Monday, September 3, 2007

The Monday Morning Rant (2)

I have added more than my my two cents—more like five or ten—to this post, so I'll take some credit, or blame, for it. It is a topic near and dear to my heart, and has been a thorn in my side since my childhood , growing up in the Baptist church. Neither Cecil nor I are advocating the bone-jarring, mind-numbing, tooth-loosening clatter of today's "Praise" music heard in the progressive churches of today. But we are in agreement on one thing: that some of the songs we hear and sing in Restoration churches lately are real snorers. It may be the tempo; it may be the attitude. But if we really mean it when we praise and thank the Lord for His many blessings, something needs to be changed.

In His Love

Jan

***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** *****

After a beautiful sacrament service, it’s a temptation to save the "rant" for another time. But, just because we feel at peace and one with the Lord, there is no reason to slack off so I shall proceed.

What has happened to our music? When I was music director, I operated exclusively out of the old red (grey?) hymnal. My opinion was it contained enough praise music to express the power and majesty of God. For a complete inventory of the blessings of God, turn to #7 and follow along: "Praise ye the Lord! 'Tis good to raise Your hearts and voices in his praise . . . " Then follow the wonderful blessings we enjoy and properly attribute them to Him.

Over a hundred years ago, Geoge Elvey understood his Master and celebrated Him in #197; "Crown Him with many crowns, the Lamb upon His throne . . ." One needn’t shout, but this song should be sung in full voice to appreciate the power of the message. “The Potentate of time," tells the story of an everlasting Presence, a Force for the ages. It has strength and power, like the God it praises.

Songs of joy occupy a special place as well. Who can fail to have joy singing #580; “What a glorious thing to be In the light . . .” It was written some years after the death of the prophet by a Saint who saw new beginnings in her midst rather than the tragedy of yesterday. It was her idea to celebrate, ”the true light of God.”

For those who seek peace, harmony, conciliation and conflict avoidance stay away from #283 and #309. The former advises; “We’ll sing and we’ll shout with the armies of heaven,” “Armies” implies more than just a large assembly or congregation. It suggests an organized body, clad in the full armor of God, with a military bent. A preparation for a struggle is inherent in the chorus. The latter is more direct in that it says; “Onward Christian soldiers! Marching as to war.” Nowhere does it suggest reconciliation. There is nothing there about how we should all kiss and make up and live happily ever after. It recognizes our struggle with a capable adversary and urges us to prevail against the “gates of hell.”

These are serious efforts to allow us to sing to the housetops of our avowed relationship with our Maker. They are not the drones or chants or the hmmms of new age drivel; they are instead, the paeans of praise, awe and militancy in the pursuit of the goals of Jesus Christ. So “lift your glad voices” and search for the positive hymns which lift the spirit. And while we're at it, there are 582 hymns in the red (grey) hymnal. Why must we be subjected to the same four or five or six dreary, droning pieces Sunday after Sunday after Wednesday after Wednesday? No wonder half of us are depressed.

And speaking of art, why do so many artists portray the Savior as a wimpy, fine-featured feminine figure? Am I alone here? I, in my mind's eye, see a muscular, rugged guy with strong features, a real chin, and blazing eyes with a solid confident look. I see a working man, not a prissy effeminate dilettante. I see a figure who handled Pharisees, one with each hand, with furniture flying every which way. These characteristics do not require that we dismiss His capacity for all consummate love and tenderness. Actually, the contrast would enhance it.

You may now accuse me of being part of a testosterone-laden society which worships at the altar of six-pack abs and Alpha males. All I’m saying is that I would prefer our ultimate role model, Jesus Christ, be treated in the arts with all the strength and power which he exudes in our scriptures. It’s up to each of us to imagine on our own the figure which suits our concept of Christ. I just tend to see him as a figure with greater resemblance to Arnold Schwarzenegger than Pee Wee Herman.

I advertised a rant. It is now over and back to serious issues later. Come to think of it, this is serious.

In His abiding love,

Cecil Moon

5 comments:

Dude said...

Oh, boy (and girl!), now you have hit a lively, spirited, controversial nerve again!

I have been waiting, and waiting, and waiting -- eight years now, to hear our congregation just "blow the doors" off when singing a wondrous Restoration hymn. When I first joined the Church in 1974 - a small body of 40-50 Saints would get SOOOO excited about singing, "The Spirit of God Like A Fire Is Burning" - that one could hardly contain himself (herself). What awesome memories -- 50 Saints singing their hearts out, praising good, smiling, rejoicing and harmoniously shouting "Hosannah"!

Pick almost any song that was even a tad "upbeat" and the Saints went into REJOICE mode! There was a sparkle in the eye, that wondrous smile of inspiration, that stirring enthusiasm that electrified all in attendance.

After leaving the Church, and coming back in 1999/2000, what a shock. Over and over I have encouraged the Saints to sing loud and strong and with fervent praise -- and for some reason it almost always ends up being almost a funeral dirge -- pick a hymn - any one - and the Saints seem content just to mouth the words, whisper the lyrics, and end their efforts with barely a hint of praise or enthusiasm.

