I have a confession: Christian worship music often makes me cranky.
I don’t know if this is actually a confession. As in, I don’t know that I’m really ashamed of it or feel like it’s a bad thing.
After all, there are plenty of good reasons to feel cranky about Christian music. For starters, we’ve got:
- the issue of the worship leaders who prayerfully supported Trump (which I reflected on a bit in one of those John the Baptist posts from back in the day)
- the rampant prevalence of what some might call “worm theology” (who knew that worm theology has its own Wikipedia page?)
- that one worship leader who faked having terminal cancer…to try to make his song Healer sound more powerful, I guess?
There’s a lot to run away from, screaming. Which, for the record, I don’t tend to do in church. (I mostly just don’t sing the lyrics I don’t believe in.) But would I be wrong if I did?
It’s easy to be snarky about all of this. But I don’t want to only be snarky. I also want to acknowledge the sense of loss I feel in all of this, and I want to go looking for something better, too.
I used to love to sing a lot of Christian songs that I now have more complex feelings about: feelings ranging from deeply conflicted to totally antagonistic. From frustrated, to annoyed, to confused, to angry.
I know there are others who feel similarly. I know I’m not alone. (Right?)
I also know that there are songwriters and musicians way ahead of me. People who have realized that a lot of music out there isn’t really saying what we actually believe, or want to believe—that it doesn’t really reflect who we are, or who we want to be. And some of these people are not just complaining about it but are actually creating music with different aims in mind.
I haven’t spent nearly enough time looking into who these musicians are and what kinds of new music they’re creating. But I have come across a few that speak to me.
There’s The Many, who recently brought their new song “We Are Enough” to my attention. What I like about this song is that it directly contradicts the “worm theology” deal. We are not worms. We are not “not enough”—as some worship songs say directly and many say indirectly.
I’m with The Many in feeling like we need to know that we are, actually, enough. Not in the sense that we don’t want or need God in our lives—but in the sense that we are created good. We are worthy of love. We are valuable, and valued.
And it’s this sense of our value, as human beings created in God’s image, that gives us courage to—in the lyrics of the song—“show up.” To “trust love.” To talk about the difficult things, the hurt and tears. To admit when something’s wrong. To refuse to lie and hide.
I also appreciate the collective language: we are enough. Together, as a community, we have everything we need. We just need to learn to love one another. To trust one another, and to be people who are worthy of that trust.
Some other songs that have spoken to me:
- Plowshare Prayer, by Spencer LaJoye. What a gorgeous and vulnerable prophetic protest prayer. Maybe don’t listen right now if you’re somewhere where it’s not safe to get a little emotional.
- Esther, Ruth, and Rahab, by Flamy Grant. Delightfully irreverent, and maybe not exactly the kind of worship song you’d sing in church—but deeply biblical and deeply liberating.
- Back to The Many, I also really appreciated Love Is Here. My favorite part is the bridge: “We don’t have to be strong / We don’t have to be sure / We don’t have to be right / We don’t have to see any blinding lights / We can just be.” I feel like a lot of worship songs wax eloquent about my faith, my trust, the things I believe, declaring that I’ll be faithful to God, and that sort of thing. I like the honesty of “Love Is Here” in saying that God is present and God is love, regardless of my own current level of faith, whatever experiences I have or haven’t had, or whatever particular beliefs I do or don’t hold.
In a torn and violent world—and an especially torn and violent time—music is one of those things that can heal our hearts, lift our spirits, and guide and inspire us to the do the good we can do.
We don’t need songs that dwell on our “worm”ness or do anything but empower us to step out in faith and work toward justice, peace, and an end to oppression in any ways we can.
I feel like I’m just on the beginning of a journey, here, of seeking out faith-based music that resonates with me. I’d love to know—are there songs that are speaking to you right now? I’d love to go on this journey together.
Peace and life-bringing music to you this week,