song was covered by Smith but written by Matt Redman:

http://www.crosswalk.com/church/worship/song-story-matt-redmans-the-heart-of-worship-1253122.html

I would classify Smith as more of an alpha. Redman seems to be the typical "nice guy" type.

Quadko said...

This has bugged me for years, though I started classifying songs sung in church, and that gave me some perspective. There are songs to teach doctrine ("Jesus loves the little children" - even "Mighty Fortress"), songs as prayer or emotion state training ("Come Holy Spirit...hear us calling"), and "praise & worship" commitment songs basically saying "yeah, I'll do it" or "we should do it" o("Praise the Lord", "Sing Hallalaujah"). And more categories. Fair enough, I can see a need and use for songs like this as part of training and equipping people - the Psalms have a lot of these in there.

But there's a real shortage of songs actually praising and worshiping God.

If a human praises another human, he doesn't say "Praise John Doe" and people don't repeat "praise john" in unison. No, he says "good job on X, on making Y happen, thanks for taking action Z, nicely done winning Q."

It's a rare song that thanks God for His mighty work of salvation, honors Him for creating our incredible Universe, admires His attributes - "magnifies His mighty deeds" in song. We need more of them.

Austin Ballast said...

Plenty of modern worship songs to take issue with, but this case is quite weak.

- Worship is not about us, it should be about Him. Noting that is not wrong.
- It is a deeper issue than a surface action. The song is not wrong on that and being paranoid of the word "heart" is not appropriate.
- Modern worship styles are not the problem. Many classic hymns were sung to the tunes of bar songs. The style is not the content. Psychosonik (sp?) would not have a worship song that find with a classic hymn either. Reminds me of the anti-CCM arguments in the 1970s and 1980s.
- Plenty of the Psalms have "me" and "I" statements. That is the model in many ways, not classic hymns, however good they are.
- A bunch of men singing in unity is a very inspiring thing. Modern mish mash may not hit that, but the principle is quite valid.

The principle is that we should focus on God. Too much personal opinion mixed into this analysis.

S1AL said...

Gamma? I would have said lambda...

gnossoss said...

I've been frustrated with this type of music for quite a while. I started playing a game, before I quit going to church altogether (hopefully I can find a decent church at some point). Count how many legitimate rhymes there are, versus how many half-rhymes and how many "screw it, songwriting is hard, I won't even bother" moments there are. Typically it's about 20%/60%/20% in those three categories, though there are many with no legitimate rhymes at all.

My wife asked why I was so focused on that, and I explained it like this. There's a podium up there, right? Would the guy who built that just kind of wing it, and only hammer in some of the nails properly so it doesn't actually hold up? If not, why don't we expect a similar level of craftsmanship in music that's used to worship God? Why is it okay that this music sucks? Why do people get paid to write music that sucks, and why does anyone use it?

Pop music does a better job of rhyming properly, and that stuff is incredibly lazily written, too. I don't understand why anyone accepts such inferior quality of work when you're supposedly offering it to God.

Next, I started counting the number of topics that are discussed in the song. Good hymns have one topic, discussed in detail and with insight. Stuff like the above just wanders drunkenly wherever the writer's tiny brain went as he was writing, and ends up leaving no impression in your mind at all.

Koanic said...

The Matt Redman lyrics attribution is a good catch. Matt turns out to be a fount of quotations in a similar vein. Can you spot the gamma?

"In the end, worship can never be a performance, something you're pretending or putting on. It's got to be an overflow of your heart...Worship is about getting personal with God, drawing close to God."

"The sense of being alone is a huge issue for so many people in this world. As a worshipper of Jesus, there's a very real sense that we are always seen, held and known."

Hand the man a kleenex and a change of pants.

This doctrine doesn't seem very Biblical to me. Jesus and the Psalms speak of being forsaken. Shadrach, Meshak and Abednego stood firm regardless of outcome. Job got actively screwed over.

The concept seems to originate in Deuteronomy 31:6 "Be strong and of a good courage, fear not, nor be afraid of them: for the Lord thy God, he it is that doth go with thee; he will not fail thee, nor forsake thee."

As subsequent chapters prove, there's a whopping "...unless you anger Him" conditional in there. We may be saved by grace now, but that doesn't guarantee a 24/7 divine liplock.

