by Terry Camsey, Major –
I was amazed, and not a little disturbed, by comments made recently in Salvationist in the series “Window on my world” by a young Salvationist from a Welsh corps.
What caught my attention was the fact that he is a part-time international tennis umpire who has worked at Wimbledon and—at the time of publication—was slated to be at the Australian Open. My wife and I both enjoying watching tennis, and when I spotted this article the championship was in full swing.
Let me quote what he said:
Some old songs are rubbish—boring melodies with words that I can’t understand. Now, I know that not all new songs are good, but singing old songs just for the sake of it is pointless. Is that what God really deserves?
Several thoughts crossed my mind as I read these words:
Many old songs in our songbook have been—for many years and over several generations—a means of reinforcing the theological underpinnings of the Army. These and many Gospel truths have been imbedded in our minds to reinforce our faith—often “just in time” when facing obstacles that would impede our spiritual growth.
Their content is timeless despite the fact that colloquialisms of the day may change somewhat over time.
Songs that our young friend calls “rubbish” have been a means of blessing for any over decades and still are. Their messages are timeless.
To accuse sincere, dedicated and deep thinking Christian writers of producing “rubbish” is an insult. To suggest that God deserves something better than their best they have dedicated to him (and bearing in mind that the Army’s greatest writers were deeply spiritual, regardless of whether they had Master’s—or even Bachelor’s degrees) demonstrates both a lack of understanding and of compassion. “I give Thee my best, nothing less, nothing less, O gladly I give thee who loved me my best,” (Number 41 in the chorus section of the Song Book), captures the spirit in which their gift of writing was given.
Our young Salvationist is critical of words he cannot understand. The fault here surely lies in that inability to understand, or perhaps unwillingness to seek to understand. Would he, I wonder, apply the same criticism to the King James translation of the Bible where some of the language is of a former time? Does this make that particular Bible “rubbish?” I think not. By the same measure, much of the world’s greatest poetry would, no doubt be judged “rubbish.”
Many of those “rubbish” songs with “boring melodies” have been an inspiration for Army composers who over the years have produced new melodies that, like holding a gem up to the light, reflect a many-faceted beauty. Think of how the creative skills of those composers have added luster and fresh insights. I cannot believe that the Ultimate Creator, is not overjoyed at seeing and receiving the creative work of his children. Is he not worthy and appreciative of such praise?
Does he really believe that corps officers go out of their way to include old songs in their meetings ”just for the sake of it?” If so, he does not seem to have a very high opinion of our leaders.
I worry, however, that they might have let him down by not helping him to understand and unearth the riches of our Song Book that are testimony to how God can inspire people of whatever station in life to express truths that can bless (and have blessed) many people over the years. The Song Book is a treasure that seems to be slipping out of our hands, and I find that very sad.
Finally, in tennis, “love” indicates that a player has zero points. At the beginning of the match, before a serve has been played, the score is (unless I am mistaken) “Love all.”
Love all. Sounds remarkably like 1 Corinthians 13:13!