In Lay Terms

Random Ramblings From a Church Nerd

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Hands in the Air

PS just questioned me as to what my aversion is to praise and worship music. It's a worthy question and deserves a fair response. I think there are a few things going on here.

For one thing, I should mention that the hight of my Christian music experience was probably in college. Growing up, there was a Christian radio station, but it was a lot of talking. I also grew up quite isolated from a lot of media. We had no telephone and very limited television (mainly a Canadian station). This means that I wasn't exposed to a lot of popular music of any genre (except for country) until I was much older. This means that I didn't grow up listening to Michael W. Smith or Amy Grant or any of the rest. I mainly got exposed to Christian music through my time with the Lutheran Youth Organization. By then, I was probably 16.

With no background, I went to college and worked at a summer camp (PS knows it well) where I met others who were more into Christian music. Because many of my friends listened to Christian music, I did as well. By now, this was the late 90's. The popular music was Jars of Clay and Jennifer Knapp. I still like some of this music. The genre appeals to me.

At the camp, we learned "camp songs". I'm not sure when "camp songs" transitioned into praise and worship music, but somehow it did. Even when I was at college and a part of a student-led worship, we often described it as "camp songs". At some point, I realized that these songs were too complicated to teach to campers around a camp fire. They were complex songs that had a lot of words. People who knew them had learned from listening to them elsewhere (or with the aid of PowerPoint).

I can sing with a lot of gusto. If I know a praise and worship song well enough, I'll sing out with all I have. But I've never understood the raising of the hands, closing of the eyes, and swaying. I tend to put my energy into joining the group in praise, and not having my own experience.

When I traveled with Youth Encounter, we had a policy that we don't close our eyes as leaders. They wanted us to be leading the worship, not going into our private space. I think that policy stayed with me.

Probably the last part of my feelings about praise and worship music has to do with my experience with Youth Encounter. A lot of people in the organization were into "worship". I came to realize that they were not talking about the act of worship, they were talking about a genre of music. It became very rigid as to what qualified as worship (particularly for one individual on my team). Most of what we attended on Sunday morning didn't qualify for her. I had a hard time with that.

Then, when I got kicked off Youth Encounter, I started to associate praise and worship music with folks who didn't know how to deal with me and my GLBT brothers and sisters. That is probably what affects me the most today. I tend to have memories of Youth Encounter, and they are painful memories. So I just get through the song.

So there are my thoughts on praise and worship music. The problem isn't so much with the music, but more with my journey and where that music has played a role. However, on Facebook, I have joined a group entitled "Praise Bands Annoy God". There are some great pictures in it! I'll leave you with a photo from the group.


Blogger LoieJ said...

Interesting explanation! I can relate to quite a bit of it. I have NEVER been into any contemporary music on the radio of any type, my whole life. So I'm out of it, right? Yet I know certain genres well.

Camp Songs have progressed, or perhaps a better word is "changed" since our friend-in-common was a tyke. They used to be simpler and peppier. I thought that the songs I've heard in more recent years were not as geared to children, something you reflect on in a different way.

Some of the "praise music" I've heard elsewhere was simplistic and would be boring if the piano part, etc. wasn't there.

I also don't get why singing "I will praise you, I will praise you" qualifies as praise. The subject of the sentence is I and it is about what I will do, not what I am doing.

I think camp songs should be teaching vehicles as well as praise, etc. I will praise teaches nothing.

As for the "experience" of the praise music, etc: Well, I've seen a wee bit on TV. I don't get all the hollering and raising of the arms either, but especially the yelling and grim facial expressions. In fact, I wrote to a "Christian TV station" after watching it for awhile and asked what it was all about, since nobody looked happy. (Plus, what is with all the makeup on the women???) But they didn't answer me.

I recently was at two Pentecostal services in Africa. It was just like on TV here: Lots of repetition (African music is repetitive anyway, but after about 200 verses, what's the point?) And hollering. And waving. And people kneeling, while facing the wall, crying. And the pastor yelling the "sermon" and the translator only getting out half of the sentence before being cut off by the pastor. And he DID know English, because sometimes they switched. It was annoying. But it all seemed to be about the "experience" not the message. There was little Bible reading.

I was called upon twice to speak at other settings and I did it with the confidence that I could say anything and it really didn't matter if it made sense! No kidding.

Anyway, I have "intentions" to write about these experiences on my blog sometime, so I'll let you know. Pop into my blog to see some pictures.

BTW, our friend-in-common moved to a camp in the state to the east of you (us.) I'd tell you more privately, but I don't have your email address.

5:17 PM  
Blogger Chad K said...

Ross, I appreciate your honesty about these experiences. We should have lunch again, as I would like to hear you out on this more.

Aahh, facebook, what a network place. It makes the world pretty small (and I hope not too isolated). Peace.

9:59 AM  
Blogger LoieJ said...

Check this out, really funny:

A Funny Little Story About Hymns and Praise Songs

Hope that link works. Fingers crossed.

3:52 PM  

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