The songs we sing

It is Sunday afternoon and I have some thoughts and observations for today. I am just going to put myself and my thoughts out here. Please be kind in return. :-)

Sunday is the most segregated day in America

Full disclosure: I’m a white guy that lives in the suburbs. My story is a bit more interesting than just that, but if you need to put me in a box, that is where I would mostly go. The church we attend is in the suburbs and mostly (not entirely though) white. You can walk into our church and make mostly correct conclusions about how most everyone there would vote and how they would feel about certain contentious issues we discuss in the public square. Would you believe our church has a raging debate in the shadows about mask wearing during an ‘alleged’ covid epidemic?

We all worship

For those that attend church on Sunday, think about what kinds of worship songs you sing.

I’ll raise my hand and go first. We sing lots of songs, but many of them focus on the power and majesty and eternal rule of God. All this is true, and if a white church aligns itself rightly with power, won’t they also share in God’s righteous power? Shouldn’t they?

Trump has a famous quote at a 2016 campaign stop at a church in IA where he said, “If I’m president, ‘Christianity will have power’ in the US.” It’s the same speech where he claimed he could shoot someone on 5th avenue. [1]

So power is important to the white suburban church in America. We sing about it, we align ourselves with it (spiritually and politically.) It’s just a noticing, it’s not the only thing, it’s not the main thing, but it’s important for white churches.

Back in the day I attended a mixed race church on the South Side of Minneapolis. We sang a lot of traditional hymns and a lot of soul music. I started thinking about some of the songs we used to sing there. Words like:

You don’t have to worry and don’t you be afraid
Joy comes in the morning, troubles they don’t last always
For there’s a friend in Jesus, who will wipe your tears away
And if your heart is broken, just lift your hands and say:
“I know that i can make it
I know that i can stand
No matter what may come my way
My life is in your hands”

Many of the spirituals focus on finding joy, hope, and community despite intensely difficult circumstances.

It all gets mixed up in our heads

Here is what I think is worth pondering. Do we not all take our faith, culture, and politics and roll it all together into a big jumble. We lose track of which part sources from where. In some areas is our faith informed more by our politics? Shouldn’t our politics be informed more by our faith? We believe our politics are aligned with our faith. Is this really true? Do we defend a political position with the same tenacity as a principle of our faith? Do we hold our political leaders to the same standard as our church leaders? Live is complex; our individual perspectives are very narrow; wisdom comes from seeing new perspectives and considering fair questions.

If you are tracking with me still, take a listen to the introduction to this song (and also the song): Ani ma’amin (I Believe)

The songs we sing flow from our faith and our situation in life. If you go to a predominantly white church in the suburbs of America and sing lots of songs about God’s power and victory and reign, it’s not wrong or a bad thing, but consider how the subject and focus of those songs are so much different from the songs of fellow believers in other situations. What are our expectations and understandings when we sing songs about power and victory? How do we feel (and what do we do) when our earthly power and control is challenged?