Saturday, June 17, 2006

BCM Movement

I can’t ask God for anything anymore.

I can’t ask God for anything anymore, because whenever I complete a silent petition voices in the back of my mind screech “Let us pray to the LOOOORRRD HEAR OUR PRAYYYYYYER!”

Have you heard this during the intercessions at a Mass near you? Have you realized how stupid it is? We interrupt ourselves, for God’s sake. I bet God takes special pains NOT to hear our prayer. I bet He flips on the Packers game.

Yet the overly-efficient “Let us pray to the LOOOORRRD HEAR OUR PRAYYYYYYER!” is less than a drop in the great sea of Bad Church Music. I first noticed BCM creeping into the Church in my Catholic grade school, when I was introduced to such gems as “Walk With Me,Talk With Me” which includes the following deeply reflective lyrics: “I was I child once, I know it/ My mother has pictures to show it / But she always knew I’d outgrow it/ I guess that’s what pictures are for.”

In high school, I was forcibly enlightened by the PC-Jesus version of “Let There Be Peace on Earth”, which substitutes “Neighbors all are we/Let us walk with each other/ In perfect harmony” for the traditional “Brothers all are we/Let me walk with my brother/ In perfect harmony”. Look, I went to a women’s school. Brothers were hard to come by. I wanted to walk with as many of them as POSSIBLE.

It was also about this time that I was delighted by “Song of Gathering”, the refrain of which contains the line “... the Father of all, let it be.” The last time the refrain is sung, however, the words are changed to-- surprise, children!-- “... the Mother of all, let it be.” I’m sorry, but if God is a woman, menstrual cramps and pantyhose would not exist.

What is the origin of this celestial crap? I have heard arguments that such music befits the spirit of Vatican II and serves to make The People to feel better about ourselves as Catholics.

The main problem with this, of course, is that we’re Catholics. We’re not SUPPOSED to feel better. About ANYTHING.

The other problem is that-- and please don’t misunderstand me, for I don’t wish to offend anyone-- this music sucks. My friends and family are under strict orders that, should I have some sort of tragic reaction to E coli Night over at the Ponderosa, they are under no condition to use any piece of music from Glory and Praise Volume III at the Requiem Mass.

For Bad Church Music can strike anywhere, at any time. No one is safe, not even the Pope, who, I imagine, has been unable to escape a few renditions of “Yahweh, I Know You Are Near” in his time. BCM exists in the following categories, each of which contains actual songs found in your local Gather hymnal:


I Am the Light of the World”

My Peace I Leave You”

I Will Be With You”

The Water I Give”

I Am the Resurrection”

Turn to Me”


Jesus Still Lives”

God is One, Unique, and Holy”

Love One Another”



Come to Us, Creative Spirit”

The River Will Rise”

Great Things Happen When God Mixes With Us”

Run Deer Run”

I Saw Water Flowing From the Right Side of the Temple

Many Are the Light Beams”




You'd think Jesus would want to rock out better than this.

whole note at:


lina the reader said...

I don't know about you, but I really get a kick out of the songs that make us sound like cult members and cannibals. "When you eat my body and you drink my blood/I will live in you and you will live in my love." Of course, we KNOW what it really means, but that wording just sounds awkward.

I haven't heard of a lot of those songs, but I guess that comes with having a music minister who knows what's up.

You know, Arizona is really a gold mine for Catholic composers...who would have guessed?

MB said...

We sang one a couple weeks ago called "Lord of the Dance." I was all, "When did Riverdance become part of the Consecration?"

lina the reader said...

"I am the lord of the dance, said he." That one? I have actually seen that one accompanied by liturgical dancers.

Oh...liturguical dancers. Why? Just why?

mike the longterm reader said...

Of course we interrupt ourselves. It's a Catholic Mass. They take forever. Every split-second counts. I've been told by my non-Catholic friends that I, and other Catholics, pray the "Our Father" much too quickly. Well, of course: when you pray the rosary, you have to do 150 of those suckers (200 if you follow The Deuce's apostolic recommendation on the rosary in 2002), so you learn to be efficient with it. The dude who did the MicroMachines commercials way back in the day has nothing on rosary-praying Catholics.