Here's another Redman song that features this doctrine heavily.

Matthew 28:19-20 says: "Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:

20 Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen."

This is a statement to the 11 disciples, not an individual guarantee to all future Christians.

I guess there is neither giving nor taking of marriage in Heaven because everyone is Jesus' girlfriend.

Fred Mok said...

Plenty of good insight here and I appreciate how this blog's topics are far-ranging in scope. This is the first time I've seen a link between contemporary Christian worship songs and gamma-tude and I'm not quite convinced. However, what is inarguable is the marked contrast between Redman's lyrics and Luther's. I attribute that more to the modern idolatry of salvific romance and elevation of emotional experience rather than feminism.

I also agree with Austin Ballast: "Plenty of modern worship songs to take issue with, but this case is quite weak." - this song is actually better than most "Jesus is my boyfriend" worship songs and there has been backlash against this in recent years. There are some good God-centric songs coming out - not super-popular but gaining traction - see Keith Getty.

Eric Wilson said...

As a Lutheran, A Mighty Fortress is Our God is my favorite him. (A close second is I Know that My Redeemer Lives).

I recently learned what the "one little word" that can fell Satan that Luther was referring to. I used to think it was something generic like "Jesus" or "God" or something. But it's actually very specific: Liar.

That third verse is one of the most powerful stanzas ever written. An absolutely beautiful and reassuring message. And one of the great things is the use of the first person plural. All of Christendom stands united under it. None of this "I" stuff.

Aeoli Pera said...

Amen.

If you're going to sing about feelings, this is how you do it.

Life can be
Overwhelming
But don't turn your back on
The strongest crutch
You've ever had (you've ever had)

Eric Wilson said...

If you are a classically trained musician, or if you were raised on traditional hymns, you know that songs should be able to be sung in harmony, ideally 4 part harmony. Yeah, try that with most of the crappy "worship" music put out by WOW. Good luck.

Agreed. There is nothing that sounds better to me than a strong hymn sung in beautiful four part harmony. I really wish our choir at church would do more of it for the pieces we sing.

VD said...

Still, there is something about his look, especially the closed-mouth shots, that seems off.

It is the combination of the tightly compressed mouth and the doubt-filled eyes. The only time an Alpha has a mouth compressed like that is when he is furious.

Happy Housewife said...

Our worship leader loves leading these contemporary emotional sob fests. Since we sing a cappella in our church, it makes for a bad time as most of those songs were written with instruments in mind. The end result is that most just give up trying to find a part to sing and go along with the main melody. He'll throw in enough hymns to appease the older members, but if he had his way, he'd go Matt Redman up on stage.

Enough complain, though, that our preacher does sermons occasionally on how worship is for the Lord and it doesn't matter how you feel about the song because your feelings aren't the point of worship. This in defense of the touchy feely "Jesus is my boyfriend" songs! The irony of it is mind boggling.

Durandel Almiras said...

I'm a music director at a Catholic parish. I'm done my best to remove this junk from the repertoire but the student music group still likes it. I continue to raise the point that the lyrics are rarely different than a modern secular pop love song and that they are me-centric rather than God-centric. Some of them are listening.

I also like to point out to them that the music sounds dated and cheesy, and that it probably turns more men away than it does to evangelize to them.

Scott6584 said...

As a devout Christian, I have a similar issue with so-called "praise" songs that are really just about the worshiper, not Jesus Himself.

I recommend "Revelation Song" if one wants a song that is focused on the majesty of the Savior. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MUSiXaARV6U

Also, here is a rendition of a song that makes the focus of worship the One being worshiped, and not the one worshiping. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5N5nxeqvXRc At about the 8 minute mark in this video, a particularly powerful declaration of the majesty of Christ is heard.

Since I was a child, I have had little patience with songs that focus on the frailty of the redeemed instead of the power of the Redeemer. Perhaps it is because we fall into the trap of focusing on ourselves, but passages of Scripture like Nebuchadnezzar's speech at the end of Daniel Chapter 4 always lifted my spirit because it focused on God's Power, not my failings.

At the end of that time, I, Nebuchadnezzar, raised my eyes toward heaven, and my sanity was restored. Then I praised the Most High; I honored and glorified him who lives forever.

