G.I. God

I’ve been a church-goer long enough to know that nothing gets people riled up quicker than talk about styles of worship. I once attended a church where, I kid you not, we sang Victory in Jesus every Sunday. Every Sunday. We sang it so much the kids and I made up hand motions just to give it a bit of diversity.

I can’t say for 100 percent sure but I think the first song I ever learned was Jesus Loves Me. The next one was Goodnight Irene. I remember that because it was the first 45 I owned. I’d listen to it over and over again on the plastic record player Mama and Daddy bought me. I still know the lyrics to that song.

God gave me a strong voice.  It is this one here, behind the keyboard. I can sing but not so anyone would want to hear me. I do better in a choir, preferably one loud enough that it drowns out my voice.

Still, on any given Sunday, you can find me making a joyful noise unto the Lord. I enjoy praise and worship — humble as it may be in a Nazarene church. I like all sorts of styles of worship. I like formal choirs and fancy organ music. I like banjos and mandolins and guitar pickers, too.

I love me a little Matt Redmond or Andrew Peterson from time to time. I can worship to Kate Campbell, Gillian Welch or Jennifer Knapp. I’ve wept over Elvis Costello songs and drank coffee with him the next morning. Okay. Well he was sitting at the table next to mine. We weren’t actually talking. We were just drinking coffee. Him at his table. Me at mine. I have interviewed Michael W. Smith and I’ve been onstage with the Newsboys. My taste in music is so messed up, I can worship to a Grayson Capps tune or The Wiyos as easily as I can to Third Day or Casting Crowns.

But, despite all that, I have come to the point in life where I can no longer abide tunes that propogate a military mentality. Go ahead. Call me ugly names. If this makes me a Pacifist, well, buddy, let me quote you William Stafford — Every war has two losers.

Our worship team has recently introduced the congregation to a new song, which it turns out isn’t really that new, but did I mention I attend a Nazarene church? I like the tune of the song. I like the drum beat. I just cannot abide those lyrics:

My voice is the sound of a thousand bells
Hear me nations, hear Israel
My song is the water of the purest well
Hear me heaven, fear me hell
My dance carries thunder from the throne of Yah
Look at me, and know He is GOD!

Let our praises rise like a weapon in Your hand
Let our praises rise O God
Let our praises rise like a weapon in Your hand
Let our praises rise O God

I don’t want my praise to be a weapon in God’s hand. I, personally, don’t care much for the image of G.I. God. That’s not to say that I don’t understand the power of praise — I do.

Madeline L’Engle tells a story in Irrational Season of the boy who, while praying, says to God, “And God bless yourself.”  Her point being that while all praise begins with God, it is only made complete when we offer up praise to God. Or as the old hymn says, “Oh, how I love Jesus because he first loved me.”

When my children were small I taught them the tune that everyone learns in VBS — I’m in the Lord’s Army. But that was some 10 years post-Vietnam and long before the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Maybe it’s just me. Maybe I’ve heard one too many sorrowful tale from a grieving war widow or held the hand of too many dying veterans. Maybe I’m just tired of all this talk about the glories of war, and how successful we’ve been. Perhaps, I’m just jaded, but I honestly do not see how when you add up the number of lives & limbs & livelihoods lost, you could consider war a success.


But then, maybe I’m just a cranky Jesus Freak. I don’t own a Rosary, much less a set of love beads,  but I think it’s high time the church shed itself of its nationalistic and militaristic rhetoric. If that means singing Jesus Loves Me every Sunday, I think we could come up with some hand motions that don’t involve the use of weapons, don’t you?

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