Down in her heart...

How blessed are the people who know the joyful sound! O Lord, they walk in the light of Your countenance. - Psalm 89:15

Men are made for happiness, and anyone who is completely happy has a right to say to himself, "I am doing God's will on earth." All the righteous, all the saints, all the holy martyrs were happy. - The Brothers Karamazov, Book II, Ch. 4

A friend sent me this music video from the band Page CXVI today, commenting "postmodern, hipster, tortured irony at its most ridiculous." Describing it this way showed great restraint. I showed it to my wife and another friend who both were convinced the video is a parody of Red Mountain Music or Bifrost Arts, but so far as I can tell, Ms. Al-Attas is offering her "Joy" in earnest. 

It shames me to admit it, but this stuff reminds me of my own dismal outlook when, ministered to by a reformed church, I was first coming back to the Lord...

Sadly, New Calvinists (otherwise known as "Young, Restless, and Reformed) lean towards mistaking gloominess for godliness. Likely it's because so many of us spent our childhoods suffering under revivalism's triumphalism, Evangelicalism's naïveté, or some combination of both. Neither tradition prepared us to face the horrors of sin--particularly our own--so we began to look for a faith that didn't deny sin's reality, but looked it in the face and dealt with it. This is part of the explanation for the renewed interest in the Doctrines of Grace.

Once Calvinism is discovered for the truth it is, though, young people raised on a diet of saccharine hypocrisy can easily latch on to it, not as a means for obtaining true joy that flows from repentance from sin and trusting in God's promises, but as theological justification giving reign to their inner angst. If darkness, doubt, and depression were institutionally suppressed in their fundamentalist past, Calvinism now seems to give permission to hang it all out there.

When a generation empowered by Facebook and Youtube does this, the results are disturbing. Case in point.

From the video's comments I gather that Page CXVI's Latifah Al-Attas created "Joy" in immediate response to the death of her father. This fact makes the piece difficult to critique. But as you watch, consider that in the midst of losing his fortune to fire, his son to scarlet fever, and his four daughters to drowning, back in 1873 Horatio G. Spafford had the Christian faith to pen the hopeful (and doctrinal) "It Is Well with My Soul." Or that while pastoring alone in the besieged and diseased city of Eilenberg where he conducted sometimes as many as fifty funerals a day, Martin Rinkart wrote "Now Thank We All Our God--the doxology of the Reformation.

Now though, in the midst of its own form of suffering, the Facebook generation turns to angst-ridden, ironic, and utterly vapid sentiments. When you watch the video, hang in there to the very end--to that final lifting of the peddle so pregnant with meaning.

Not. 

Likely the bereaved Ms. Al-Attas would say she was giving voice to the dark and cynical feelings we all sometimes have, and that her father's death helped her get in touch with those feelings in an authentic way others have recognized and been helped by. She might further tell us the song's ecstatic climax provided her some personal catharsis.

Catharsis makes for good opera, but it's no spiritual discipline. It's too ephemeral for that. Emotional release is not to be confused with true comfort from God. Our heavenly Father binds up the broken-hearted, but when He does so, it's His way to communicate His attributes to the grief-stricken soul propositionally. Men do not experience communion with God through feelings or sentiments primarily, but by means of His objective Truth.

God is a God of the Word and we must not despise that Word. When give ourselves to it, we find real comfort and true joy. Ms. Al-Attas' soul (and ours) would have been much better served had she attempted to express (even imperfectly) her taking hold of the comfort that is hers through Christ in owning God as her Everlasting Father. Instead, what she's given us is a 5-minute study in emotive irony free of any direct reference to God. At least in this respect the original "I've Got the Joy, Joy, Joy, Joy" is much better. Sure it's childish, but the child is taught that the ground of his joy is Jesus dwelling within him. 

My beef is not with bereaved Ms. Al-Attas. It's with reformed shepherds who jump on the bandwagon and use such moody, unhelpful, self-involved drivel; reformed church planters and their vision-casting team who cuddle up to works like "Joy," claiming Ms. Al-Attas and her androgynous fellow musicians are a model for what Christian art and worship ought to be in our day.

Isn't there someone today who is like Spafford and Rinkart of old--someone who will have the faith to improve his sufferings to the true benefit of the Church? Someone who can turn our gaze away from our navels and upwards to the Father of the heavenly lights, the fount of every blessing in Whose presence is fullness of joy?

Is there a faithful man among the Facebook generation who has had sanctified to him his deepest distress, and therefore has a new song to sing?

Jody Killingsworth

Jody serves as worship pastor at Clearnote Church in Bloomington, Indiana. He is a lecturer at Clearnote Pastors College and frontman for the Good Shepherd Band. You can find many of his musical contributions to the church over on the Clearnote Songbook.

Want to get in touch? Send Jody an email!

Comments

My eyes have finally been opened to see that most of what you post here is making fun of others, degrading others, gossiping about others. Others who are in the kingdom of God.  What happened?  Many have returned to God, returned to church because of such unhelpful, self-involved drivel; reformed church planters and their vision-casting teams.

Like it or not there is a generation of people who are different, and they are finding different ways of connecting with God, worshipping God and expressing themselves. It is not better, its not worse.  It is simply different.  And that is okay!

Letting poison slip from your tongue won't change that, it only changes you and the people who follow you. 

Is she mocking God?

...what you post here is making fun of others, degrading others, gossiping about others.

