Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Thinking about Him (Epilogue)


Icon, from the Greek word 'eikon' meaning image, is a kind of Christian art that is indispensable to the Orthodox tradition. Just as songs are capable of engaging the audio senses of the listeners, icons are capable of engaging the visual senses of the viewers, inviting the viewers to worship the person that is being imaged (if Christ is the subject) or to imitate the life of the person (if saints are the subjects).

The understanding of icon is crucial to our self-identity as well. Since we are created in the image of God, we are living icons of God. Thus, we must realize that we are responsible of engaging the visual senses of our viewers, so that when they observe our lives, they are automatically directed to the person (God) that we image.

When others see us, may they be able to see God.


Tuesday, October 17, 2006

The Songs They Hear (Epilogue)

Young people love to listen to Christian songs that focus on the feelings of the individual (towards God). These songs provide a platform for them to express their devotion to God in a creative way (monotony is their arch enemy). Yet, without prior warning, a danger lies ahead of them. Their tendency of listening to / singing songs that focus on feelings alone can lead them to a kind of spirituality that is shallow and bankrupt.

By examining the content of the songs today, it is not difficult to realize that these songs are very human-centered, focusing on the feelings of the worshippers and as a result, God is being reduced to a minor role. Furthermore, because these songs only talk about feelings (e.g. "I love you", "I want to live for you" etc.) and not much about God himself, we realize that this affects their spirituality as well. Just listen to the prayers that they pray. It seems that they do not have much to say about God, but much to say to God (about themselves).

We need to rediscover songs that are God-centered, song that have the ability to bring out the beauty of God. Thus, when we sing these songs, not only are we able to express our devotion to God, but we are able to be enriched and educated of the knowledge of God through the lyrics as well. Isn't it beautiful to be able to learn about God through songs as well? (How many popular Christian songs today can do that?)

As we immersed ourselves in songs such as these, I believe that our spirituality can be enriched, and we will be able to express our worship to God in a deeper way.


Wednesday, October 11, 2006

The Songs They Hear (3)

It is not difficult to observe that the content of the Christian songs that young people are attracted to nowadays (regardless of the genre) are expressive, emotional and experiential. Because these songs tend to emphasize on how a person feels about God, young people find it easy to "connect" with the songs and use them as a platform to express their honest feelings to God.

There is nothing wrong about being honest and expressive, but within some of these songs are big claims and promises that we often make carelessly. For example, when we sing "I will go to the ends of the earth for you" or "I live for you alone", how often do we really mean what we sing? Imagine how God feels when he keeps listening to our empty claims and promises again and again, whenever we sing these songs.

Many of these songs tend to emphasize on the victorious side of Christian life and ignore the struggling side of Christian life. If we want to express ourselves to God through songs, perhaps it is better to find songs that can better reflect the true condition of humanity; so that when we sing them, we can truly mean what we sing.


Sunday, October 08, 2006

The Songs They Hear (2)

Before I venture further into other issues about the songs that young people listen to nowadays, allow me to sidetrack for a while and comment further on the importance of choosing songs that can provide an educational antithesis to the hurried lifestyle that many of us (not just the young people) are embracing today.

Listen to the words of Kosuke Koyama:
The context in which most persons live is fast-moving urban life, with its noise, its hustle and bustle, its dominant impersonal relationships. People no longer see one another with faces, but as numbers and replaceable units in productive processes and systems...[Yet] our God, is a three-mile-an-hour God.
God came to live among us in order to show us how to live. He was a walking God (three-mile-an-hour is the walking speed of a human). Never in a hurry, he always found time to play with the children, chat with the widows, heal the sick and comfort the downhearted.

If we want to learn to live the way that he lived, we better start learning to travel at the speed that he traveled. We can no longer afford to be careless with the songs that we choose to listen to. Wrong choice of songs, and they will further accelerate our running pace, making it even more difficult for us to be like our three-mile-an-hour God. Right choice of songs, and they will help to decelerate our running pace so that eventually, we can be three-mile-an-hour people, just as God is.

Learn to walk.


Saturday, October 07, 2006

The Songs They Hear (1)

This is the trend among the young people (Christians) today. Observe the songs that they listen to, chances are they either come from Hillsong or Planet Shakers. Notice the instruments that are being used in the production of the music, chances are they consist of keyboards, electric guitars, acoustic guitars, bass guitars and drums.

The young people love it. This kind of music, which is fast in tempo and loud in volume, provides them with the kind of excitement and "high"ness that they thirst for. The more fundamental reason, I suspect, is because this kind of music resonates with their fast pace of life. They are living in an age of rush, always finding themselves having too many tasks to accomplish with too little time at hand. Thus, they find themselves always on the run. The fast and loud music creates the kind of adrenalin rush that they are so used to experience in their daily lives. Yet, this kind of music is not only incapable of injecting peace and calmness into their souls, it resonates with the rushing rhythm in their souls, which I believe, is the source of their anxieties and stresses.

Sadly, when someone provides a critical criticism to the choices of Christian songs that the young people listen to nowadays, many will carelessly respond by saying that we should allow the young people to express themselves in their own unique way and not be so critical and worried about it. Yet, should we not be concern with the adverse effects that this kind of music creates (as explained above)? Should we not model for them a different kind of worship, a worship that truly reflects the unhurriedness of our three-mile-an-hour God? Should we not encourage them to listen to songs that are able to provide an antithesis to their high-tempo life, songs that are able to provide a conducive environment for them to cultivate stillness and calmness in their lives?