Of course, I have a bone to pick with them too: some of my coworkers really dig Southern gospel music. Much of it is magnificent; if you dig four-part a capella harmonies, there's lots for you to enjoy. Sadly, though, there's quite a bit of silliness in those songs sometimes. I think it's part and parcel of the same disease that makes so many country songs stink (no offense to you country lovers, but you gotta admit, "Paint Me A Birmingham" is awful; and Billy Ray Cyrus — check and mate).

One song, in particular, that they really really like just grates on me every now and again. It has this for a chorus:

God is good
Yes He is
He's good all the time
God is good
You know He is
He's good all the time
You can search the whole world over
No greater friend you'll find
He's not good just once in a while
He's good all the time

You hear that a few times a day and you start longing for Joan Osborne's God who's just the stranger on the bus.

Dantelope said...

Are you telling me there is a whole class of songs that extend:

Rub a dub dub
Thanks for the grub
Yay, God!


Damn, being Jewish sure does have its disadvantages.....

Katie said...

You said "I’m sorry, but if God is a woman, menstrual cramps and pantyhose would not exist."

When will people start realizing that this is unquestionable proof that God is NOT a woman?

We have some real gems at my church. One is about Holy Thursday and Jesus washing the apostles feet. It's called "Jesus Took a Towel" and the way the choir sang it had my brother and I in tears of laughter. They sounded exactly like pirates. All they needed was eye patches and bottles of rum.

patty m. said...

Thanks, MB. I hate, hate, hate the requisite use of neuter in Catholic songs now. I know I'm included in "brother" and "man" and "mankind" -- and anyone who gets offended by their use has bigger problems than can be fixed by singing "neighbors all are we."

Worst ever (introduced to me by a progressive nun during junior-year theology in high school): "Washerwoman God." Here's a sample:

Washerwoman God, we know you in the water/
Washerwoman God, splashing, laughing, free/
If You didn't clean the mess, where would we be?/
Working, toiling, scrubbing God/
Cleansing you and me...

Hideous. Hideous.

I miss the liturgical music I heard in AZ, lina the reader. Glad to know it's still good.

Tripsymilkmaid said...


I am always wary of any song where you could replace "Jesus" with "baby" and it would be a plausible pop song. Seriously, try it.

Oh, and in a redone version of the Gloria that they do at my church, they have a line that says, "Holy is the Lord, for He dwells in our land". Apparently God is only God when He lives in Iceland.

my kidz mom said...

"Riverdance" - I'm laughing so hard I fell out of the pew! Patty and Lina, amen I say to you, all is not liturgically correct here in AZ. I still have not recovered from the PC Christmas carols we had last year. See how many alterations you can spot:

Good Christian friends, rejoice

Joy to the world, the Savior reigns, Let us our songs employ

Peace on the earth, good will to all


Next week's topic: clapping at the end of Mass. STOP IT ALREADY!! THIS IS NOT A PERFORMANCE!!

my kidz mom said...

BTW, have you read Karl Keating's column on liturgical dancing? He quotes B16: "...It is totally absurd to try to make the liturgy 'attractive' by introducing dancing...".

YES! Gotta love our German Shepherd.

lina the reader said...

Yes, my kidz mom, there are a few cringe-inducing litugies to be seen AZ. (I refuse, REFUSE, to do any kind of hand motions with the psalms. I know sign language. What you're telling me to do is NOT sign language). I guess I'm spoiled at my parish.

I can't stand the clapping. I don't care if you thought the kids' choir was cute. It was a prayer not a recital.

As for that article, I was AT the RE Congress! I saw the dancing live! The music was so fantastic and I had to make myself not look at the dancing so the Mass would not be ruined by my hysterical laughter.

Josie said...

As a Catholic teen, the thing that drives me most to the teen mass is the lack of BCM. Yeah, we have a few every now and then (you can run, but you can't hide), but not nearly as often as the usual masses.