No. He is warning others out of love.

Jennifer, if you watch the YouTube clip it is readily evident that the artist is lying from start to finish: her words say "I've got the joy," while every piece of non-verbal communication is screaming the opposite. At the very least this is dishonest (we should not know dishonesty, we should know the truth, and have the truth set us free). But she is communicating at least two things in addition to morose irony.

1) By taking a well known children's song that declares the joy of knowing Christ and making it into a dirge she is proclaiming that there is actually no joy in Christ.

2) What she and the ironic indie types teach is that everyone is a liar and a hypocrite; and with every ironic twist they say that "we ironic indie types are liars and hypocrites, too, but at least we have the wherewithal to come out and admit it (in an underhanded ironic sort of way)." By coupling her ironic dirge to a well known spiritual song she is teaching that everyone who claims to have the joy, joy, joy, joy down in his heart is actually a liar and a hypocrite, and probably just as miserable as she is--but not indie enough to admit it.

So she is undercutting the teaching of the Gospel (declaring that there is no joy in Christ) and simultaneously undercutting everyone who actually teaches the Gospel with honesty (by declaring that they're all liars and hypocrites). This is not how Christ builds His church, so it shouldn't be endorsed by men who claim to be building Christ's church.

On a different note: Anyone who loves music criticizes it from time to time, because he wants to hear only the best music and sift out the junk. The fact that men on this blog criticize the church, or officers of the church, is evidence of their love for the church, the same way a music critic's criticism of music evidences a love of music. If we can't sort out the good from the junk then it will all end up being junked. Don't fault them for loving the church enough to criticize it.

Thankyou very much for this post Mr Killingsworth.

I'd really like to ask Jennifer if she honestly cannot see how horribly artificial and phony and insincere and feigned and pretentious this music is? - Presenting a front of deep sophistication and authenticity that is just utterly abhorrent to watch, and somewhat elitist. I could not bear sitting through it all.

It is devoid of the honesty and authenticity that should characterise the worship of God.

I'm gob-smacked you can't see this. It is horrific.

Its the package combination of her carefully crafted hipster look and careful choice of hipster piano and her manufactured facial expressions of deep emotion and feigned mimicry of emotive vocal sounds - can you really not see through this? I'm astounded.

That is why I like worshipping in the charismatic church I was brought up in. Though they are relatively simple folk who are uneducated and not very well dressed, they actually mean what they sing and don't try and carry around an air of hipster sophistication with them. I find it difficult to convey how much this music offended me. May the Lord help the dear lady to become a real person.

No, Jennifer, Pastor Killingsworth is absolutely right. I remember singing "It Is Well" in church during some of my darkest and most difficult days, particularly after the deaths through miscarriage of two of my children. I could barely sing the words through my tears, but hearing the congregation around me reminding me of God's truth in the midst of pain helped pull me out of the dark despair of my grief. My sorrows were rolling over me like sea billows, but instead of allowing me to drown in them like the "Joy" song above, the musicians and church congregation reminded me that "Whatever my lot, [God] has taught me to say it is well with my soul." That is so much more helpful and godly than focusing on our individual pain.

Yes, this life is full of sin and suffering, and we should never pretend it's simply a beautiful, happy place. But praise God! He has conquered sin and death, so that while we grieve we can do so with true hope in Christ's return and making all things new.

(And lest you suggest that my love for this song and other hymns like it is because I'm part of an older generation, let me assure you that I'm firmly in the millennial generation at age 26).

Sometimes when it is hard for us to sing it is good to have the church to sing for us...

If I could add an amen to what Jody said…and then a bit more.

Jody wasn’t being  mean…he nailed the Young Restless & Reformed hipster irony sulky-sanctification motif with pin-point accuracy. Been there, done that.

When I was in college, I wrote a poem recounting Easter sunrise services from when I was a child. I wanted to express how hollow those services were (or at least how they seemed to me at that point recollecting the past). I didn’t know how to express joy; only how shallow the faith seemed to be before I was born again, and especially since becoming a Calvinist.

Jody isn’t poking fun at this young woman, really. It is sad that her father died. It is also sad that she’s exchanged shallow happy-clappy for shallow sappy-I’m not-so-happy. It’s dishonoring to God. It’s dishonoring to her earthly father as well.

It would have been much better to start from the pit and build toward hope. She couldn’t even start from a very deep pit. I imagine many were confused throughout the song. Obviously the song came from a dark place…a sad one…but the sadness didn’t even come off as genuine. The climax of anger is what was most genuine. Perhaps some will disagree with me. I even listened to the song twice. There was no hint of hope to that song. Godly sorrow and belly laughter shake you. This didn’t. I couldn’t help but think “where’s Godot?”

I think my first question upon reading all of these comments is does this artist even profess to be a Christian? I know that not all of the musicians who work with Red Mountain Music (since you mention it) or play during worship at Red Mountain Church are professing Christians. (At least that is how it used to be WAY back in the day!)  Many songwriters variate these themes without necessarily embracing them philosophically.  (This is meant to be an observation, not an interpretation or a statement of approval or lack thereof, so don't jump on me too hard!)

She does claim to be a Christian. I checked out her band's website last night. Also telling: they tour with Derek Webb.

Ah, well then carry on. :-) Thanks for the answer. 

I don't see why this can't be seen as a woman in an individual performance (not corporate worship) who is clinging to her commitment to finding her joy in the Lord despite circumstances. There have been times when my own life was nothing but lament, but I sang the songs of joy. 

