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Can you sing 'Gospel' without Belief?

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CHRISTIANS AT WAR


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Jon Freeman 21 Jun 01 - 05:32 PM
mousethief 21 Jun 01 - 05:05 PM
Turtle 21 Jun 01 - 02:31 PM
mousethief 21 Jun 01 - 01:11 PM
Wolfgang 21 Jun 01 - 01:10 PM
mousethief 21 Jun 01 - 01:05 PM
Wolfgang 21 Jun 01 - 12:34 PM
GUEST,djh 21 Jun 01 - 12:07 PM
Little Hawk 21 Jun 01 - 11:09 AM
GUEST,bbc at work 21 Jun 01 - 10:45 AM
Dani 21 Jun 01 - 10:35 AM
IanC 21 Jun 01 - 09:03 AM
MMario 21 Jun 01 - 09:01 AM
RichM 21 Jun 01 - 08:45 AM
bbc 21 Jun 01 - 05:26 AM
TishA 21 Jun 01 - 01:08 AM
mousethief 20 Jun 01 - 11:35 PM
Amergin 20 Jun 01 - 11:21 PM
Mary in Kentucky 20 Jun 01 - 11:19 PM
Jon Freeman 20 Jun 01 - 11:13 PM
Jeri 20 Jun 01 - 11:02 PM
toadfrog 20 Jun 01 - 10:54 PM
Jon Freeman 20 Jun 01 - 09:52 PM
Mary in Kentucky 20 Jun 01 - 09:48 PM
Jeri 20 Jun 01 - 09:17 PM
WyoWoman 20 Jun 01 - 09:10 PM
Rick Fielding 20 Jun 01 - 08:40 PM
MMario 20 Jun 01 - 08:00 PM
Burke 20 Jun 01 - 06:55 PM
bbc 20 Jun 01 - 05:40 PM
Turtle 20 Jun 01 - 05:07 PM
Rick Fielding 20 Jun 01 - 04:35 PM
chip a 20 Jun 01 - 03:10 PM
Ebbie 20 Jun 01 - 02:09 PM
marty D 20 Jun 01 - 11:02 AM
RangerSteve 20 Jun 01 - 10:06 AM
dr soul 20 Jun 01 - 05:45 AM
Joe Offer 08 Jun 01 - 04:35 AM
GUEST,khandu 07 Jun 01 - 11:36 PM
Mrrzy 07 Jun 01 - 09:01 PM
Mrrzy 07 Jun 01 - 08:59 PM
GUEST,djh 07 Jun 01 - 01:33 PM
hesperis 07 Jun 01 - 01:33 PM
Hollowfox 07 Jun 01 - 01:23 PM
Rick Fielding 07 Jun 01 - 01:03 PM
GUEST,JohnB 07 Jun 01 - 12:48 PM
mousethief 07 Jun 01 - 12:31 PM
Mrrzy 07 Jun 01 - 12:22 PM
GUEST 07 Jun 01 - 11:28 AM
GUEST,Ophelia 06 Jun 01 - 11:36 PM
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Subject: RE: Can you sing 'Gospel' without Belief?
From: Jon Freeman
Date: 21 Jun 01 - 05:32 PM

Click here for part 2


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Subject: RE: Can you sing 'Gospel' without Belief?
From: mousethief
Date: 21 Jun 01 - 05:05 PM

I YAM WHAT I YAM.

I find myself sort of sidelined by the current direction the thread is going, and wanted to try to say how things look from my POV. Feel free to ignore.

I don't know about other Christians, or about other "branches" of Christianity, or about people who might claim to be Christians but really aren't, or vice versa. All of that is outside my ability to make categorical statements about.

I do know that I am taught that Jesus Christ is the only bridge between divinity and humanity. Being fully God and fully Man, he bridges the gap between the two realms and thereby makes it possible for us mere mortals to have concourse with God.

This doesn't mean I don't value people who are not Christians, or who don't believe this the way I do. I know many, many good and loving people -- and even some holy people -- who are on quite different paths from me. It is not my job to judge them, or their decisions, or their paths. I feel it is my job to do the best I can to be faithful to the path I find myself on.

I count pagans, atheists, agnostics, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, Baha'is, etc. etc. among my friends.

And yet I belong to what you might call a very "exclusivist" branch of Christianity.

How can this be?

I don't know. Maybe I'm not a very good Orthodox Christian (as has been hinted here before). But I find myself in very good company, including some real luminaries of the Eastern Church like Fr. Alexander Men, who was martyred by the Soviets on the very eve of the downfall of their atheistic empire. He too refused to discount and reject others based on their religious choices, and was open to learning truth at any table he sat at, and yet he still proclaimed the gospel he was entrusted to teach.

Very often "conservative" Christians find themselves left out of a "tolerance" that tolerates everybody who tolerates everybody, but subtly refuses to tolerate people who make any kind of truth claims, or who say "This is true and its opposite is false." I cannot join in the great toleration game and say, "your way is just as true as my way." I can say, "My way may be false and yours true," because as a fallible human I might, in fact, have it all wrong. But if I'm right, then those creeds or paths which deny the things that are right, are wrong. Which leaves me out of the great toleration game.

