Tuesday, December 4, 2012

The Shepherds of our Songs

It continues to disturb me that there aren't more (any?) contemporary artists out there combining a strong sense of the canon and biblical theology (esp. the psalter) in their lyrics matched thematically by music that reflects personal or collaborative artistic engagement with their subject material. Everything seems geared for CCM radio play, bubblegum-pop hymnody for the Osteen-era consistently tilting towards subjective and at times solipsistic (anything where the song is about the act of singing) theological reflection. Exceptions such as "In Christ Alone" and "Revelation Song" notwithstanding, this brand of flimsy congregational cheerleading has become so prevalent as to wear down whatever surprise at the phenomenon I might have had left--and it continues to eat at my hope for alternatives.

I'm always open to classic hymnody in settings new or old, although I have to admit the lyrical/melodic complexity of some hymns strains my ability to engage with them as worship rather than just keeping up with the syllables.

Contemplating the being, character and deeds of Father, Son and Holy Spirit is what I believe to be at the heart of worship, and so few of our contemporary works seem to have this task in mind with any kind of seriousness. The one major exception I know of is some of the music and lyrics coming out of the folks at the International House of Prayer in Kansas City, MO--they at least take this aim as their raison d'etre. Their strange theological emphases and own tendencies toward overt subjectivity, however, weaken their ability to put forth truly great examples of contemporary worship.

What I want to know is, where is the independent worship scene? Where are the artists and lyricists who compose in order to enrich the worship of the church without first being engineered for CCM radio? Where are the poets and the prophets, the singing theologians? What we sing about God has a profound affect on what we most deeply believe about him--lex orendi, lex credendi--where are the shepherds of our songs?