I furthermore don't think that she is putting forth a spiritual discipline. She's singing a song.

I would be more sympathetic if there was a large and helpful canon of hymns of lament. The modern church seems to have no knowledge of what to do with lament. 

Finally, I think your comment "...Ms. Al-Attas and her androgynous fellow musicians..." was not the sort of statement a Christian gentleman ought to make. If you want to fight against the breakdown of sexual distinction, don't stoop to the level of insulting women. 

Pastor Killingsworth,

I read your entry a couple of times to understand your position more, and I'm glad I did because it appears to me that the song isn't as much of an issue as is the collective culture of the people from such circles as Ms. Al-Attas. In light of that, I can respect the critique as a genuine warning against the sin of joylessness. This aspect of the post is very much appreciated as I have had to remind myself of the joy I have in Christ many times in the recent weeks and months.

As far as I'm concerned, I can say without reservation that I have been and will continue to be a fan of the song.

I first heard the song on CD several years ago. I find it very interesting that the music video has a different ending to the actual song. On the CD, the song ends with the opening words to Horatio Spafford's "It Is Well With My Soul."

A friend who wanted my opinion of the song played it for me. My first reaction was a less eloquent version of what the person who forwarded you the song said... "postmodern, hipster, tortured irony at its most ridiculous."

As the song went on, I commented to my friend that her tone didn't seem very joyful. Of course, the song progressed towards its climax and I found myself even more confused. Where is the joy? Why such a joyless proclamation of joy? Then the song on the CD deviated from the course of the video. She sang "so I'll try my best, and lift up my chest, to sing about this. Joy. Joy. Joy. (pause) When peace like a river attendeth my way. When sorrows like sea billows role. Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say. It is well, it is well, with my soul."

Call me shallow, but I found that turn in the song to be its strength. At that moment I understood that something had happened to her. Most likely she lost a loved one, and she wasn't necessarily wallowing in her misery as much as she was fighting for the joy she knew she should have and one day would have. You even mentioned in your post that it was difficult to critique the song in light of the reason why it was penned. I fully agree.

I'm willing to give her the benefit of the doubt here. I don't believe that her intention was to portray the Christian life as a miserable one or as Abram Hess said, to proclaim "that there is actually no joy in Christ." She's saying that there is great joy in Christ, but she's also struggling with a light momentary affliction. Maybe I'm reading into it too much, but I actually found the song to be hopeful. I also found it to allude to a future victory over the present joylessness in her life.

Was her response to the loss of her father a perfect response in godliness to the will of God as it related to her life? Surely not. Was it as biblical as the words of Spafford or Rinkart? No. But then, is there room in the Bible for such honesty? I believe the answer to that question is yes.

Psalms 44 and 88 are examples. Both psalms can be a source of comfort to the reader that a way to overcome grief and pain is to lay that grief before the Lord. There is no guarantee that honesty in itself will yield joyfulness, but I believe it is one of many approaches that can help.

I don't think the reactions in these comments would have been the same if the commenters heard the same song that I did.

Thanks for your warning though Pastor Killingsworth. As I said, it was appreciated.

 

"There is no guarantee that honesty in itself will yield joyfulness, but I believe it is one of many approaches that can help." 

True and beautiful sentiment. And one thing I do appreciate about some of the younger people who are making religious music/art  these days is that they have more tenderness in their hearts for people who struggle with sadness in the midst of their walk than some of their predecessors. Jesus is there in the dark places too, and it's important to acknowledge that. (You can fall from both sides of that horse, I suppose.)

I am still seeing so much hatred, not just toward this music or this woman but about her 'hipster'style.  Is there is only one way to dress, express oneself, sing, etc...    How many commenters have talked about hipsters in a negative way?  I am not a hipster myself, but come on people!

She has a broken heart and is in sorrow, you fault her for expressing this in one song. 

Again, all I am seeing now not only in this post but in the commenters is more gossip and more disdain for anyone different.  How dare you judge her heart - God will judge you. 

Discussing this post, it would be helpful to keep in mind that Ms. Al-Attas and her male musicians are a genre--not a one-off. This sort of stuff is the meat and potatoes; or rather, the bling of the angst-ridden Reformed church planter ghetto. Thus Pastor Killingsworth's critique goes beyond this song and this performance by this woman. She's serving here as a good foil for points desperately needing to be made about her own class of musicians and those pastors promoting them.

Love,

Yo, 

Has anyone read her beautiful testimony included in the video's description? Hopefully it will shed some light on how she is not deserved of this judgement. 

http://blog.pagecxvi.com/post/683764188/joy

Thanks for your time, everyone. I will comment further if I need to. looking forward to hear your opinions with this (new?) information. 

Thanks to Alex for pointing out the album version of "Joy." I think I can agree that it constitutes a small improvement on the video in that it strikes a somewhat more hopeful note at the end instead of returning to the same bitter irony of the opening. But still, it fails to "close" on Christ in a satisfying way, lyrically or musically. Although, those familiar with Spafford's "It Is Well with My Soul" are probably able to read their knowledge of his lyric--with its clear testament to redemption in Christ and the hope of the resurrection--back into "Joy," sensing more hope than is really there through power of suggestion. 

Tim and Alex are right in directing us to the broader point--that the piece's gloomy affect is by no means unique, but is representative of the general tenor of Ms. Al-Attas' style, and that of many, many musical leaders active in the reformed world today (Welcome Wagon, anyone?). I was infected with the disease myself when I was first settling into my work as a minister of music. As a melancholic and introspective effete, I was attracted to the same impotent qualities in music which I nurtured in my character. Mind you, I was blind to these things, and it took the patient and loving admonishment of many others to bring me to my senses. I vividly remember Tim grabbing me by the ear one day (literally!) and saying, "Jody, we WILL have joy in worship next week, won't we!" Thanks for that, Tim. Really.

Thank you for this post, Jody.  Seldom is our generation (myself included) challenged for its biting narcissism.  The approval of this kind of music through its use in worship only encourages it further.

J.Kru said,

Finally, I think your comment "...Ms. Al-Attas and her androgynous fellow musicians..." was not the sort of statement a Christian gentleman ought to make. If you want to fight against the breakdown of sexual distinction, don't stoop to the level of insulting women.

Pastor Killingsworth wasn't talking about her; he was talking about her androgynous fellow musicians. They are men. As it were.

Jennifer, why is it that Pastor Killingsworth is not allowed to do his job--warn the sheep, shepherd souls, teach the truth? Why is it that he is not allowed to "judge," but you are? Your statement, "God will judge you," is the most intense thing anyone has said on this thread. Pastor Killingsworth is clearly different from you. Why do you disdain him? Why all the hate, Jennifer?

She knew the song was joyless. I watched her admit on another YouTube video that she realized that there was something missing from the song so she added the chorus from "It is Well With My Soul." 

I fear for a generation of Christians who are told that they can't be honest with the God who adopted them through Jesus that they feel completely ripped apart by life. What's especially poetic about this ridiculous criticism is the appropriation of one line from the Psalms - when the Psalter itself is no stranger to complaints, and very bitter ones - the people (and even anointed king) of Israel shouted to Yahweh that they felt entirely abandoned. I seem to even recall one minor allusion from a (somewhat) central New Testament character to Psalm 22 - "My God, why have you forsaken me?"

Thank God that there is a growing tide of sanctification that is able to come face to face with deep pain, with evil in the world, and hostility from the devil and to be HONEST about how those things make them feel. We will one day have been delivered from the polished, private, prosthetic sort of Christian living that destroyed my mom's family - the artificial faith that covered up drug addiction, depression, mental illness, doubt, and disbelief, because those things weren't welcome on Sundays. There was no safe place to deal with the ravages of a sinful world and depraved self, and so the family suffered in silence, while staying all smiles for everyone else's comfort. 

Is there a certain proclivity in some Reformed circles towards melancholy and navel-gazing? Absolutely. Is the answer to cynically dismiss them as "androgynous" (this sounds like pure backwards bigotry to me), or lump them in with the "postmoderns" - a label which is often applied and feared but little understood? 

The frothy, superficial sort of happiness that I grew up with on Sundays is often a bit of polish on something absolutely empty. I can just see a Hebrew mother, clicking her heels on the way to exile with her children after Nebuchadnezzar had killed her husband and burned her home. You've got to be joking. 

Jesus Christ appears to us as someone who got hungry, who wept with his friends, who was furious at the religious establishment who propped up their own authority at the expense of the community of faith, who saw illness and demonic oppression and death and raged and fought against them all. The history of the covenant people of God contains an entire book called "Lamentations". To acknowledge that, and to sometimes dwell in the same place, is not heresy or sin. It's to walk the same path our Lord walked who nevertheless looked for his vindication in the eventual defeat of death and sin, to be resurrected by his father.

But you can't know the hope of resurrection until you've stared death in the face, and to do that while whistling a happy tune is very near a mark of insanity.

>>> and to be HONEST about how those things make them feel

But Tim, honesty is one of the things we're talking about.

When David was discouraged, he rebuked his soul and cried out to God directly:

Why are you in despair, O my soul? And why have you become disturbed within me? Hope in God, for I shall yet praise Him, The help of my countenance and my God. - Psa 42:11 NASB

But this "Joy" song says "I'm so happy, so happy" when it's obviously not the truth.

I think you've confused dishonesty with irony. one is a sin; the other is a literary device. 

on Psalm 88: "Although the prophet, then, was persuaded that the dead also are under the Divine protection, yet, in the first paroxysm of his grief, he spoke less advisedly than he ought to have done; for the light of faith was, as it were, extinguished in him, although, as we shall see, it soon after shone forth. This it will be highly useful particularly to observe, that, should we be at any time weakened by temptation, we may, nevertheless, be kept from falling into despondency or despair."

Dear Tim, thanks for perfecting the argument.

First, there's no necessary connection between this post and Nordstroms cosmetic counter churches where faces are painted and happy-clappy banishes sinners, doubters, and unbelievers. The opposite of Christless irony is not hypocrisy, but David's Psalm 73 and the woman who anointed Jesus for His burial with her perfume and tears in the home of Simon the Pharisee.

And it's not incidental to the Word that these two examples not only are not ironic, but each comes from a coherent and creational sexual identity. Psalm 73 is not simply bitter lament moving into the assembly of the righteous and coming to see again and celebrate the judgment of the wicked. It's manhood. And Luke 7 is not just long hair and tears and tender love from a forgiven sinner. It's womanhood.