Yet I do have a great love and respect for people on different paths, and don't look down on them as being of any less intellect, goodness, or even ultimately salvation, than myself. For as my one-time roommate once said, "you don't need to know the name of a bridge to cross it." And we are told in our own Scriptures that many will enter the kingdom of Heaven who didn't even know they were headed that way. Again, mine is not the judgment. Mine is only to keep my own nose clean, and try to practice the sort of faith and love that I've been called to.

This is where I am. Thanks for listening, if anybody did.

Alex


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Subject: RE: Can you sing 'Gospel' without Belief?
From: Turtle
Date: 21 Jun 01 - 02:31 PM

Hi bbc,

Thanks for the thoughtful conversation. I appreciate your willingness to talk so openly and respectfully about your beliefs in this kind of a public forum. I resonate strongly with much of what you said, particularly the bit about trying to walk in the light and treat others as you would have them treat you. It seems to me that in many ways we are on similar paths.

Turtle


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Subject: RE: Can you sing 'Gospel' without Belief?
From: mousethief
Date: 21 Jun 01 - 01:11 PM

Coulda fooled me.

Alex


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Subject: RE: Can you sing 'Gospel' without Belief?
From: Wolfgang
Date: 21 Jun 01 - 01:10 PM

Thanks, but I knew that, Alex

Wolfgang


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Subject: RE: Can you sing 'Gospel' without Belief?
From: mousethief
Date: 21 Jun 01 - 01:05 PM

Wolfgang, "What are the odds?" is a rhetorical question. It's another way of saying, "Isn't that interesting?" or "Doesn't that seem weird?"

It's not meant to be an actual request for calculation of a specific number.

Alex


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Subject: RE: Can you sing 'Gospel' without Belief?
From: Wolfgang
Date: 21 Jun 01 - 12:34 PM

djh,

your question 'what are the odds?' cannot be answered for it is too unspecific. If you mean the odds that for a specified post, e.g. yours, another person is posting similar thoughts at the same time, the odds are very low. If you mean the odds for a posting of simultaneous posts with similar thoughts by any two persons within not too short a time, the odds are very high.

The point that is counterintuitive for many is that something with extremely low odds for happening at a specific time ot to a specific person has extremely high odds to happen at least once if given a lot of opportunities. So the odds that you'll roll three Sixes in succession when you want to is extremely low, the odds that this happens to some player if you are several persons playing a whole evening are very high.

Wolfgang


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Subject: RE: Can you sing 'Gospel' without Belief?
From: GUEST,djh
Date: 21 Jun 01 - 12:07 PM

I just revisited the thread to see what was new and noticed something odd - Hesperis and myself posted at the same time, said basically the same thing , and sighted the same songs at 1:33 on 6/7. What are the odds?


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Subject: RE: Can you sing 'Gospel' without Belief?
From: Little Hawk
Date: 21 Jun 01 - 11:09 AM

Can Leon Rosselson do it? That's the real question.

We have now reached the official 100 posts. Glory be!

- LH


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Subject: RE: Can you sing 'Gospel' without Belief?
From: GUEST,bbc at work
Date: 21 Jun 01 - 10:45 AM

I think this thread shows Mudcat at its best--an honest discussion between thinking, caring people, regardless of their beliefs. Thanks for the hug, Leo; I was really hoping I wasn't offending you! Yes, Dani, I'll be happy to talk as long as folks are friendly & want to. I, as a believer, have been burned by hard-sell Christians & have no desire to be one, myself.

bbc (packing tonight & leaving as soon as work allows on Friday) OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO


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Subject: RE: Can you sing 'Gospel' without Belief?
From: Dani
Date: 21 Jun 01 - 10:35 AM

I'm excerpting a bit of an article below. You can find the whole article at this address:

http://www.indyweek.com/durham/2000-03-01/ae.html

Glenn Hinson's book delves deeply into this subject. I haven't yet read it, but had read this article, and just heard an interview with him, and suspect that many of us who love gospel and spirituals, and have and interest in the roots of African-American music will find treasure. The people he worked with tried very hard to share insight with those of us who did not grow up in this tradition. I think a lot of this conversation overlaps. And I think, for me, anyway, the thing hinges on the degree of respect and dignity that is brought to the pursuit of something that you are called to, whether you would name that caller the Holy Spirit, or some other name. And whether you are born into it, or grow into it.

bbc - I, too, am glad you brought it up. Let's set some time aside at the Getaway for some discussion!

Dani

"You got to be in it to feel it. And if you're not in it, you just sit there and you look." The words of Primitive Baptist Elder W. Lawrence Richardson, a former member of the gospel group The Fairfield Four, sum up the essence of Fire in My Bones: Transcendence and the Holy Spirit in African-American Gospel (University of Pennsylvania Press, 424 pp., $24.95), authored by UNC-Chapel Hill anthropologist and folklorist Glenn Hinson. They also reflect the career of The Branchettes, the gospel duo celebrating nearly three decades in song and praise later this month.


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Subject: RE: Can you sing 'Gospel' without Belief?
From: IanC
Date: 21 Jun 01 - 09:03 AM

Chip

I'm not going to flame, but I suspect I'm going to disagree with you.

I agree that Christianity is not a notion but a way. I'm afraid that, although I regard myself as strongly Christian, I don't agree that

(1) a basic tenet of Christianity is that it is the only way. (2) Another basic tenet is that Jesus Christ is the only begotten son of god. (3) Jesus is the Lamb of God, slain from the foundation of the world. (4) We are lost not because we've "done sins" (that too) but because we have a sin nature. (5) Christ's crucifixion is payment for "the wages of sin"

Most of these come from John, which has always given me some difficulty as it's not a historical account as such. (4) is, as far as I'm aware not biblical but rather the result of Calvinism. I would be happy to be corrected.

