A former Lutheran pastor sharing thoughts on faith and life. Please join the conversation! I love your comments!

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Too Many "Me" Songs

I have a problem.  I actually pay attention to song lyrics.  In part, this is because I have young children.  It can be a bit disturbing to hear a seven year old singing, "I crashed my car into a bridge."  My daughter likes to listen to music at bedtime.  When we tried to add some new music, recently, I had to eliminate about half of the songs she liked because the lyrics included cussing (such words were bleeped on the radio where she had heard the songs previously) or sexual references.  I don't want her to get sent to the office at school because she broke into song (which she does sometimes) and sang something inappropriate.  

This is frustrating but I am not terribly offended.  My daughter might, very well, get sent to the office for quoting her mother too.  I am not innocent on the cussing front.  What I find more troubling is what I discover as I consider church music.  I was asked to sing at church and I have been wanting some new inspirational music anyway so I started looking around.  I looked on the Internet.  I flipped through multiple hymnals and song books.  Nothing.  Of course, many songs were eliminated because of their evangelical focus.  (I have explained several times why this would not appeal to me see "Why Evangelism is the Death of the Church" for starters).  But after several days of searching I realized why many of the rest of the songs did not appeal to me: I don't want to sing about me.  Many Christian songs are about how God loves me and how I love God because of how much God loves me.   The closest we come to being about anybody else is by saying "I am going to tell everybody how great God is because God loves me so God might love you too."  Now admittedly this is a step up from "you horrible sinner you are going to burn in hell."  The message of God's love is important for sure.  But right now these songs sound to me like God as my own personal cheerleader or my teddy bear to comfort me when things are tough.  I am more interested in a God who is at work to transform the world, a God who is working for justice and peace through us and with us.  I want to sing about God of "the first shall be last and the last shall be first" and "whatever you do to the least of these you do to me."  I want to sing about a God who cares about this world not just my soul.  I want to sing a song of hope for this world not just the next.  

I know there are a few songs out there like this but I am having trouble finding them.  Any of you have any ideas?  Does anyone else find it troubling so many of our Christian songs are so "me" focused?  What songs stir within you the call to work for justice?


Charlene said...

I don't listen to a lot of Christian music these days, but there might be a Rich Mullins song or two that would appeal to you. They might also be difficult to sing. "The Color Green", "The Howling", and "Calling Out Your Name" come to mind off the top of my head. I wish I could think of more, but the tradition I was in didn't much care for social justice, so if those songs are out there I'm not really in a position to have ever heard them. A Unitarian hymnal might include some, though. I noticed they'd changed the lyrics of some old hymns to be considerably more inclusive than the versions I was familiar with anyway, and that many of the songs were unfamiliar to me.

Sheri Ellwood said...

Charlene, thanks for responding! You are the second person to recommend Rich Mullins so I will have to check out his music more closely. Generally what is called "Christian music" does not appeal to me, but there are exceptions. Mostly I find inspiration in groups more like The Wailin' Jennys or Mumford and Sons but I have already done a few Wailin' Jennys songs and I don't think I can pull off Mumford and Sons:) I also like some more traditional hymns but many of them were just striking me wrong this time. Thanks for the thoughts, I will look into it!

Charlene said...

I absolutely LOVE Mumford and Sons (I've about memorized the entire Sigh No More album), but I agree they'd be difficult to sing! I also like at least some of the Wailin' Jennys. Given that you like those two, I think you'll appreciate most of Rich Mullins' catalog. My favorite albums are The World as Best as I Can Remember It, and one or two to either side (chronologically).