“Interesting reaction. But what does it mean?!”

While working, I usually listen to either music or youtube videos. I don’t remember how, but I stumbled across some videos for Hillsong United, a praise and worship group based in Australia (I believe) whose songs have permeated the worship services in evangelical churches across the globe.

I can’t even place the last time I was in a church service…it’s been over a year at least. So i decided to watch a couple of these videos for kicks and giggles and see if I remembered any of the songs. Now, I should mention that for years I had felt extremely uncomfortable in most praise and worship type settings. And now I remember why, because my reaction to this music hasn’t changed much.

It makes me feel sick to my stomach. It really does. It creeps me out and makes me want to leave whatever room its playing in. Aside from all the not-so-nice memories it floods me with, it just feels….off to me. I can’t really explain it but I’ll try.

First of all, the tone of the songs sound hypnotic and creepy to me. I’ve thought this, even when I was still a devout christian. Many of the songs just never sat well with me and sounded more suitable for a funeral dirge than anything else. I don’t know much about music theory, but a lot of the songs just seem to have this very unsettling mesmerizing sort of melody in the background. Songs like this, just give me the chills….and not in a good way:

And this filled me with a lot of guilt as a Christian. I thought “well, I love god. I’m supposed to like this music. why is it giving me a sick feeling in my stomach?” I felt guilty for thinking that a song sucked or had banal lyrics.

Secondly, it’s emotional manipulation at it’s finest. Music has strange effects on people, and worship music in particular. I grew to resent the way my emotions would be pulled this way and that during a worship service and I would feel as though I had little control over it. The music would set the mood for the whole room: if they play this song you’re supposed to feel happy now, if they play this song you’re supposed to feel like a guilty sinner now etc etc.

Third, If the point of a praise and worship service is truly just to bring glory and reverence to God, then why does it seem as though the people who lead praise and worship are almost always very attractive and fashionable people with stellar voices? It always just seemed a little arrogant to me. It seems as though it should be led by someone who really had their heart in the right place, not just whoever looks the best on stage or had the best voice. I mean, that’s kind of shallow, isn’t it? (As an aside, the christians I’ve met and known are some of the most vain and shallow people I know. But that’s a topic for another day.) I’m sure there are plenty of fat and unattractive or lower-class people who really love God and would give their all to a praise and worship session, but you won’t see them on stage. They lack the charisma, right?

Which brings me to my final reason….the band.

Oh my god.

Every tom dick and harry who loves god and plays the guitar wants to be on the praise and worship team. If I had enough money to form a decent wager, I would bet a large sum that the vast majority of people–particularly young men–who are all about being on the praise and worship team do it for one reason and one reason only: they want to be a rock star. That’s it.

They want the feeling of performing and being on stage and touching people, because it makes them feel cool and important. And dude, it’s like soooo much easier than actually working hard enough to be a member of a REAL band! (This is also similar to my opinion of people who are obsessed with being youth ministers because they don’t want to grow up and would rather feel hip and cool by hanging out with a bunch of teenagers all the time and tagging along on their trips to Six Flags… but again…that’s another topic for another day.)

The vast majority of worship groups/bands that I’ve seen, seem to be self-glorifying snobs and little more than an excuse for them to showcase their “remarkable” talents. I know a few people personally, where I know for a fact that this is the case. The whole event ends up feeling like some sort of hypnotic rock show, complete with lights and fog machines. It’s just a huge spectacle. They have lost the plot.

I’m not against good music during worship services, or flashy lights or whatever….if nothing else, it made church more interesting than if we’d just sung hymns. But let’s call a spade a spade, shall we? Please explain to me how this is any different than a regular old concert:

If you want to have a rock and rollin’ spectacle for your worship service, fine…great. You do that. But don’t pretend that oh, you’re just worshiping God and it’s all about him, it’s not about you. (incidentally, I find it very ironic when these people sing that song “heart of worship” by Matt Redman.) If you want to be in a band, be in a band. But don’t do it under the guise of serving Jesus, mkay?

Now, I’m not a christian anymore. But this has been something that’s bothered me for years, even when I was still a devout Christian. So if anyone says something like “well the music just bothers you now because you’re an atheist and that’s your evil spirit inside of you feeling uncomfortable about jesus being praised in your presence”….I would like to invite you to go suck a nut.

I just find it frustrating that so many people allow themselves to be so sucked in by this stuff and be so “touched” by weird mediocre music led by a bunch of pretentious hipster ass holes. And after seeing it on youtube again for the first time in a long time, it only made me that much more happy that I no longer attend church and expose myself to that sort of blatant manipulation, hero worship and mass conformity. Yuck.


***DISCLAIMER*** Obviously, I cannot make a blanket judgment on every church ever created, since I haven’t been to every church ever created. This is only addressing my personal experiences in certain churches, and the general attitude I see in modern evangelical churches today. So don’t be all like “ur so judgemental!” I think I’m well within my right to judge my own experiences, thanks. I’m also not saying that ALL praise and worship music sucks….just the majority of it. Also not saying that ALL youth ministers have a peter pan complex, so don’t yell at me about that either. Let’s see….have I covered all my bases? Hm, probably not. Oh well.

*you get an e-hug if you can correctly place this quote.


3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. The Thinking Theologian
    Mar 06, 2009 @ 13:08:24

    Thank you!

    I’ve also written a bit about Hillsong’s music manipulation at:



    • atheistnightmare
      Mar 07, 2009 @ 09:48:26

      Wow, that was very interesting, thanks so much for sharing it! I’ll be sure to read more of your blog. :)


  2. Mark
    Mar 07, 2009 @ 07:14:17

    Hi thanks for a great post. I’ll be back :)


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