Friday, May 01, 2009

Driving Nails Home

My Church, the United Methodists, is at work on a new hymnal. I'm a relatively new Methodist, but one thing I've discerned is that this is sort of a tradition; Methodists seem to get a hankering to revise their official song book every few years. It's also an important and touchy exercise: Methodists, it's been said, learn more theology from their hymns than their sermons.

This time, through the wonders of Facebook, we can give ideas and feedback to the people in charge of this project. One suggestion made recently is to change the personal pronouns in hymn lyrics to corporate language -- change all the "I's" to "we's."

At first this struck me as a good idea. The Lord's Prayer is structured corporately, after all ("Our Father who art in Heaven," not "My Father..."). And, as the well-worn saying goes, "There is no such thing as an individual Christian."

But the more I run hymns through my mind that this change could be made to, the more it seems to take the onus for living the Christian life off of me and spreads it around the Church. It's a bit like the Indian Fakir trick of lying on a bed of nails: One nail would pierce him, but a bed of them spreads his body weight out among hundreds so he can stretch himself out comfortably.

That's what I believe changing 'I' to 'we' does: Dilutes the impact of the hymns and makes them comfortable. And in my experience, a comfortable Christianity is a Christianity up on someone's pedestal rather than down in the trenches, getting dirty, one-on-one.

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