His dominion is an eternal dominion;
his kingdom endures from generation to generation.
All the peoples of the earth
are regarded as nothing.
He does as he pleases
with the powers of heaven
and the peoples of the earth.
No one can hold back his hand
or say to him: “What have you done?”

Also, the last 11 chapters of Job, which focus on the power, purpose and majesty of God are in stark contrast to the first 31 chapters, in which Job and his friends are focused on their own righteousness or lack thereof.

I think it take a revelation of who God is, and a level of humility that is uncommon in Churchianity to worship God for who He is, accept salvation and justification as a gift apart from your own works, and then worship Him according to righteousness received as an unearned gift. Too often, people cannot get past themselves, and engage in self-flagellation instead of true worship. The point of the Christian faith is NOT that we are perfectable in ourselves, but that we can be walk in the perfection of Christ by faith. To put the focus of "worship" and "praise" songs on ourselves misses the point entirely.

Vox, if you are interested in finding unapologetic teaching on following after Christ, and walking in His power by faith, and not in our own strength, I highly suggest AWMI.net. This is a Bible teaching site, where the teachings are offered for free, and can be downloaded at will. The teacher is unafraid to take on the weakness of the Church head-on. He doesn't make excuses for our failings, but instead focuses on how to walk in faith according to what the Bible actually says, not how the Church has interpreted it over the years. One thing the teacher, Andrew Wommack, does not do is allow Christians to get off by claiming "victim" status. It's refreshing to hear a teacher boldly declare the Word of God without apology.

Also, it sounds like you may have a Lutheran background (which wouldn't be surprising in Minneapolis.) I highly recommend a book called "Bruchko" which is a about a young Lutheran boy who decided to follow Christ, and defying Church leaders, set out to be a Missionary in the Jungle of South Africa, and boldly went into the jungle to reach a tribe of vicious natives with no financial or religious backing. The power and boldness of simply relying totally on God is breathtaking and inspiring.

Res Ipsa said...

This is the first time I've seen a link between contemporary Christian worship songs and gamma-tude and I'm not quite convinced.

Fred,

The connection is in part related to the self-absorbed nature of the music. The music mirrors the "its all about me" mindset of the gamma. I disagree with those who focus on the emotional nature of lyrics. Expressing emotion in worship or songs isn't a problem. The narcissism is the issue.

For example:

"I love you LORD" is an appropriate expression of emotion.

VS

"Your looking into MY heart"
"MY Love for you"
"I'M doing, thinking FEELING..."

Hope that helps.

Scott6584 said...

I will make one other comment though. The notion that modern songs cannot be as good or even better than old hymns is simply wrong headed. It makes one subscribe to the notion that God moved more mightily in times past than he does today.

I think the issue is focus. I can find plenty of old hymns that are singing about something other than God, and don't have a true worship focus.

However, there is justification for more than one type of song in the Bible. While I agree that Praise and Worship should be God-centered, and God-focused, the Apostle Paul also talked about other types of songs in Ephesians 5:19.

18 ...be filled with the Spirit;

19 Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord;

20 Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ;

Look at first 19, and the focus is "speaking to yourselves", not God. So in some sense, I don't have a problem with songs that encourage each other or even just ourselves. King David did this when he looked inward, and then commanded himself to "Bless the Lord, oh my soul." There is a place for it. But technically speaking, those are NOT songs of "Praise" or songs of "Worship." It's important to make the distinction.

Scott6584 said...

Finally, there are plenty of old hymns that could be classified as "love songs" to God.

Fairest Lord Jesus
I am Thine, Oh Lord
I need Thee Every Hour
Jesus, Lover of My Soul
etc.

A love relationship with God is the whole point of the Cross. To eschew that because it may seem unmanly to you is unwise. Theologically speaking, the Church (all of us) are the Bride of Christ. Similarly, there are no "daughters" of God, only sons. That is an important point to make because the position of a son is categorically different than that of a daughter from a legal point of view. The son inherits. The daughter does not. So, all Christians become the "sons of God," regardless of our earthly sex.

Ultimately, it is about understanding that male and female categories are temporary. It is the spirit of man that counts, and "God is a Spirit; they that worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth." Jesus made a point of telling us that there is no male or female in heaven.