Dave said...

First time commentor, I believe. Husband of Amy Lou the Reader...

It's too bad you've heard the mangling of "Lord, Hear Our Prayer". It's very nice when done well, as it is adapted from Byzantine chant.

What gets me about singing the General Intercessions isn't the refrain, but the petitions themselves. There's no poetry in them. It's like chanting parts of the Democratic Party Platform. If you're going to sing the Bidding Prayer, make the petitions singable.

One last note: "I Saw Water Flowing..." is adapted from the Liturgy itself. Vidi Aquanum and all that.

Rachel said...

One of my friends, a youth minister even, introduced us to doing the fortune cookie game (tacking on "in bed") to hymns.
Sure, we're going to Hell, but since we're Methodists, we don't really talk about it.
And, Tripsymilkmaid (I am always wary of any song where you could replace "Jesus" with "baby" and it would be a plausible pop song. Seriously, try it. )--have you seen the South Park episode where Cartman takes pop songs and replaces "baby" with "Jesus" and becomes a Christian rock sensation? Hilarious. (Again, yes, I know I'm hellbound.)

Joe Berenguer said...
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Craig said...

I don't know if you deal with this much in Catholicism, but the hot thing in Protestantism is "contemporary" music, where shmucks with guitars and bongos get up on stage and sing along to lyrics displayed via overhead projector onto the back wall. Not only are these songs lame, they never end, because the "band" always feels the need to go back and repeat everything a bunch of times. Just when you think it's over, the leader starts the bridge again, and I just want to smash his guitar. Give me a hymnal and an organ any day. As a rule of thumb, any Christian song written after 1900 is horrible.

Ruby Rose said...

Not a catholic. Raised vaguely culturally scottish presbyterian.

But am a singer. Of classical music (wouldn't ever get on any Idol programs because I can, you know, stay in tune and sing using things other than my body bucking and twisting to Get.The.Big.Note. OUUUUUUT).

And yea verily i say unto you that most of the BCM is an abomination before God. Seriously. I remember rehearsing some horrible dirgy thing for a wedding (the bride and groom were happy-clappies and thus hyooj fans of BCM) and we just couldn't get it right and eventually the conductor slammed her hand down and said "I don't know what's the matter with all of you, it's not like this is even MUSIC for crying out loud!".

I postulate that BCM should be renamed LCDNA - Lowest Common Denominator Note Arrangement. It sure as hell ain't music.

ironically, going for the Soprano part in the Verdi Requiem at the moment. And verdi got into SUCH trouble for it because he wrote it like a huge beautiful one-act opera and there was such huffiness on the part of the musical religious brethren because of the theatricality and all those glorious hummable melodies and going straight for the emotional jugular (it makes me cry and I'm a vague protestant).

That little whirring sound you can hear is all those music-lovers from centuries back spinning in their graves at LCDNA, lemme tell ya.

Eunice said...

Hahahahaha. I came upon your blog after I read something you wrote for MSNBC on Pride & Prejudice and Darcy. Hot Colin Firth...

Christian Rock rocks... But, eh, not so much the stuff you mentioned. Then again, I wasn't raised Catholic. (Methodist all the way.)

MB said...

Hi Craig. Glad you're here. You mentioned that some BCM was ADAPTED from the Liturgy and Gregorian chant, which may well be, but if it's going to be used, why not do it in the original format so that the rest of us don't want to impale ourselves on the nearest crucifix? That's all I'm asking here, dawgs.

Audrey said...

I think BCM is part of the reason why I don't go to mass anymore- *gasp* along w/ the aerobic workout; stand up, sit down, stand up, sit down, kneel, do the hokey pokey and turn yourself around....
I'm going to burn but hey- isn't there a verse in a Billy Joel song "I'd rather laugh with the sinners than cry with the saints..."?

Anonymous said...

Audrey, you base your theology on the Gospel according to Billy Joel? That ditty from which you quoted is a major dis to the Catholic faith.

Abby from NC said...

