Mercenary Worship

Dearest Rachel –

You know, ordinarily something like a dream about Christmas shopping would be more of a nightmare – and let’s be honest, this Christmas is both going to be a lot easier (in terms of not having to wrack my brain trying to find something that you might truly want or enjoy) and a lot harder for us – But I think my mind’s eye conjured up a shopping scenario for me before the vision popped and I found myself lying awake in the middle of the Stygian darkness that is a late October morning.

Anyway, I found myself wandering through a Christian bookstore (are those even a thing these days? I know that Amazon basically stamped out the likes of Waldenbooks, Borders and Kroch’s & Brentano’s, while Barnes & Noble is hanging on by a thread, but it occurs to me that I haven’t seen a Lemstone or Family Christian Bookstore for a very long time, either. Then again, it isn’t as if I’ve been looking for them much, either) and I saw one of those volumes about the stories behind the hymns type of thing. You know the type – you would collect these as companion pieces to your collection of hymnals. The real life stories about the writers and the composers would sometimes be as inspiring as the songs they wrote.

Only this wasn’t about the old time hymns – after all, who uses those anymore? Rhetorical question, I know – you had memorized so many of those, and would often use those as a quasi-devotional when you would go about your business in the house, singing as you did laundry or searched for something amid the various piles around the house. In any event, this was a collection of stories behind many of the more contemporary songs that we currently use in church, and you might listen to on K-Love or some similar radio station.

As a side note, I don’t know which is harder about having to drive your car; the fact that it is still in my mind ‘your’ car, or that the radio is set to K-Love like you always had it (and I would never in mine, preferring as I did – and still do – the news-radio station). I don’t know how Daniel manages to deal with that when he has to drive himself somewhere. Perhaps that’s part of the reason why he doesn’t all that much.

Anyway, it was a fairly hefty tome, and it claimed to only be the first volume of a series, although I didn’t see any subsequent volumes on the rack that I was in front of. It’s quite possible that they were still yet to be written. I was thinking about how this would be a perfect gift for you for the holidays when the dream self-destructed.

Of course, these would be impossible to write and publish in this day and age, what with the copyright restrictions on virtually every song that comes out nowadays. And that’s fair; the writers and performers need their cut, as this is how they make their living. But for every motion picture about the genesis of a song like “I Can Only Imagine,” there are hundreds of songs that come out that may well have an inspiring story behind them as well, but they will never be compiled, and we the public will never know about them.

Now it may be well and good that such a story is between the writer, the composer, and the Lord – and maybe I’m imagining that there are such stories. For all I know, cranking out worship songs on the regular might be every bit as much an industrial process as that of the music business in general. It may be that, in order to earn a living, a writer simply turns his hand to this type of song without any particular depth of feeling behind it, apart from his next paycheck. In which case, maybe it’s just as well that we don’t know how the sausage is made, save for those truly inspiring examples, such as the film I just mentioned.

I do kind of wish I knew one way or the other, if only out of sheer morbid curiosity. At the same time, I don’t know if I want my bubble pierced with the understanding that so much art that appears to glorify God as it does was considered as nothing more than just another source of residuals by its creator.

It’s at this point in the telling that you would probably nudge me, teasing me about my cynical outlook on life. The very idea that someone would praise God – or at least say those words – for nothing more than a fistful of dollars would never occur to you, especially considering you did that all the time for free.

I wish I still had your idealism with me, honey. It’s been about an hour since I woke up from this dream, thinking about what an ideal Christmas present that book would’ve been. But as I relate the story to you, my own thoughts and opinions of the mercenary nature of intellectual property sours what might well have been a lovely gift. For that, I’m actually sorry… for both of us.

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I am Rachel's husband. Was. I'm still trying to deal with it. I probably always will be.

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