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July 30, 2012 12:37 PM Subscribe
Is there such a thing as a humanist hymn?
posted by Wretch729 to religion & philosophy (45 answers total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
I grew up experiencing the great soaring Protestant hymns in the 1940 Episcopal hymnal. I loved the music, still do, but as an adult my convictions don't really line up with most of the lyrics (lots of imperialist baggage, paternalistic racism, and praise for/expressions of faith in an interventionist God in whom I don't believe). I don't have faith in a higher being, I have faith in humanity.
Examples of my dilemna:
I love the Kipling Recessional's ("God of our Fathers") warning against imperial hubris, but it's hard to get past the line about "lesser breeds without the law."
"O God of love, O King of Peace" is great, peace is good, but I don't want to beg a deity to grant us peace, I want us to achieve it ourselves.
I have the same problem with many of the great nationalistic hymns. "I vow to thee my country" gives me chills but the lyrics about sacrifice are somewhat terrifying, especially when you consider that they were written just before the slaughter of WWI. Happily, the same powerful tune is used for the rugby world cup anthem "World In Union" which has much nicer lyrics.
So what is out there that evokes the same depth of feeling without the baggage? I would be interested to hear from UU folks, although I have a very low tolerance for the, for lack of a better term, super hippie/new age hymns. It's the ceding of agency to God that I object to in the old stuff, not the pomp and circumstance.