One more hymn

by Richard on May 14, 2011

Deep contradictions, not cosy solutions,
come when our faith and experience collide.
Pain and its purpose, the holocaust’s image,
loving and hurting, are found side by side.

Here in the tension of unresolved conflict,
logic and passion will vie for each heart;
here in life’s crucible, melting and moulding,
God has a purpose and we play a part.

Here where the spirit is forging, transforming
lives that are open to challenge and change;
God in each paradox fathoms potential,
source of the pattern we measure and range.

Text: © Andrew Pratt

This the third and last hymn for today. All were thought suitable for Holocaust Memorial Day but they have, inexplicably, been removed from the Methodist Church website.

Now that they’re all their to see, can anyone explain to me why any one of them could not be used in a service of Christian worship marking Holocaust Memorial Day?

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

1

PamBG 05.14.11 at 3:40 pm

My thesis: they are all hymns that deny the legitimacy of dualism (aka “I’m righteous and everyone I hate deserves to die”).

Somehow, if I don’t believe that your enemies deserve to die, then I’m also denying the injustice that has been done to you and I can’t see that you have been wronged or are hurting.

2

Richard 05.14.11 at 4:13 pm

The connexional reasoning says: “The different entries in this part of the website were made in order to bring to the attention of the Methodist people some of the hymns and songs that are to be included in our new hymn book. A small group have been working on hymns for some time and ideas were mooted as possibilities to enable people to use the hymn resource effectively. One of these was highlighting potential hymns for use of national days, both civic occasions and religious commemorations.
“Holocaust Memorial Day was one of these. However while those suggested would be appropriate for occasions where, for example, civic leaders or members of different faiths are present they are not helpful for services commemorating the Holocaust.
“Consequently, I have asked the Communications Department to remove the hymns from the entry for Holocaust Memorial Day.”

The issue appears to be that none of the hymns is sharply focussed on Jewish suffering in the Holocaust (this hymn by Kim might have been suitable) but all deal with ‘man’s inhumanity to man’ and as a reasonably experienced leader of worship I’m struggling to see why I shouldn’t choose any of them if I were leading worship to mark HMD.

3

Paul Martin 05.14.11 at 4:39 pm

I would certainly be happy to use any of these hymns in worship. i think I have already used Kim’s hymn in a service commemorating the Holocaust.

4

Richard 05.14.11 at 5:13 pm

There is something distinctly odd about all this. I don’t think we’ve heard the whole truth yet.

5

Kim 05.14.11 at 6:38 pm

I think the first two hymns posted are good hymns and completely unexceptionable as hymns for a Holocaust Memorial Day service. The theology of this hymn, however, while it certainly does not mean to be insulting to Jews (only a tendientious reading of it could come to such a conclusion), is so exceptionable in its triteness that you could say I find it theologically offensive and pastorally inept. It suggests some kind of balance between “pain and its purpose”, “love and hurting” (v.1), which can be subsumed in the term “paradox” (v. 3). In the Holocaust, or indeed or in any genocidal event? I don’t think so. Indeed “pain” and “hurting” are appallingly bland words to use in such circumstances, and “paradox” doesn’t even begin to cover the existential mind-fuck of such horrendous evils. And the idea that genocide might have some “purpose”, or be rendered tolerable by its “potential” (v. 3) - D.Z. Philipps speaks scornfully here of the “outward-bound school of theology” - it’s what leads Terrence Tilley to refer to the “evils of theodicy”.

It’s a bad hymn. I wouldn’t sing it. But why do I have the feeling that MP’s outrage has less to do with an analysis of its theology than with his ongoing vendetta against the Methodist Church?

6

PamBG 05.14.11 at 7:25 pm

However while those suggested would be appropriate for occasions where, for example, civic leaders or members of different faiths are present they are not helpful for services commemorating the Holocaust.

Interesting. I can’t think of a single hymn that refers to a specific historical event such that its use would render it inappropriate for all but that specific event.

There is something distinctly odd about all this. I don’t think we’ve heard the whole truth yet.

MP infers on his website - but, as usual, doesn’t directly claim - that The Simon Wiesenthal Center discovered these hymns on the website and asked the Methodist Church to take it down. Since the SWC is a human rights organization, I guess we’re supposed to infer that these hymns are offensive to human rights?

7

Richard 05.14.11 at 7:41 pm

Don’t hold back, Kim. Tell us what you really think!

8

Kim 05.15.11 at 1:31 pm

BTW, the Grand Inquisitor (aka David Hallam) attacks Andrew’s hymn on the occasion of the assassination of bin Laden on the grounds that it “celebrate[s]” bin Laden’s life. It doesn’t. Rather it laments his death. There can be no theological complaint about such a lament - indeed to celebrate bin Laden’s death is theologically appalling - so lines 1 and 2 of verse 1 of the hymn are unobjectionable:

We cannot gloat: a time for grief,
another mother’s son is dead,

However, I can see a problem with lines 3 and 4:

and if that son has killed and maimed,
it is the better least is said;

That last line strikes me as a kind of denial. What must be held together in the wake of bin Laden’s death are both ineradicable moral repulsion at the enormity of his crimes and deep sorrow that this mother’s son - and child of God - could so self-deface the image of God and die unrepentant. I don’t think verse 1 keeps that balance. But its last two lines (5 and 6) -

but let us mourn for all the loss,
within the shadow of the cross.

- Amen!

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