(I’m a hymn person)
Between you and me, little sister, wanna know what it is I don’t say, when those lovely and genuine Church Ladies give me the “see you in church?” pitch? (Because it would be outside the bounds of good manners to say:)
“Nah, I’ll pass. Y’all don’t know how to damn well sing any more.”
When I first moved here in ’09 (much longer story) I figured, “I can give this church thing another chance.” Most of the first folks I’d met through a gal who had grown up here and whom I’d got pregnant and faced the agony of that “I don’t think I can go through with this” thing with, were members of the First Christian and she had gone there some with her grandparents ages ago, so we thought we’d give it a try at least.
I remember, I could flip through the Bible from the back of the next pew to find the pastor’s text faster than everyone else, for one thing…. I was primed to start hearing those annoying Reaganisms that evangelicals had added to their Holy Scriptures back in the eighties (after fake-Christian Reagan had beat out Baptist-deacon and daily Bible-reader Carter in 1980 and took most of the old Democrat south with him…), as in, “we just need to Praise the Lord that we live in a free country”, etc, etc. Maybe the recent inauguration of a leftist agitator from Chicago more reminiscent of the moral-anarchy sixties as President, had something to do with that change in rhetoric?
But the thing that so annoyed and disappointed me, was that silly pop-combo affair with its electric guitars and microphones on the stage (is it Christian to call it a “stage”? I can’t remember.) And not one hymn got sung by the congregation. No “Amazing Grace”, no “At the Cross”, no “Just as I Am” (which still brings tears to my eyes); just these tacky, and yes cringeworthy, pop-knockoffs by four middle-aged people while everybody else just sat there and then sort of uttered the obligatory “amen” or “prezzalord” to when each one finally ended. And a sermon, it turned out, was no longer a sermon, but a Powerpoint presentation (??!!)
I learned to read music and carry a tune, by singing those old and lovely and resonant and moving hymns. I learned good grammar and rhetoric and composition from watching my dad, who had minored in English long ago, agonize over sermons and talks every week. Even when he was not an actual pastor he was often asked to guest-preach or serve as an interim so he was always to me an orator and rhetorician as much as a parent or preacher.
This thing was just vacuous, by contrast. If “moved by the Spirit” is what is supposed to happen in this “praise and worship”, them folks wadn’t bein’ moved nowhere.
I think if I were to ever start attending church again, I’d find me one of those black folks’ congregations with the moral courage to work up a sweat being moved by the Spirit, to mean it, to shout it out, to get a hair or two out of place in the bargain.
As it is though, the white folks’ churches I attended for years, and they don’t seem to have changed, were about as moving as researching a book report at the library ever was, or a tad less?
I think that was what turned me into a backslider: I don’t care one way or another about proper theology, and I daresay most who attend that sort of churches don’t either. They’ll take the preacher’s word on The Word: after all, as you point out, that is his JOB.
But dammit, what in the world would be the harm, in being moved by the Spirit a little? No wonder the Rolling Stones could gather a lot more moss back then than the churches I went to did: they were too busy growing mold.