The Noise of Your Songs
Editor’s Note: This post originally appeared on Joel’s personal blog, and appears here with minor edits. You can read the original post here.
Take away from Me the noise of your songs,
For I will not hear the melody of your stringed instruments.
But let justice run down like water,
And righteousness like a mighty stream.
— Amos 5:23–24
These words of the prophet Amos would have shocked the religious sensibilities of his Hebrew audience. He utters this rebuke to a nation called to be separate, with traditions of divine remembrance mandated by God to mark the times and seasons with feasts, and songs that told of His mighty acts and resounded how blessed they were by His hand of deliverance.
Amos mocked the sacred songs of the nation of Israel because along with their feasts and solemn assemblies they were a putrid stench in the nostrils of the God of righteousness and justice.
Why was their music so obnoxious to the God who expected their worship?
Because their worship was a musical decoy attempting to masquerade their failure to do right in the sight of God. Their instruments beautiful melodies belied the ugly deception of their hearts and lives as it relates to justice. Worship as a decoy incenses the heavens. The contrast couldn’t be any more striking — their joyful, ceremonial, cultural offerings of worship was being unceremoniously reduced to a cacophany.
In the spirit of Amos, I turn my observations to another sound of worship just as worthy of a divine side-eye, equally at the risk of shocking my intended audience.
Humans haven’t changed much since the times of Amos as it relates to our propensity to use our worship songs and observing holy days as a smokescreen for our lack of faithfulness to what God really requires of us. The modern worship movement and the Contemporary Christian music industry in America have composed the soundtrack of contemporary liturgical expression around the world. As a worship leader, I select from a song repertoire made up of the largest international worship ministries that dominate the CCLI charts. These ministries financially benefit from the sales of their recorded music and from churches around the world who pay to sing and re-record their music. Many of the pastors and worship leaders of these churches among others publicly participated in the religious coronation of Trump’s dictatorship over the last 4 years and receipts for this abound on social media.
They dog whistled the tune like Trump’s personal Pied Piper leading many gullible Christians into the wilful delusion that he was God’s gift to the free world. The American church, along with her appointed representatives, nursed a petulant sycophant into a full-grown narcissistic dictator with a pseudo-righteous messianic aura. They literally fashioned him into the living embodiment of everything anti-christ and worshipped the orange-golden calf in their churches and homes to their guitar-driven theme music.
Despite the calls for biblical fidelity, zealous campaigns for intercession and revival from so many of these churches, it’s almost impossible to recognize and reconcile so much of what is fashionably called Christianity with anything revealed about the ethics and praxis of Jesus in scripture. The white nationalism cloaked in self-righteous Jesus worship absent Christ-likeness has been enthroned as the state religion in America yet corrupting many expressions of Christianity beyond her shores and is such a telling indictment. So many of the Christian voices I’d come to love and respect have become loudly complicit in this dangerous religious circus and Jesus cult that many are growing increasingly despondent of.
Many respected “Christian” prophets with a “trusted track record on hearing from God” all conspired to crown Trump a second term yet failed to foresee the will of the people and now we witness him destroying the notion of democracy at the outset of the year and refusing to concede to a lawful transition of power. His delusional disciples recently stormed Capitol Hill with guns in one hand, a Bible in another, and worship songs on their tongues.
When we sing and purchase the songs of worship written, produced and distributed by idolaters of Trump, we are inexcusably complicit in their idolatry. We the religious consumers of their music, whether we actively supported Trump’s thirst for sanctified white nationalist power, finance and legitimize the music that Amos would have called noise.
We can’t divorce the art from the actions of the institutions that benefit from our funding — Institutions that sanctified white nationalist power that is now unjustly threatening US democracy. As a worship leader I cannot be silent about the godly dejection this has caused me, seeing a movement I’ve dedicated the best part of my adult life being a part of dangerously co-opted by white nationalism which is a threat to justice everywhere.
I can no longer in good conscience separate the songs from its corrupted origins at the risk of performing an ear-splitting commotion in the heavens that repels God; Not least until there is repentance from their unholy alliances with white supremacy married to the commitment to see a torrential downpour of meaningful justice in the nations.
Neither should you.
Here are many of those actively and loudly endorsed and supported this wicked administration with pride.