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Monday, September 01, 2008


That Hideous Man

According to the book, "why men hate church", one of the things which makes people feel ill at ease with worship is the strange aura of erotic hymns! When we want to describe close spiritual communion we often use words such as "intimacy" and we know what we mean, but research shows that in contemporary usage that word = sex. Not what we mean.

Ray Charles provoked a storm of outrage when in the late 1950s he took gospel songs, took out the word Jesus and sang them as raunchy love songs to his women! We seem to have come full circle now and are copying contemporary songs with somewhat erotic lyrics and directing them to God.

Perhaps (once again) our problem is in part the communal nature of the Biblical world view and the individualism of our own day. The biblical metaphor of Christ and the Church as bride and groom (and therefore marriage as a picture of that union) refers to Christ as the 'lover' of the whole church. And we do love Christ, and we are bound to him in closeness and permanant Covenant just like a husband and wife. Individualise it and the sexual metaphor gets a bit weird however.

The YouTube link you posted is illustrative of this. As you say - "you" not "Jesus" throughout, the 'beautiful' lyrics, set to pictures of a pretty girl, only to discover that the object of the singer's desire is not her, but Jesus.

Perhaps a balance also needs to be struck between singing of the beauty of Jesus in his glory and perfection; and the ugliness of the wounds he bears for us.

Tom Allen

"The Jesus Prayer" is one of the great prayer traditions of the Church which is being rediscovered in today's Church. Simon Barrington-Ward has written and excellent book on using the prayer see:


"...we need to get beyond the feel of the songs we use in worship and take a look at their content" Well said, Brodie! Very valid points also from "That Hideous Man".
I have been banging on about this for ages to anyone who will listen to me!
Worth looking at the ASBO Jesus website http://asbojesus.wordpress.com/ cartoon 516 and the comments posted!


Hazel - Thanks for the comment and pointing us to ASBO!


Tom - I'll be sure to check that book out. Thanks for recommending it.


THM - I think the issue is bigger than men not liking these songs.

That Hideous Man

Hi Brodie - Oh I quite agree with you! My comment was intended as illustrating a particular outworking of the bigger problem you describe - and I was fascinated by the interactions between what you wrote and what I had just read.


Usual stuff. When people get creative - writing songs, poetry and prose; painting and sculpture - there are some people who see it completely differently from others.
Worship is creative - and therefore subjective: what is "too hot" for some is "not hot enough" for others.
Like you keep saying, we need the diversity of the church to help each other through this. We need to be able make mistakes - and be forgiven, even if we are misunderstood.
Too often I get upset by other christians who say something I don't agree with. Daft really, as I don't always agree on everything with my wife who I love, respect and still live with!
The point is, I'm pretty sure the person who wrote this song did not mean the same thing as the girl who stuck those pictures over it. I could be wrong, of course. Can you forgive me?


Graham - you are of course right in what you say about art being subjective, but we can and do still do talk about good and bad art. I'm also sure that the person who wrote the song finds it helpful in them worshiping Jesus. Part of the point I'm driving at however is that a worship song writer and a worship leader are not writing or leading for themselves. They are leading others. I also think that most people learn about God, Jesus and the Spirit from the songs we sing rather than the sermons we preach, so as well as the songs full of feeling we need songs full of content.

Not sure who you’re asking forgiveness of, as I don't think you’ve done anything wrong?


Yes, it's true. Worship songs are moderated by the amount other worshippers "agree" with them - almost independently of any musical, lyrical or theological quality. I have certainly been involved in that process.
Worship leaders, unfortunately, have two choices: either be as true as they can to how they see God, or to try to please the worshippers.
This seems to be where the problem lies, as quite often these choices don't match up. We are a diverse bunch, after all. After any service, there are those who "met God" and those who didn't, no matter who is leading/preaching/sitting next to them. And as you know, I have certainly been involved at both ends of that process.
Of course, when we all approach corporate worship as a part of a God-centered life, these issues discussed above become insignificant. They have to.

And hopefully we'll keep challenging each other to greater things.

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