Hymns I never hum along to

15th November 2002 at 00:00
IT is one of my pleasures in life to indulge in a series of completely irrational dislikes. These have included the picture of the apple-cheeked boy on the Caramel Logs box, blindingly obvious "serving suggestions" (cornflakes with milk etc) on food packs, old-style Nissan Micras ... I'll leave it at that just now before you switch off and read the columnist to the right instead.

I'm not being totally honest when I call these dislikes "irrational". To me there are perfectly good reasons to vilify all of the things mentioned, but I have to admit that most people would find my thinking hard to follow let alone agree with.

Over the past few years a new, completely rational dislike has steadily infused my soul. There are certain hymns, children's hymns, that make me want to swear. This has nothing to do with my lack of ability as a singer. I have long since abandoned miming at the few church services I find myself attending these days.

Now I go for pursed-lipped defiance against the smug, tuneful sods who are part of the conspiracy that would have non-singers praise God in a manner for which we have no talent. Listen up - the day will come when a minister or priest gives you all a box of coloured pencils and a bit of paper and tells you to glorify the Lord by drawing a nice picture to hold up and show everyone. Then you'll know what it's like, you complacent, harmonious . . .

Sorry. Got sidetracked there. The sort of hymn I was talking about has lines where sinful children beg forgiveness. We used to sing one called "Lord dismiss us with Thy blessing" when I was a wean. The Lord was thanked for "mercies past received", He was urged to "pardon all their faults confessing" and verse one ended with the hope that children would "ne'er again Thy spirit grieve".

Well, a poke in both eyes to the lyricist for that one.

Whit's wrang wi it? Whit's no wrang wi it? This is a song written by an adult that adults make children sing. It is a put-down, a humiliation of the worst kind. "We're bad. We know we're bad. It's really good of You to let us off with it and please help us not to be bad again."

This is not the foundation of a modern behaviour management policy. I wish I had the talent to write a modern version where we celebrated how downright nice the majority of kids are in spite of the countless bad examples they are faced with in the adult world around them.

Darn it, I might even be persuaded to sing such a song myself.

Gregor Steele has nothing against new-style Nissan Micras.

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