Also, keep in mind this video represents a genre of Reformed spirituality. How each of us would describe the genre would differ. Not to put words in Jody's mouth, I'd describe it as androgynous, ironic, effete, angst-ridden hipsterism. Which is to say alt-reformedism. If you recognize the category and are prepared to critique the church your parents had you grow up in, please try a critique of this church, also. What will the next generation of children be writing about alt-reformedism?

If you set your mind and pen to it, I have little doubt your critique of it will have major agreements with Jody's, and that where you and he disagree will be instructive.

Since we know too little of Scripture, and since it's such a manly, faithful expression of the sorrow and bitterness and doubt men and women of God offer in prayer, here's the text of the classic expression of this in Scripture:

A Psalm of Asaph. Surely God is good to Israel, To those who are pure in heart! But as for me, my feet came close to stumbling, My steps had almost slipped. For I was envious of the arrogant As I saw the prosperity of the wicked. For there are no pains in their death, And their body is fat. They are not in trouble as other men, Nor are they plagued like mankind. Therefore pride is their necklace; The garment of violence covers them. Their eye bulges from fatness; The imaginations of their heart run riot. They mock and wickedly speak of oppression; They speak from on high. They have set their mouth against the heavens, And their tongue parades through the earth.

Therefore his people return to this place, And waters of abundance are drunk by them. They say, “How does God know? And is there knowledge with the Most High?” Behold, these are the wicked; And always at ease, they have increased in wealth. Surely in vain I have kept my heart pure And washed my hands in innocence; For I have been stricken all day long And chastened every morning.

If I had said, “I will speak thus,” Behold, I would have betrayed the generation of Your children. When I pondered to understand this, It was troublesome in my sight Until I came into the sanctuary of God; Then I perceived their end. Surely You set them in slippery places; You cast them down to destruction. How they are destroyed in a moment! They are utterly swept away by sudden terrors! Like a dream when one awakes, O Lord, when aroused, You will despise their form.

When my heart was embittered And I was pierced within, Then I was senseless and ignorant; I was like a beast before You. Nevertheless I am continually with You; You have taken hold of my right hand. With Your counsel You will guide me, And afterward receive me to glory.

Whom have I in heaven but You? And besides You, I desire nothing on earth. My flesh and my heart may fail, But God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. For, behold, those who are far from You will perish; You have destroyed all those who are unfaithful to You. But as for me, the nearness of God is my good; I have made the Lord GOD my refuge, That I may tell of all Your works. (Psalms 73:1-28)

Let me gently add that I find it inconceivable any alt-reformed worship or preaching would publicly resolve their ironic laments with a fulsome affirmation and celebration of the destruction of the wicked.

Love,

here is a rendition of come thou fount from page cxvi. 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l_HGdRnQ3ro

it doesn't make the fatal mistake of using a minor key.

here's a version of 'tis so sweet to trust in Jesus:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fU0G-5_bIWc&feature=related

also a pretty happy version. 

How about Rock of ages? found here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bIjt4N8RkFs&feature=related

Let's not forget either that the album version of this song contains the refrain from "it is well" at the end. 

Could it possibly be that one song done in one particular fashion doesn't embody the entirety a group of people (or even a band!), and therefore should not give ground to so whole-heartedly dismiss them?

What is rife in this post, and in the comment thread, is the kind of estimation and assumption that is so perverted from the paradigm Jesus has. What's criticized? Her style. The "hipster" piano (what?).  The way she sings. The minor key. Trivial. Trivial. Trivial. 

What has more potential to hinder the kingdom of God: a girl in an old sweater with horn-rimmed glasses, or a self-named Christian website ripping her apart for it? What has more potential to benefit the kingdom of God: (in one song, isolated from all their other repertoire) brutally identifying with those who feel the ripped-apartness of life, or criticizing the person who does it? What is worse for the gospel: guys in skinny jeans, or a Christian community that continues to devour itself?

But isn't the whole point of hipster irony to say that "Everyone is a hypocrite and a liar, even me! But at least I have the honesty to admit that I'm a hypocrite and a liar"? That's the message in this song, and most of the other irony common to this genre. Or is there a different reason for the irony that I'm missing?

I would like to submit that they would be better served to be warned about self-righteousness, superiority, and weirdly particular aesthetic standards as a measure of gospel fidelity. 

I don't think there is a homogenous group of people that can be called "hipsters" that have some codified belief system. In my experience, "hipster" is a pejorative, applied to a certain subculture.

I think it's against the Christian ethic to identify people that dress a certain way with some label that may or may not have anything to do with what they actually believe. 

Another problem here may be the confusion of irony with sarcasm and satire. verbal irony is about the incongruence of literal meaning and intended meaning, whereas sarcasm uses verbal irony, usually in a caustic manner for some kind of attack.

In this video, the juxtaposition of the mournful melody and happy text is irony. But it's a poetic, artistic statement. anyone can see that this was an intentional choice. it's not dishonest. To sing the song happily, but be in mourning, would be dishonest. It's a deliberate decision to make an artistic statement. 

Christians live in an incongruence like this - knowing that the way down is the way up, that to be low is to be high, to be first, you must be last. and not least of all, the fact that Jesus defeated sin, demons, and death, by being brutally murdered. We rejoice that the greatest injustice ever was perpetuated on God himself. That's irony.

>>> ...a self-named Christian website ripping her apart for it?

>>> ...a Christian community that continues to devour itself?

