Note: It’s Cindy Bolbach Week in my head, so I’m thinking of her wisdom as we approach the 3rd Sunday in Advent.
Yes, yes, we all know that new hymns often use fresh lyrics set to popular music. Supposedly Ein’ Feste Burg was the tune of a drinking song in 16th Century Germany, but in truth Martin Luther wrote the tune himself – along with the lyrics to A Mighty Fortress – probably while drinking a hearty German beer.
John Calvin wrote I Greet Thee, Who My Sure Redeemer Art set to a tune in the French Psalter about the same time that Luther was composing A Mighty Fortress. Maybe he was drinking a glass of French wine during the process, or maybe not.
These are two of the greatest hymns ever written. And here’s my point: great hymns are written by great theologians. Recently a seasoned pastor told me “There are no good new hymns anymore because there are no good new theologians.” I respectfully disagree.
All of us are theologians. Even atheists are theologians. (Simple: There is no god.) But the deeper our faith, the more profound our theology and the most creative among us can put that to poetry and music.
Not all popular songwriters are deep theologians, but there are some amazing songwriters today who stir something in us which connects us to God – maybe not with resounding organ sounds but – still – with deep meaning.
Jesus Is My Boyfriend music doesn’t do it for me and I don’t see that message as sound theology. But everyday, theologians continue to write amazing music and lyrics. And some of us are still stopped in our tracks by those 16th Century favorites.