Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Here's The Story, Of A Man Named Jesus

Joe Carter and the First Things crew have come up with a list of what may be the Ten Worst Hymns Of All Time at the First Thoughts blog:

10. "Pescador de los Hombres" (Lord, When You Stood by the Seashore)

According to some sources, this was the favorite hymn of Pope John Paul II.

9. "I Am the Bread of Life," by Suzanne Toolan

8. "On Eagles' Wings," by Michael Joncas

7. "Pan de Vida, cuerpo del SeƱor," by Bob Hurd and Pia Moriarty

6. "Sing a New Song," by Dan Schutte

5. "We Remember," by Marty Haugen

4. "Here I Am, Lord," by Dan Schutte

3. "City of God," by Dan Schutte

2. "Gather Us In," by Marty Haugen

Oddly, "Gather Us In" reminds some of us of a much better secular song, "The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald," by Gordon Lightfoot

1. "Sons of God, Hear His Holy Word," by James Thiem

It's a pretty solid list, although I might elevate "On Eagle's Wings" to the top of the pile. Somehow that song has become a staple at funerals and I cringe every time I hear it. I also have to admit to liking "City of God." Upon further reflection, the lyrics may indeed be dreadful, but it's a catchy tune and that can go a long way to hiding a song's deficiencies. A great example of this that was raised in the comments is the song "Lord of the Dance." The Sydney Carter lyrics are absolute dreck. But the music is adapted from the American Shaker dance song "Simple Gifts," which was made famous by Aaron Copland in the ballet "Appalachian Spring." It's all too easy to find yourself caught up in the music and not realize how insipid the words are even while at church.

Believe it or not, all the comments on the post (129 at last count) are well-worth reading as well and contribute a lot to the discussion. Scores more horrible hymns are mentioned and I'm depressingly familiar with all too many of them. A couple of people note the tonal similarities between "Here I Am Lord" and the Brady Bunch theme. One excellent point that was raised is whether most of those listed are actually even hymns as traditionally understood or not. And this comment perfectly explained why this is more than just a matter of musical taste:

The music of many of these songs is awful, even to charismatics, but far worse is the theology. Sometimes it is actively bad, but more often it is diversionary. It's not that there is anything wrong with it per se, but in the constant diet of tripe that is served up in some congregations, one can go from month to month with any inkling that the purpose of gathering is dutiful worship and praise of a transcendent three-personed God.

UPDATE-- Laura e-mails to report that all bad liturgical music is local:

Joncas and Haugen are Twin Cities is David Haas who somehow escapes the list (“now we remain in Jesus the Christ”)?!

David Haas--Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia:

David Haas, (born in 1957 in Bridgeport, Michigan), is an American author and composer of Contemporary Catholic liturgical music. His most popular songs include "You Are Mine," "We Have Been Told," and "Now We Remain."

Haas lives in Eagan, Minnesota, where he is the Director of the Emmaus Center for Music, Prayer and Ministry. He is also Campus Minister and Artist in Residence at Benilde-St. Margaret's School in St. Louis Park, Minnesota, where he teaches in the music and theology departments. Haas has produced over forty original collections and recordings of liturgical music. His music is sung throughout the world and appears in many hymnals of various denominations and languages. His best-known works include sacred songs and hymns, including "Blest Are They", "We Have Been Told", "You Are Mine", "Song of the Body of Christ" and "We Will Rise Again", as well as several Masses, collections of ritual music, and collections of psalm settings and paraphrases.

David is a graduate of the University of St. Thomas, St. Paul, MN.

Red Knight pride. Red Knight pride...