Why I Don’t Sing

 This follows up on the previous post (Why we sing), so it might be best to read that first.

 

It is one of the unfortunate truths of life that everything in the light casts a shadow, especially where people are involved.

Humanity seems to have an inerrant knack for twisting what is good into something destructive. If it weren’t for people, Communism would have worked. Hell, if it weren’t for people, it would never have been necessary. We are selfish creatures, too busy chasing our own gain to realise that we aren’t actually gaining at all. We lie to ourselves to cover the hairline cracks in our egos. Humans are artists of self-destruction.

When we sing, we remember. We rediscover old feelings. We connect in fresh ways with stale subject matter. The artistic impulse is one of clarification and re-evaluation, which is good. But the sirens stand on the rocks and their song is a call to the depths. 

We also sing to awaken feeling that have never before rippled down our spines. We sing because it is hypnotic. We sing because everyone else is doing it and we are, after all, herd animals.

Those are not always bad things. Bonding is an active process facilitated by shared experiences. The ability of music to put you in another’s shoes is laudable, isn’t it?

Church music has been getting more and more hip since the 40’s, if you believe the right people. There is even something like Christian black metal these days, which is an oxymoron if I ever heard one. Which is why they call it white metal. So they’re at least exempt from Satanism. 

While music in the worship service itself has stayed closer to Christianity’s associated norms, it hasn’t been left behind in its mass youth appeal. Large bands play catchy songs to crowds of thousands, while the lights and smoke machines ensure that church is an epileptic-free zone. Which wouldn’t be so bad if the songs weren’t so damn stupid.

I love hymns. Always have. Having grown up with them, I find in their metric perfection a kind of stability I don’t feel in more modern church songs. They are dense, with meaning flowering out from them every time you return. I could picture some theologian working for weeks on a turn of phrase, puzzling over the significance of what is being said, and I could respect that.

Those songs were statements about God and man and the universe. In our postmodern condition, even the hymns have turned inward. These days, worship music is focused around the repetitive enunciation of some existential propaganda. People are encouraged to sing things that, if they took the time to make their endorphin-soaked brains pay attention, should give them pause, if nothing else.

Do you really love Jesus more than life? Can we as middle class privileged kids even say something like that? You’re the only one that I can live for. I will never let You go. These phrases start sounding more like desperate wishful thinking the more I think about them.  Do we sing them because they’re true? Do we sing them because they feel true while the music’s got us by the reptile brain? Do we need them to be true?

I can’t answer these questions for you.

As well as turning to statements of impossible zeal, modern worship music seems to become all about me. Don’t get me wrong- I love that. I’m just as self-obsessed as the next guy. But when the songs I sing while supposedly worshiping the almighty Creator sound like ads for self-help books, I feel like something’s awry.

What happened to the songs that affirm that I may sometimes doubt? Where did the realism go? Why can’t songwriters think through the theological implications of their lyrics? We’re dished up songs that sound nice, that sound like they should be right, but we don’t really look at them. It feels so nice to sing these things even when they don’t gel with the basic tenets of my faith.

So I am left standing quietly in the pews, frustrated and confused for refusing to sing that which I can’t back up or believe. Songs indoctrinate so subversively. Songs whip whole congregations into suggestible frenzies exactly like primitive rituals have done for millennia. Songs trigger artificial feelings of unity. Songs are dangerous things.

 

And that is why I don’t sing.

I stay quiet, and in the silence I have sometimes found God.

 

Selah. 

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9 thoughts on “Why I Don’t Sing

  1. Ek stem 100% saam hiermee. Daar is min dinge wat vir my meer aansitterig is as mense wat hulself kamtig ‘verloor’ in daardie oor-en-oor refreine. Het verlede week aspris ‘n halfuur laat by die kerk ingestap om dit te mis – best choice in a long time.

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    • Ek dink deel van die probleem is dat hulle hulself regtig verloor. Dis ‘n trance state wat mense ingaan. Dis groot rede hoekom daar soveel mense omval en stuff as hulle so opgesweep word. Dis die ou tegniek van in ‘n shaman-trance ingaan. Groot probleem hiermee is dat dit ‘n hoogs suggestible state is. So dis wanneer die woorde die meeste impak het. Which is why mense so mooi opgesweep word voor baie pastore preek. Dis ook hoekom kollekte ingeneem word tydens of net na worship. Maak my bang.

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  2. Hier sê jy nou als wat ek gedink het toe ek jou vorige post gelees het. Ek voel al van skool af ongemaklik met van die woorde in die ‘nuwe’ kerkliedjies. En dit het net meer en meer so geraak. Dis vir my hartseer, wat ek hou daarvan om te sing by eredienste (en troues), maar ek vind myself ook stil. Al waar mens nog verseker is van Psalms en Gesange is begrafnisse. Tog ‘n jammerte.

