Originally posted Sept. 28, 2010, at Music at Bethany. Republished with permission of the author.
It seems like every major news outlet is covering the Pew Survey on Religion in some way. Basically, the findings are that people do not perform well on a “religious pop quiz.”
We don’t seem to know even the most basic tenets of our faith; we seem to lead by our hearts and not our heads when it comes to religion. I do worry about the “fairness” of pop quizzes. I think we’d be surprised at how poorly we’d perform on any range of topics.
Furthermore, who decides which questions demonstrate religious knowledge? If a person can recite and explain the Apostles’ Creed and the Lord’s Prayer, wouldn’t that show at least a minimal understanding of the Christian faith?
But despite that reservation, I don’t think we can see the results of this study as anything other than a call for ongoing Christian education — Sunday school, adult forum, Bethel Bible study, and, of course, music!
Church music doesn’t respect the distinction between heart and head. Soaring tunes can be matched with texts that explain and describe our faith, thereby pairing aesthetic beauty with Christian education.
Our closing hymn “O Christ, Your Heart, Compassionate” (Evangelical Lutheran Worship 722) this past Sunday is just one example of that blending. For one thing, the choir sounded fantastic on the last verse descant at the second service, and the hymn itself has a beautiful tune.
But the text also contains a number of allusions to specific Bible verses, and a call to ministry. Verse three especially points out that we are Christ’s body and our lives and ministry should reveal Christ’s love for all.
From what I can tell, the survey didn’t ask people if they had any hymns memorized or how music informs their faith. That’s certainly a glaring omission of one important aspect of worship!
Find a link to Tom Hanson’s blog at Lutheran Blogs.