That doesn't mean we can ignore male and female roles on earth, but those are temporary.

I'm reminded of my niece, who attends a Christian High School, calling me about having to write an essay on how wives are to submit to their husbands. I told her the primary issue is NOT of wives submitting to their husbands, but if she was willing to submit to God. It is God's command for wives to submit, not a command that emanates from husbands. If she truly trusts that God is good, and believes in the rightness of his commands, then her submission to her husband is an act of submission and worship to God - regardless of her perception of the worthiness of her husband. And she needed to make up her mind first about her willingness to submit to God, long before she ever gets to the point of submitting to her future husband.

The fallacy in the Church today is that women have the right, capacity or authority to judge their husbands worthiness. That is contrary to the teaching of the Bible. In fact, it teaches the exact opposite. It doesn't mean women are required to be blind to the failings of their husbands. But it means that she is not allowed to set herself above her husband in the order of things. It doesn't make the husband more righteous or holy. In fact, it explicitly discusses wives married to unholy men, and how they, by their submission, might win them to Christ. The modern Church teaches wives to confront and threaten their husbands - which is quite simply rebellion.

Nevertheless, when it comes to our spiritual position before God, ALL are both the Bride of Christ, and sons of God. It is hard to comprehend from a soulish perspective how a man can be a bride, and a woman can be a son. But were are talking about a legal position from a theological point of view. Also, we are talking about a relational position. Hence, love songs to God from a man are completely appropriate, regardless how uncomfortable you are with them. You need to stop comprehending yourself according to the flesh, and start comprehending yourself spiritually. That's the bottom line.

JCclimber said...

I belong to a Christian Men's chorus. We sing pretty conservative songs that lean toward the old school side of things. Our director brings various songs for us to try out. We reject about half of them, and I have no idea how many he has already rejected in anticipation of our standards.

Repetitive lyrics? Rejected. No pagan-lite chant stuff
Syrupy lyrics? Rejected. Jesus isn't our boyfriend
Ode to Mary? just kidding, our director would never bring that to us
Incorrect theology? Rejected, we consider our songs to be part of a sermon and there is no place for incorrect theology just to make a rhyme or emotional impact
Navel gazing? Gotta be kidding.

End result? Men love when we perform at worship services. Since our membership is taken from about 15 different churches, we travel to 7 different counties, to dozens of churches. The women observe the men in their congregation (and I assume the choir) and their reaction. And they love our music too.

There are several churches where we are not welcome, and have been explicitly told that because our music is not contemporary. Our youngest member said "that's okay, none of us want to be tripping over a drum set or amplifier and breaking something anyway".

Please note also that if you have high standards and take what you're doing seriously, composers and arrangers will volunteer their services and creative talents because they share and are inspired by that type of commitment. They don't trust what most musicians will do with their creations.

de ti said...

The doubt filled eyes is what clinches the gamma look. That and the frosted hair and Smith's overall "pretty boy" appearance. The uplifted eyebrows gives him an appearance of "gay face".

JCclimber said...

Scott, good point about the purpose of music.
I'm assuming in this discussion that it is about the worship service.
We wear our best clothes, not as a fashion show (right?), but to honor God.
Our tithes and offerings.
If we give a sermon or talk, we take it seriously and prepare and don't just "wing it".
If there is a potluck, we don't buy some lousy cheap food and dump it on the table.

And so forth. Doesn't mean we wear our best clothes all the time, or rehearse everything before we talk, etc.

But worship is different.

It is NOT bringing what we think is our best to God. That is what CAIN did in Genesis 4:3-7. It is bringing the best of what God requests to God, and while He wants our best, He also has established guidelines.

gnossoss said...

@JCclimber

Can you list some songs you guys do? I'm interested in any good Christian music I haven't heard. My knowledge of good hymns and other Christian songs isn't particularly deep.

CarpeOro said...

