For those of you United Methodists who think there's something familiar about that title, you're correct. I'm shamelessly ripping off the title of our most recent hymnal supplement. Please don't misunderstand, though; not all--indeed, probably not most--of the songs I post in this series are included in The Faith We Sing.
I realized that for a blog that was supposed to be heavy on the music kind of posts, I haven't been living up to my own expectations. That is what gives rise to this series.
I have some strong opinions on what makes for good, and not-so-good, songs for congregational singing. This series will present examples of what we settle for, but those for which I believe we shouldn't settle.
Rise Up, O Men of God
Text: William P. Merrill, 1867-1954
Generally sung to FESTAL SONG (SM)
Composed by William H. Walter, 1825-1893
For full text, follow this link.
First of all, this hymn reeks of "this text doesn't apply to me" to the female half of the congregation. Maybe once upon a time it didn't, but an inescapable fact of the English language is that it is changing. Women no longer consider themselves part of "men." And the fact is, especially considering the full context of the hymn text, this hymn never really means to address women. So do we really need to use a hymn that excludes (over) half the congregation?
Secondly, the theology is simply terrible. Follow the link and pay particular attention to verses 2 and 3. "[The Church's] strength unequal to her task/rise up and make her great" simply isn't true. The Holy Spirit's power makes the imperfect Church equal to whatever task God calls us to do. It is not the strength of the male half of the church that will make the church great, it is the strength of the Lord Jesus himself.
Third, this hymn reinforces the church's historical error of thinking that men can more fully conform to the image of Christ than women can. Verse 4 is particularly bad about this. Women obviously cannot be "brothers of the Son of Man." And just as we need to not forget that there are men in the body of Christ, we must not forget that there are women in the body, as well. This hymn doesn't forget it, it ignores it.
"Rise Up, O Men of God" is not fit for either full congregational or for men's group singing. I suppose verse 1 is acceptable for the latter, if groups will stop with verse 1. But there are better hymns that express the need for all of us, including all the men, to be faithful disciples of Jesus Christ. It's not especially difficult to find and use them instead.
(EDIT: Thank you to the gender hierarchalist critic who made much of the fact that I typed a "u" instead of an "i" in the word "inescapable." What a terrible, horrible, unforgivable gaffe on my part! My typing error was by far the most supportable of your objections to this blog entry. By the way, I'm going to consider it a typo that you missed one of the "l"s in "Merrill" at several points in your rant against my blog entry. Your toss shattered a wall in your glass house, brother William.
I'm glad my actual objections to the rotten theology of this hymn offended you, though; your unbiblical, worldly theories about what constitutes masculinity and femininity may sell books and seminars, but that will never change the fact that they're false and ungodly theories, based on self-serving eisegesis and bad scholarship. By the way, my thoughts are my own; we women can and do think for ourselves, despite your lie about my being a mere parrot for historical secular feminists. I'm still waiting to read even one legitimate, biblical defense for the appallingly bad theology in this hymn. I'm not holding my breath. It's the same old, same old idolization of masculinity that you've been peddling for years. Talk about parroting! You really ought to stop lying through your teeth about me. I do indeed know the Scriptures AND the power of God, neither of which supports the world's practice of patriarchy which your writings show that you idolize and seek to promote. I continue to pray that you forsake your lies and come to accept the truth that we Christian egalitarian women ARE your sisters in Christ, and we are your equals in the faith. That you deny both these inescapable facts, impoverishes your soul and damages your Christian witness. Again, I pray for you to repent. As your sister in Christ, despite your lie that we Christian egalitarian women are not, I'm calling you to start showing to women, some of the respect you so loudly demand for yourself and all men. That would be a good first step toward actually deserving that respect.)