I would like to pick up a thread of conversation that Kansas Bob pursued in his comment on my last post. I had written a rambling critique of bad music in worship being “the downfall of the worship style formerly known as contemporary.” KB responded, “The mocking tone of your comments tells me that you don’t understand this type of worship and how people are touched and moved in worship singing these types of songs.”
Well, he is right about the mocking tone he detected, but wrong about the target of said mocking tone. I was not mocking contemporary worship itself, but rather I was mocking the bad music that sometimes comprises a service that is labeled “contemporary.” I would similarly mock bad music that sometimes comprises a service that is labeled “traditional,” but in the post about “Christian kitsch,” it was not relevant. I could write a-whole-nother post about bad “traditional” worship.
But with regard to worship style, I really don’t care too much what happens in a worship service (within limits, of course), as long as it is centered on the presence of God, it is done with passion and energy, and it creates an environment conducive to the divine/human encounter. I certainly would not mock any worship experience that meets these criteria, whether it be one that features blue jeans and a band or formal robes and an organ. Some people seem to think that, just because it is a “traditional” service it must be lifeless and lethargic, and likewise some people seem to think that, just because it is a “contemporary” service it must be shallow and selfish. All of which further points out the problems that arise when we use labels in conversation – assumptions abound and definitions get pretty slippery sometimes.
Kansas Bob makes an assertion that, “…usually the total exclusion of choruses equates to passionless singing.” To which I reply, you ought to hear a British Methodist congregation sing And Can It Be that I Should Gain! There is passion, there is power, and there is energy. Partly because of the familiarity factor, which cannot be overestimated. We must always consider the context of worship in these kinds of conversations. But part of that passion is because of the depth of meaning in the text of the hymn. The poetry resonates with the mind, the theology stirs the spirit, and the resultant energy is embodied with a full-throated, lusty, courageous sound that is glorious to be a part of.
KB and I will find some common ground on this issue, I think, because he says, “…whether it is from a hymnal or overhead projector, give me passion over tradition ... even if it is judged as kitsch by some :)” Though I take exception to his assumption that tradition is passionless, I concur completely with his point that passion is a vital part of what makes worship, well – worship.
PS – Another thread of conversation from my last post that gets me thinking is the whole “blonde-haired, blue-eyed Jesus” thing. I think I’ll write my next post about that one, mainly responding to the question posed by anonymous, "Why is a b-h, b-e Jesus unacceptable?"
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