Faith Column: Worship music lacking depth
Dear Christian worship music,
You’re terrible. Sorry about the bluntness.
You’re the most manipulative, repetitive, unoriginal, dishonest and offensive industry — that’s right, offensive — that I can think of. Superficiality and the Jesus-is-my-friend philosophy are your foundations.
Any exceptions to that are swiftly edited in the name of focusing on “worshipping” some sort of God that responds well to flashy lights and embarrassing guitar solos. As you can probably tell, I’m not thrilled about you and your quick conquest of Christianity.
Your intentions are noble. Sheparding individuals and congregations into a place of worship and adoration is no easy feat, especially in the Twitter era, and I get that you don’t necessarily exist to entertain. But, does focusing on the holy automatically result in the forfeiture of quality music and writing? If so, the current state of Christian worship music would make sense. For some reason, though, I can’t get rid of the suspicion that religious-related activities don’t have to totally suck.
Let’s begin with the actual music. In my experience, you make three types of formulaic songs. The first is the intimate ballad, where listeners are encouraged to cry, sway to the music and softly sing along. A piano (or a violin if the church is super spiritual) is the focus of this piece. The second is the upbeat energizer. In this, clapping and jumping is a definite requirement, and contemplation is kept to a minimum. The kick drum is your favourite tool. The third, and most popular, is the in-betweener, which takes the best of both worlds and relies heavily on the guitar.
But the awful music isn’t even my biggest beef; the lyrics of your songs cause considerably more rage in my sacrilegious heart. One of your latest hit singles, sung by Jaci Velasquez, features the torturous chorus: “I wanna give them hope, I wanna give them peace, I wanna give the greatest of these, give them love, give them Jesus.” What the heck, Christian worship music? Is that really the best you can do? Is someone paying you to embarrass the 2000-year history of the faith with this?
When life’s vast experiences are boiled down— full of contradictions and pain — to a quaint little ditty that doesn’t reference anything other than ecstatic joy, the essence of worship is lost. People worship God, or Mother Earth, or whatever other spirit is out there, because of the love, grace and power that s/he has. But, we can’t begin to comprehend that if there’s no place for pain. Take a look at hip-hop for an example. Listen to Kendrick Lamar, or Big K.R.I.T., or even Kanye West rap about Jesus.
I’d venture to say they have more of an authentic story (and creative talent) than your humiliating songs. But you probably consider hip-hop to be sinful, right? Can’t have swear words, or anything close to reality, in church.
I know this letter is one-sided and too short to fully flesh out the debate, but take these points as critical suggestions.
I hope you actually start to write and play music that honours the creativity of God and also takes the world’s pain into consideration. Perhaps then you’ll have something significant to say to the world.
As you always like to say, God bless,