Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Secular Hymns for a Secular World

The basis for this is something light and secular.

I remember in the late sixties us young types wanted some modern music in the new English Mass. Something from the Beatles or “Bridge over Troubled Waters” by Simon and Garfunkel seemed an appropriate request to the masters of the stone house.

We were told that expression of the profane did not match the requirements of things appropriate to sing in a church. The music must be sacred and approved by the Vatican bureaucracy. So no real music got played in my high school chapel.

In a way that was good, why pretend. Lifting up the spirit of people with secular music sounded too much like the feared Protestantism still lurking about and in spite of pronouncements of Ecumenical boiler plate PR coming out of Vat II.

Going along with the idea of secular music, I ran into “You’ll never walk alone” sung at a public high school graduation I went to. No mention of God in the song from a Broadway musical but with a inspirational and or spiritual overtone. Quite legal under the First Amendment in a secular public school assembly.

Pushing along on this secular theme and secular songs, so why not label them “Secular Hymns”? It is a secular world and if you read a secular bible by Thomas Jefferson about the life of Jesus why not have some secular hymns to balance out the program.

Another of these no God mentioned songs is “You Raise me Up” listed below with lyrics and video.

In a rather unusual way of looking at the secular approach, you in a way go back to where the mention of “God” was too sacred a thing to utter. Perhaps in our secular world, the name and or word “God” is worn out in connotation and or common meaning.

Maybe by not mentioning God in songs or “Hymns” maybe we might come closer to the divine in inspirational type thought and music.

“You’ll Never Walk Alone”

When you walk through a storm hold your head up high,
And don't be afraid of the dark.
At the end of a storm is a golden sky
And the sweet silver song of a lark.

Walk on through the wind,
Walk on through the rain,
Tho' your dreams be tossed and blown.
Walk on, walk on with hope in your heart,
And you'll never walk alone,
You'll never walk alone!

(Music, Words) Rodgers and Hammerstein

"You Raise Me Up"

When I am down and, oh my soul, so weary;
When troubles come and my heart burdened be;
Then, I am still and wait here in the silence,
Until you come and sit awhile with me.

You raise me up, so I can stand on mountains;
You raise me up, to walk on stormy seas;
I am strong, when I am on your shoulders;
You raise me up... To more than I can be.

There is no life - no life without its hunger;
Each restless heart beats so imperfectly;
But when you come and I am filled with wonder,
Sometimes, I think I glimpse eternity.

You raise me up, so I can stand on mountains;
You raise me up, to walk on stormy seas;
I am strong, when I am on your shoulders;
You raise me up... To more than I can be.

(Words, Music) Brendan Graham, Rolf Lovland.

The Secular Bible ? by Thomas Jefferson

To change the subject matter back to more appropriate light and or secular matters.

I ran into a reference somewhere about this book some months ago. It is the so called Jefferson Bible or The Life and Morals of Jesus. It is conveniently on an Internet site without having to buy a dusty old copy of it.

Apparently Jefferson in his old age did a literal cut and paste with several copies of the New Testament, four gospels, and painted a line by line narrative of Jesus as a moral teacher. Good narrative flow of the story of Jesus but with no miracles, no resurrection etc.

The Jefferson Bible

Letter To Dr. Benjamin Rush.
Washington, April 21, 1803.

In some of the delightful conversations with you in the evenings of 1798-99, and which served as an anodyne to the afflictions of the crisis through which our country was then laboring, the Christian religion was sometimes our topic; and I then promised you that one day or other I would give you my views of it. They are the result of a life of inquiry and reflection, and very different from that anti-Christian system imputed to me by those who know nothing of my opinions. To the corruptions of Christianity I am indeed opposed, but not to the genuine precepts of Jesus himself. I am a Christian, in the only sense in which he wished anyone to be: sincerely attached to his doctrines in preference to all others, ascribing to himself every human excellence, and believing he never claimed any other. At the short interval since these conversations, when I could justifiably abstract my mind from public affairs, the subject has been under my contemplation. But the more I considered it, the more it expanded beyond the measure of either my time or information. In the moment of my late departure from Monticello, I received from Dr. Priestley his little treatise of "Socrates and Jesus Compared." This being a section of the general view I had taken of the field, it became a subject of reflection while on the road and unoccupied otherwise. The result was, to arrange in my mind a syllabus or outline of such an estimate of the comparative merits of Christianity as I wished to see executed by someone of more leisure and information for the task than myself. This I now send you as the only discharge of my promise I can probably ever execute. And in confiding it to you, I know it will not be exposed to the malignant perversions of those who make every word from me a text for new misrepresentations and calumnies. I am moreover averse to the communication of my religious tenets to the public, because it would countenance the presumption of those who have endeavored to draw them before that tribunal, and to seduce public opinion to erect itself into that inquisition over the rights of conscience which the laws have so justly proscribed. It behooves every man who values liberty of conscience for himself, to resist invasions of it in the case of others; or their case may, by change of circumstances, become his own. It behooves him, too, in his own case, to give no example of concession, betraying the common right of independent opinion, by answering questions of faith which the laws have left between God and himself. Accept my affectionate salutations.

Th: Jefferson

This was a project that Jefferson had suggested to some of the great minds of his day but to which nobody else bothered to follow through on. In his old age, it was one of those things left on the "to do" list. I guess he needed a mental exercise to keep dementia away.

I have only read parts of it but pass it along to anyone interested who never heard of it or is curious about an abridged NT version as seen through the eyes and or imaginative brain workings of one of the founding fathers.