October 31, 2014

By Fred Koenig

I was in a worship service recently, and halfway through the first verse of a song, I could not get over the thought that, “Wow, this song is really terrible.” Musically, it didn’t make any sense to me. It seemed the notes were long where they should have been short, pauses were awkward, it went up on the scale where it should have gone down… nothing was going right. It wasn’t just because I was unfamiliar with the song; I was plenty familiar with it by the fourth verse. It didn’t get better. 
    
My opinion of the lyrics matched the music. They didn’t seem to say much, and what they did say didn’t approach being inspirational. They read like an elementary school poetry assignment, and not one by the gifted kid… one by the kid who was in a hurry to turn in his paper so he could get out to recess. 
    
Then I realized that although I felt strongly that this song was truly bad, and that I could put up a pretty strong argument for why people shouldn’t like it, others would disagree. 
    
I knew this because, first of all, it was a published song, not just one someone had made up on the fly. Secondly, it made it into The Faith We Sing. I’m not familiar with the overall process of selecting songs for this hymnal, but I’m sure it was governed by people who know much more about music than I do. And I’m willing to bet that when they were making their selections, they rejected many more than they green-lighted. 
    
But the strongest counter-argument to my condemnation of the song was the fact that our worship leader that morning had selected it. She had access to any song in The Faith We Sing, as well as all the songs in the United Methodist Hymnal, and this song was one of four that were sung that morning. She chose it above hundreds of others. 
    
The experience really drove home to me how much opinions vary. I had my reasons for disliking the song, she had her reasons for loving it. We could have argued about it later, and I might have made some good points, and perhaps won the argument. But does that mean she should abandon her affection for the song, and come around to my position of disdain? She might be obligated to do so if everyone shared my opinion, but clearly they didn’t. When I looked around the room, some people stood silent, but there were plenty who appeared perfectly happy, joyful even, to be singing along. 
    
There’s hardly any aspect of what the church does together in worship, or in any other ministry, in which opinions don’t vary. Sometimes you have to recognize that people with a differing opinion can be as right as you are. Sometimes you have to have the courage to express your own opinion when it runs counter to that of an opinion held by a friend. It is up to us all to seek to live out our mission, while recognizing our own human limitations at figuring out the best way to go about it.