Dear Tim,

Your descriptions of reproof as vicious self-destruction do not agree with God's Word:

Do not reprove a scoffer, or he will hate you, Reprove a wise man and he will love you. - Pro 9:8 NASB

He is on the path of life who heeds instruction, But he who ignores reproof goes astray. - Pro 10:17 NASB

Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge, But he who hates reproof is stupid. - Pro 12:1 NASB

Poverty and shame will come to him who neglects discipline, But he who regards reproof will be honored. - Pro 13:18 NASB

A fool rejects his father's discipline, But he who regards reproof is sensible. ... Grievous punishment is for him who forsakes the way; He who hates reproof will die. ... He whose ear listens to the life-giving reproof Will dwell among the wise. He who neglects discipline despises himself, But he who listens to reproof acquires understanding. - Pro 15:5, 10, 31-32 NASB

A man who hardens his neck after much reproof Will suddenly be broken beyond remedy. - Pro 29:1 NASB

You claim that Pastor Killingsworth's critiques are of things that are "Trivial. Trivial. Trivial." But what you get when you put all the things together is worship that does not look at all like any of the examples of godly faith God has provided us in the Scriptures. Mr. Tim, this is anything but trivial!

If our faith looks like none of the examples God has given us, it is the gift of God if He provides a rebuke and presents us with an opportunity to mend our ways. Please stop trying to eliminate that life-giving rebuke here.

Love,

Hello Tim,

One thing I think is easily missed on the medium of a blog is that most of us here have worshiped together at some point or another at various churches around the nation and the world. 

One very sweet sister in Christ talked on this blog post about how she did not have superficial joy when she was comforted in the loss of her children.  This was anything but superficial but it is something that cannot easily be understood through blog posts. 

Jody is trying to get at something that would be cheapened and defeated if explained too much.  We can't all start telling in detail our stories of sorrow and how we went to the cross with it and have been given joy -  for many of us (myself included) there would be pride, selfishness and bitterness in the telling and would put more fodder on the net for people who want to be over-emotional. 

The question here is a difficult one.  What does it look like when a righteous man pours out his heart to God? 

I have always thought one of the hardest books of the bible to understand is Job.  The Psalms are difficult as well in this way.

This is a question I have discussed with Christian bothers.  I have held that its okay to bring your heart to God in an attempt to meet Him face to face in Christ.  It's necessary.  This is true even when, or especially when, you are bitter and blaming Him.  My friends disagreed saying it's never right to be angry with God - my answer is that we sin and we must have a way to repent of it in Christ.  But we must always remember that this anger toward God is sin and God is a consuming fire and also long-suffering with us having given His only son. 

There has to be repentance - faith leading to praise of God in that action - those elements seem clearly to be lacking the video.  It does not seem that the singer is "honest".

CS Lewis has a book called "Till We Have Faces" which I read recently - I liked it but had a hard time knowing what make of it.

The book is essentially about CS Lewis's conversion about how he was bitter toward God through his childhood over the death of his mother and the aloofness of his father.  For Lewis his repentance seemed to be conversion and later marrying his wife Joy and helping her sons, who were adopted as his sons, in their grief when Joy died. 

Don't misunderstand what's being said here, Tim.  Jody said good and true things, don't miss the 99% good in what he said due to a willful misunderstanding of the 1%.

Kindly meant,
Clint

What is rife in this post, and in the comment thread, is the kind of estimation and assumption that is so perverted from the paradigm Jesus has.

Tim,

You have not missed the point. You are opposed to the point. You do not accept the paradigm of Jesus or the prophets. Your responses to Pastor Killingsworth and the others commenting here are completely unoriginal. These responses are seen all through the scriptures. Each time God's messenger or His Son says "no" to His people they utter a cry of "mean spirited", "who do you think you are", "troubler of Israel", or even, "he has a demon".

The pomo, angst-ridden, reformed posers of today are dime a dozen. They have no scars or bloodstains from their scourging, no mud caking their bodies recently pulled up from the cistern, no pictures of them up as "public enemy #1" on God-hating forums. No strings of private emails excoriating them.

They have not yet spoken the gospel therefore they have not borne it's reproach. (Here you will likely want to accuse me of being judgmental so I will reverse the phrases.) They have not borne it's reproach therefore they have not yet spoken the gospel.

Repent of your love of false peace.

this is not reproof. you posted a video of someone you don't know on a public website and dismantled it in front of your friends (and a few random passers-by). That's not discipline, or rebuke. It's defamation. You can't rebuke someone who can't hear you. 

[NOTE FROM TIM BAYLY: Defamation? Alright Tim, I've waited too long. If you comment again, you must do so identifying yourself. Your anonymity has become unacceptable. Those arguing with you should not be shadow-boxing. Love,]

If I was a lover of false peace, I would have surfed idly by and said nothing about what I believed to be wrong. The rhetoric around here is troubling in it's assumptions about motives.

Who are these angsty, pomo, reformed posers? What do you mean by angsty? Why are they posers? What does it mean to be a poser? A poser of what? What is an authentic reformed person like? Must a Christian be like that person, and if not, are they in sin? Can you define post-modernity? Do you mean the literary, aesthetic, or philosophical theory? What examples do you have of these unnamed people being "post-modern"? Please demonstrate how they contradict orthodox Christianity. 

And these scars, bloodstains, and mud-pies - Do you have all of these?

It sure sounds like they're bearing reproach from the people that write and comment on these threads. But it's more like gossip than rebuke. 

