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Affective Language

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Apparently the proper term for what NT Wright has coined “Jesus is my boyfriend” songs (Christian worship songs that are light on theology and might need little or no adjustment for the regular pop charts) is “contemporary worship using affective language”. In other words, language which dwells on feelings and affection and is also likely to be very centred on the first person singular: I this, I that, I the other (see Love Songs to Jesus by Graham Hunter, Grove, 2020)

I tend to lean away from them. I am deeply aware that song lyrics often embed themselves in people’s brains. Given that responsibility, when I am leading worship music, I want to leave people with words that remind them of God’s glory and majesty and express his dealings with us in biblically-rooted theology.

It rather surprised me and perhaps one or two others when I started the worship for this morning’s PCC away day with Good, Good Father, a fairly recent song (2014) that is strongly towards the affective end of the spectrum, particularly in the verses. There was an overall arc to more anchored songs, ending with the classic When I Survey the Wondrous Cross (1707) after communion at the end of the afternoon. I am glad, though, that the first set did seem to fit smoothly into the day and with what our guest speaker had to bring us.

Sometimes putting a worship set together (and I’ve now got hundreds under my belt) is a lot of hard graft and decisions based on sound lyrics and sensible musical choices. Every now and then though, there is a intuition which calls to be followed. I can’t say it always works out but it is worth being willing to take the chance for the times when it does.

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