by Chris Bodenner

In contrast to this response, a reader writes:

As a longtime reader of this blog and a professional church musician, I must say that I have found the series, "Can the Church be Hip?" mildly irritating and was moved by the reader who wrote this:

Based on the material you've been showcasing, "Can church be hip?" is not the question you're actually exploring. Those songs may make reference to Christian concepts or images, but they are lyrics; they display an intimate, personal, unique and emotionally charged state of mind, and are clearly intended for performance or for private listening as recordings.  They are manifestly not appropriate for "church" in any sense that I as a lifelong churchgoer would recognize.  They are not songs for worship - communal in nature and addressed to God or expressing the community's universal understanding of God or the faith story.

Indeed, the music of the ancient traditions, when true to itself, is always of a cultic (in the anthropological sense) and communal nature. It is music that has been shaped in an organic fashion over thousands of years and is meant to be sung by a body of believers. It is not meant to be entertaining in a passive way like all of the music you have highlighted.

One of my teachers who was a respected liturgist, author, and college professor once quipped that "today's relevance (hipness) often ends up being tomorrow's embarrassment." His remedy for that was that the church's liturgy and its music should always be done the way one orders a drink - straight up!  Inevitably, such an approach will always command the respect of those who are listening for a deeper resonance which transcends the merely superficial. The music you have highlighted, while fun, will not survive in the church, nor is it meant to. Naturally none of this applies to the mega-fundamentalist churches. For them all of the music you have highlighted would work just fine in their worship, which is essentially consumer-driven entertainment.

By the way, I think Andrew may agree with me on this one. This paragraph, in which he describes his attraction to Catholicism, comes to mind:

Why would I want to forget all of that precious inheritance - the humility of Mary, the foolishness of Peter, the genius of Paul, the candor of Augustine, the genius of Francis, the glory of Chartres cathedral, the haunting music of Tallis, the art of Michelangelo, the ecstasies of Teresa, the rigor of Ignatius, the whole astonishing, ravishing panoply of ancient Christianity that suddenly arrived at my door, in a banal little town in an ordinary family in the grim nights of the 1970s in England?

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