December 23, 2006

"The Lord is my Lover: Worship Gone Astray"

Where does contemporary Christian music end and worship songs begin? There is a trend in churches today to sing Christian pop tunes during worship services. It is one thing to listen to Mercy Me’s song, "I Can Only Imagine" on the radio and yet another to stand in the congregation singing to God Almighty with the words, "Will I dance before you Jesus, or in awe of you be still?" Whenever I hear that song, it conjures up visions of Salome dancing before King Herod.

Yet this sensual approach to God: Father, Son, Holy Spirit is gaining momentum recently, though it really isn’t anything new. This carnal fantasy about a divine husband not only comes out in songs today, but also seems to be commonplace in the visualizations of contemplatives during their meditative altered states of consciousness (see Samantha’s Search for Something Tangible - last week's entry). The biblical symbolism of the church as the Bride of Christ has been corrupted historically by the same lying spirit that corrupted the symbolism of the bread and the wine used in the Lord’s supper. You guessed it – it all goes back to Rome.

In the book, "The Nuns," by J. B. Lippincott, author Marcelle Bernstein "studied the lives of nuns. While many rituals have now changed, her descriptions of what has been practiced by various orders support the Bride of Christ analogy: the Bride of Christ presented herself as a virgin; she took a new name, new family, new home; in some orders, she brought a dowry or trousseau; she wore a veil and ring; she vowed faithfulness; she retreated alone with God for three days following final vows. At final vows she repeated, ‘With this ring has my Lord Jesus Christ betrothed me; and as his bride he has adorned me with a crown.’"

"This whole idea of a mystical brideship of a lady to Christ is what is involved in Roman Catholicism in the convent," said former Dominican priest Richard Bennett. [See "The Bride of Christ" Interview  ] "The concept of being united to the deity by being a virgin is not to Catholicism alone. The tradition goes back to pagan times. We had, for example, the vestal virgins in Rome who kept the sacred fires. They had the idea that they could be mystically united to a deity. And we had the famous holy virgins of Peru under the Incas who, in a similar way, thought that they could, by their virginity, somehow be united to God in their holy living. Probably the most famous of all we had with the Buddhist nuns, that tradition, that through illumination, like Buddha himself wanted to achieve with the divinity, with the divine person, these nuns through their virginity could reach a mystical union with God."

Dating Jesus?

In an article in Christianity Today entitled "Dating Jesus," Agnieszka Tennant noted, "Several of those whom liturgical Christians call saints considered themselves wives of Christ. Catherine of Siena received a vision in which Christ married her and gave her a ring. It was made from foreskin left over after his circumcision."

A former nun, recalling the ritual of her final vows, confirmed the Catholic Church’s distortion of this biblical symbol of marriage between Christ and His church and that this still happens in today's convents. "In regard to the bride of Christ ceremony," said Mary Ann Pakiz, [The Bride of Christ" Interview] "that was one in which we were attired in beautiful white wedding gowns and veils. And we had flowers and beautiful music. This took place in the convent chapel and on the sides of the aisles of the convent chapel there would be our parents and friends and family wishing us happiness… and then we marched down the aisle just as you would in a regular wedding ceremony. We came to the altar and then it kind of came very clear that we were united to an invisible spouse and one who is mystical. I have found that the term mystical has been something that the Catholic Church employs each time they want to get the people to believe something without understanding it. They would tell the people you really and truly don't have to understand this; it just is accepted. So 'mystical' covers a great deal of deceit even because in no way were we marrying the Lord Jesus Christ."

And today this same deception has hit the "Christian" music industry full tilt. Perhaps these sort of lyrics give some sort of twisted comfort to women who have been hurt by men who do not treat them with love as Christ does the church. It’s more of a mystery as to why Christian men in the church today can stand up in front of the congregation, strumming their guitars, and singing lyrics that could easily be songs sung to a romantic love interest. It makes me too uncomfortable and I have to sit down with my mouth closed during those songs.

"Music fits women's tastes," wrote David Murrow in his article "Create an Environment Where Men Can Worship." "Reformation hymns spoke of battle, blood, and victory. But today's praise songs are mainly love songs to Jesus. The lyrics grow more romantic by the day, and they have the same breathless feel as top forty love songs. Hold me close, let your love surround me. Bring me near, draw me to your side. I'm desperate for you, I'm lost without you. Let my words be few. Jesus, I am so in love with you. -- Think of the mental gymnastics that must take place inside a man's subconscious mind as he sings lyrics like these. He's trying to express his love to Jesus, a man who lives today, using words no man would dare say to another, set to music that sounds like the love songs his wife listens to in the car."

Bob Kauflin put it well in an article, "Expressing Love to God."  "Someone coined the phrase "God is my girlfriend songs" to describe contemporary lyrics that express love to God with words that are romantic in nature. They include phrases like "embrace me," "let me feel your touch," etc…Why does someone write songs that can be sung either to God or a human lover?… The problem is that our relationship with God is a bit different (can you say infinitely?) from our relationships with each other. Another group bases their use of romantic imagery on the Song of Solomon - "Let me know the kisses of your mouth, let me feel your embrace." However, there's no indication outside of the Song of Songs that God intends us individually to sing words like these to our God and Savior."

I agree with Tennant’s conclusion, "So, yes, in addition to being the Shepherd, the Bread of Life, and the Vine, Jesus is, poetically speaking, the Bridegroom. And we—the church—are his bride. But that doesn't mean I'll be getting into my wedding gown anytime soon. Not that it would fit."

If we would just boycott the singing of such songs wherever it is we fellowship, perhaps worship leaders would finally catch on.  Good luck trying to point this out to any of them. When I've tried to in the past, no matter how tactful I've tried to phrase it, they've always jumped on the defensive and avoided me like the plague thereafter. 


Ponder His Greatness even as the world celebrates His birth:

Isaiah 9:6-7 – " For unto us a Child is born, Unto us a Son is given; And the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of His government and peace There will be no end, Upon the throne of David and over His kingdom, To order it and establish it with judgment and justice From that time forward, even forever. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this."

Hebrews 4:13 – "Neither is there any creature that is not manifest in his sight: but all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of him with whom we have to do."

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