Peace!
Ian


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Subject: RE: Can you sing 'Gospel' without Belief?
From: MMario
Date: 21 Jun 01 - 09:01 AM

Hey bbc! {{{{{{{hugs}}}}}}


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Subject: RE: Can you sing 'Gospel' without Belief?
From: RichM
Date: 21 Jun 01 - 08:45 AM

What you believe is not as important as what you do.

The only remains of my Christian, Catholic upbringing is "Love your neighbour", and " Do to others what you would have them do to you". I suppose I am more of a buddhist these days: I *know* that I have been re-born many times: I remember those lives!

My favorite gospel song is "Zen Gospel Singing" One of my singing partners in my bluegrass group is Jewish. He has always loved gospel songs!


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Subject: RE: Can you sing 'Gospel' without Belief?
From: bbc
Date: 21 Jun 01 - 05:26 AM

Ok, folks, simmer down. My fellow Christians, try not to sound so defensive; this has been a friendly thread, at least so far. I felt kind of like I was standing alone as the main proponent of Christianity; it's good to hear from you. I read MMario's & Jeri's posts last night & was troubled by them. I know that I will see them in person this weekend & I don't want us to feel uncomfortable together. I've met Jeri before & really like her & I've been looking forward to meeting MM, someone I've known online for a long time. I feel that God woke me up 15 minutes early today w/ the specific intent that I answer some points. First of all, I don't feel that I'm better than other people & I certainly don't think I know all the answers. And I respect people's right to their beliefs, whether I agree w/ them or not. Here are my current thoughts--MM, my understanding of the Christian Bible is that, yes, Jesus came to the world to provide a means to reconcile all people w/ God, but that individual salvation is based on each person believing & accepting that reconciliation. I certainly agree that how we live has more importance than what we say we believe, but each Christian is an imperfect human being & we are each at different stages of maturity, both physical & spiritual (Some people, like me, are stubborn, slow learners!).

We are straying from the thread topic, though. I think the heart of it is yes, of course, you can sing gospel whether you believe the lyrics or not. It tends to have simple tunes, satisfying harmonies, & may even make you feel good. If I think that good feeling is the Holy Spirit trying to convince you of the truth of the lyrics, that's just one point of view. I guess my point is just the distinction that while an unbeliever may get a good feeling from singing gospel or may just perform it, for me, it expresses the core of my existence & is worship. By all means, sing. Marty, thank you again for starting this thread. It's provoked some good thinking & I know it has allowed me to express some thoughts that have bothered me for a long time.

best,

bbc


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Subject: RE: Can you sing 'Gospel' without Belief?
From: TishA
Date: 21 Jun 01 - 01:08 AM

Christianity isn't just a "belief System" it is an experience.

Yes, a basic tenet of Christianity is that it is the only way.

Another basic tenet is that Jesus Christ is the only begotten son of god.

Another: The wages of sin is death (spiritual, eternal seperation from god)

Another: "I am the way, the truth and the life. No man cometh unto the father but by me."

Another: Jesus is the Lamb of God, slain from the foundation of the world.

Another: We are lost not because we've "done sins" (that too) but because we have a sin nature.

Another: Christ's crucifixion is payment for "the wages of sin"

One more: We have to accept or reject this payment of our own free will.

I don't say any of this to get on anyones toes. Only to try to illustrate why a "born again Christian" (check out Nicademos) insists that you have to be a believer to truely understand and thereby truely communicate gospel songs.

And why that Christian isn't going to accept the idea that there are many paths. Or ANY other paths that are valid.

Now Flame!

: ) Chip at home


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Subject: RE: Can you sing 'Gospel' without Belief?
From: mousethief
Date: 20 Jun 01 - 11:35 PM

I have to differ that "Amazing Grace" is wimpy stuff. Not if you've lived it. Maybe there's a difference there; not whether or not you can sing it, but if you can FEEL it.

And people can be technically perfect, but if they don't feel what they're singing, their singing will lack something.

Not saying that someone need be an evangelical Christian to "feel" evangelical Christian songs; obviously this is not the case, as Turtle's example clearly shows.

Singing from the head and singing from the gut are 2 different things.

There. That should stir up the hornet's nest a little. Flame away!

Alex


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Subject: RE: Can you sing 'Gospel' without Belief?
From: Amergin
Date: 20 Jun 01 - 11:21 PM

I sing Lonesome Valley all the time....and I don't believe....so I guess you can...


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Subject: RE: Can you sing 'Gospel' without Belief?
From: Mary in Kentucky
Date: 20 Jun 01 - 11:19 PM

Now Mrrzy, I'm confused too. I originally thought, of course you can sing gospel without belief. But then, I had another thought.

I believe it was Izak Perlman (maybe Zuckerman) that said you just had to be older (40ish) to perform the Beethoven or Brahms (violin concertos.) I think he meant that regardless of talent, passion, skill, etc., you just had to have a certain maturity that only life experiences can bring. Now I'm wondering if this applies to all areas of the arts and expression or if it varies with genre, audiences, performers, whatever. And is it a correct analogy?

Then, on the other hand, I know that a good actor can live a role and make it very convincing.

This gets curiouser and curiouser.