Hey MB, what does BCM stand for, anyway? It is ridiculous beyond my tolerance when beautiful music is scrapped for... modern garbage. It feels like they've taken the object, the person of our adoration, completely out of the picture. Is there no reverence? I, personally, can't get by on a shell. I don't know what BCM stands for, but I think it has something to do with all the pews facing in a circle, the "let us offer each other the sign of peace" extending 5 minutes so we can all be thoroughly gladdened by the presence of every other person there, and the curious lack of kneeling during the liturgy. I rest my case.

my kidz mom said...

Abby, you are so right. How do I irreverence Thee, let me count the ways: chew gum on the way up to Communion, dress like a madame, come late and leave early, to name a few. The beautiful bells at the Consecration are now replaced with cell phones ringing out "Brick House."

Jcat2323 said...

The absolute worst thing about BCM's is also the worst thing about stupid commerical jingles: they get stuck in your head all the time and you can't get them out! I don't know how they do it, but I mentally fight off those songs constantly.

gryphonesse said...

I have Peed-eth in my holy knickers...

no, really. Okay, so not really, but I almost tinkled. As an RBC (Really Bad Catholic) who only attends mass when her best friend who lives a state away has an Important Event in Church, my hubby and I experienced the full brunt of BCM at my beloved best friend's church. Complete with the Badly-Singing-Cantor-Crow-Lady who tried to overthrow the Father and take over the service during our friends' Very Important Event. Even they admitted that the singing and songs were horrible, and their church sings everything to start with. EH-VRY-THING. No responsorial goes un-screeched by the Crow-Lady. It's a good thing that my best friend was not sitting right next to me or I would still have bruises for snickering. She promises to throw down some communion wafers to me when I'm in hell.

Russell the Reader said...

Gryphonesse- RE:The Crow Lady...I rarely attend any sort of church and the important events have to be crazy important, but I am more than familiar with this woman. At the recent wedding of a dear friend this woman asserted herself as the sole vocalist leading us all in...well...I dunno, I couldn't hear anything over her all-too-well-amplified performance. I believe she's closely related to that one family member who always sings "Happy Birthday" with all their might on the off-chance that a recording label talent scout is hiding in the junk drawer.

russell the reader said...

PS - I believe BCM stands for "Bad Church Music." I almost cited from MB's original post to show where it came from and then I realized that I am not, in fact, writing a paper for class so I refrained. On a side note, where does the American Psychological Association get the authority to dictate something like a writing style? I mean, really, let the English folk deal with that kind of stuff. You can quote me on that, if you can figure out how.

MB said...

Yep. BCM= "Bad Church Music."

I cannot tell you how it warms my heart to hear that I'm not alone in this.

Jcat2323 said...

Response to mike the long term reader: Billy Ray Cyrus? Come on, that's like using Vanilla Ice as a rap/hip hop example. (Though you do get points for not using the obviously hideous, and now polically unstable, Dixie Chicks).

kittybrunette said...

BCM extends out definitely to the Quaker realm as well.
Take for example, an Easter Hymn from my childhood. (My parents were ministers.)
"Up from the grave he arose, with a mighty power o'er his foes"

My sisters and I, creative writers that we were and are, quickly changed the words one Easter, and sang in the front row, at high volume:
"Up from the grave he arose, with a mighty power in his toes!"
Uncontrollable giggle fits ensued, and I still cannot sing or hear this song at any Easter service without having to excuse myself before I "wet my holy-knickers"!

Abs said...
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Abs said...

Yah!!! Kindred spirits! Can we please all go to church together sometime?

sarah said...

The more satirical church workers (and there are plenty) have a name for contemporary worship songs: "Jesus is My Boyfriend" music. And then there's this video spoof on the me-centered tone of most BCM: At least the church beginning to laugh at itself (those of us who are sticking around, that is)!!

Abby from NC said...

Regarding Abs' suggestion...
I can see it now... the choir cuts into the next jam, and a collective "boooo!!" rises out of the back section somewhere. We can't boo at mass, can we? I don't think I want to. I would rather quietly tell the chior to stop. I wonder how that would go over...

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