Long ago, a seminary professor I knew described the ‘carnival music’ typically sung in some churches. He did a singsong ‘I was sinking deep in sin,’ and asked why any Christian would sing ‘happy music’ about life in sin. Following the lilt, another participant in the conversation added, ‘I was sinking deep in sin — wheeeee – what a way to go! Hilarious? Yes.
But since then, I CAN’T hear ‘Love Lifted Me’ without seeing in my mind those spinning carousels, and painted horses rising and falling in time.
Living Without Contemporary Rhythm
The stand of Independent Fundamental Baptists sects on worldly music is well known. Countless sermons tell of the impropriety of praise bands using drums, guitars and saxophones. These have no place in church. And neither has music with rhythm – unless we’re singing ‘Onward Christian Soldiers,’ patriotic hymns such as ‘Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory,’ or pretty much anything else you hear among IFBs. Fundamentalist often regard rhythm as a sexualized thing which is bound to lead to sexual sin.
But except where plainchant is used, little church music is sung without rhythm. Some places still use ‘I Greet Thee Who My Sure Redeemer Art.’ But most churches and all IFBs would have fits to try and sing that. If you take that link and play the ‘midi‘ [music] file accompanying the lyrics, you’ll see why. Most versions [including the link to ‘recording’ on that page] use a metered tune. But the older version ‘midi‘ has no meter.
Why won’t IFB sing ‘I Greet Thee Who My Sure Redeemer Art.’ Published 1551 in the Genevan Psalter, some attribute it to John Calvin. If an absence of rhythm wasn’t enough, that alone would have this hymn banished. Yet with no meter, it is one of very few hymns that rhythm critics should sing.
Oh, and the guy waiving an arm in the top link? He’s beating out rhythm.