Singing about “tenderness” like a man

Here’s another great song by Citizens, called “In Tenderness”:

Citizens is a worship band from Mars Hill Church in Seattle. They retune old songs and write new ones.

I think I’ve identified a reason why I love this music so much… and why my little boys seem to dig it, too. Certainly and mainly the lyrics – Christ-centered and gospel-refreshing. The richness of the lyrics is what makes me really want to sing. But there’s something else that carries these words to my heart and makes me want to let them come back out of my mouth, and with vigor. There is a slight masculine edge to it – in this song and more-so in the song posted in the previous post, “Made Alive.” There is a lot of music we sing in the church that is simply feminine. That’s great – half of the gathered church is women. But when the general tone and ethos of our worship music tilts to that side, perhaps we shouldn’t wonder why men aren’t belting out the words. Men may say they don’t like singing. But perhaps it’s because we’ve asked them to sing songs that make us want to sway rather than shout.

Here’s “Made Alive” again:

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4 Responses to Singing about “tenderness” like a man

  1. Hasbrouck says:

    Could you explain more fully what you mean by “There is a lot of music we sing in the church that is simply feminine.”?

  2. Drew Hunter says:

    Hi, Josh. Good to hear from you, friend. I hope all is well.

    Sure. Seeing that sentence in isolation, I’m not sure it’s very clear or helpful. So, I would probably want to say it a bit differently. Here’s what I’m getting at: When you read that sentence in the context of the couple on either side, the main thing I’m thinking about a “general tone and ethos” of the music. I’m no musician, so I really don’t know what words would be best to use to refer to this, so that might not be helpful for you. As I mentioned, I’m not concerned that there is a general tone and ethos that leans to the feminine side, but there should at least also be general tone and ethos that leans to the masculine side as well. And, along with this, I know that some of this is certainly cultural and subjective. So, what lyrics and musical style resonates with more women in this culture might not in another culture. So I’m not necessarily working from a clear and objective definition of what kind of lyrics and music resonate with men vs women.

    But, given our culture, here are a few examples of things that I think, at the very least, are more likely to resonate with more women than men. It’s not sung much anymore, but a good example from a previous generation is the song (although written by a man!) called, “in the garden,” which says, “I come to the garden alone while the dew is still on the roses. And the voice I hear falling on my ear the Son of God discloses. And he walks with me, and he talks with me, and he tells me I am his own; and the joy we share as we tarry there, none other has every known. He speaks, and the sound of his voice, is so sweet the birds hush their singing, and the melody that he gave to me within my heart is ringing.” That, with the music usually accompanied, I think probably resonates with more women than men.

    Contrast that with Martin Luther’s “Mighty Fortress,” which I won’t quote the lyrics because you probably know them. My sense is that if you put a bunch of men in a room, they would rather sing A Mighty Fortress than In the Garden. Again, I’m not saying all men would, nor all men in other cultures, nor that we shouldn’t at all sing songs that are more like “in the garden,” but there seems to be a difference.

    That’s just a quick contrast of a couple songs to make a general point. Do you think I’m missing something here? I’m happy to think this through.

  3. Hasbrouck says:

    Drew,

    I think the question of whether music is masculine or feminine is a valid one, but there are a couple of things I have hesitations about:

    1. What are we espousing as manly? There is a cultural stereotype of manly as being tough and strong and enjoying things like tools, cars, and explosions. That stereotype also exists to some extent in the church, and affects how people think about manhood. I don’t think that is what you meant, but if we make statements about what is or isn’t masculine without explaining what biblical masculinity is, then that leaves it open to easy misinterpretation.

    2. Is the general trend in church worship music actually toward the more feminine? I have not tried to think about it from a masculine/feminine perspective before, so I don’t know the answer, but it’s the type of thing that it is very easy to think that there is a skew, when in reality we are accidentally ignoring some elements. My first reaction to your original statement was to start agreeing, then my second was to say ‘Hang on, I don’t actually know that’. That is definitely something that I need to give more thought.

  4. Take a look at the Psalms if you want to see a model of the kind of content that our worship music should have. Yes, some of it is repetitive for effect and emphasis. But all of it is packed with theological content. None of it was there just to stir sentimental feelings. It was to teach, to convict. In short, and like my friend from New York said, it was like they were singing sermons.

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