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Subject: RE: Can you sing 'Gospel' without Belief?
From: Jon Freeman
Date: 20 Jun 01 - 11:13 PM

Same God, yes Jeri but the dates would surely mean the Jews adopted the one God principle and the Christians necessarily always had that belief even from thier earlier days.

Structures, I guess we can all wonder the same as you (although many will have it that the bible is God's work and he is the author). With regards Christianity, I think the whole thing is really summed up in the NT where the rich man is asked about the commandments and it is said something like there are only really 2: Love God with all your heart and love thy neighbour as yourself or something like that. It could certainly be argued from that that a lot of the complications are man made not God made...

As for singing - me I just sing what I enjoy regardless as to whether I believe in it or in some cases, even understand the words.

As for the thunderstorms and hail, take care - as you know, my computer was zapped in a storm which had hail the size of marbles earlier this year.

Jon


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Subject: RE: Can you sing 'Gospel' without Belief?
From: Jeri
Date: 20 Jun 01 - 11:02 PM

Same God though, Jon, just earlier. (And I've remembered that scene in one of those movies - was it "The Greatest Story Ever Told" with the followers of Moses and that golden sheep or whatever it was.)

I wondered, when I considered myself Christian, just how much of the framework of religion was from God and how much was from people. I believed then and now that the structures, and many of the rules, were created entirely by people based on their own very different interpretations of what they believed God wanted them to do.

For me to want to learn a song, it has to have something I strongly like. There may just be one very clear, beautiful idea in one verse, or it may just be the tune. As long as it has something, and there's nothing in it I strongly object to, I feel fine singing it.

Jeri, who's dodging thunderstorms (one of which included hail the size of SINSULL's bourbon balls) tonight.


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Subject: RE: Can you sing 'Gospel' without Belief?
From: toadfrog
Date: 20 Jun 01 - 10:54 PM

I'm sorry. I don't recognize any principle requiring me to sing only songs I agree with (depending a bit on the venue, of course). If I anxiously tried see whether I agreed with all the words in a song before I sang it, singing would not be much fun. When I decided to leave a particularly P.C. folk group (which shall be nameless) I sang them "Okie from Muskogie," with great feeling, and then split. And really, I don't believe most of those words - probably no more than Merle Haggard does, even!!

When I was a boy, my mother sang hymns all the time, and I know she had doubts about most of Christian theology. So what's wrong with that? And I will sing along on wimpy stuff like "Amazing Grace" and "Further Along," which should pass muster with the Unitarians, but I much prefer "Blood of the Lamb," or "Standing on the Promises." The real, gutsy stuff.

And I would sing whaling songs, too, if there were any that I thought were any good.


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Subject: RE: Can you sing 'Gospel' without Belief?
From: Jon Freeman
Date: 20 Jun 01 - 09:52 PM

Jeri, the "jealous god" comes into the equation long before the formation of Christianity - try Moses and the 10 commandments/ Exodus.

Jon


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Subject: RE: Can you sing 'Gospel' without Belief?
From: Mary in Kentucky
Date: 20 Jun 01 - 09:48 PM

Ebbie, you said something that sparked a thought in my long, rusty memory. You said, paraphrasing here, it was OK to sing a song before or in spite of an experience...just sing with respect...as if. That reminds me of a story about John Wesley, founder of the Methodists (you know, Baptists that can read. *** I *** didn't say that, it was in the movie "A River Runs Through It"). Anyway, Wesley was on a ship sailing to England with a group of Moravians, and when a terrible storm battered them, he realized he didn't have the calm faith that they had. Later he was counseled to "Preach like you have faith, and then when you do, preach because you have it." Is this a fair analogy? It may not be...because he wanted faith...and sought it. We don't seek a lot of the experiences we're talking about in this thread.

I'm also reminded of the trite anaolgy of the song in "The King and I" to whistle a happy tune when you're afraid.


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Subject: RE: Can you sing 'Gospel' without Belief?
From: Jeri
Date: 20 Jun 01 - 09:17 PM

The people I think of as good, aren't good because of what they believe but how they behave based on those beliefs.

I'm probably getting into hot water here, and way over my head. I remember that one part in the bible about God saying that folks shouldn't worship other gods because "I am a jealous god." If there weren't any other gods, it would be silly to be jealous of them. I think the belief that God is the only god is a recent phenomenon. I get the feeling that in earlier times, Christians just believed he was the best god.

Regarding music - I've found very few songs that I identify with 100%. Sometimes what a hymn is about loving one another, the world or life in general. I'm not going to give up those worthy thoughts because I don't agree with the worship parts of a song.

I don't wish for people to believe what I do, because I'd feel sort of like I was telling them what to think even though I know that's not possible. If I went around saying I wished that people would question not what they believe but why they believe it...well, that's not so bad, but assuming they'd come to the same conclusion as me would be egotistical. Then again, it's human nature to think we've got the best - the best family, the best school or geographical location or music or form of government.

It's not how we treat members of our own groups that truly shows what sort of person we are - it's how we treat those who are different.


