Saturday, November 10, 2007


It should be a good idea to apply the principles of "Just War" to the most common battle in American Christianity. Senseless violence is being done by all factions (there are more than just two) in the Worship Wars. By all means defend yourself from bad doctrine and practice, but it has just hit me that we have taken this label thing too far. In many cases, we have gone from proper discernment and humility into the land of being tyrannically judgemental. We have gone from defending the faith to legalistically squashing it. Here is my case in point:

Go listen to the sample of the CTS Kantorei singing a wonderful adaptation of the ancient hymn Te Deum Laudamus. Close your eyes and listen to this song as the goosebumps run up your arms. Imagine you are in the cathedral with this wonderful choir.

Some of you feel tempted to lift up your arms, don't you? Some of you want to open your palms and breathe deep, don't you? Some of you want to raise your head to heaven and bask in the heavenly beauty of this ancient, Ambrosian hymn, don't you? Some of you have to fight back tears, don't you? Some of you feel amazing feelings of peace and joy thanks to the Kantorei, don't you?

Well you can't do those things! You are not a charismatic. This is not a pentecostal church and you do not raise your hands in church, or tear up, or look to heaven with joy on your face. If you did display some kind of "outburst" while listening to this hymn live, you must be some kind of self-centered Pietist nut who wants to bring praise music into the service so you can break out the old tambourine and get slain in the spirit.

As a good orthodox Lutheran, you must guard yourself against what this 5th century hymn does to you. It is impossible to do these things in some liturgical churches. Feelings--all feelings--are the enemy. Welcome to the church of Equilibrium. Your feelings are dangerous. They lead everyone to error. Take your Prozium. Fight those evil feelings and forget your humanity.

As I listened to that hymn, I wanted to raise my hands and praise Almighty God. I am thankful for those wonderful men, for the Te Deum, and for the opportunity to hear holy music. I love and appreciate beautiful music. How can we express that appreciation? Here at my desk, none of my well-intentioned brothers would judge me... but what about on Sunday?

I get chills when I walk up to the alter during the Sacrament. My faith is not a monocrhomatic experience of concrete and iron. It is a living, feeling faith of light; adorned in gold and silver. Sometimes (not all the time) I feel things. Should I just dismiss that?

Now that I have admitted my liturgical defect, it should be noted that no one can accuse me of being a crazy praise band guy. I fled that life years ago for good reason. My tastes are now ultra-traditional. I am conservative and liturgical. Most of the stuff that came in after old form Gregorian Chant is too new for my liking. As far as the Te Deum goes, I don't like that we have translated it into the modern music signature. I think that it robs the song of its archaic tempo, form, and inflection. I love censors, incense, and processionals. I like it when acolytes, elders, or associate pastors physically hold the gospel for the reading. I long for real candles in church. I like everything chanted. I want a chalice and I want the bread placed in my mouth. I make the sign of the cross during the service. I declare "amen" loudly when it is called for... even at the rail. A Bach chorale will usually bring me to tears. I think a church that lacks a kantor is really missing out. I consider myself a liturgist's liturgist.

I may be conservative and liturgical... but stoic? I cannot do stoic. All of this very old stuff builds strong feelings in me. Emotions that want to burst out. I struggle to contain them.

I am afraid that the ancient liturgy makes me behave charismatically... is that wrong? Does that make me a Pietist? Would you call me a charismatic? Would you judge me if I stood next to you in church? Some of my pastor's sermons are so convicting that I cannot even look at him. Does that make me an enthusiast? Have my feelings forced me away from confessional orthodoxy?

Who is at fault for this mess? Is it me? Does the blame lie with those stoic traidtionalists who want a sterile church? Does the blame lie with those hypocrictical charismatics who have twisted innocent acts of adoration into self-serving-look-at-me behavior?

Is it always bad to feel in church or is it just bad to let strong feelings show? What is the correct way to express these overwhelming feelings?


Dan @ Necessary Roughness said...

Mike, say it with me: feelings are not bad. :)

The problem lies when people use their feelings to gauge whether God is at work, whether they got something out of the service, or whether what was said was actually truthful. People pursue the emotional high without stopping to think about what is actually being said.

BTW, I love the Te Deum Laudemus. I just found out recently it's in the LSB:

Mike Baker said...

Exactly, Dan. Great point.

If you want to hear a truly Gregorian Chant version of the Te Deum Laudemus, go to the Lutheran Liturgical Prayer Brotherhood (at and listen to our beloved Pastor Benjamin Mayes sing it.

The direct link to the Te Deum is:

It is the first link on the page under "The Order of Vigils"