I didn't say anyone here was mean. I gave no "who do you think you are?" retorts. I gave, and am giving, reasoned perspective on why I think the nature of this post is in error. I now am asking you to do the same. Provide examples, rather than vague allusions. 

Also, it's worth noting that Jesus' main conflict, his extreme rhetoric, was never for those outside the covenant community. It was for the powerful conservatives inside the community who distorted the community's true nature. When he preached the gospel to those outside the covenant community, he was rarely (never?) met with hostility. I'm not saying this is the current situation we're in necessarily, just pointing out a fact. He was killed by the Romans to appease the religious authorities - not because the Romans objected to his being before Abraham.

[NOTE FROM TIM BAYLY: Dear Tim, Once sgain, please identify yourself with your verifiable first and last name. We don't want to lose your helpful comments, but really, you must leave your anonymity behind if you're going to continue on this thread. Thanks.]

I should clarify that not all of the things I'm talking about occurred in the original post. several were found in the comments. 

also, in what way do I need to identify myself? My name is Tim P. I found your website because a friend of mine linked to your article about Billy Graham's changing of his stance on mormonism for Romney's sake. 

[NOTE FROM TIM BAYLY: Dear Tim, Again, please identify yourself with your verifiable first and last name. We don't want to lose your helpful comments, but really, you must leave your anonymity behind if you're going to continue on this thread. Thanks.]

Anonymous "Tim" asks: "What has more potential to hinder the kingdom of God: a girl in an old sweater with horn-rimmed glasses, or a self-named Christian website ripping her apart for it?"

First of all, this is an argument, not a ripping apart session. We're critiquing a public work of art--one that was made in the name of our Lord, Jesus Christ (a fact that makes it more open to criticism, not less). Argument and criticism are good for the cause of Christ. It improves us in our work of building His kingdom. I need it. "Tim" needs it. Ms. Al-Attas needs it. Judgement begins in the household of God. Certainly we do sin at times in making our judgements. But that doesn't mean judgement is inherently sinful. 

Through this and other videos and albums (not to mention promotional emails, like the one I just got from Page CXVI, yesterday), Ms. Al-Attas has made herself a public Christian. And so we have, not the right, but the Christian duty to test the spirit of her work as it witnesses publicly to Christ. Not all that glitters is gold, of course, and our capacity for self-deception is limitless. As Christ promises to prune those branches that are fruitful so that they will bear more fruit, so too we have the privilege of being one of the means of His sanctifying work in each other through loving critique.

Some of Tim's comments here have been helpful. But the extent to which he views all Christian acts as above criticism he is not being particularly Christian, but rather capitulating to the spirit of the age. As Allan Bloom argues in The Closing of the American Mind, about the only virtue we have left in America today is the desire to get along. Sadly, in this respect, as goes the culture, so goes the Church. Our deep commitment to getting along will soon be the death of us unless we reclaim a positive view of the exercise of spiritual discernment. If everything's good (except saying something's bad), then nothing's good. 

Now, as for the weakness of Ms. Al-Attas' sex, whether it is proper to expose a "girl" (his word, I prefer "woman") to such criticism, I am very sympathetic to that concern. This is something I pondered much while writing my critique, and it led me to temper my approach quite a bit. Out of deference to her I have not written nearly so much as I think. Yet something needed to be said; some check issued. Why? Because Page CXVI and effete musicians like them enjoy a growing influence in the Reformed world today, and not for good.

The examples "Tim" provided above only strengthen my case. Though the lyrical content is superior that of "Joy", the strength of the lyric is undercut by the ironic fragility, forlornness, and hopelessness of the arrangements. What does he think those mournful guitar tones, the seated postures, the lonely piano chords, the overly-nostalgic setting, the soft brushes on the snare, and the female leadership add up to? A bold confession of repentance and faith in Jesus Christ, and strong confidence in the unfailing Fatherhood of God? Rather, what we have here is the musical and aesthetic legitimizing of feelings of spiritual isolation that result, as they always do, from sexual guilt. That this resonates with us today is not at all surprising. We are a nation of sexual rebels.

What we need instead are clear, confident, and hopeful proclamations of God's Fatherhood, of our guilt and depravity, of forgiveness in Christ, and the possibility of hearts set free from bondage to sin. We need the promise of real joy that flows from making peace with God and His Law. Page CXVI's aesthetic validation of America's shallow sense of personal brokenness and cosmic injustice is unhelpful at best. It's playing to the crowd, not improving it.

[NOTE FROM TIM BAYLY: Having asked three times for him to identify himself and having "Tim" not honor my request, I've pulled this good comment. As I told him just now by e-mail, he has the option of identifying himself and reposting the comment (the text of which I returned to him) under his real first and last name. This rule is applied when commenters get personal in their criticisms of others and hide behind anonymity (while those they are opposing are known to other readers). We do this regardless of whether the anonymous commenter is in agreement or disagreement with the post he is commenting under.]

Pastor Killingsworth wasn't talking about her; he was talking about her androgynous fellow musicians. They are men. As it were.

I watched the video and I only saw the 1 pianist. 

@ J. Kru  - Jody is referring back to the additional music videos of Page CKVI posted by "Tim" in the comment section. 

Being the hipster daughter of a hippie father (Tim Bayly, that is) who both take their emotions VERY seriously, I saw myself in this music video. And I giggled at it, until I found out it was prompted by the death of the musician's father. Nothing personal.