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Subject: RE: Can you sing 'Gospel' without Belief?
From: WyoWoman
Date: 20 Jun 01 - 09:10 PM

Welp, bein' a writer and all, I have an automatic response to metaphors large and small, and the lyrics of gospel music are rife with metaphor, so I can sing "Just As I Am" or "Sweet Hour of Prayer" and not feel that my staunch liberal Protestantism is the slightest bit threatened. Stuff like "Old Rugged Cross" and "Power in the Blood" I enjoy every now and then for historic reasons. Reminds me of my Southernish childhood, and of the friends who invited me to their revivals -- as it turns out, in hope they could save my only once-born soul and make a positive impact in our town's statistics of being "almost completely Baptist." My family and a few others were the holdouts, and frankly, the Baptists would have felt a whole lot better about things if they could've brought us rogues into the fold.

Alas, it was not to be, and I remain a rabid liberal Protestant to this day. I learned some beautiful old songs, however.


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Subject: RE: Can you sing 'Gospel' without Belief?
From: Rick Fielding
Date: 20 Jun 01 - 08:40 PM

Damn...oops Darn! (sorry, I may be a heathen, but that's no reason to swear)

This really IS a great thread. S'makin' me think...and that's always good.

Burke you make a good point. I've never sung the old whaling ballads (and shoot 'em up ballads) as "political songs", I sing 'em strictly for the stories. Now actually I DO sing a lot of fairly political material, which I HAVE to believe in or else I simply COULDN'T sing them. They don't really have the kind of musical content that can stand alone. The Gospel songs often DO. besides, the message in many a Gospel song is "Have faith, and things will be all right". I DO believe that...sincerely. It's just that my idea of faith is (so far) based on PEOPLE "doin' the right thing", as opposed to a Diety (and if you credit the billions around the world as having a clue, then you have to admit there are MANY Dieties) The concept of one Diety (over all the rest) just has never seemed remotely logical to me. Doesn't stop me from being close friends to some quite religious folks. Makes me feel good to know that they think I'm WORTH the effort! Ha, Ha!

Rick


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Subject: RE: Can you sing 'Gospel' without Belief?
From: MMario
Date: 20 Jun 01 - 08:00 PM

Some people react to whaling songs the way others do to an overt expression of religion. (Check some of the posts on threads about whaling songs and you'll see)

As far as "one way" - I was taught that Christ died for the sins of the whole world...which means to me believers and non-believers. I cannot believe in a god who would condemn a soul for lack of knowledge - and thus by extension a lack of belief - in Christ.

Add to that the many fine people I know who are far more "christian" in their outlook and behavior then many Christians I know (this is judging by the teachings of Christ - not the tenets of the churchs descended from his teachings)


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Subject: RE: Can you sing 'Gospel' without Belief?
From: Burke
Date: 20 Jun 01 - 06:55 PM

This is in response to Rick & comparing whaling to religious songs.

I did not really agree your analogy either, but did not feel particularly strongly about it. I'm inclined to put songs & their situations into different categories when it comes to my expectations of what's on a singer's mind.

If I hear a solo performer singing a religious or political song I guess I have a certain expectation that they agree with the sentiments expressed. I have no problem with people joining into a group situation & holding personal reservations. I guess the difference is that a religious or political song performed by it's nature has a sort of proselitizing aspect to it, even if very general. I guess I also like to think the person singing a relationship song, either love, or get out of here, has had that experience. I think there's just an assumption that everyone has been there at some time.

The reason I think whaling songs are different is because they don't seem to be encouraging anyone to join in. Aren't they mostly about how rough the life is or the songs acutally used on whaling ships? It seems like even the whalers didn't think it was such a wonderful thing to do, more just an awfully miserable way to make a living. The songs are also about past events & don't seem to say we should do this now. I know whaling continues now, but the songs are more of the old days.

I think songs of past political movements would also not require any kind of agreement because the issue is gone.


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Subject: RE: Can you sing 'Gospel' without Belief?
From: bbc
Date: 20 Jun 01 - 05:40 PM

Hi, Turtle,

I tried to phrase what I said so carefully, because my intention is not to offend or put people off. As I understand it, though, a basic tenet of Christianity is that it *is* the only way. I won't know how God feels about that 'til I meet Him (her, it--if you prefer), if indeed I ever do. I know that what I believe & practice feels right for me. My praying for people is not anything that impacts their lives externally. I usually pray that God will speak to their hearts & minds & that they will be open to understanding & accepting who He is. That is a desire I have for all people, but particularly for those I care about. If you think you have found a high quality of life, don't you want your friends & relatives to have it, too? The thing that troubled me the most about Christianity, that I spent a lot of time thinking about & questioning during my college years was just that--is Christianity the "only way"? I never came to a bottom line & had to content myself w/ leaving it in the hands of God. I just try to walk in the light I have & to treat others as I want them to treat me. I'd be curious to see a post from my fiance who came to Christianity after many years of searching through various religious expressions.

best,

bbc


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Subject: RE: Can you sing 'Gospel' without Belief?
From: Turtle
Date: 20 Jun 01 - 05:07 PM

Wow, this thread is just fascinating. I haven't sung much gospel, but I do sing sacred harp/shape note music, which also comes from a living Christian tradition. I don't consider myself a Christian any more, and among the folks who come to our singings there are Christians, Buddhists, Quakers, Jews, pagans, and probably other folks like me, who have a strong spiritual life but don't belong to any organized/named religion. I had a long talk with one of the tenors once about this (he's Jewish), and we both agreed that there is some kind of spiritual power to the music that keeps us coming back. It's not just about the beauty of the music, and it's not just about singing with a group of forty other folks who love it too. Neither of us is Christian, but both of us feel spiritually moved by the music.

