In Lay Terms

Random Ramblings From a Church Nerd

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Stomp on the Devil

OK - I should apologize for all my cheap shots on the Vice President. I'm over it now.

Last night, I preached at our campus-wide communion. It happens at 9:30 on Wednesday nights. We use the next Sunday's lectionary texts. The main reason that I was invited to preach was that we were trying to promote the camp fair, which happened tonight. I was supposed to take the texts from Isaiah and Mark (lowering your friend through the ceiling), and relate them to why you should spend your summer working at a church camp. In some ways, it was more infomercial than sermon.

I run a program at my college where we give students a $500 stipend in addition to their camp pay. It is now a legend that 75% of church leaders had a significant camp experience, so we are trying to get more people to have a camp experience by making it easier on them financially. That's why I was to connect communion, Mark, and outdoor ministry.

I also decided that it would be a good idea to ask those students who worked at a camp before to help lead portions of the worship. Here's where the danger came in:

1) Apparently, camps do not teach people how to teach/lead camp songs anymore. I am dismayed by the poor songleading skills from those camp workers. I have noticed this for a while, and it really disturbs me.

2) (This is the bigger issue) We closed the worship with a song from one of the camps called "Stomp on the Devil". At the end of the stanza, we shout "It's time for war!" and then we all shout with glee.


If you look two posts below this one, you will read about the infiltration of a very evangelical group on our campus who has been drawing students away from campus ministry worship. I know that these two students are a part of that, but little did I know that they were working at a Lutheran Bible Camp (in Iowa, no less!) that was glorifying war in song.

I HATE spiritual warfare language. It makes me want to wretch. I do not believe that we are in battle with the devil. More often, I'm in battle with myself. I also can imagine being called the Devil by someone who does not approve of my "lifestyle". This song apparently gives free license for youthful thugs to smash my head in with a baseball bat. Why do we have to sing songs that glorify violence through the theme of spiritual warfare?

I'll confess that I heard some of the words before chapel started. I knew that it was not a song I would have approved. I decided that I was so happy that these two students were participating in worship, that I would allow them to sing their song. However, I did not hear the "It's time for war!" line until they taught it to everyone else.

This is not the first time something like this has happened. I'm torn between two values of mine. I really want to empower youth and college students into leadership in several areas. However, when I've had quality sacrificed by doing that. I would never have taught that song to other folks. I would be ashamed of that song.

OK - I'll admit that I've laughed at songs about Jesus and the Devil in little boxes (white and red, respectively). However, I also see those song for what they are. They have become songs that I will joke about with friends, not songs that to build up the faith of children.

So, we sang "Stomp on the Devil." I couldn't do anything else. It was my choice to let them go, so I have to live with the consequences. Mea culpa.


Blogger Michael Dodd said...

Is there a way to turn this incident into a teaching moment? Maybe a future reference -- not an attack on the students in question -- in a sermon about the sorts of questions the song raised for you: about how we understand the Devil, about images of spiritual warfare and so on. A thoughtful response to the issues could be fruitful. Maybe that is the grace God is offering you in this instance.

What a challenge you face! God give you strength, wisdom, serenity and courage.

9:24 AM  
Blogger mark said...

I have heard that song. And I have also heard a song (from a Lutheran camp in Wisconsin) where we sing about how "the God of peace will soon crush Satan."
I am not a fan of Christian warfare imagery either, but have always been able to laugh at these songs. I mean, the kids jump around and get involved. Sure, the theology isn't great - well, it's horrible, in fact - but what can you do? Although your post has brought to light a disgusting way that this imagery can be used that I didn't even think of before.
I'm going to be thinking about this one for a while, now!

9:02 PM  
Blogger Ross said...

Actually, now that I think about it, as a camp counselor, I also sang "the God of peace will soon crush Satan underneath our feet."

I guess I was as bad as these students.

Never thought of it before.

9:46 PM  
Blogger LutherPunk said...

I think spiritual warfare language can be useful if presented carefully and properly. That is a really BIG if.

I find a lot of the writings of the Desert Fathers helpful in this aspect.

8:41 AM  

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