Thursday, June 18, 2009

Faith of Our Fathers

As part of our summer liturgy, we're singing the hymn "Faithful Hearts and Voices Raise," which will be better known to most people as "Thank the Lord, and Sing His Praise." Since Father's Day weekend is approaching I'll go out on a limb and suggest that the rewrite of this hymn is an abomination of poetry and the English language in the name of political correctness against the imagery of God as Father.

That isn't to say that Western Civ and American history aren't full of repression and over-representation of the male perspective. No one would argue that. Nor am I here arguing that striving to recognize that paradigm bias is a good thing; we should indeed strive to combat it. One of my favorite pastors from years past would end the service with a blessing "In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, one God, Mother and Creator of us all." Some people loved it, some disagreed, but I hope all agree it has a worthy goal.

My problem with ELW 204 is twofold. First, it's impractical to expect congregants to flip open a hymnal for a liturgical piece that they have known and sung for years. We've had a generation who has known no hymnal other than the LBW, and so we all trip over the new words and rightly grow frustrated.

Second, the new text mangles the English language by starting in the imperative mood, exhorting the congregation to sing, spread the good news, and rejoice. In line three, however, the text reads "Send us with your promises." Whom are we addressing with that imperative? Well, God, it would seem by the following "Lead your people forth in joy." That leads me to ask why we aren't capitalizing "Your," why we think people will understand the shift in address in line 3, and also (to a lesser extent) who we think we are to address God with an imperative verb. (Didn't a voice from a whirlwind have something to say about such hubris in the book of Job?) It's simple laziness to replace 3rd person masculine pronouns with the 2nd person imperative. It's just bad text, despite any noble intentions. I think it was originally piece of music, but I'd rather see it gone than mangled. Your thoughts?


  1. Rev. Robert FerroJune 20, 2009 at 11:28 AM

    Amen Brother! We could always go back to the "old" way in open defiance of the political correctness agenda of some in the ELCA. We are such radicals at Bethany.

  2. Yes, PC is a nuisance, but I think the nature of language is that words will always carry mixed messages. No matter how it is said, people will interpret the text from their own experience of both language and life. These kinds of disagreements can be useful if we try to hear the view of the "other," and create schisms if we insist that one way must be right at all times and places. So, I suggest you sing it how you want (like many do with the Lord's Prayer), and then engage in open discussions like this one in order to learn from others.