Fortunately that song doesn't get alot of airplay, but there are other songs such as one by a female (some Italian last name that escapes me)where I just hear the lyrics and think "really? maybe this is for the female part of the audience" due to references about feeling weak and things getting blurry. I've never particularly liked the song referred to in this thread, but when my wife occasionally sings along it does seem more appropriate. What I miss the most about the churches I've attended the last decade is the lack of the traditional songs (A Mighty Fortress being one of my favorites). The emphasis has gone from us joining in on the side of Jesus in fighting the good fight to the church sitting back and applauding while he does ALL the work (again, an effeminate outlook appropriate to women but anathema to men).

Oh, and regarding charismatic leadership, that seems to be the initial strength of the various Pentecostal churches I have been in but always the ultimate weakness. My wife's home congregation split as the pastor progressed into Alzheimer's and his wife clung to his position - he couldn't even speak to deliver sermons and had to have others deliver them (I would be amazed if he even had input regarding them). Another - emphasizing diversity - brought in a new worship leader from outside who happened to be black, instead of awarding the position to a youth from the congregation that had been working on his theology degree. I wasn't living here at the time, but the church went from two well attended services to only one this past year as the membership has declined further after the initial fission. The focus on church leaders instead of God is appalling. Also a Rick Warren fan club there.

Desiderius said...

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cHw4GER-MiE

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K3b6SGoN6dA

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cpkdCQVnyvs

Desiderius said...

^
|
|

Manly worship music

Scott6584 said...

JCClimber,

I think the question is what is in the heart of the person. Does he truly wish to enter into the presence of God? Or would he rather keep God at arms length, and rely on doctrine. The PURPOSE of doctrine is not to enable you to live a better life; it is to bring you into relationship. If your goal is to commune with God, then you engage in songs of true praise and worship, and expressing love to God in those types of songs that are sung directly to God as a prayer is appropriate.

But if you think the primary purpose of worship is to reinforce doctrine APART from the personal relationship, then you are missing the point entirely. Martin Luther was writing from a very personal encounter with God - the revelation of His Grace. He wasn't writing from an abstract purpose of espousing doctrine. True Doctrine both flows FROM a relationship with God, and inspires TOWARD seeking a relationship. It also protect one from error while in that relationship.

What it does NOT do is justify a religious experience apart from the very personal relationship with Christ. The Christian life is supposed to be a supernatural experience that is derived through a relationship with the Father through the agency of the Holy Spirit in the worship of Christ. Those who live a "Christian" life devoid of the supernatural expression of the Spirit are not truly living a Christian life. That is a hard pill to swallow because the Christian life is not just hard to live. It's impossible to live without communion with the Spirit.

There is a need for recognition of our total inability to live holy lives on our own. But the good news, the "gospel", is that we are not left on our own. We can live holy lives if we walk according to the Spirit. The big issue I have with the Lutheran faith is that they never progress from Romans chapter 7 to Romans chapter 8. They remains mired in the supposed dual natures expressed in Romans 7, not realizing that Romans 8 is an expression of overcoming the frailties of Romans 8.

And that is also true of most Christian denominations, including the Catholics. They are so focused on fleshly holiness, which is impossible, that they never get around to putting their mind on the things of the Spirit (Romans 8:6), and thus live defeated lives. It's not supposed to be that way.

Desiderius said...

"They are so focused on fleshly holiness, which is impossible, that they never get around to putting their mind on the things of the Spirit (Romans 8:6), and thus live defeated lives. It's not supposed to be that way."

Aye, salvation is the beginning (of a new life in Christ), not the end (i.e. the purpose of our lives).

aaron said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
aaron said...

The solution is to convert to Orthodoxy. A Capella, singing the liturgy of St. John Chrysostom, words that say the same thing over and over again, no need to find different ways to state perfection when they have already been found, standing for the better part of 90 minutes. Incense, reverence, communion. That is Christianity, friends. Not to mention a perfected understanding of the Trinity (no Filioque) and no Immaculate Conception either.

Greg Adams said...

I have thought something was dreadfully missing in the worship music in churches today. With lyrics claiming "he calls me friend" or giving Jesus the recognition as "the darling of heaven", God is not being truly worshipped. I would like to miss the singing every Sunday if I could.

Back in the 1970s, we sang scripture songs that proclaimed God's glory and worship for what he has done. Little did I know that those times would be the watermark for the rest of my life.

Unknown said...