I can't speak for the other folks at the singing, but I know that when I am singing the Christian words of those songs, they somehow morph in my mind. I think perhaps what I gain strength from, or what I pour intention into, is the spiritual meaning behind them.

Gosh, that sounds clear as mud. But here's an example: I might sing, "Savior, visit thy plantation--grant us, Lord, a gracious rain. All will come to desolation unless thou return again. Lord revive us, O revive us, all our help must come from thee." Those words are Christian, but when I'm singing them what I'm feeling/thinking/believing/singing is my belief that my life is dry without a spiritual connection, and that only by turning my heart and mind toward that connection in prayer/song/meditation/action will I be revived. The song is one way of praying/meditating on that and for that. I think my singing the song for that purpose is pretty close to the intention of the folks who wrote it and the culture it came from, even though for me it's not about Jesus and I'm not Christian. The songs have a spiritual power that is not bounded by their coming from a Christian tradition. I think this is related to what Hesperis (I think) was saying about spirituality being universal.

So is it the same with Gospel?

bbc, I want to respond to something you said, and I hope I will do so respectfully, because I want to engage in a conversation & not offend you. Let me apologize in advance if I hit a nerve by accident. You said, "I hope that I have never pushed my beliefs on anyone, but, friends, when you sing gospel in my presence, I am praying (with no judgement in my heart) that you will come to know the joy, the peace, & the strength that come from my faith," and then later in another post, "What makes me sad is my perception that people are singing about something as if they have it when they don't... I am sad that my friends don't have the higher quality of life I perceive that I have through my beliefs."

Isn't there an implied judgment in there that only if my beliefs are like yours can I have that kind of joy, peace and strength? And, conversely, isn't it possible that when I'm singing shape note (or gospel), I'm singing about something that I do have, something that's similar to what you have (i.e. a spiritual grounding to my life) but that looks different (i.e. is not Christian)? Do you really believe that there is only one way? I don't mean this as a slur, at all--I'm really curious, because it seems so clear to me in my life and the people I know that there are many ways to come to that kind of joy, peace, and strength. I have known people who radiated it who were Christian, but also others from all kinds of other spiritual backgrounds. Is your experience different?

Turtle


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Subject: RE: Can you sing 'Gospel' without Belief?
From: Rick Fielding
Date: 20 Jun 01 - 04:35 PM

Got a somewhat angry P.M. telling me that my "whaling songs" analogy is hogwash, because "not believing in Jesus' power" (and still singing Gospel songs) is a lot more destructive than "not believing in whale killing" but still singing THOSE songs.

That's the point though, isn't it? They ARE the same to me. I see one as a "man created myth" (and choose not to believe it) and the other as a destructive behaviour ('specially in this day and age). I still like the beauty in the songs though, so I sing 'em...and get pretty emotionally involved.

Perhaps if I spent three hours listening to a modern "whaler" tell me his story, I might be swayed....or if I got hit by some religious lightning bolt, I might change my tune on that as well....but I havent...so I don't. I'm open for the possibilities though.

Rick


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Subject: RE: Can you sing 'Gospel' without Belief?
From: chip a
Date: 20 Jun 01 - 03:10 PM

I worked with a guy once who swore that if you ordered roofing tar over the phone, it would get in your ear. You can sing gospel without belief but you might get it all over you.

:) Chip


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Subject: RE: Can you sing 'Gospel' without Belief?
From: Ebbie
Date: 20 Jun 01 - 02:09 PM

Another analogy: is it OK to sing a love song if you've never been in love? It's likely that after falling in love the words of a love song will make more sense to you but it is entirely proper, I think, to sing it before- or in spite of experience, as long as you sing it with respect. I think it is necessary to suspend disbelief. Act as if. Otherwise you will offend everybody!

Ebbie


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Subject: RE: Can you sing 'Gospel' without Belief?
From: marty D
Date: 20 Jun 01 - 11:02 AM

I showed this to a few of the folks at our weekly sing and they were amazed at the discussion and the level of commentary. I think at least three of them are trying to come up with mudcat 'handles' as I speak. Thank you everyone.

marty


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Subject: RE: Can you sing 'Gospel' without Belief?
From: RangerSteve
Date: 20 Jun 01 - 10:06 AM

My friend's atheist wife loves to hear me sing "When the Roll is Called Up Yonder". I have Jewish friends who sing sangs that mention Jesus. I think it's because gospel tunes have some of the best choruses and they're fun to sing along with. I'm not even sure if I believe in heaven the way it's described in song, but since I work on Sundays, singing these songs is my substitute for going to church and, so far, God hasn't given me any sign that he dissaproves of my singing songs that I don't necessarily believe in.


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Subject: RE: Can you sing 'Gospel' without Belief?
From: dr soul
Date: 20 Jun 01 - 05:45 AM

Most of the songs I've ever written are based on African-American gospel music, yet I am neither African nor Christian. The spiritual message of music transcends specific ideologies.


