Hymn hates

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by Neil Godfrey

How Great Thou Art: Gospel Favorites Live from...
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Oi! I just had a look over at Dr Jim’s Thinking Shop & Tea Room because I was in need of a good humour shot, but was not amused to see that way back (ten days ago) he had written that he was “tagging Vridar” to continue some silly superstitious chain mail/post thing. I think he was saying it’s my turn to write about a hymn I hate [Link //drjimsthinkingshop.com/2011/02/08/i-hate-hymn-hes-meme-to-me/ and blog is no longer active… Neil, 23rd Sept, 2015] and then tag a couple of others to do the same.

I don’t know no hymns. So he’s killing the game by “tagging” me.

But I do recall:

Gentle Jesus meek and mild,
Look upon a little child.
Da de da de da de de
Suffer me to come to thee.

Or was that:

Suffer me to come to thee,
Da de da simplicity.

I never knew what “suffer me to come to thee” meant except that it sounded like I was a pain that Jesus had to suffer by having me beg to tag along with all the other kids.

Now that recollection has sent me on a roll:

Jesus loves me this I know
For the Bible tells me so
Little ones to him belong
They are weak but he is strong.

They are all clearly written by domineering parents who are desperate to reinforce a sense of helpless, supine, total dependency on “the significant other”. The worst of it is that these sorts of thoughts carry through to adulthood. Perpetual self-absorbed child-mindedness finding pillow comfort in their imaginary parent — certainly for many.

Then there is How Great Thou Art, my father’s favourite and probably mine, too, when I listened to him sing in the choir. Now that can be a most moving piece of music.

Now How Great Thou Art strikes me as the converse of those child-like hymns. The version my father sang in the choir was this one:

* Verse 1:

O Lord my God! When I in awesome wonder
Consider all the worlds Thy hands have made.
I see the stars, I hear the rolling thunder,
Thy power throughout the universe displayed.


Then sings my soul, my Saviour God, to Thee;
How great Thou art, how great Thou art!
Then sings my soul, My Saviour God, to Thee:
How great Thou art, how great Thou art!

* Verse 2:

When through the woods and forest glades I wander
And hear the birds sing sweetly in the trees;
When I look down from lofty mountain grandeur,
And hear the brook and feel the gentle breeze:

* Verse 3:

And when I think that God, His Son not sparing,
Sent Him to die, I scarce can take it in;
That on the cross, my burden gladly bearing,
He bled and died to take away my sin:

* Verse 4:

When Christ shall come with shouts of acclamation
And take me home, what joy shall fill my heart!
Then I shall bow in humble adoration,
And there proclaim, my God, how great Thou art!

At last we get away from that dwelling on the pitiful childlike self. (Mostly). It’s not always a bad thing to be wrapped up in something bigger than oneself, I suppose.

But then again, doesn’t a hymn like this bring us to that other polarity from those child hymns? The self is lost almost altogether at this end. The only sight one preserves of the self is as an embodiment of “sin”, and being taken away into the greatness of the other. Losing one’s life. “Putting on” a new mind of another.

Vardis Fisher had a lot to say about this unhealthy escapist mentality, the never-ending longing for a father. But maturity is really about standing on one’s own two feet and taking whatever comes in life as a man or woman. Paul almost got it right. When he was a child he thought as a child, but when he became a man he put away childish things. Unfortunately that’s when he did a kind of u-turn up on to another plateau and became a child-adult now needing a father-god. What he should have said was:

When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things. — and spake as a man, understood as a man, thought as a man!

The poetry of How Great Thou Art is lost in the Monty Python sketch but the thought is preserved nonetheless:

CHAPLAIN: Let us praise God. O Lord,…


CHAPLAIN: …ooh, You are so big,…

CONGREGATION: …ooh, You are so big,…

CHAPLAIN: …so absolutely huge.

CONGREGATION: …so absolutely huge.

CHAPLAIN: Gosh, we’re all really impressed down here, I can tell You.

CONGREGATION: Gosh, we’re all really impressed down here, I can tell You.

