Problematic Worship Songs #1

What – if anything – should we be careful about when we worship God in church?

Among other things, our songs should be true to our faith, true to life, and we need to consider how they affect our self-image and relationships – in other words how they seep into our consciousness. For this reason, songs have been one of the key vehicles of doctrine since the Bible was formed.

So here is Problematic Song #1:  “Our God” by Chris Tomlin et al. Listen here.

It is hugely popular, a rousing number which really rallies the troops. The imagery is simple, the words are direct, the references are from the Gospels, the tune is driving.

Then we hit the chorus.  Suddenly the song degenerates into a “my god is bigger than your god” boast.  Is this really how we want to position ourselves as Christians?   There are Biblical warrants for it for sure:  Elijah’s competition on Mount Carmel; or the repeated use of the word “better” in the Letter to the Hebrews.  In both instances, the believers were under severe pressure of extinction through lack of self-image.  But when we look at the heartland of our theological store – Jesus – do we find this kind of posturing?

Of course, Christians do believe our God is greater, stronger, higher than any other, (otherwise we wouldn’t choose to be Christians), but what effect does it have when such beliefs become like football chants?

What happens when we take this “truth” into our hearts and minds, what does it do to us?  How does it shape our relating with others?

In our world today religious extremism is both prevalent and dangerous.  Such extremism is fed by the failure to listen, the failure to relate, the failure to take time, the failure of humility.  In this context, sloganeering is unhelpful.  Football chants (the ruder the better, in my book!) deliberately cartoonise.  They are part of the ritual of the match, in which we allow the fiction that football really matters while holding in reserve the truth that it is actually only a game.  But the ritual of church is all about truth.

So my problem with this song is this: it has the effect of whipping us up into a kind of Christian jingoism that will ultimately damage our ability to reflect Christ eloquently to the rest of the world.

What do you think?

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