It was Remembrance Day or Veteran’s Day a while back. Bruce Springsteen, the famous rock giant, gave a concert to honor the occasion. One particular song the Boss sang was a cover of Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Fortunate Son.” The writer of this song was a war veteran who was a bit critical of the US military policy and the unnecessary deaths it had caused. Well, singing that in front of the military crowd certainly didn’t help matter and some were offended by the song. I was struck by one particular comment someone wrote, “If you think ‘Fortunate Son’ was in appropriate for tonight’s concert, you’ve clearly never never paid attention to the lyrics.” I suppose the comment is directed at the lyrics of many of Springsteen’s songs because many of his songs are critical of many US policies from military to labor market. It also strikes me odd that many who decide to show up to Springsteen’s concert would be shocked at what took place. If we listen carefully the lyrics, we will surely understand where Springsteen stands on political issues. This leads me to further amusement that on such a “patriotic” occasion, who thought of inviting Springsteen to sing? Perhaps this is meant to be a ingenious stroke of irony or satire. Who knows?
I suspect that most of Springsteen’s fans don’t really pay attention to the lyrics. His music is usually catchy and upbeat. I know because my wife is a big fan. How is this related to our church ministry. Have you ever noticed that we do the same in church? Much of church music is there not because of its meaningful lyrics but because of its catchy beat or tune. I bet most people don’t think of music as something that has meaning, at least not consciously. When was the last time you hear a bunch of people coming out of your average worship saying, “Wow, the theology of the song is so great.” No, usually, people would say that the song sounds cool. The average worshippers could care less about the words in our worship. There lies the danger. Music is dangerous.
Music can hide a lot of ideas that people may not normally accept but somehow attaching them to music makes everything okay. This is relevant because as we may notice, the Psalms came to us in words. I’m sure the music has changed but the words remain the same. Words matter. For our worship leaders, just because your congregation doesn’t care about words, it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be careful about words. Our wonderful music can be the channel for communication of truth or a shelter for our false ideas about God. Words matter. For the average worshipper, I would encourage a more careful examination of what you’re singing in church instead of merely moving to the beat because words matter, not only for Springsteen’s audience, but also for those who sing praises to God and about God.