Jon Crum and I used to convert favorite happy songs (usually "You Are My Sunshine") to minor keys and sing them in doleful harmony, just to be funny.

On a different note, during some of the darkest days I've known, Jody Killingsworth and the rest of the Good Shepherd Band recorded a song for me and gave me the CD. It was Psalm 130, and it was the greatest comfort to my soul as I sang along.

"My soul waits for the Lord more than those who watch for the morning."

It trained my eyes on God and taught me to hope in eternity when I was on the edge of despair. I never thanked them for that gift because I didn't even know how. So, here goes. Thank you Jody, Phil, Nate, and anyone else involved in putting that recording together. It means more to me than you'll ever know.

Jody and the rest of these guys aren't lambasting anyone. They're taking a long hard look at what's wrong with the church (and it's music) and doing something about it. 

With Love,
Michal

That's very sweet, Michal. Thank you. 

Since Michal mentioned it I thought I would post it here for reference.

http://soundcloud.com/clearnotesongbook/psalm-130-i-wait-for-the-lord

This is one of our simpler songs but notice while it is soft, at no time is it without hope, but rather, very hopeful. In contrast to Page CXVI…it is comforting, warm, sincere, and helpful. 

Again, as Pastor Killingsworth said, the beef is not with her, but with Reformed shepherds who promote it. Every time I have watched this video it has made me depressed. Why? Because I want people to taste the true joy that comes from knowing God. Martin Rinkart was burying 50 people per day. One of them, his wife. And he writes during that horribly, difficult time,  

Now thank we all our God with heart and hands and voices,

Who wondrous things has done, in Whom this world rejoices;

Who from our mothers’ arms has blessed us on our way

With countless gifts of love, and still is ours today.

O may this bounteous God through all our life be near us,

With ever joyful hearts and blessèd peace to cheer us;

And keep us in His grace, and guide us when perplexed,

And free us from all ills in this world and the next!

All praise and thanks to God the Father now be given,

The Son, and Him Who reigns with Them in highest heaven;

The one eternal God, Whom earth and heav’n adore;

For thus it was, is now, and shall be evermore.

How can such helpful words be said while going through a crisis like he went through? And then Johann Crüger set it to music in a way that didn't seem like it was lying, but honest. It was a wonderful marriage between text and music, and it is helpful. That is what Pastor Killingsworth is talking about that we need. We need our spirits lifted up to God, not pointed inward to ourselves. We don't need shepherds elevating this video as if it is some model for Christian aesthetics because of how "artistic" it is. We need to be led to the Father above and then we will be helped.

Full disclosure: I'm not an expert historian nor musician.

But this is what I've found about the some of people and songs involved:

It looks like Spafford ended up leaving his church because her elders suggested (insisted?) that the tragedy he suffered was of divine origin. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/American_Colony,_Jerusalem)  

Also, according to the Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Now_Thank_We_All_Our_God), Rinkart wrote "Nun danket alle Gott" as a table grace, most likely before the plague hit Eisleben in 1637.  The stories connecting the plague to Nun danket's origin is most likely a sentimental fabrication.

And.  "I've got the Joy..." looks like it was written by a Unitarian minister named George Willis Cooke.  

Actually, Jiho, the earliest extant printed copy of "Now Thank We All Our God" is from 1648--the date of the Treaty of Westphalia ending the Thirty Years War which had brought on so many horrors which consumed most of Rinckart's adult life and ministry. So assuming the hymn hadn't been written over thirty years before it was first published, the story of this hymn coming out of the Thirty Years War and its horror (including the plague) is no sentimental fabrication.

If Pastor Rinckart wrote the hymn sometime during the decade prior to 1648 (when Wikipedia tells us it was widely known and sung), it would have come out of the deaths of 1637, including the deaths of Pastor Rinckart's wife and the 4,000 others he buried as the only pastor left in the city. 

But it's immaterial. The general horrors of the Thirty Year War (including the many deaths by plague in 1637) and Pastor Rinckart's personal sufferings were the central reality of Pastor Rinckart's entire ministry.

As the Wikipedia article you cite above states: "The exact date of "Nun danket alle Gott" is in question, but it is known that it was widely sung by the time the Treaty of Westphalia was signed in 1648."

Love,

Jiho, your representation of the article about Horatio Spafford is misleading. You wrote, "It looks like Spafford ended up leaving his church because her elders suggested (insisted?) that the tragedy he suffered was of divine origin." This makes it sound like Spafford believed God had nothing to do with the tragedy.

What the article actually says, however is this: "Horatio left the Fullerton Presbyterian Church, which he had helped to build but considered his tragedy as divine retribution..."

This is very different. 

Wow... just read your blog about the song "joy." I couldn't disagree with you more. I think it is an erroneous assumption to think that the singer is being false. There is another possibility (other than she is a depressed hipster trying to ironic). Could it be possible that people (even Christians)... could feel... 2 things at once.... gasp!! When I have lost people in my life- or been in really tough times- I have been able to feel both (a) questioning/upset/anxious at God AND (b) faithful, hopeful, and trusting in Him at the same time. It seems like the greatest example of this "mixed" emotions could be found in the lament psalms. The Psalmists seem able to share both their misery/questions/feeling of abandonment while also sharing faithfulness in God. One can be both "sad" about losing someone close to them and joyful that they are with God. One can both be "well with their soul" while also "sorrows like sea billows" roll around them.

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