Tuesday, November 14, 2006

The Faith We (Shouldn't) Sing, Part I: Rise Up, O Men of God

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
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.)


the reverend mommy said...

OK, I'm a bad bunny. I hate that song too, but your musings made the "gutter" part of my brain think of VERY bad images/puns.

There are a few more songs I'd like to take out, as well, but my brain is mush and I can't think of them except things like "There is a Fountain Filled with Blood" -- horrible theology!

Psalmist said...

Heheheh...there IS that! And as for other less-than-worthy hymns, believe me, I have some in the "bull pen" right now. ;)

Thanks for dropping by and commenting.

Mary Beth said...

excellent points. and I must say that the "nasty" implication was the VERY, VERY first thing that I thought of. Uhmhmmm.

Psalmist said...

Yikes! I'm anything but a prude, but I honestly had never thought of that until RM mentioned it in the first comment. Y'all are corrupting me! ;)

But that's one more important point. If we Christians are being distracted by a (probably unintended) double entendre, how much more would seekers or new Christians hear it that way? That's a terrible thought. Ugh!

Anonymous said...

Oh yes! This one has to go and the other one to pitch out is "Faith of our Fathers" especially for those women who are the ones that haul the kids to church week after week while Dad sleeps in, or for single Moms, or those people who have had really terrible fathers. Surprisingly both of these hymns are still circulating.

Psalmist said...

At least we have the option in my denomination's (1989) hymnal to sing "Faith of the Martyrs" as an alternate text. Of course, when we do, there are grumbles about "They even get P.C. in the church."

Sometime I must post my thoughts on "P.C." gripes...

Meanwhile, I'm glad you visited these music rants, Good enough mother. I owe you a blog visit!

Psalmist said...

I couldn't have asked for better proof that I'm right about my objections to this hymn, than the link below. The best this guru of the religious hierarchalist manhood movement can do is to call me a whiner and a Betty Friedan parrot, and criticize my typing. He obviously can't make rotten, andro-idolatrous theology godly, though I suppose he deserves points for trying.

With blogs like his, is it any wonder more and more women are waking up to how ungodly patriarchy is?

Light said...

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.

The hierarchalist whom has blogged about this entry makes this error as well. In his "bible study" materials (and I use the term loosely) he boldly claims that men image God more than women do. I can go dig up the exact page reference and quote if you like.

Psalmist said...

Nah, don't worry about it. I've read it, too. I don't see any need to re-read a lie. :(

As they say down in these parts, he's quite the piece of work.

Psalmist said...

By the way, Light, thanks for stopping by! Did you happen to notice the company that guy keeps? Thinking particularly of a pair of brothers who regularly spew disgusting references to men's "rights" to "steward" their wives' "wombs." And W. proudly blogged about "breeding" human beings.

When will these guys wake up to the fact that we human beings are not the sum total of our reproductive organs? We're SUPPOSED to be more like God than the animals are. A husband is not supposed to "husband" his wife as though she's merely another species on which to practice "animal husbandry." With these religious gender hierarchalists, sadly there's little difference except who actually impregnates the wife, and I've never heard of one selling the offspring.

Quotidian Grace said...

Well, here's one dissenting voice.

This was one of my late beloved father's favorite hymns. I can't sing it without seeing him in the pew belting it out with great gusto and verve. So I love it.

My mother never went to church, so if it weren't for him I would not have the gift of faith.

Anonymous said...

Colossians 4:6
"Let your speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person."

Psalmist said...

I appreciate your appropriate quote, anonymous, to this very old post.

You might be interested in what prompted the additional comment in the body of the post, which no longer shows in the links list: