Let me start out by trying to make it clear that I like my church’s band – they are of high quality, they work hard, and their hearts are in the right place. And I prefer them to most of the other bands I have encountered out there at other churches.
What I do find, as I have posted before, is that they “lead” worship in a concert style – they perform and invite us to maybe sing along. As I have said, what I find problematic about this style is that the band tends to concentrate solely on how good they sound. I believe that quality is a critical, necessary ingredient for anyone in arts leadership in a church – let me repeat, they MUST bring their first fruits and be of high quality.
But sounding good isn’t the ONLY responsibility for worship leaders.
Which brings me to what apparently is going to be a traditional, annual pet peeve of mine.
This being the Fourth of July weekend, our band was naturally in a patriotic mood. To express their feelings of pride, they opted, for the second year in a row, to play a “rah-rah, ain’t it grand to be an American” song immediately following the service. So they chose the rousing, patriotic song… (wait for it…)
“Born in the U.S.A.” by Bruce Springsteen.
Now for those of you that like jumping to conclusions, stop that right now! I like the Boss, and have no problem with his music being played in a church when appropriate. But here’s the problem:
“Born in the U.S.A.” is NOT a patriotic song. In fact, it is an indictment against America, asserting that we use (and abuse) the blue-collar class, and then throw them away when they are no longer useful. It is an anti-war song, also playing up the racism inherent in the American system (“Sent me off to Vietnam to go and kill the yellow man.”) The chorus tells how this man is stuck, with no hope or options, because he was “born in the U.S.A.” (For complete lyrics, check out lyricsdomain.com.)
I like protest songs. I like songs (and other art) that call us to examine ourselves, our leadership, our actions. But our church band wasn’t playing the song to remind us that the price of freedom is eternal vigilance, or to tell us that the system is broke and needs some fixin’. They were playing it as if the song were, well, a “rah-rah, ain’t it grand to be an American” song.
Because lyrics aren’t important. Meaning isn’t important. Context isn’t important.
All that is important is that the band sounds great.
Welcome to the future of American church music.
Just my thoughts,