Greg Adams hits exactly what I have experienced. The music/songs of today's churches are the main reason that I don't go to church. This slop is an embarrassment. The songs are tepid. In the 70s, I listened to Christian Rock, and the old hymnbook standards, so, you can't say that I was just being either too traditional nor too progressive. I listened to it, and I was edified, hearing of God's works and love.
The junk that has been coming out since about 1980, give or take, is just a vehicle for the singers/musicians to win a Dove award.

frenchy said...

The hymns are always better.

@ Durandel. I'd go with the hymns. I just left Germany (went to a Evangelisch church)and I really loved the Latin hymns. Here's one I really like.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NBQOfySw9ZI

Joe A. said...

This song is tame compared to others.

Stg58/Animal Mother said...

I hate that song, Heart of Worship, so much. I hate it with every fiber of my being.

Scott6584 said...

Here is something that talks about the danger of building monuments to the past regarding Christianity: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WlCr2FvWdXU

Jed Mask said...

This was good to hear discussion on.

Especially this: "Should an honest Christian need to wash that foul taste from his mouth, here are some outward-focused, courageous lyrics of praise from another, better era:

A Mighty Fortress is our God" by Martin Luther"

So if the "Heart of Worship" by Michael W. Smith is "gamma" what would you consider to be the Alpha and Sigma equivalents of Christian worship and praise songs and hymns?

frenchy said...

@ Jed,

Some of my favorites.

In Christ Alone.

Lord I Don't Know.

In Wonder.

I Surrender All.


Jed Mask said...

Thank you @frenchy for that list. I'll check it out and pass 'em on...

ray said...

Church music sucks, almost as much as the parishioners. It does have the hidden benefit of keeping actual Christian men away from fake churches, pastors, worship teams, music directors, and the women who run all this.

Your false churches have enough money to hire assistant 'pastors' and bad artists that are friends/relatives of the leaders and congregants, but not enough to get my brothers off the streets. But nupe that ain't enough, the music also has to suck. More modern folk worshipping themselves and one another.

Once in awhile I'll sing one of the old carols to God -- Midnight Clear, God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen, Holy Night, so forth. As likely in June as December. The stuff that came from Him returns to Him, the rest disappears like yesterday's farts.

Dave said...

"Once to every man and nation" is a good wakeup call.
Lyrics: http://www.cyberhymnal.org/htm/o/n/oncetoev.htm
Performance: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U21b6h8g7PM

frenchy said...

@ Jed,

Check out DC Talks last two albums as well.
What if I stumble.

Now to go way back...
Raspberry Jam. Wonders of Love.

And never forget Rich Mullins. Sometimes by Step.



Sean Carnegie said...

@aaron:
Orthodoxy. Cute. You keep worshipping your graven images and us Protestants will keep protesting.

For more Matt Redman syrupy crap, "Give Me Jesus" is all that's wrong with CCM "worship".

Pilgrim of the East said...

I call this BS. Have you read Psalms? E.g. the third one. I guess that David was gamma too, right? Also, why didn't you highlight all these "our" in "A Mighty Fortress is our God"? - I suppose that then it wouldn't suite your narrative that well...

This is actually one of my favorite worships, because it's confession that too often we don't worship God anymore but just sing the way we would sing a song.
Faith and life with God is more than saying/singing right words, it's about contents of heart (good luck with worshiping with more alpha songs if your heart is not in right place) - see also Matthew 15:8 . But I guess that other side of this song is that if you sing it just like ordinary song, it's basically sacrilege...

btw, it's funny how people here are just nodding to the post, while for example frenchy recommends "In Christ alone" (also one of my favorite worships, although definitely not the Newsboys version), which has first verse by poster's standards far worse than whole "Heart of worship".

@Greg Adams:
what's wrong about lyrics '''claiming "he calls me friend" '''? If you think that all the passages where Jesus calls disciples friends (like John 15:14-15) are for apostles only, than there is no really basis to think that any other parts of gospel are intended for us.


------------
(that said, I'm listening just now to Thecoracy, which would probably clear a bar of poster's definition of "alpha" christian music, but lets be honest contemporary praise music is definitely more singable even though it has worse lyrics)

JCclimber said...

@gnossoss

Amazing grace, of course adapted for 4 part mens chorus, but basically the same. I alway mentally hear the bagpipes in the background when we sing...

