Via Jeff Carter on the facebook this insightful post:
Old Testament scholar, Michael J Rhodes, tweeted a glimpse into his research on the Top 25 Christian worship songs, after spending months studying the Psalms. Here are his main insights (lightly edited by me for readability):
1. Justice is mentioned only once in one Top 25 song. In contrast, the Hebrew word for justice “Mishpat” alone can be found 65 times in 33 different Psalms.
2. The poor are completely absent in the Top 25. By contrast, the Psalter uses varied language to describe the poor on nearly every page.
3. The widow, refugees, and the oppressed are completely absent from the Top 25. The orphan gets two mentions, one occurrence of which appears to refer to a “spiritual” orphan.
4. Whereas “enemies” are the third most common character in the Psalms, they rarely show up in the Top 25. When they do, they appear to be enemies only in a spiritual sense.
5. Maybe most devastatingly, in the Top 25, not a SINGLE question is ever posed to God. The Top 25 never ask God anything. Prick the Psalter and it bleeds the cries of the oppressed pleading with God to act. This is completely lacking in the Top 25.
Rhodes goes on to say, “Indeed, there is very little evidence that the Top 25 are ever speaking clearly about situations of social and economic harm.
‘Are you hurting and broken WITHIN’ sums up the way these songs transform the holistic nature of the psalms into songs about spiritual healing.
Worse yet, we deny the poor and oppressed the “First Amendment Right” to protest the psalms offer them.
Meanwhile, those of us who are not poor and oppressed continue to refuse to learn how to mourn and protest alongside them.”
If you want theologically empty music, turn to modern Christian dreck. If you want substance, hit the Psalter and the hymnal.
We’re certainly not in the time where Heinrich Schutz set every last verse of Psalm 119 for double chorus and composed vernacular settings of the crucifixion narratives.