CHAPLAIN: Forgive us, O Lord, for this, our dreadful toadying, and…

CONGREGATION: And barefaced flattery.

CHAPLAIN: But You are so strong and, well, just so super.




I think I’m supposed to tag someone or two but I have no wish to inflict pain on anyone. I will trust in the good will of volunteers to take up the baton or their good sense to desist.

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Neil Godfrey

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15 thoughts on “Hymn hates”

  1. ♫Onward, Christian soldiers,
    Marching as to war.
    With the cross of Jesus
    Going on before!
    Christ, the royal Master,
    Leads against the foe;
    Forward into battle,
    See His banner go!♫

    Always compassionate and understanding of others.

    Oh yeah… and

    ♫Praise the Lord!
    And pass the ammunition!♫

    Which, obviously devolves too…

    ♫They’re coming to take me away, ha-haaa!!
    They’re coming to take me away, ho-ho, hee-hee, ha-haaa
    To the funny farm. Where life is beautiful all the time and I’ll be
    happy to see those nice young men in their clean white coats and they’re
    coming to take me away, ha-haaa!!!!! ♫

    See ya on Twitter!

      1. Hey, you should have kept quiet. I took the original as a very witty pun!

        Your video clip reminds me that I walked down through a similar crowd in a similar setting in a Billy Graham crusade as a kid. Someone with a name-tag and ID thing stuck on their coat gave me a piece of paper to sign, I think (or was that the teetotallers crew who came to my primary school?) — but whatever it was I promised to give my soul to the Lord (and never to touch a drop of CnH2n+1OH) for ever and ever.

        Now I look back and see that Mike Gantt might be the only one who can show me the way to salvation now that I see I have broken all my pre-teen vows!

  2. JW:


    “It ain’t no Mystries,
    whether it’s politics, religion or Histries.
    The thing you gotta know iz,
    everything is show biz.
    Hail myself,
    WATCH my show.
    I’m the German Ethel Mer son of man,
    doncha know.
    We are Crossing borders,
    the new world Order is heeere.
    Give a great big smile,
    everyone sigmaile.
    To me, wonderful, Meeeeee.”

    Poster on the wall of the Coliseum in Rome for the hottest New play, “The Soul Producers”.


  3. OK, so not to let the theists have a field day with atheists having fun with their hate Hymns – here is something that should lift the spirit of the most diehard atheist – hopefully 😉

    The glorious voice of Alfie Boe singing Bring Him Home from the 25th anniversary concert of Les Miserables.


    It’s not god that is important – it’s reverence for the life we are living – however one tries to articulate that reverence.

  4. There is no doubt much beautiful music inspired by religious fervor throughout history. Thanks for the post, maryhelena. And all kinds of emotions and thoughts, including joy and pain, are reflected in music. I’ve sung professionally in many churches and love singing most music. Maybe we should have a post on “Hymn Loves”.

    But speaking of hymns specifically, there are hymns even Christian theists hate. I have a friend who participates in her congregational singing only if she can relate to the hymn lyrics. It’s not a surprise to me that this is a biblioblogging thing and that the person who tagged Dr. Jim before he tagged Neil was … James McGrath.

    1. Oh, my, you can sing – that’s a truly great talent to have. I can’t hold a tune – I think I’ll go drown my sorrow by listening to Alfie Boe’s new CD. – though I’m afraid that Dreaming the Impossible Dream is just not going to get any music out of my vocal cords. 😉

  5. Jsut like to say thanks for playing along! I also really like gospel music and Mahalia Jackson was brilliant. Alas, but many Christians do not even know her. My friend’s wife went to the local Christian book store to find some CDs and the girl there told her “Sorry, we only stock Christian music”. Good enough reason to abandon the church.

    1. Unfortunately, this does happen. I remember the time I mentioned Thomas A. Dorsey in conversation, getting blank stares, and then finding out they thought I was talking about Tommy Dorsey, the bandleader of the Big Band era. Then again, possibly there would be those who don’t know Tommy Dorsey either. 🙂

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