It has been an interesting couple of weeks! I found out that I did not get the professor jobs I applied for and at the same time, I have been talking with churches and denominations about becoming a pastor again.
I have also been visiting different churches every Sunday to see what is happening out there. I figure that if I am headed back into local church ministry this might be a one time opportunity to do so. It has been an amazing experience and I will write more about it later.
Today I wanted to tell you about a podcast that I have really enjoyed listening to. The show is called Represent, where host Aisha Harris tackles different themes each week. Some weeks focus on pop culture, others on politics, some on media, others on relationships.
A new segment that has become a reoccurring feature is called ‘Pre-Woke Watching’ where the host and at least on other friend talk about some movie, TV show, or song that they used to enjoy but which needs reconsidering. It is fascinating series of conversation where young adults revisit things that they loved as children or teens in order to examine elements that now seem racist, sexist, hurtful, and dangerous.
In a recent episode, they evaluate a song from the original ‘Jungle Book’ animated movie from 1967. The song ‘I want to be like you’ is iconic and epic … but upon further review it is highly problematic with themes of colonialism superiority and racial undertones. Kids, obviously don’t know about Roger Kipling and Disney is not obligated to be forthright about his influence.
Where the conversation gets even more interesting is in the final assessment when they ask each other, “So … can you watch/listen to that anymore?”. It is fascinating to listen to the rational/justification regardless of whether the answer is yes or no. My favorite answer is
“I’m going to keep listen to/watching it because I have really fond memories and associations with it … but my kids will not be watching it because I don’t want them to be introduced to it.”
It is in the inverse of so many conversations I get to have with people who are rethinking-reevaluating the way that they and their families are participating in faith/church. From them I hear things like “I just can’t sing that song anymore in good conscience … but I my kid really likes it and I want them to have good feelings about the church/faith.”
These are interesting conversations because for so many people their faith/ view of the Bible or understanding of God / prayer has changed or matured from what they grew up with. They are truly concerned both with finding a posture and practice of faith that has integrity for them and works for their kids/teens.
I like the podcast partly because it is interesting to listen in to folks wresting with similar issues only in a very different arena. It reminds me of the journey through criticism into a second faith that I referenced (about Ricouer) a couple of weeks ago. I referenced it again at the ‘Theology on Tap’ event the other night about how our views on the afterlife mature and evolve.
Worship songs, however, seem to be the biggest point of contention. Wether it is bloody penal substitutionary atonement songs about the cross, exclusive masculine and heavy use of father language, overly sappy romantic imagery, or my least favorite – the unnamed ‘You’.
Side-note: pronouns such as ‘you’ need an antecedent such as ‘Doug’ or ‘Mom’ or ‘God’. Last week at church the opening song used ‘You’ sixteen times without even saying ‘god’ or ‘Lord’. It drives me crazy. If we never stipulate who it is we are addressing …
So I sang the song to the guy sitting in front of me! “You are great, you have a good heart, I trust you and I need more of you in my life.”
Anyway – I would love to hear about any pre-woke worship experiences, practices, or songs that just don’t seem the same now that you know what you know.
April 2, 2017 at 5:59 am
I have so many issues with so many worship songs. For a while we went to a church where nearly all of the songs were about Christ ascended or God in heaven, nothing of Emmanuel or the Spirit living in us stuff. Drove me batty. I now regularly mess with lyrics, changing up genders, imagery, and I do it openly around my children to give them permission to open up the limited imagery in order to help them relate to God better (something I never had when I was desperately seeking the feminine in the Divine as a teenager, which then sent me out of Christianity). My current church occasionally has a few too many songs which push the penal atonement stuff (which particularly sucks when it is introduced with a “I’m a worthless sinner” spiel), but it is mixed with other stuff too, and is mostly God-focused rather than us-focused which some churches seem to skew into.
April 4, 2017 at 6:52 pm
I think I’ve mentioned here before that, as much as I love Lent, every year it is the single hardest time of year for me to stay in the Lutheran tradition I was raised in because of all the bloody-drippy substitutionary atonement stuff.
The new thing this year is that I’m also in the midst of reluctantly processing through the decision to take the plunge into seminary and, though I have chosen thus far to not explore why this is, I’m realizing that the only thing that makes me feel at peace with this new sense of call is when I rid myself of more masculine words and images of God and very intentionally replace them with more feminine words/images. For whatever reason, it makes the call feel more like an invitation and less like something I’m being coerced into. (Sounds like some deep-seeded patriarchal baggage, I know.) BUT – that being said, that process has forced me to almost entirely distance myself, for the time being, from songs, hymns, messages, etc that have previously been incredibly meaningful to me, because the masculine imagery from “pre-woke”/(pre-progressive?) life is so deeply entrenched.