Holy Transparency & Your Church

(This post is largely in response to a post from Jeff Goins’ blog, Pilgrimage of the Heart.  If you don’t follow him, you should)

What’s the deal with the overlap between faith and music?  Why are we drawn to “the gray area?” – that place where seemingly “un-christian” artists talk about things related to faith?  Artists like Dave Matthews, Damien Rice, Over the Rhine, and others like them – who probably won’t find themselves as worship leaders in a local church anytime soon – possess an undeniable ability to pull us in.  Why?

“The Blower’s Daughter” has effectively changed the way I look at my wife. Here’s the live video.

The scary thing is that there is certainly biblical precedent for this kind of holy transparency. Psalm 51 (context: David after the Bathsheba narrative) is probably the clearest example that comes to mind. Here’s the most poignant piece to me: While only one verse is spent recording David’s confession (2 Samuel 12:13), a whole Psalm is spent in meditative, artful, contrite worship.

Why does God want us to read both accounts – the historical and the poetic – of David’s thoughts after his sin with Bathsheba?  What can be said through a psalm that can’t be recorded in the historical record?

Interestingly, Psalm 51 is one of the 55 Psalms prefaced with “for the choir director” as a sub-heading – noting that it was typically meant to be experienced alongside of music. Here’s how I imagine this going: David writes down or recites his meditation (the words of Psalm 51). He hands it to the choir director (likely a Levitical priest or someone who had experience with music in a corporate worship setting). The choir director then supplements David’s words with music that was meant to bring his words to their fullest and deepest resonance. Over the last 3,000 years, we’ve lost the music. And, because we can’t handle the powerful transparency of words alone, Psalm 51 (like many others) has become peripheral in corporate worship. We needed the music.

The thing about Damien Rice: He is both the writer and the priest of his meditation. There is no gap. That testifies to his authenticity.

Here’s a possible direction to take this thought: Does the church know how to corporately steward the feelings of her people through music? What would happen if the adulterer in your church took his words (a la Psalm 51) to your worship leader? What would he / she do with them? We need artists who can craft music that moves alongside the whispers of the Spirit.


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