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Subject: RE: Can you sing 'Gospel' without Belief?
From: Joe Offer
Date: 08 Jun 01 - 04:35 AM

Now, a good example of the gospel bbc sings is Deep Settled Peace (click), an absolutely beautiful song. I admit that I like gospel songs that are a little quirky, like A Mother's Last Words to her Daughter and Dropkick Me Jesus or "There Is Power in the Blood of the Lamb."
As I said before, I'm a church musician who won't sing gospel in church. The church songs I like best are usually the ones that use or paraphrase texts from scripture. You won't hear me singing those songs at a gathering outside church - singing them for a general audience just wouldn't feel right. It's kind of like forcing my religion on people, and I don't want to do that.
What I call "gospel" is southern white gospel, and that's the stuff that tends to give me theological problems. I don't have the same problems with black "spirituals," and I'll often sing them in church. I guess when I think of black gospel, I think of the religious stuff sung by Rev. James Cleveland - I haven't heard white people do a credible job of singing black gospel, although whites can sing "spirituals" quite well.
Aretha Franklin is the daughter of a preacher from Detroit. I have a CD of a gospel performance she did at her dad's church. It's an extraordinary example of black gospel. I love it, but wouldn't attempt to sing it.
-Joe Offer-


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Subject: RE: Can you sing 'Gospel' without Belief?
From: GUEST,khandu
Date: 07 Jun 01 - 11:36 PM

Your steeple is a phallic symbol

erected to the glory of God

And the Pharisees who rule your temple

Do it with an iron rod

Yeah, they do it with an iron rod

khandu


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Subject: RE: Can you sing 'Gospel' without Belief?
From: Mrrzy
Date: 07 Jun 01 - 09:01 PM

Oops, forgot that I'd composed that as if I were starting that new thread - never mind, blicky fairy, go back to sleep!

Also, I should mention that the crise is coming from having kids around whom I sing all the time. We have already talked about Jack Was Every Inch A Sailor, for instance...


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Subject: RE: Can you sing 'Gospel' without Belief?
From: Mrrzy
Date: 07 Jun 01 - 08:59 PM

I am actually thinking so hard about this issue I'm willing starting another thread about the general ethical issue with singing, say, whaling songs, if you like the songs but not whaling, if that would be hijacking this one...

bbc has really made me think. (imagine a blicky to the singing gospel while disbelieving thread here). I am actually having a crise de conscience and thinking about changing all the music I sing, and kind of want to think "out loud" or whatever the Internet term is, with y'all.

I have always kind of minded some of the lyrics of some of the songs I like to listen to (perhaps I should say that I really only listen to stuff I can sing, as I have an irrepressed urge to sing along most of the time). I grew up on folk (Weavers, Baez, Ed McCurdy, and a lot of Clancy Bros & Tommy Makem). As I said in the aforementioned threads, I don't advocate violence, so some of those songs (I've progressed to The Wolfe Tones among others) are on point, as it were.
But my very favorite genre is ballads. Which tell stories. Which tend to be about exciting things happening, which tend to be the kind of things nobody advocates. Think of the ancient Chinese curse, "may you live in interesting times." So I am worrying about trying to be ethical and not make people sad by singing their lovely music while not buying into what the lyrics are about.

So can I believe in what the music is about – beauty, glorious melodic beauty? And just take the words as fiction? I mean, I read a lot of murder mysteries too.

Anyway, I'm really trying to think this through. Your thoughts would be fully appreciated, as would a visit from the blicky fairy…


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Subject: RE: Can you sing 'Gospel' without Belief?
From: GUEST,djh
Date: 07 Jun 01 - 01:33 PM

I think Christ is great, I think most churchs with his name on them stink.It always puzzles me when folks can't seperate Christ from organized religion. He didn't found his churchs and he'd probably go in and overturn the tables if he saw most of the pharase? faracee? pompous hypocrites who attend to his teachings today.
I sing spirituals all the time, rarely ones that mention Christ, I prefer ones that work in a secular, metaphorical context 'crossing the river Jordan , redemption type songs'. I think spirituality has gotten lost for many because the messenger (organized religion) is being mistaken for the message. Who can't get behind Peace , love , and Understanding?
Most really good spirituals are about the personal journey to fulfilment- Amazing Grace, who aint been lost? Who doesn't want to be found? Who aint tryin to get home? Metaphorically speaking.
Besides , you got a whole in your soul if you never have the urge to belt out a Blind Willie Johnson tune. If you aint heard Blind Willie I will pray for you. -DJH


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Subject: RE: Can you sing 'Gospel' without Belief?
From: hesperis
Date: 07 Jun 01 - 01:33 PM

Wait - is someone who doesn't believe in Christianity automatically someone who doesn't believe in God?

There is a difference...

My $0.02:

When I sing "Let us break bread together" I am singing from the viewpoint of one who has faith in God (and Goddess, btw, but that isn't really relevant). I do not have faith in the Church, as I find it hampers my connection to God rather than helping me connect to that Sacredness. (But that's just me.)

Many American Spirituals express a longing for freedom. I have heard that "crossing the River Jordan" is a metaphor for freedom found in death. It doesn't take a Christian to understand that. If you have ever been oppressed, and thought that the only way out was death, then you know what those songs are about. At least they had a heaven to look forward to, where ALL would count as one in love of God, and the colour of their skin (or the state of their bank accounts) wouldn't matter. Even if you can only *imagine* what that would feel like, you know what those songs are about.

Spirituality is universal. Yes, it helps to know where the particular religion's songs are coming from - but I am as comfortable expressing the Sacred in Christian Gospel as in "Om Namah Shivaya", a song dedicated to the Hindu God, Shiva. And I'm not Hindu, either. (And I don't even understand the words!)

