Monday, January 16, 2012

How clean can you kiss a leper?

Every once in a while, a row will be kicked up concerning the liturgy by a group of parishioners who don't like the Latin, hate a bigger church with younger people and don't care for change at all.
A group of old white people who hate foreign language, expansion of borders, young people and change?
We gots Tea Party!

But yesterday, we sang a few congregational songs that should surely soothe the savage beasts.

One of the songs we chose has sort of a sing-songy melody and a little Janet Jacksony.

The song is called "The Summons" and the melody is an old Scottish theme called "Kelvingrove".

I did a little looking into Kelvingrove and found out that it's the tune of a ditty called "Oh the Shearin's No' for You". Which isn't about sheep, as the singers of "Burning Bridget Cleary" say in their intro to our next video, it's about a man who tells his wife "she's too old for fun". Give a listen.

Further back, as if that song weren't dreary enough, it seems the original tune was about a rape. The story is how the victim was forced to marry her assailant as she was pregnant from the attack:
Well I'll no kill you deid my bonnie lassie o
No I'll no kill you deid my bonnie lassie o
No I'll no kill you deid, nor will I harm your pretty heid
I will marry you with speed my bonnie lassie o

I guess marriage is better than being deid.

The liturgical adaptation of Kelvingrove, The Summons, has some equally disturbing bits to it.

No, the disturbing part isn't the rapid fire old folks chorus or the womyn priestess. It's the overabundance of loving, touching and leper-kissing that skeeves me out.

Will you let the blinded see
If I but call your name?
Will you set the pris’ners free
And never be the same?
Will you kiss the leper clean,
And do such as this unseen,
And admit to what I mean
In you and you in me?

Will you love the ‘you’ you hide
If I but call your name?
Will you quell the fear inside
And never be the same?
Will you use the faith you’ve found
To reshape the world around,
Through my sight and touch and sound
In you and you in me?

Is it just me or when a guy sings that song and even if you know it's about Jesus it makes Jesus seem creepy and needy? And a bad pick up artist.

And to the demands of Lord Touchtouchmethere, I have to answer a resounding "NO". I ain't kissing no lepers clean. I don't think I can. I don't even think I'm canonically allowed to kiss a clean leper.
And who's the 'you' I'm hiding? And why is the 'you' in quotes? What makes that you so special?

I'd expect better out of the composer. I mean, this from the guy who sang "Christmas Katie" and "Can't Get High"?
John Bell of Widespread Panic

Oh..wait...wrong John Bell.

This is the John Bell who wrote it.
John Bell is the most prolific composer of liturgical music from Scotland's Iona Community; his songs are noted equally for their solid theology, their concern for justice, and their ease for congregational singing. His work is distributed in the U.S. by GIA Publications

Iona. Justice. Congregational Singing. GIA. Wow, even Widespread would think this is too far out.

Ughh. There is nothing wholly scriptural, catechetical or just about this song. If I was in a park or maybe a skate park and sang it, I'd be tazered and Batman'd. Litmus test for Jesus songs: You can sing them around children without being pepper sprayed. This one fails.

Liturgical music for a while was all about touching, hugging and dancing but, to quote the old song:
Tak' the buckles frae yer shoon, my bonnie lassie o
Tak' the buckles frae yer shoon, my bonnie lassie o
Tak' the buckles frae yer shoon, for you've married sic a loon
An' yer dancin' days are done, my bonnie lassie o