A miracle happened; I woke up early and worked out at my local Gold’s. It was just 35 minutes on the elliptical but it was something, and I felt great.
The gym naturally pipes in some obnoxious pop while the big-screens shill Fox News or MSNBC.
Staying focused means, for me, a pair of Bluetooth headphones and something wholly other.
This morning, it was the music of Chris Tomlin. “Our God” was especially nice to hear.
On balance, I have had an extremely difficult time coming up with names who consistently write good Christian music.
My years in the Cult were filled with 90’s-era “CCM”; most of that music is pretty lousy. It aged badly and was never very high-caliber work to begin with.
It always depressed me that such maudlin, childish themes worked into banal lyrics with the feeble prosody of mediocre harmonic content . . . just bad songwriting.
It caused me to wonder; whatever happened to Hildegard van Bingen? To Handel? Bach? Musicians who cared deeply about what they wrote, whose work reflected an inner working of the Holy Spirit (or at least had a high degree of sincerity)? Music so good, so enduring, one need not be a person of faith to find its meaning. Neil Degrasse Tyson (a skeptic who is far too cool to carry some tribal club card) acknowledged one of his favorite works to be Handel’s “Messiah”.
In those occasions my Wife joined me at church, those “Contemporary” worship services and their simpering pop made her cringe. The traditional services with hymnody, on the other hand, inspired her to sing. She may not be a regular attendee but she does enjoy working with the choir on special occasions when the music director (a coworker of hers) selects some amazing works from Mendelssohn, John Rutter, Eric Whiteacre or John Tavener. Compositions rich with art, superior production sensibilities, complex arrangements, and meaningful libretti. Not watered down theology for those with an 8th-Grade acumen and intense fear of sophistication.
The problems I have seen with so much Contemporary Praise and Worship, all too often, are the motives for writing these songs in the first place. First and foremost, make ME feel good. Otherwise, I’ll simply conclude God never showed up, and I was ripped off.
Frank Schaeffer (the son of evangelical author Francis Schaeffer), wrote in his book “Addicted to Mediocrity: Contemporary Christians and the Arts”:
“Any group that willingly or unconsciously side-steps creativity and human expression gives up their effective role in the society in which they live. In Christian terms, their ability to be the salt of that society is greatly diminished” (24).
In the years I spent in an evangelical extremist cult, among those things that we renounced, was the arts. It was a great poverty, the dearth of good music. It left my soul bare and I feel made me a much weaker witness. After all, what could I have shown the world as an example of what was so great about the Church? Certainly not the mediocre pablum we called music.
That is why, every once in a while, a nice piece from somebody in the faith, like Chris Tomlin, Paul Baloche, Kari Jobe, Plumb, Bob Bennet, Phil Keaggy, Michael Card, Matt Maher or John Michael Talbot, can be so incredibly uplifting. In a dry and thirsty land, they can truly bring living water!