This past Sunday in church our hymns had a definite eschatological tone -- the spiritual "Soon and Very Soon," and old Reformation-era greatest hits, heavy on the minor chords, themed around the tribulation of the saints, like "Lord, Keep Us Steadfast in Your Word." These latter hymns are what I cut my musical eyeteeth on back in Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church, before my feet could reach the sanctuary floor. I like them. I told our organist so. She beamed, and said, "There's another reason God brought you to our church!"
Gosh, ma'am -- I just said I liked minor chords.
Not everyone does. I was Googling online later in the day, looking for the name of an imaginary sponsor of Prairie Home Companion -- I think it's the Society For the Preservation of Minor Chords -- and as often happens during such searches I found myself headed down a variety of strange Christian-subcultural rabbit holes. While I'm quite aware that many of my more Protestant brethren and sistren prefer more uptempo music than I do, I guess I was not entirely aware that some Christians turn musical composition itself into a moral issue -- that they parse Scriptural passages about joyful noise and such, and extrapolate that into a kind of biblical prohibition against "downer" church music. Minor chords = bad. Happy-happy-joy-joy melodies = good. (If you really want to go canoeing on the backwaters of Christianity and see what some folks think about "godly" versus "ungodly" music, take a lookie here -- I especially enjoyed the gratuitous sexism and racism inserted in what purports to be a discussion of music -- or here , or here, or here .)
If our worship is a reflection of our theology -- then it's hard to see how someone who thinks use of minor chords is somehow falling short of the glory of God can have any grasp on the theology of the Cross -- the concept of God coming to us and sharing in our suffering, our weakness and defeat. Life is not always happy-happy-joy-joy. Pretending that it is, is frankly not telling the truth about either the human experience in general or the Christian experience in particular...and at least the way I see it, those of us who follow Christ are charged with being in the truth business. For all those moments of joy at the thought that "we're goin' to see the King," there are also moments of pensiveness and introspection, of sadness, of despair; times when we plead, "Lord Jesus Christ, your power make known." Our music needs to reflect that part of the faith journey as well in order to be an authentic expression of who we are as the people of God.