Just last night, as I entered the sanctuary, the preservice hymn-sing started with "We're Marching to Zion" (#70 in the Blue Hymnal). Honestly, I almost turned around and walked out! It almost sounded like a mournful blues' tune. Having studied the history of the marvelous song I am heartsick every time I hear it sung as anything but a wall-shaking, glorious, uplifting hymn that it should be.

I am not saying that we need the ear-shattering, modern day, techno-rock madness, but when I sing (and I AM NOT a good singer - but I love to sing anyway!) it is with the anticipation that everyone else is an "into" praising God, exalting His Name, and rejoicing to the utmost. Music should be the genesis of wondrous worship expectations. It should be the Spiritual tool by which we tell God we are ready to be enlightened, uplifted and ministered to by His servants.

I don't know how it is elsewhere, but whenever (in the 70's or today) I enter a sanctuary I expect the Saints to be alive, to be excited, to be enthusiastic and to be seeking to praise Him in every possible way, in order that the worship experience for everyone in attendance may be greatly enhanced, as God responds to the love and praises expressed by His children.

I have heard some individuals say that, "Well, that is the temp of the hymn." Or, "Well, it IS 4/4 time or 6/8 or whatever. I don't care. I understand there are rules in music -- but there are no rules as to how the Saints can change those rules when they truly want to worship God. We have a terrific organist. She has often said that the speed at which she plays the music is often influenced by how the congreation is singing. Well, if that is the case - then let's sing like we really mean it, like we are thrilled to be singing and praising God -- and not like we are witnessing the burial of a long lost art.

Book of Mormon Warrior said...

This is a problem amoung all restoration groups that I have seen. The only reason a Mormon ward is "loud" in singing is because their is 300 people and a organ, otherwise it would be pretty pitiful.
I do take exception to the dismissal of modern christian music. Some of the songs are appropriate and great to sing and clap (gasp) along to.
I think we many too stuck on the traditional hymns and see anything outside of the 17 or 1800's as almost akin to blasphemy. Somehow they believe that to modernize a bit would cause apostacy and loss of faith.
I recommend reading Pslams 150, does David recommend the organ/piano as the only "right way" to worship? What is he describing here?
So ends my rant about your rant.

defoog said...

music, like any other aspect of church life, can be killed by tradition and misappropriation of "rules"
this rant is just a venting on a much deeper problem with the church today
the guilt associated with change has mortally wounded the church
it is unfortunate that an unchangeable god means to many (most-all?) that people and organizations cannot change
how contrary to human history and to the very spirit of the restoration movement
it is truly a sad day in the church and our music is simply expressing the depth of that sadness
wake up
arise o church of god

Patricia Ragan said...

I miss singing in a choir. I miss it! I miss it! I miss it! In our group, when we meet, I AM the choir.

I was invited to sing with a Baptist choir, but we were back-ground singers to soloists. The music was modern with drums and electric guitars. I kind of slithered out of there.

I've gotten out of practice. Oh, how I need the discipline of a choir and a good director. Those hymns are so full of meaning, that singing them in "dirge-time" negates the powerful messages, to my way of thinking.

When I was a kid, I was invited into the adult choir. They didn't have a junior choir at the time. When we weren't singing at the end of the service, we would all go back down and sit with our families. The organist and the dispersed choir would "raise the roof" and take all the rest of the congregation with us. We would sing in parts. Did I mention I miss singing with a choir?

Seeker said...

Our dear friend Adrienne sent this directly to us when her password wouldn't work (a common affliction on Blogger—Cec has been unable to use his since the beginning.) Thank you, Adrienne.

Blue Hymnal # 143 All Hail the Power of Jesus Name"! Shaking up the
neighborhood from our living room on a regular basis is my husband
Philip playing our hundred-year-old upright grand piano and joining
him are our children ages 10 to 17. There they go again, belting out
hymns as if they were a whole congregation. I am the only female in
the house singing harmony. We are blessed to have Philip as our music
director as I am so off key! But that doesn't matter! I still sing
out loud since Philip and the boys make me sound great and the Lord
knows my heart!

"In the Garden" and "Lily of the Valley", "Fairest Lord Jesus",
and "How Can it Be" are among my favorites because they are a little
more quite and the guys choose so many hymns that are full of vim and
vigor.

A friend of mine asked our family to come and worship with her in her
home one Sunday. She is not a member of our church but another
evangelical Christian church. Philip not being priesthood decided
that it would be best if we sang, prayed, and bore our testimonies
together.

We brought our hymnals along and Philip picked out some hymns for us
all to sing. Now this friend is very musical and all of members of
her family including herself have voices of angles! Anyway there we
were singing with all of our normal gusto and having a wonderful time
worshipping the Lord.

After we were done my friend told me that at her church they don't
sing hymns anymore and she had forgotten how much of the gospel is
shared by the singing of the hymns. The message given through the
hymns had been replaced by repetitive almost chanting praise verses.
Even the choir only sang those types of songs. My friend has since
then made sure to sing hymns every week and has now joined the
worship team in their church to bring the hymns back to their
congregation.

Adrienne