Friday, July 23, 2010

choosing battles

I'm increasingly aware of the importance of language throughout a worship service.  I'm a big advocate of expansive language in hymns, and I prefer newer, less archaic translations of the Bible, but I'm having a another problem.

A large percent of the choral music available doesn't fit with these ideas about expansive language.  The market is flooded with what I'd consider poor theologies based on sacrificial atonement, patriarch/monarch images of God, and a downright preference for the old hymns just rearranged without any consideration for what they mean in today's society.

So when the choir is preparing a new song, I'm torn.  When should I consider changing texts to meet the theological needs of our expansive congregation, and when should I just lay low?

I know that one faction will appreciate the effort, and I know another will miss the words that are so familiar.  I don't for one moment believe that any of the singers would say that they don't agree with the idea of changing the texts, but putting it into practice is difficult.

Another sticking point is the language used elsewhere in worship.  I'd say 100% of the printed liturgy (call to worship, prayers of confession/assurance, benediction, etc.) conforms to an expansive theology. The issue is the reading of scripture. We still read from primarily masculine influenced sources. Although horiztonal language (people talking about people) is general "inclusive,"  the vertical (God-language) is primarily masculine.

So if the language we are recieving from scripture is different from the language of the liturgy is different from the language of the hymns is different from the language of the special music, what are we saying here?  Does this show diversity or just lack of cohesion?

One suggestion from a friend was to always ensure that the horizontal language was expansive, since it refers directly to the people who will be singing and hearing the music. Then in the cases of vertical language, pick and choose depending on the number of "offending" occurrences. And in the latter case, perhaps from time-to-time we should consider flipping the gender to help us consider the text from a different perspective.

I'm guessing I'll struggle with this in every situation for a long time to come, but that, as they say, is the rub. 

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