I hate Gospel music. Rather, I used to despise it but I’ve had a change of heart and apparently musical taste. I hated Gospel music but now that I’m a twenty nine year old married man with a daughter, I have literally changed my tune. Why? Because when I needed to cope with problems that music helped me get through. I believe that hymns and Gospel music are more important than many of us realize.
One of the wonderful things about social media hashtags is that it lets you have a collective remembrance about certain things. I love whenever the #growingupblack comes around because it seems as if everyone was raised in the same type of household. What does this have to do with Gospel music and hymns? Everything. On Saturday mornings if loud Gospel music is what woke you from your peaceful slumber, then you already knew what was ahead. You were in for a long day of cleaning and missing your Saturday morning cartoons that you spent all week behaving so you could watch them. That’s how it was for my house and for many others it seems. Also whenever I would go visit a more senior relative and we went to their church, there was always this loud, boring, repetitive music playing. We always sang songs from this thick red book with over 600 hymns but we always sang the same 5-7. When you have negative experiences you tend to link things together, and for me Gospel music was linked to old folks and cleaning.
However, as you grow up your perspective changes and I was no different. In the last year or so, I’ve gone through some very trying situations. Circumstances where I wanted to give into my flesh and react in ways that were definitely not Christ-like. There were times where I was so sad that I wanted to lay down and cry, but something happened. At my lowest moments I began to sing old songs I had learned and I began to feel better. My focus shifted from the problem to the One who both is and has the solution. As much as I love hip hop, when you are going through something it’s much easier to sing a hymn than a complex multisyllabic rap song.
Gospel music and hymns have more significance than we give them credit for. For one thing this music is very much a part of history, a bridge connecting the saints of the 21st century to the saints of old. How comforting and rich is it to sing the same songs that Christians hundreds of years were singing to our God? How does it feel to sing the same songs that were sung during marches and boycotting? There is certain richness to this music, so much so that certain mainstream acts have begun to sample their work. When those crazy old church ladies tell you to “praise your way through,” do yourself a favor and listen to them. I am a living witness; they exactly know what they are talking about.3