7QT: Worst Worship Songs

seven-quick-takes-friday

Disclaimer: since I’m Protestant, I don’t have the same aversion to On Eagle’s Wings and Lord of the Dance. I dare say there are many terrible worship songs that I’ve missed.

1

Our God is an Awesome God by Rich Mullins

In the 90s this song was ubiquitous. You might think this is a good song if you’ve only heard the innocuous chorus:

Our God is an awesome God

He reigns from heaven above

With wisdom, power, and love,

Our God is an awesome God.

Allow me to burst that happy bubble. The first verse goes like this:

When He rolls up His sleeves ain’t just puttin’ on the Ritz (Our God is an awesome God).

There is thunder in His footsteps and lightnin’ in His fists (Our God is an awesome God).

And the Lord wasn’t jokin’ when He kicked ’em out of Eden,

It wasn’t for no reason that He shed His blood,

His return is very close and so you better be believin’

That our God is an awesome God.

Did you do the hand motions? Did the music leader pretend to roll up his sleeves? Yikes.

2

My Father’s House, by Audio Adrenalin

In Christian school, this was one of our favorites because you got to yell “Touchdown!” But did anyone sing it in church? Gracious I hope not.

Come and go with me to my Father’s house.

It’s a big, big, house, with lots and lots of room.

There’s a big, big, table, with lots and lots of food.

There’s a big, big, yard, where we can play football (TOUCHDOWN!)

It’s a big, big, house. It’s my Father’s house.

Not one of your better moments, Audio Adrenalin.

3

I Could Sing of Your Love Forever by Hillsong Australia, the bearers of all things terrible

Hooo boy. This one would go on and on until you thought “Well, maybe YOU can sing forever but I’ve got places to be.” Worst of all was the bridge:

Oh I feel like dancing,

It’s foolishness I know.

But when the world has seen the light,

They will dance with joy like we’re dancing now.

Imagine this sung in a room full of awkward white people tapping the chairs in front of them out of rhythm.

4

In the Secret, In the Quiet Place by Chris Tomlin

South Park did an entire episode on Christian music that made me laugh so hard I cried. Cartman decides that trying to do a secular band is hard work, so he forms a Christian rock band and makes platinum records in the niche industry. It satirizes the way that many Christian songs sound like they could be sung to your boyfriend.

Maybe the creators listened to this song for inspiration:

I want to know you, I want to hear your voice

I want to know you more.

I want to touch you, I want to see your face,

I want to know you more.

I know, Saint Julian of Norwich etc, but at least that woman was a good poet. This song never mentions God or Jesus, so you could be singing to your spouse or your boyfriend or your favorite member of the Backstreet Boys. Imagine singing this song surrounded by a bunch of adults when you’re a teenager. So awkward….

5

Trading My Sorrows, by Darrell Evans

There are two things I hate about this song. First, there’s the chorus, which literally says “Yes Lord yes Lord yes yes Lord” over and over until you want to cut off your ears. Second, there’s the idea that being a Christian means you magically lay down your sorrows and sickness and shame “for the joy of the Lord.”

If I had to pin-point my biggest problem with contemporary evangelicalism, it would be this health and wealth style theology. There’s no room for the Psalmist that weeps and curses and rages, because Christianity is all about being happy and oh so joyful now that Jesus made everything better. Except when it doesn’t work that way, and it’s implied that you must be doing it wrong, or maybe you’re not a Christian at all.

And to put this talk of sorrows and sickness to an upbeat tune and ask that people jump up and down during the chorus? Oy vey.

6

Come, Now is the Time to Worship, by Philip Craig & Dean

True confession: in high school I sang on the chapel team. (It was a dark and desperate time). There were praise songs, which were upbeat and bouncy like “Trading My Sorrows,” and there were worship songs, which could steam up a car window. We did the praise songs first and then the worship songs, and this was almost always the transition. (Or the one below).

My biggest beef with this song, other than overuse, is the bridge. (Is it just me, or do song writers put the worst stuff in the bridges of worship songs?)

One day every knee will bow.

Still the greatest treasure remains for those

Who gladly chose you now.

Well aren’t we self-satisfied.

7

This is the Air I Breathe, by Mercy Me

I saved the worst for last. You literally sing “this is the air I breathe,” in a breathy teenage-style sing-song, over and over until you get to the chorus:

And I, I-I-I-I, I’m desperate for you.

And I, I-I-I-I, I’m lost without you.

Etc. You can’t understand how bad it is until you’ve sung those words twenty-seven times in a gymnasium.

Did you attend evangelical churches in the last two decades? Which songs made you cringe? Which ones would you rather do instead?

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To Thine Own Self Be True?

**Disclaimer: this post was inspired by a brilliant take on the subject by Mama Knows Honeychild. If you do not read her, rectify this situation immediately. Her post brought me to tears. The fact that a funny, creative extrovert wanted to be someone else seems unreal to me, but I guess we all want to be someone we’re not.

I started reading blogs when I was a senior in college.  My grandmama, who was like a mother to me, had died that year from Alzheimer’s. I had been volunteering as a victims’ advocate at a rape crisis center, which mostly meant getting calls at 1 a.m. to dress and go to the hospital and sit with a survivor and her family with my volunteer supervisor, sometimes explaining legal processes, sometimes just being a presence. It might take all night and then I would drive to campus, take a shower and go to class. It never occurred to me that this was crazy, because my college campus was full of addicts whose drug of choice was volunteering. It also never occurred to me to talk about these experiences with others; in fact, the rules of HIPAA were so ingrained that I wouldn’t talk about details with even my fiancé or my mom.

