3 Way Split?

I was thinking earlier about different kinds of worship music. I’ve thought about this before, but I haven’t really come up with a conclusion about it, partly because I haven’t thought about it deeply enough; what is the (for lack of a better word) best kind of worship music?

What I mean by this is that there are several different kinds: there’s “sneaky” worship music, which I tend to like the most, there’s “me and You” worship music, and then there’s straight up “praise” music. Basically I define these as follows: “Sneaky” worship is when you take a song that could be about anyone/anything and direct it to God. For example, I have a song called “Passenger,” which is about driving home late at night and not wanting to fall asleep because I enjoy the driver’s company so much. The metaphor is that I don’t always know where my life is headed, but God does, and I’m pretty content to just let him drive. “me and You” worship music is explicitly spiritual in terms of the lyrics, and it’s about the human relationship with God. What I define as “Praise” music excludes the human element as much as possible and focuses entirely on God’s greatness.

The reason I was thinking about this was because I remembered last semester I was taking a music of worship class, and someone brought up the idea that music that includes the human element is somehow less worshipful than music that does not. I’m not sure I agree with that, but I’m not entirely sure what I think in general, which is why I’m posting about it.

It seems to me that it’s difficult to think about God in nonhuman terms. For example, most people think of God as loving his creation. Love is a very human feeling. Furthermore, most people think about God in terms of what he does; whether that is what he does for them personally or in general. Then there is the fact that for a period of time he actually became human (at least I believe so).

Obviously there are some distinct aspects of God that are not human at all. He created the universe, for one, and he has greater power, strength and knowledge than anyone that has ever lived on the earth or ever will. He can perform miracles that no one would even think of doing because the thought is just absurd. Lastly, he is invisible and intangible, which is obviously not a human quality.

It seems to me that both sides of him need to be acknowledged; of course the list I’ve made doesn’t even scratch the surface of who or what God is, but that’s a whole other story. My intuition says that music that acknowledges the relationship between man and God is more effective in terms of allowing someone to have a more worshipful experience, but perhaps straight up praise music is more appropriate in terms of actually acknowledging who God is. Of course there is always the argument that different music is better for different situations, but how does one know what to use and when?

My thinking is that maybe “me and You” music is better for individual worship; i.e. when someone just wants to have their own little spiritual jam session in their basement, but praise music is better for communal situations.

I’ve said this before, but I prefer “sneaky” worship music because it tends to be more creative and artful (at least in my opinion). I think because it’s “sneaky” however, it can tend to be less spiritual sometimes. This might simply be because of the fact that it can be played/listened to in less spiritual situations and still be enjoyed; the spiritual nature of it can basically be ignored. Maybe that just makes it better music; it can be appealing to a larger audience. I have argued before that if it is partly the duty of Christians to spread the Gospel (which is definitely the case), then it follows that music which appeals to a larger audience should be more effective in achieving that end. This is probably a large part of the reason that there is Christian pop, country, punk, metal and rock music.

If I remember correctly, the argument against music that acknowledges the human relationship with God is that it can tend to be self indulgent and and at times, whiney. It can definitely be whiney; I will concede to that. I still don’t believe that the style in general is so. Furthermore I think that less upbeat songs can be more helpful in someone’s spiritual life depending on their emotional state and their beliefs in general. Even some of the psalms are rather dismal; they’re essentially calls for help. Modern music does the same thing.

In general I feel that straight up praise music is less relatable, which doesn’t make it bad by any means. It just feels to me that removing myself from the worship of God alienates us instead of bringing us closer, which I feel is kind of the point. Of course the point is also to acknowledge God’s greatness, in which case praise music is just fine. I will conclude that in an individual or small group situation it’s up to the individual(s) to decide what will work best. When it comes to a larger audience however, I think the best thing to do is to do all 3 (provided the audience is willingly going into a worship situation). Some would argue that it’s best to figure out what works best for the person/people in charge and then like minded people will join them, but I feel that worship should be more inclusive than that. I think because the different styles of music appeal to different people that they are all valid, as long as the people can really use it to acknowledge God’s greatness.

Because in my world guinea pigs can fly!

Knowing What You Want

Knowing what you want out of life can be an exceedingly difficult thing. It is one thing to know what you want at any given moment, but another thing entirely to know what you want in the long run. I tend to think there are certain things that generally everyone wants out of life such as a good job, a steady income, love (with a partner), a place to call home, stability and independence. These things are bordering on necessities rather than desires; needs more than wants, however.

I think on an individual level, people want more specific, and perhaps deeper things out of life. In one of my classes this year, I had to write a paper that determined what it is that makes life worth living by using the ideas of two philosophers that we had studied. I used Aristotle and St. Augustine’s ideas and determined that it is happiness in or by goodness that makes life worth living. It is being able to rejoice in goodness.

This however, does not explain what people want. Sure, it can keep you going, but I believe that this is actually the bare minimum in terms of what people need to be truly happy. People who believe in God and believe that He is good and rejoice in His goodness can still be otherwise miserable without the other things that I specified above.

The fact of the matter is, every individual wants the basics and something more. Everyone has a yearning for something. Some people want to find their perfect place; a place that is so close to heaven they can taste it. Others want to master something. Still others want to somehow, somewhere, sometime save a life. These are long-term-once-in-a-lifetime goals. Some people meet them sooner than others. I think once people meet their long-term-once-in-a-lifetime goal, they find a sense of peace. I have seen this in people. I think this is why some people seem to be fighting and striving, even when we don’t understand why.

More than anything, I want to save a life. I spend more time fantasizing about this than you’d even believe. The fantasy is always different. Sometimes I save a person from a tragic accident, sometimes from a sickness, and sometimes from deep sadness. For some reason, I strongly believe that there is someone out there who I am eventually going to save. I’ve actually held this belief since I was a child. I don’t remember how old I was when I started fantasizing about this, but I may have been as young as five or six.

When I got older and picked up the guitar, I began to have more musical ambitions. I had dreamed about being a rock star ever since I was eight years old. When I was fifteen I learned to play the guitar and when I was 16 or 17 I started writing songs and performing at open mics. Even though I had far more ambitious goals in my mind, I am perfectly happy with where I am now in terms of music. I have gone as far as I need to, and although I will continue to learn more and become better, I am entirely satisfied with where I am now. Music is my peace. When I play guitar, I am entirely calm; not always happy, but at peace with the world. In the past couple of years, I’ve been picking up other instruments and slowly teaching myself. It is a slow process, but I enjoy it more than anything else. It gives me a sense of accomplishment when I master something new on the drum or learn a new technique on the guitar, or figure out a new chord on the mandolin or adapt a song from one instrument to another. I have reached my musical Nirvana.