Sad songs and Amazing Grace.
On bad days, on good days, during the changing of the seasons, when we're depressed, when we're happy and, sometimes, when we were not, we like to listen to sad songs. Who doesn’t like sad songs? There is something about sad songs that makes us miserable but at the same time it has to be enjoyable otherwise we would not be drawn to them.
That’s why songs like “I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry” by Hank Williams, and melancholy music from writers and artists like Bob Dylan, Paul Simon, Randy Newman, Bernie Taupin and Jackson Browne is so popular. Most gospel music falls within the same category as melancholy music. It is laced with strong emotions of love, loneliness and sacrifice and the most popular of all Gospel has to be the enduring Hymn “Amazing Grace”.
It epitomises the message of Christianity that we are all wretched sinners deserving of eternal torment in Hell without the grace afforded by Christ's sacrifice on the cross. Yet why does the death of one man, no matter how cruel, still warrant our attention after two thousand years of the passing of time. Isn’t time the great healer? Surely by now this death should have been forgotten? One could argue that hundreds of millions have died for this generation in all the major wars fought over the last hundred years. Yet their sacrifice is already dim in our collective memory.
You see it has to be that we are held hostage to the powerful emotional message of the cross. And that message is that we are wretched sinners and in need of Christ. But is that true? Are we really so weak, wretched, and worm-like? Or is this just religious and superstitious propaganda? Is it not just Christian indoctrination that has held generation after generation in bondage to the worst kind of emotional blackmail possible - that you in your miserable wretched state caused the death of the innocent and guiltless “Lamb of God” who was sacrificed in your place?
No wonder this hymn is so popular. No wonder Christianity is so popular. It is a real tear jerker. It creates the misery that we enjoy. Stop it I like it. I know, it's sick, isn't it? The idea that the sacrifice of the innocent Lamb for the misdeeds of the guilty solves real problems is patently ridiculous and completely immoral. But, that's what that song is all about. And we like it. We like to be the underdog, the down trodden, the slave, the oppressed, the victimised, the worm, the servant, the sheep, the abused, the under paid, the under appreciated, the over taxed, etc. No body loves me, nobody seen the troubles I have seen? But Jesus loves me in all my wretchedness and he will take all my burdens and put them on his shoulders because his burden is light!
Give me a break. Wake up, get up and stand up for yourself not for Jesus. You don’t need an imaginary Lord of lords and King of kings to dance and whistle to his tune. You are not a wretch. You are not blind. You are not lost. You are the thinking ape, the intelligent ape; you give meaning and purpose to life - not some ancient superstitious book that makes no sense whatsoever in today’s world.
Another reason we have a penchant for melancholy music especially when we are feeling down, is because that it actually makes us feel better. If music with a positive feel elicits a positive response - you'd think, then, that music with a negative feel makes you feel worse, but in a 2006 study in Musicae Scientiae (the Journal of the European Society for the Cognitive Sciences of Music) says it actually makes you feel better.
So I also like gospel music even though I am not a believer. Because when I see the words of this song I can say that is not me and even though it is mainly used for burial music, it has its appeal.
Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound,
That saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost but now am found,
Was blind, but now I see.
T'was Grace that taught my heart to fear.
And Grace, my fears relieved.
How precious did that Grace appear
The hour I first believed.
Through many dangers, toils and snares
I have already come;
'Tis Grace that brought me safe thus far
and Grace will lead me home.
The Lord has promised good to me.
His word my hope secures.
He will my shield and portion be,
As long as life endures.
Yea, when this flesh and heart shall fail,
And mortal life shall cease,
I shall possess within the veil,
A life of joy and peace.
When we've been here ten thousand years
Bright shining as the sun.
We've no less days to sing God's praise
Than when we've first begun.