And when I sang "Amazing Grace" as my first EVER solo, in a Church, there wasn't a dry eye in the house. I'm not even baptized, but I KNOW what it's like to be blind and then to see...

Maybe so-called "unbelievers" merely believe in something else? Or maybe they merely NAME it something else? Or maybe it only has different adornments than what you are used to in your own religios tradition?

But, that has nothing to do with music. Spirituality can come through music, but if something feels good to sing, then sing it! If it's a spiritual song, and you don't believe in that Tradition's God or whatever, consider it an exercise in religious tolerance. Sort of like playing both team's National anthems in sports.

At the end, we are all part of that which is.


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Subject: RE: Can you sing 'Gospel' without Belief?
From: Hollowfox
Date: 07 Jun 01 - 01:23 PM

Mrrzy, I firmly believe that you can be too young for some things. Hell, I'm too young for some things~and I'm not sure my 12 year old is quite ready to learn, say, Good Ship Venus at her mother's knee. I'd be worried about the hypocracy of making her learn something as the truth that I thought was false. But that's another bag of cats altogether.


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Subject: RE: Can you sing 'Gospel' without Belief?
From: Rick Fielding
Date: 07 Jun 01 - 01:03 PM

Yeah, 'fraid I'm a total hypocrite as well, if I have to believe in everything I sing. Goodness knows I love whaling ballads, but have given a ton to Greenpeace over the years.

Sing hundreds of songs about guns, murder, wars, battles etc. but find the "pro-gun" lobby mostly laughable.

I love the "idea" of Union Solidarity and sing many of the old songs, but some of the Union bigwigs who've hired me were simply pigs, who threw around terms like "brother or sister" but were obviously as power-mad as the Bosses they hated.

I think (for me) it's a question of "suspending better judgement", just like an actor does when playing a role. For that moment, you DO become who and what you sing about. So even though you may not like the person or the activity, you try to UNDERSTAND them. If you communicate the story to your audience, it's worked. If not, either you or the material was unconvincing.

When I'm singing a Gospel song, I'm obviously very wrapped up in the music and the accompaniment. As far as the lyrics go, it's a bit more complex. When I was a kid I heard George Beverly Shea sing on the Billy Graham TV shows...and I simply enjoyed it. A few years later when I realized that Graham had not lifted a finger to help in the Civil Rights struggle ('cause so many of his flock were hard line segregationists) and that he was buddies with Nixon and Hoover, it changed my outlook. Hard to take lyrics about us all being "God's Children" seriously when His spokespeople on earth (on American TV at least) would criticize hippies, but NOT lynchings. Guess it was hearing Black singers like Rev. Gary Davis that really made me want to SING these songs. Almost all the current prominent (singing) white Evangelists were silent (or worse) during those shameful days, and perhaps that's why I wouldn't be able to sing their music convincingly, but I love the Black (or the ones I first HEARD sung by Blacks) Gospel songs and certainly try to do the best I can with them. It's certainly an issue I've thought about though.

Rick


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Subject: RE: Can you sing 'Gospel' without Belief?
From: GUEST,JohnB
Date: 07 Jun 01 - 12:48 PM

Sure Can, I sing with a 70 or so voice mixed SATB Choir. We do all sorts of songs Sacred and Secular. I know that myself and several others are non believers to various degrees. What gets to several of us is the way that the words are written. As a white looking choir I do not feel comfortable "singin all dem words, de way deh is wrote" We have done many spirituals over the years and I have not seen one that was not written that way. JohnB


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Subject: RE: Can you sing 'Gospel' without Belief?
From: mousethief
Date: 07 Jun 01 - 12:31 PM

Luckily I have nothing against hypocrisy.

That's good, otherwise you'd be a hypocr-- but wait. Um. THAT'S CONFUSING!

Alex


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Subject: RE: Can you sing 'Gospel' without Belief?
From: Mrrzy
Date: 07 Jun 01 - 12:22 PM

I'm not offended, bbc, and I see what you mean now. This thread occurred to me today as I was belting out some really loud Wolfe Tones, and realized that a) I am neither in favor nor opposed to getting the British out of Northern Ireland, I don't think it's my call to make, b) I am neither proCatholic nor proProtestant nor anti either of them individually, c) I am against advocating violence d) I am against using insulting terms for ethnic or other differences/minorities... yet I really, really like the music! Yikes!

On the other hand, I do find myself shielding (quote unquote) my children from some of the lurics (lurics are lurid lyrics, this started as a typo but I like the neologism) I would be willing to sing myself... so I guess I'm a total hypocrite! Epiphany! Luckily I have nothing against hypocrisy...


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Subject: RE: Can you sing 'Gospel' without Belief?
From: GUEST
Date: 07 Jun 01 - 11:28 AM

If Swaggart, Bakker and Tammy Fay can do it, why can't you?


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Subject: RE: Can you sing 'Gospel' without Belief?
From: GUEST,Ophelia
Date: 06 Jun 01 - 11:36 PM

I too felt hypocritical about singing anything with a religious context but I feel a lot better now. Thankyou

I would also like to thank Emmylou Harris for my introduction to Wayfaring Stranger (growing up in a non-religious household I had little exposure to those songs). I did however find a third verse in a Lomax? song book of early American songs which seems to complete the song (Emmylou only sang the first two - on the record we had). Good choice Willie-O.

I find that you can really soar (if you know what I mean) with gospel songs and it does make you feel good, even if you don't believe... Ophelia


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