Catching Up with Popular Culture

Chapter 5, Accounting for Taste

Aesthetic judgment is by nature more elusive than scientific method will allow.  It requires patience, training, and a willingness to submit to our elders.  It is very much like wisdom in that regard. (p.79)

This quote reminded me of a comment from Alfonso about his friend who didn’t like a painting.  His father told him to stand in front of a masterpiece until he appreciated it.  The problem wasn’t with the painting.  I wish I could find the comment – it was a great story.

But sentimentality may be the most corrupting of these qualities.  Kaplan is eager to acknowledge that the object of sentimentality may be quite worthy — love of country, familial affection, grief at the loss of a friend –“but the feelings called forth spring too quickly and easily to acquire substance and depth.  They are so lightly triggered that there is no chance to build up a significant emotional discharge.”

Isn’t it, um, ironic, that the overly sweet (sentimentality) can make things rotten?  Sort of like Mountain Dew and teeth.  We’ve been conditioned to judge something by how it makes us feel instead of by objective standards.  Take Debbie Boone’s song You Light Up My Life which ends with the words, “It can’t be wrong, when it feels so right.”  Am I the only one who grimaces when hearing those words?
Chapter 6, Better to Receive

The final footnote about pop music’s limited emotional palette struck a chord with me.  Here is the sentence from the text, followed by the footnote:

I learn something about mourning when I hear Brahms; I know of no similar lessons in popular music. Footnote: A friend recently remarked that so much of the music sung in evangelical churches today (influenced as it is by pop music) has such a triteness about it that “children aren’t learning songs they can sing at funerals.”

Well, you know funeral music is my thing.  And when I read this my head bobbed up and down in agreement.  Then I started to think. The most notable exception to this footnote is the modern hymn In Christ Alone.  I can think of a few others that are sure to bring tears, but occupy the suburbs of Sentimental.  Can you recommend some good, modern songs to sing at a funeral?

Give me the robust, sinewy lyrics of older songs. 

How oft in grief hath not he brought thee relief,
spreading  his wings to o’ershade thee!

~ Joachim Neander, Praise to the Lord, the Almighty

Whate’er my God ordains is right: Though now this cup, in drinking,
May better seem to my faint heart, I take it, all unshrinking.
My God is true; each morn anew Sweet comfort yet shall fill my heart,
And pain and sorrow shall depart.

~ Samuel Rodigast, Whate’er My God Ordains Is Right

Jesus! what a help in sorrow! While the billows o’er me roll,
Even when my heart is breaking, He, my comfort, helps my soul.

~ J. Wilbur Chapman, Jesus What a Friend for Sinners

And when from death I’m free, I’ll sing on, I’ll sing on;
And when from death I’m free, I’ll sing on;
And when from death I’m free, I’ll sing and joyful be,
And through eternity I’ll sing on, I’ll sing on,
And through eternity I’ll sing on.

~ What Wondrous Love is This, American folk hymn


10 thoughts on “Catching Up with Popular Culture

  1. 1) Patience, 2) training, and a  2) willingness to submit  are required for aesthetic judgment.  No wonder it’s hard to find.  No one wants to submit to any one or thing these days.A young mother training the tastebuds of her children will recognize the need for these characteristics….. in herself and her children.Plus spelling and vocabulary – otherwise one would never learn how to spell *aesthetic* or what it means.About the hymns to be sung at my funeral…… I’m praying my grands and great-grands will recognize my choices and want to sing them.

  2. I am so tired….so very, very tired of the candy choruses we sing at church. “He’s under my feet, he’s under my feet, he’s under my feet, he’s under my feet…satan is under my feet”  PUHLEEZE!!   Or there’s always “yes Lord, yes Lord, yes, yes Lord”..said over and over again.  I always look at my husband when they do this..unable to stop the rolling of my eyes and say “Gee, I wonder what the name of this song is?”  He’s always smiling as soon as it starts cuz he knows it’s coming.  Then there’s the floaty no melody stuff that requires the wispy female voice and teenagers swaying along that are completely impossible to sing….aaaaahhhhh!!  Sorry…these won’t work at a funeral…just couldn’t resist a rant cuz it’s such a pet peeve of mine!  Heaven forbid we sing something that requires us to actually think rather than just “feel”.    Where do you go that these wonderful songs of the church are still allowed?    I am so going to read this book! Climbing down off soapbox…I’ll be good now….I promise.   Too much coffee this morning….back to tea tomorrow.

  3. “Where do you go that these wonderful songs of the church are still allowed?”Toomanyhats, try the Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod (though it has its fair share of churches that sing candy choruses~~you might have to look around).  I also know of some conservative Presbyterian churches that still sing the strong and sturdy hymns of the church.  But you’re not likely to find them in broadly evangelical churches.For funerals, how about “Be Still, My Soul,” “O God, Our Help in Ages Past,” or “How Firm a Foundation”?

  4. Two of my favorites, ‘It Is Well With My Soul’ and ‘Nearer My God To Thee’. These are the songs that help bring me back into focus. Because whatever He choses for me should be well with my soul and nearer to Him is my goal! You do have to admire the abilities of some to clap, hold a microphone, play a tambourine, sing, dance, wave at God and cry while singing the same chorus 27 times. *grin*

  5. One of my funeral favorites is “O the Deep, Deep Love of Jesus” and “A Mighty Fortress is Our God.” My husband is fond of Whate’er My God Ordains is Right” and “What Wondrous Love.” “Praise to the Lord the Almighty” was our wedding hymn. You asked “Can you recommend some good, modern songs to sing at a funeral?”  Well, I had to dig a bit to find it, but back in 2006, I blogged about a new-to-me modern song that I would like at my funeral–“When It’s All Been Said and Done.”At a conference I attended, Joel Belz (WORLD magazine) referred to those endless choruses as the 7×7 songs–seven words, seven times. I dread those.

  6. Another Stuart Townsend song comes to mind, How Deep The Father’s Love For Us.It’s an interesting criteria, songs we can sing at funerals.  It’s also interesting to read another post about dissatisfaction in our church worship music choices.  I am weary these songs that are so self-centered, and so not about worshiping and exulting God.

  7. How Deep the Father’s Love In Christ AlonePretty much anything by Townend/Getty [the guys who wrote the above 2]Before the Throne Most things by Fernando OrtegaBut, better yet, let us invest in a culture in our churches where the songs of the past are sung alongside the best of the new – where grandparents and teenagers worship side by side – fully engaged, fully devoted, fully respecting one another. this is not impossible.I think being anchored in liturgy helps… a timeless unchanging that gives space for musical taste in other places. I worked as a worship pastor for years at a church where we recreated the wheel every sunday – the 40 minute sing before the 40 minute preach – and i loved it, but my soul is certainly more settled, anchored, and sure in a liturgical context. And, by the way, the only time i MUST sing ‘I Am the Bread of Life’ is at a funeral. 

  8. In regard to sentimentality, do you remember M. L’Engle’s preface to C.S. Lewis’ book about grief- the journal he kept after Joy died?  I do not remember a specific quote, but a general flavor of true, serious love and grief.  Sentimentality doesn’t hold up to the trials and blessings of Christian life.  I love singing the Psalms, Hymns and Spiritual Songs, as loud as my puny voice can.  I love knowing that I am singing words from saints past and present, from all over the world.  It is the tangible expression of that verse in I Corinthians 10:13, “No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful….” 

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