Years later I realized that what I was going through was the beginnings of PTSD. I went from being a happy college student with a wide group of friends, both men and women, to someone who wouldn’t go to Walmart alone, who tensed in the presence of men, who had panic attacks in crowds, who didn’t want to be touched. The modern world became a scary place full of rapists who wanted to destroy me. I started isolating, sitting in my dorm room staring at my laptop, looking into another world.

The first blogs I found were fundamentalist Protestant mommy blogs. They were the kind of people I tried to avoid in real life. I won’t name any names, but if you’ve been around the block you can guess. While sipping Ramen noodles I read about making your own yogurt and grinding wheat berries into flour. Their lives were highly structured yet simple, centered around the home, and they could pull out these Bibles verses to show that this fantastic Home Ec project was the only way to be a Real Christian ™. Best of all, they had the perfect rape prevention plan: keep your skirts long and your daughters at home. Don’t work outside the home, ever, unless it’s an Etsy business. Live your life according to an elaborate checklist and nothing dangerous will ever happen to you.

In my real life, I was promoted to supervisor at the rape crisis center, which gave me the responsibility of contacting nurses to perform rape kits and coordinating volunteer efforts. I once walked in a hospital room where a mom was making her teenage daughter remove her pants to show me where she was sodomized. My classmates and I watched the economy crash and contemplated the value of our liberal arts degrees as compared to our student loan debt. In a fit of terror, I decided to go to grad school (cue additional student loans) because it was common knowledge that all those ancient librarians were months from retiring. It didn’t occur to me that said librarians would work until they died because the economy affected them too. When life was big and scary, I opened my laptop and pondered the joys of homeschool curriculum and gardening. “The world is a scary place for single women” they preached, and I said Amen sister, that’s why I got mace in my purse and a perfect Resting Bitch Face. And a tiny voice said “But what if it’s not enough? It wasn’t enough for all those women you saw.”

Eventually I pulled myself away from the worst of these bloggers. (The last straw was a post arguing that women’s suffrage was the absolute worst calamity to befall the US, and that if she could change one thing in the entire world she would rectify this post-haste). Since I was also having a spiritual crisis at the time – because why not – I chanced upon Conversion Diary before Mrs. Fulwiler became super famous. After reading almost everything on the site, I ventured into other Catholic blogs. On the plus side, I learned that Catholics are Christians, a fact I would already have known had I taken that pre-1500 world history course in college. I learned about the Rosary and the Divine Mercy Chaplet, and I finally faced my illogical stances on abortion and the death penalty and IVF. I got to know, electronically, some marvelous people.

On the other hand… I forgot to live outside of my computer.

The lives of married Catholic women with multiple kids seemed much more appealing than my own. It didn’t occur to me that blogs are not exactly a mirror image of what goes on in a person’s life, anymore than one’s Facebook page is an accurate summation. Envy for what I didn’t have ate my soul. I wanted financial stability, to have my husband out of school, to be settled and not moving hither and yon, and most of all to be freed from these emotional demons called depression and anxiety. I wanted children and was well aware that I was nowhere near ready to have them, that I struggled to get out of bed in the morning much less take care of little ones. Worst of all, I figured that my life was not worth living, and that therefore no one would want to be friends with me, in real life or otherwise.

This has all come to a head in the past few weeks. Without going into details, I have had several personal crises, in addition to my grandfather’s death, which underlined my need for friends and a social life, for support. I tried carrying all my problems alone, even avoiding prayer with God, with predictable results.

Part of being yourself is accepting that these shitty circumstances are in your life. Maybe you even created some of the mess. Maybe you can’t look at yourself or your choices without cringing.

But God’s grace is always bigger. His love never fails. He will never leave you nor forsake you.

A real friend will not be offended by your shortcomings. They might even see your talents better than you can yourself. And if their lives look “perfect”? As the brilliant Rabbi Abraham Heschel once said, “The man who has not suffered, what does he know?” And as our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ once said:

Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart; I have overcome the world.

Prayers for My Granddad

My grandfather died in a hospital bed in northwest Atlanta on Saturday. He went “peacefully” as they say; as per his living will, we removed the respirator and he lingered far longer than the doctor anticipated, for almost six hours. Gradually his heart rate and blood pressure dropped. Eventually, the heart rate said zero, but there were still electrical spikes in the line, until at last it flat-lined.

We were not close. He was a hard person to be close to, and perhaps the only person truly close to him was his wife who died of lung cancer 11 years ago. He poured her ashes in a golf hole nearest their house, where he made my father promise to pour his after his death. They were deeply in love from the time they met soon after World War II. His relationship with his three children was complicated; one daughter was completely estranged and was not at the hospital with us.

Further complicating things, my parents are the only Christians (that I know of) in the family. When my grandma died years ago, I believed that she was in hell and that I was partly responsible, that I hadn’t “witnessed” enough. I wasn’t able to actually mourn her loss because I was busy having nightmares about this sweet woman being tortured for eternity. Now of course, my beliefs are a bit different, but my parents’ aren’t.

These realities are so often a part of grief in families. And yet, you still want the best for the person who is sick. Thankfully, his suffering was not prolonged and his death was not violent, and he was surrounded by most of his family. The doctors and nurses did everything right and were so compassionate.

Please pray for peace in my family and for the repose of the soul of my grandfather, Harold.