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    • Ja, kyk, ek het gevoel ek moet hierdie skryf, anders gee ek ‘n ongebalanseerde weergawe van my opvattings hieroor uit. Bly om te sien jy lees my blawg. 🙂

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    • He he he… “Hoekom sien ons haar deesdae net by begrafnisse?” se-vra die een kerktannie aan die ander…

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  3. Yup – ek stem saam, ek is ook ongemaklik om vir God te se dat ek Hom liewer het as die lewe… Die hartseer saak is, dat ek meeste van die tyd beduidend my lewe baie liewer het as wat ek vir Hom het. MAAR dit beteken nie dat ek nie wil nie. Of nie wil wil nie. Ek wil wil. SO vir my raak die refrein van sulke liedjies (wat ons nie gereeld sing nie) ‘n geleentheid om te bid vir die wil om Hom liewer as die lewe te he. Dit IS tog God se wil (Jy moet die Here jou God lief he met jou hele hart, hele siel en hele verstand) en gebede volgens Sy wil gaan nie ongeantwoord verby nie (if we ask anything according to his will he heareth us). Dit beteken nie dat jy dadelik super heilig gaan wees nie, maar ons tree in daardie rigting met Sy hulp (hy wat die goeie werk in ons begin het, sal dit volbring). So… oudergewoonte bring ek die ander kant van die argument – nie omdat ek nie met jou saamstem nie, maar net om dit ook te noem – die liedjies waar jy nie kan saamstem nie is ‘n geleentheid om vir Genade te bid, want gereeld gee daardie liedjies die ideaal weer, nie die werklikheid nie.

    DAN nog ‘n ander kant van die saak: WAT maak jy stil in die kerkbankies as jy nie met die liedjies saamstem nie??? Is dit nie jou plig, as Christen, om met diegene wat die liedjiekeuse maak te gaan gesels nie? (“My brethren, if any among you strays from the truth and one turns him back, let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.” Jakobus 5:19-20 – dalk nie die beste verse vir hierdie argument nie, maar as jy dit saam met Paulus se reaksie op Petrus se dwaalleer in Galasiers neem, is die argument dalk sterker.) Indien jy dit wel doen, jammer – dan praat ek met die res van ons wat stillerig sit en die kerkleer sien verwater word en niks daaromtrent doen nie.

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    • Ek hoor wat jy sê en het verwag dat iemand dit sal sê, maar ek glo nie daarin om goed te sing wat ek nie glo nie. Selfs al voel dit vir my asof dit so is kan ek nie sê dat ek God liewer as die lewe het nie. Die enigste manier wat ek dit kan se is as ek al voor die keuse te staan gekom het en God gekies het. Dis ‘n epistomologiese probleem.
      As die liedjies so ‘n gebed moes wees moes hulle woorde gesê het dat hulle so wil voel. Meeste mense sing daai goed sonder om eens te dink of dit waar is. Want sing is mos so lekker.
      Liedjies is veronderstel om die werklikheid weer te gee. Die disconnect wat ons tans in die kerk ervaar tussen realiteit en kerk-realiteit is dalk die oorsprong van meeste van die probleme wat die wereld met die kerk het (en die kerk itv lidmate en goed het).
      That said, het ek daai gebruik as ‘n voorbeeld van basiese doktrinale verdwaaldheid binne kerkliedjies. Dit gaan oor stellings oor myself, of hoe ‘n great produk Jesus is (so koop dit!), of net paraphrasings van teksverse wat die betekenis totaal vernietig en in een of ander warm and fuzzy stellingkie verander wat goed en reg klink, solank jy nie te hard daaroor dink nie.

      Ek dink ek moet dalk ‘n hele blog skryf oor why I pray, want daar is soveel wat ek nie verstaan nie.

      Wat doen ek hieroor? You got me there. Niks. Zip. Ek sal vir hulle ‘n mooi e-pos stuur, maar is nie seker hoeveel van ‘n impak dit sal he nie. Hierdie probleme spruit uit doktrinale en existensiele verskille wat op ‘n liedjie per liedjie basis geoordeel sal moet word. Maar ja- help nie ek sit en moan en doen niks daaroor nie.

      Dude, hou aan om my uit te daag in alles. Ek’t immer met die grootse duiwelsadvokaat in die land getrou, so ek waardeer dit rerig. Dis al hoe ons die waarheid gaan vind.

      Liefde
      Fraternal unit.

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      • Nee, ek hoor jou oor die liedjies en ek stem saam.

        Hmmmm…. ‘n Vinnige e-pos aan die leiers gaan dalk nie die ding doen nie, jy is reg – maar ‘n behoorlike gesprek met diegene wat die besluite neem mag dalk wel.

        As leiers/onderwysers van die gemeente sal die dominee/pastoor beslis streng verantwoordelik gehou word vir die leer/liedjies in die kerk (Jakobus 3:1) en dit behoort ‘n skrikwekkende gedagte vir alle predikers te wees. JY aan die ander kant sal waarskeinlik ook verantwoordelik gehou word as jy nie waarsku (of ten minste die gesprek begin) nie (Esegiel 33:6 But if the watchman sees the sword coming and does not blow the trumpet and the people are not warned, and a sword comes and takes a person from them, he is taken away in his iniquity; but his blood I will require from the watchman’s hand.’ – dit verwys na ‘n profeet wat mense moet waarsku teen hulle sonde en as hy dit nie doen nie…).

        So: as daar iets is wat jou regtig pla, moet jy dit gaan aanspreek (ek preek nou vir myself ook – ek word nou geforseer om daaroor te dink). VERAL as dit iets is wat ernstige doktrinale (en eksistensiele) implikasies het. En jok vir jouself en vir God het beslis.

        Tonne liefde

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