Wednesday, February 10, 2010

all you need is rolaids

I hate Valentine's Day. It's a completely fake holiday. There, I said it. You can tell my wife. She knows how I feel about it. Since Hallmark has decided we need to have this one day to tell that someone special how we feel, so we spend a bunch of money on crap we don't need and put all this energy into saying these words.

Our whole culture is really strange about the love thing. We're all into saying it. It makes us feel good. It doesn't matter that we treat each other like crap all year long.

My beautiful and perceptive wife gets this stuff right. She really doesn't care if I tell her I love her all the time. She just wants me to actually do it. And if there's, hypothetically speaking, a time when I'm not loving toward her, the last thing she wants me to say is "I love you." It wouldn't really be true until I had gotten my act together and actually been loving.

We also think that God must like to hear it. I recently heard someone say that the song, "I Love You, Lord" was the greatest worship song ever. He said it says everything we ought to say to God. For those of you who haven't heard this one recently, it goes like this:

I love you, Lord and I lift my voice,
To worship you, oh my soul rejoice,
Take joy, my King in what you hear,
Let it be a sweet, sweet sound in your ear.

Wow. Compelling and rich. You know, I think actually it was written by the Council of Nicea.

Seriously, it's the worst song I've ever heard, and if it's worse than "As the Deer," it's really got to be bad. It's so bad because it is often thoroughly untrue.

Nevermind that there is no Biblical precedent for saying "I love you" to God. (Except for the time with Peter and Jesus, and we all know how that turned out.) Nevermind that we actually haven't loved God. Saying it doesn't make it true.

It's completely unloving to say we love someone and then not do it.

10 comments:

Paul Pavao said...

Well, I'm going to have to read more. I happen to really like both those songs ... sigh, but you are correct. The part I like is the prayer that God would help me live so that my songs are a sweet sound in his ear.

I also like your about me comment about being a recovering Baptist. I have a missionary friend who describes himself as a recovering pastor.

Kelse said...

Agreed. Love is much more than merely words. It requires more of us than articulation, it's demands an entire way of living. Not that self-centered martyr type either. It takes knowing oneself - in a meaningful and sometimes difficult way. We must be sure of our worth to enjoy the freedom of love. It takes the ability to practice healthy boundaries and know your own limits. We have to understand where we end and others begin to walk alongside them.

Just so you know my dear, I don't doubt your "I love you" in those times when unloving things are happening between us. I prefer to keep those sacred words for the times that the fullness of love is supported through action and attitude.

Dan Martin said...

I agree with you on Valentine's day. My wife specifically tells me nearly every year, not to go spending money for that day. She likes it much better when I surprise her with flowers for no particular occasion other times in the year (when they're also cheaper).

I would take slight issue with whether the words "I love you" are themselves irrelevant. They must be backed up by action, no question. But at least in my own relationship with my wife of 20 years, the repeated telling each other, verbally, of our love has also been a treasure. Reading your wife's comment suggests to me that I'm not telling you anything you don't already know, though.

But on to the songs. You're right, they're insipid and repulsive, but seriously, the worst you've ever heard? Sheesh, you should visit my church some time. How about Marvelous Light:

Lift your head (or hands, depends) and spin around
see the marvelous light I've found...


Or how about David Crowder's "Here is our King"

What was said to the rose to make it unfold
Was said to me, here in my heart
So be quiet now
And wait


This last is so nonsensical you really need to see all the lyrics to see how packed with non sequiturs it is. Then you need to hear the chaotic non-structure of the tune, and revel in the fact that "be quiet now and wait" is often sung in excess of 90db.

No, you haven't BEGUN to plumb the depths of horrible "worship" music!

Dan Martin said...

I agree with you on Valentine's day. My wife specifically tells me nearly every year, not to go spending money for that day. She likes it much better when I surprise her with flowers for no particular occasion other times in the year (when they're also cheaper).

I would take slight issue with whether the words "I love you" are themselves irrelevant. They must be backed up by action, no question. But at least in my own relationship with my wife of 20 years, the repeated telling each other, verbally, of our love has also been a treasure. Reading your wife's comment suggests to me that I'm not telling you anything you don't already know, though.

But on to the songs. You're right, they're insipid and repulsive, but seriously, the worst you've ever heard? Sheesh, you should visit my church some time. How about Marvelous Light:

Lift your head (or hands, depends) and spin around
see the marvelous light I've found...


