Who Else Wants to Be a Whistleblower in Church?

Who Else Wants to Be a Whistleblower in Church? August 2, 2012

Worship Week continues here on Bill inthe Blank at Patheos with a guest post by Barbara Buzzard claiming I am a whistleblower in the church. You can find out more about her family’s ministry mission here.

Today’s guest post is a response to Why I’ve Stopped Singing in Your Church:

I am very grateful to the writer for his honesty.

He has a kindred spirit here. I once heard a pastor say that he wanted us to get “mellow” via the music before his sermon. Not me. Mellow is the last thing I want to be. I want to be razor sharp, able to consider what is being said. But for so many of us, church is like a good movie. We want our weekly feel-good fix until the next week.

An apology at the beginning

I once was faced with “I surrender all” so many times that I would have surrendered nearly anything to get them not to sing it again. I am afraid that those who instigated this sort of repetition knew what they were doing and purposely lulled their congregations into a stupor.

If you were to be taken blindfolded to stand outside certain congregations and just listen, you could honestly confuse the “noise” with a night club. Is it possible that certain of us really liked the nightclub atmosphere and brought it into the church? I have heard a friend say that when she turns on the radio for Christian music, it is always the same song. Of course, not really.

But isn’t it just possible that we have sacrificed content for entertainment? We are all summoned to praise God. May we sing with integrity and with reverence.

 Dissing the Church

I believe that we have done ourselves a great disservice by the phasing out of some of the wonderful music Bill has mentioned. Perhaps we’ve done even wors  by not exposing young people to older people as they worship. [Bill: See my post Where Have All the Children Gone in Your Church] They miss out on a profound experience of seeing the reverence that others have for God.

If he has not already read Religious Literacy (Stephen Prothero) and also The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind (Mark Noll), I believe Bill would appreciate both.

Tragically, the same thing has happened in the pulpit and we have been dumbed down to a degree that is terrifying. I would submit that what is missing in church and what we need to make time for and reinstitute is learning, an intellectual pursuit of truth. Can you honestly have Jesus without his teaching? And by being so reduced intellectually, we have lost much of that teaching. We did away with content and effectively said, “just give me Jesus.”

Are we not close to having to check our brains at the door?

Whistleblowers wanted!

How very interesting that Bill is perceived in such very different ways! As I read him, I am thinking, this man really gets it.  I am rejoicing. He sees!

I never once thought that he was selfish or ugly or had a  spiritual problem. He understands that what we offer to God must be holy. He recognizes that sometimes it is not. I thank God that he can see this. I found his need and desire for content to be wise and of God and so too his recognition when it is lacking.

And then I see a couple comments and realize how very differently he is viewed (all of which can apply to me). And so I will go to bat for him. I think that what some see as a complaining attitude is borne out of pain, the pain of seeing that something is not right and addressing it. I see it as courage and honesty. I have to applaud this.

I view Bill as a whistleblowe. I think that there might just be more at stake here than hymns vs. choruses. Is it just possible that we have lost something (perhaps, even a great deal) in doing away with music that helps form the chains of memory that bind us to one another?

I think it’s about connections, collective memory, legacy, and  profound truths. Memory binds us together until we start forgetting, until it disintegrates, until we share no common memory.

Of course there are musical gems in all ages but to remove from people music they have loved seems a bit harsh, does it not? And back to Bill. What is he to do? Not see? Are we suggesting abdication of the intellect? He is asking for substance and for truth fit for adults.

I fail to see where he has gone wrong.

What do think? Are whistleblowers needed in the Church today? How should we go about it? Leave a comment here and share the growth.

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  • Linda Kardamis

    As a member of an independent Baptist church that still sings hymns pretty much exclusively, this conversation is particularly interesting to me. I love hymns – in fact, that’s one of the reasons my husband and I still attend our Baptist church despite it’s faults. I want my children to grow up learning the great hymns of the faith. On the other hand, during the week I love to listen to some of the great songs written by contemporary Christian artists and am often amazed at the depth of the lyrics’ truth and conviction. (Although, I will definitely agree about the incessant repeating. I’ve found myself wondering if I should feel guilty that I’m really tired of singing “Hallelujah” again and again.)

    I find these interesting juxtapositions quite a lot as a member of a Baptist church and a teacher at a wonderful evangelical Christian school. At church on Sunday I enjoy singing hymns but often look around and am acutely aware that 80% of the congregation is not paying a bit of attention to the great words we have known since childhood. We have much to learn. But as these articles have been discussing, there are also pitfalls and shortcoming with the evangelical praise and worship model, despite its strengths and benefits. I’m not sure yet exactly what the answer is, but I believe the two ends of the spectrum have far more to learn from each other than either group may care to admit.

    • Thanks for the exceptionally thoughtful insight, Linda! 🙂 Hopefully, all of this will help us make some progress.