Be Ye Holy

Jesus Paid it All - based on the old version from the 1800's not the modern version

Soon and Very Soon

The Majesty and Glory of Your Name

A song by one of our brother choirs:
No More Night
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7AwA9rdr3fU

One time last year when we were singing with them, the director of this group stopped us mid-song and had a little pep talk (this was the dress rehearsal). My wife, sitting out in the congregation area, couldn't hear what he said to us, but she said it made a big impact in how we were singing.

Jonathan Buller said...

Thanks so much for this post. The disconnect between modern worship and real worship is staggering.

Part of the problem is not just the feminization of worship and the church in general. It is also that most people in our churches don't really believe in objective truth. As Francis Schaeffer noted about modern man, most churchians have moved below the line of despair and now seek to find truth in themselves. This forces them into making rhetorical arguments in their music; their music is designed to influence themselves and the listeners, versus the clear statements of truth and the sound doctrine found in so many earlier hymns.

Is the increase in subjectivism and feminism caused by the rejection of truth in modern thinking? I think that the vapid nature of worship music today is a symptom of the greater issues we face.

rumpole5 said...

Here is one I like entitled "Be Strong and Courageous" :

http://kleinwood.com/annual-singing/2003/08/01/be-strong-and-courageous

Just copy and paste into your browser bar for an mp3. One line is: "The land of his promise is yours now by right. Take all He has given, go forth to the fight"

Neanderserk said...

@Pilgrim of the East

Psalm 3 is a masculine Psalm. David is not making anything up. God is directly involved in his life, and he has many enemies who want him dead. Furthermore, the focus quickly turns outward and towards God, instead of wallowing in self, with God as mere prop.

Our != my.

If you want to sing Psalm 3, nobody will criticize you.

It's very funny to watch the reactions - the overwhelming agreement of the righteous and the feeble cries of those whose ox is gored.

Austin Ballast said...

A challenge:

Consider Psalms 42:

[Psa 42:1-6 KJV] 1 [[To the chief Musician, Maschil, for the sons of Korah.]] As the hart panteth after the water brooks, so panteth my soul after thee, O God. 2 My soul thirsteth for God, for the living God: when shall I come and appear before God? 3 My tears have been my meat day and night, while they continually say unto me, Where [is] thy God? 4 When I remember these [things], I pour out my soul in me: for I had gone with the multitude, I went with them to the house of God, with the voice of joy and praise, with a multitude that kept holyday. 5 Why art thou cast down, O my soul? and [why] art thou disquieted in me? hope thou in God: for I shall yet praise him [for] the help of his countenance. 6 O my God, my soul is cast down within me: therefore will I remember thee from the land of Jordan, and of the Hermonites, from the hill Mizar.

Note that this exhibits a passion for God that many would decry today, but I would hardly see David as a gamma. Notice it also focuses on the downcast state of the soul of the worshiper. This indicates some focus on self and deep desire for God is fine. I definitely have an aversion to "Jesus is my boyfriend" songs, but some songs (Psalms) are clearly fine in the eyes of God that come close to that.

Pilgrim of the East said...

@Neanderserk:
heh, plenty of unfounded claims. I could as well say that Heart of worship is masculine, that Smith isn't making anything up and has many enemies who think that he's loser gamma and probably wouldn't really mourn his death either(having enemies who want you dead doesn't mean anything - every king or man of similar power had such). Last sentence of first paragraph could be copied in verbatim - it's just your feelings about that, you have no actual arguments.

Yeah, our!=my. "My" is actually better, because you're the only one who you can really speak for. If you speak for other people it may not be truth even if you believe it is. But if you prefer "our", just switch all "my" for "our" and "I" for "we", I'm quite sure, that Smith won't sue you because of that.

It's really funny to watch reactions - overwhelming nodding of sheeple who blindly accept anything sanctioned by Vox and only few people have guts to actually have their own opinion and swim against current.
(I wonder how Vox likes that his supporters are so bad in discussion they have to use argumentum ad populum...)

CDM said...

If you want to worship God the way he wants then sing his 150 psalms. The earliest Christians, the disciples, Christ himself, even from the cross, and the Church through the ages did so until America packaged and sold will worship.

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