"Boomer Contemporary"

Posted by: Richenda at Friday August 1, 2014 in

I was scrolling through tweets this morning to discover Amy Hanson’s little gem “For the love of all things holy can we please STOP referring to the sort of worship/music popularized 30 years ago as contemporary?!”

To which I retweeted a resounding YES! And appreciated as well the statement that Contemporary Worship/Music is a hallmark of the boomers.

I am 48 (Gen X) and I get frustrated because it seems that everyone agrees I should be eager to celebrate every Sunday morning with ‘Contemporary’ worship music. (And if it bothers me…and my hair is gray…what can this mean for Millennials & Gen Y?)

Yes, there are things I like about this music. These are the anthems of the Baby Boomers and those who love them. (And I love Baby Boomers, too.) I sing these on Sunday like I sing the anthems of the Traditional Generations (from the Hymnal and at the Assisted Living) before them. I love, respect, admire, and share the music of many generations—even generations long, long gone as is the case for something like Ode to Joy and the Hallelujah Chorus. I am happy to continue traditions that feed our hunger. What I don’t want is tyranny.

The trouble (and whining) I have is when a word like ‘Contemporary’ gets confused to mean ‘in perpetuity’ and applied to me as if ‘Contemporary’ in any way names my experiences, or the experiences of those in the 21st century. Contemporary in the worship setting to me means ‘antique.’ Sorry, but that’s just true. (On the upside, I do not think of ‘antique’ as bad. I like new things and antique things, both.)

Here’s some really good news: If we don’t worship Modernity-Contemporaneity, we don’t have to trash everything else.

The idea of ‘Contemporary’ has its roots in modernism. In their day (1910s) the ‘Modernists’ felt modern indeed. And they were. It was the dawn of the power of theories such as biological evolution, and our minds as material biology seemed to have reached some transcendent and wonderful peak—or was right on the cusp. Modernism ruled the day. The generations who held to modernism gave us an idea so powerful—one that was so richly rewarding to the psyche—that the idea of ‘modernity’ maintained its power for a century. The word morfed into ‘Contemporary’ so it could sound hipper to the Boomers who were young people of the time. And the word clung on—bug-eyed—and refused to leave forcing a nomenclature that included it as post-modernism.

I really don’t want to rant…what you are hearing from me is more fatigue and frustration. I just want us to get past this. I really do. (But, if you really want a rant, check out my blog from May 2008. 2008! Sigh. Why are we still talking about this? Festival of Homiletics: Day Six)

In a nutshell, I want what Amy wants. I want us to ‘please STOP referring to the sort of worship/music popularized 30 years ago as contemporary.’ STOP using it as if this is a ‘modern’ term, & STOP imagining the ‘modern’ way of life is still in place. It’s not. Not as Modernism. Not as Post-Modernism. Modernism has already left the church but not the building. Church buildings have become that place of last stand, that last fortress island. If only the trustees would relinquish the key.

This mindset trips us up and prevents us from growing. It trips us and actually prevents us from living the Gospel today in the face of stark realities like child poverty, homelessness, lack of health care, lack of a living wage… No true ‘Modernist’ was ever supposed to lack anything. I wish that that had turned out to be the case, I really do. But that’s not what happened. That’s not where we are now. And until we look again to see what is really here today, this day, we’re going to be blindly balancing in our walkers as we clutch the microphone, singing Shine, Jesus, Shine ‘in perpetuity.’

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