Or how about David Crowder's "Here is our King"

What was said to the rose to make it unfold
Was said to me, here in my heart
So be quiet now
And wait


This last is so nonsensical you really need to see all the lyrics to see how packed with non sequiturs it is. Then you need to hear the chaotic non-structure of the tune, and revel in the fact that "be quiet now and wait" is often sung in excess of 90db.

No, you haven't BEGUN to plumb the depths of horrible "worship" music!

jaigner said...

You're right, Dan. The words themselves are not irrelevant, but, well, maybe we should be careful. I use them too much as filler.

I was overstating the ridiculousness of the "worship" song. It's not the most bizarre or weird or narcissistic. But I do think it's pretty awful. Believe me, I've spent most of my life plumbing the depths of horrible church music, usually as a forced consumer during my childhood. And it's not all contemporary - ever sung "Sweet, Sweet Spirit" or "In the Garden."

I should probably save this for another post, but in all honesty I don't think there's a song as poorly written as "As the Deer." Check the second and third stanzas.

You're my friend and you are my brother
Even though you are a king
And I love you more than any other
So much more than anything

I want You more than gold or silver
Only You can satisfy
You alone are the real joy giver
And the apple of my eye

Seriously - apple of my eye?

I also would say that I'm not completely saying it's always inappropriate for us to verbally express our love for God, but...

1) We ought to refrain from saying it when (not if) it isn't true, even though one of the beautiful parts of liturgy is expressing things even when we don't feel them. This is something different.

2) We should, congregationally, sing texts that are focused on God's specific attributes and not our feelings.

3) There's basically no biblical precedent, which is a clue to its appropriateness, but not completely normative.

Dan Martin said...

You missed the worst part of "As the Deer" in my opinion, Jonathan. "You alone are my heart's desire and I long to worship thee." Anybody who knows a modicum of Elizabethan English knows it should either be "You" at both ends of the sentence, or else "Thou" and "thee." "You" and "thee" just shows rank ignorance on the part of the writer and singers.

And you're absolutely right that it's not all contemporary either. when's the last time you sang "Church in the Wildwood?"

Or how about "A Charge to Keep I Have?" Mostly at least tolerable, but I'll never forget a bunch of old ladies whose soprano was cracking, singing that last verse:

Help me to watch and pray
And on thy strength rely
Knowing if I my trust betray
I shall forever die.


I know it's what a lot of people believe (I think it's wrong focus at best), but sheesh, what a way to end a hymn!

And yes, I still remember them. In my heyday I could call out the number in the Mennonite Hymnal for probably a third of the book, know what key to blow on my pitch pipe, and sing (and lead an a capella congregation in) three or four verses from memory. That was a long time ago, and I don't still have most of it at that kind of command. . .

jaigner said...

That's true, Dan. That doesn't bother me theologically, though. This song is supposed to be one of those sweet prayer songs, but it's just silly.

groansfromwithin said...

I think I agree to an extent with your assessment of the holiday. What really was interesting was your observation about not being told to say: "i love you" to God. But let's not forget the Shema, which faithful Jews recite 3 times each day: "Hear o Israel, the Lord our God the Lord is one. LOVE the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul and all your strength..." This is all about actions, but I would venture to say that our words also are actions... especially is we back them up with other areas of life. Now, i realize there is not a mention of "saying" I love you to god, but it is clear that in reciting this prayer and others, that love towards God matters. And I also understand that your point isn't that we are not to love God, but that words are superficial. that is a fair assessment i suppose.

jaigner said...

You are correct, sir. I am in no way suggesting that love for God doesn't matter. Verbalizing it in so many words is not the same thing. You're also correct that words are actions and can be loving, but saying "I love you" isn't in and of itself particularly loving, at least in my thoughts.

I'm also not saying that we should never, ever say "I love you" to God. I don't believe its absence from the Bible is bindingly normative. We just really need to think when and if we say it.

Thanks for your comments.

Gabriel Fuller said...

Agner,
I seriously love reading your blog. You are an outside-the-box kind of thinker, which I find myself being most of the time as well. It is refreshing to see that there are other people out there who do not necessary follow the norm because it is the norm. Keep the great posts coming!!