Monday, July 18, 2016

The focus of worship

I've been being annoyed by the lyrics of worship songs in church on my most recent few visits there.

Increasingly, I've become aware of the rather large number of worship songs which say, in essence, "I thank you God for making me immortal". The emphasis is not, as many Christians probably think, on what God has done, but rather it seems to be increasingly on what God has done for me. And what he has done is dealt with my sin (so, nothing left for me to do), removed my guilt (so, nothing to worry about) and given me eternal life (so, death is not an issue). 

The supposed focus of Christian worship is on Jesus, but I'm noticing more and more that the real focus is rather more selfish. Its pretty distasteful actually.

Its nothing new either. Think of the words of Amazing Grace...


Edwardtbabinski said...

“That will be glory for me… I shall see Him face to face… My sins are gone… I’m so happy… I’m saved, saved, saved… Love lifted me… He holds my hand… Now I belong to Jesus… Safe am I… My Lord is real, yea, real to me…” I was even taught as a child to sing that shameless chorus, “For me, for me, for me, for me.” It’s like someone decided to set “original sin” to music. -- Daniel Stevick, Beyond Fundamentalism

Older hymns take the cake of course, like those by the renowned Christian hymn composer, Isaac Watts, about how much God loves "us," and what hell everyone else will have to pay come judgment day. Nor did Watts leave Christian hatred of "Jews" out of some of his hymns and prose writings [source:]:

Thy hand shall on rebellious kings A fiery tempest pour, While we beneath thy shelt'ring wings Thy just revenge adore. Book 1 Hymn 42
May I with those for ever dwell Who here were my delight! While sinners, banished down to hell, No more offend my sight. Book 1, Hymn 45
Let atheists scoff, and Jews blaspheme Th' eternal life and Jesus' name; A word of thy almighty breath Dooms the rebellious world to death. Book 1, Hymn 22, Part 1
There endless crowds of sinners lie, And darkness makes their chains; Tortured with keen despair they cry, Yet wait for fiercer pains. Not all their anguish and their blood For their old guilt atones, Nor the compassion of a God Shall hearken to their groans. Book 2, Hymn 2
With holy fear and humble song, The dreadful God our souls adore;
Justice has built a dismal hell, And laid her stores of vengeance there.[Eternal plagues, and heavy chains, Tormenting racks, and fiery coals, And darts t' inflict immortal pains, Dyed in the blood of damned souls.][There Satan, the first sinner, lies, And roars, and bites his iron bands; In vain the rebel strives to rise, Crushed with the weight of both Thy hands.]There guilty ghosts of Adam's race Shriek out, and howl beneath thy rod Once they could scorn a Savior's grace, But they incensed a dreadful God. Tremble, my soul, and kiss the Son; Book 2, Hymn
The unbelieving world shall wail, While we rejoice to see the day: Book 1, Hymn 61
He loves his saints, he knows them well, But turns the wicked down to hell: Thy God, O Zion! ever reigns; Praise him in everlasting strains. Psalm
See His own sons, when they appear before Him, Bow at His footstool, and with fear adore Him. Psalm 93
No more shall atheists mock his long delay; His vengeance sleeps no more: behold the day!...Lest, like a lion, his last vengeance tear Psalm 50
"How awful is thy chast'ning rod!" May thy own children say: "The great, the wise, the dreadful God!How holy is his way!" Psalm 77, part 2
Then shall they rule with iron rod Nations that dared rebel; And join the sentence of their God On tyrants doomed to hell. The royal sinners bound in chains New triumphs shall afford: Such honor for the saints remains; Praise ye, and love the Lord! Psalm 149
See also, Excerpts from THE WORLD TO COME OR DISCOURCES ON THE JOYS OR SORROWS OF DEPARTED SOULS by Isaac Watts [In the firey little "hell discourse," Watts even indulges in blaming the Jews for "the cruel barbarous murder of his Son Jesus."]

Edwardtbabinski said...

The song "Amazing Grace" isn't as amazing as one might think. The fact is that the song's author took years and years before he came to the abolition position. And he never captained a slave ship until AFTER he became a Christian. All his life as a slave captain was actually POST-conversion. The majority of Christians, including the Church of England itself, were in favor of the slave trade. The ship owner that he worked for had a pew in the church in Liverpool. It was not uncommon at all for prominent Anglicans to also be involved in the slave trade. And it made me wonder, what things are we involved in that we think are fine but in centuries to come people will think, How could they possibly have done that? [...] Newton's tender ship captain's letters that he sent home to his beloved Mary showed complete lack of concern for the African families he was breaking up. A telling passage from one letter cites "the three greatest blessings of which human nature is capable" as "religion, liberty, and love." But referring to those he had helped to enslave, he wrote, "I believe... that they have no words among them expressive of these engaging ideas: from whence I infer that the ideas themselves have no place in their minds." When it came to denouncing the slave trade, Newton would not commit himself publicly until the mid-1780s—nearly 30 years after the issue was first broached in Parliament, 20 years after the Countess of Huntingdon began campaigning for equal treatment of the races, and 14 years after John Wesley wrote his Thoughts on Slavery.

SOURCE: "Editor's Bookshelf: Amazing Myths, How Strange the Sound: An interview with Steve Turner, the author of Amazing Grace: The Story of America's Most Beloved Song" by David Neff, Christianity Today, March 31, 2003)