Dirty Hymns

[Image description: Photo is of the cover of the 1862 sheet music for “Battle Hymn of the Republic.”]

I’ve been traveling and visiting relatives, so this’ll be a super-mini-epistle. 🙂 

Few people have more reverence for Christian hymns than I do. I grew up singing from the old brown hymnbook in a little church where anything written after 1970 was considered “new.” Even the ones whose theology I don’t agree with (Ex: heavy atonement theology) are like old friends. 

But also? I like to have silly fun. And these hymns are such fun to pervert. My mischievous aunt taught me a trick a few years ago, to tack the phrase “in the bed between the sheets” onto the end of each hymn line or stanza. 

If you get bored during church, you just open your hymnal to a random page and let your imagination run wild. You might find some funny (or even poignant!) entertainment.  Be warned, fellow Christians; you may never see those oldie goldies the same way again. 😉 

One of my personal favorites is “Battle Hymn of the Republic,” as illustrated below:

Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord…in the bed between the sheets!

He is trampling out the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored…in the bed between the sheets!

He hath loosed the fateful lightning of His terrible swift sword…in the bed between the sheets!

His truth is marching on…in the bed between the sheets!

Glory! Glory! Hallelujah!

Glory! Glory! Hallelujah!

Glory! Glory! Hallelujah!

His truth is marching on.

Continued “Battle Hymn” lyrics (an experiential activity):

I have seen Him in the watch-fires of a hundred circling camps;

They have builded Him an altar in the evening dews and damps;

I can read His righteous sentence by the dim and flaring lamps,

His day is marching on.

I have read His fiery gospel writ in rows of burnished steel!

“As ye deal with my condemners, so with you My grace shall deal!

Let the Hero, born of woman, crush the serpent with his heel, “

Since God is marching on.

He has sounded forth the trumpet that shall never call retreat;

He is sifting out the hearts of men before His judgment seat;

Oh, be swift, my soul, to answer Him; be jubilant, my feet!

Our God is marching on.

In the beauty of the lilies Christ was born across the sea,

With a glory in His bosom that transfigures you and me;

As He died to make men holy, let us die to make men free!

While God is marching on.

“Just as I Am” – Confessions of a Kinky Churchgoer

[Image description: Photo is of a cautious but curious calico cat that has just stepped through a doorway.]

Church felt weirdly relevant today. Not that church is ever irrelevant, but I kept making connections between this morning’s worship service and my personal life in ways I don’t always. You see, I’m currently negotiating a new power exchange (which I will hereafter refer to as #Subpocalypse2019), and it’s brought up a lot of difficult feelings. I’ve felt more overwhelmed, afraid, even desolate in the past couple of days than I have in months. Maybe that’s tuned me in more than usual. 

My sense that the service was speaking directly to my inner turmoil started with the Prayer of Confession: “We fear failures, and we cling to unquestioned habits […] Show us your way. Open our eyes to new ventures,” we prayed. I do fear failure in this new venture, one that’s appeared seemingly out of the blue. It will involve questioning my habits in unusual (and embarrassing) ways, as I make my life available for another to view. I felt like that prayer was for me. 

Other messages jumped out at me as the service continued, especially in the hymns. When I saw “Just as I am” in the service order, I looked up from my bulletin suspiciously. “Just as I am though tossed about with many a conflict, many a doubt…” the song goes. I could give or take some of the theology in that hymn, but the thought of just…being…and showing up as myself with all my fears feels especially poignant right now.

Fortunately, I have a supportive pod of people who are proud of me for showing up and have given me space to feel scared without judgment. My sub is excited to see me experience life on the other side of the D/s slash; he’s been giving me pep talks over the past few days and encouraging me when I’ve been tearful. I don’t know how much involvement God has in shaping personal relationships, but I think God understands my feelings and is proud of me too. 

The final hymn was “Here I Am, Lord.” That one’s just always a tear-jerker. It was a very special song to one of our members who died a couple of years ago. It illustrates his way of being so clearly. It’s a song about committing to mission even when you feel unprepared and vulnerable–it also imagines God as immensely loving and thus, vulnerable to hurt. 

Today’s service was about being courageous, vulnerable, and flexible in ministry to the world, but I hear it another way too: I hear a call to minister to myself. I hear a call to grow more loving to myself through the discomfort that submission brings. With the guidance and care of others, I am called to minister to myself “just as I am,” fearful and brave and loving. 

*Prayer is from Feasting on the Word Worship Companion, John Knox Press, 2013.