One of the most striking things I’ve encountered during my attempt re-join the church, is how I feel about the music reverberating from inside it’s walls.
The first church service I attended after I decided I wanted to start going again was remarkably awkward for me (in part) because of the music. I was sincerely disappointed about this too, as some of my fondest memories from the church-going days of my youth involved singing to God with my whole heart: eyes closed, body swaying, hands raised, and my frequently tear-streaked face shining upwards at the God whom I was 100% positive could see and hear me.
It was beautiful, truly. I miss that feeling something fierce.
Yet, now that I’m attending church in my 32-year old skin, reading the lyrics of each song from the video monitor often gives me considerable pause. My body swayed along easily to the sweetness of the melody, and I probably could have danced about wildly to a wordless song of praise. Yet, singing along with the words I was reading felt pretty incongruous with my new way of relating to God.
So, what has changed?
For one thing, I forgot how militant the feudal symbolism in some Christian music can be, and I’ve spent too long working in trauma-informed social services not to bristle at the use of some words and phrases. Furthermore, I also failed to remember how unrelenting the use of masculine pronouns for God can be in church culture, not excluding it’s music.
During an earlier time in my life, I related to God with a kind of inexhaustible thirst for Him. I understood “Him” as a him then, and it didn’t bother me to speak or sing of him this way. Now it does. I think that it’s very likely that most reasonable biblical scholars, theologians, and God-fearing persons agree that God is beyond gender — however, I am almost never given an enthusiastic response when I suggest we update our language to something more gender inclusive when talking about God.
I’m not sure if that’s just because it’s an awkward linguistic transition for people, or if the human mind is so resolute in it’s need to beat back ambiguities that people just can’t go there, but here’s the thing: I have a DAUGHTER. And I need to make sure that she does not learn this particular implicit lesson about gender from her faith community: “if God is male, then male is God” (thank you Sue Monk Kidd for that one).
This is a non-negotiable for me as a parent. I need to find a faith community that will help me honor this evolution of language that is so desperately needed in our religious dialogue.
… Otherwise, my sweet girl is going to be singing a bunch of ‘at-home-revised’ lyrics to old, familiar songs. And I imagine that might set her up to run into some old, familiar walls that I’d really rather tear down for her before she even gets there.