First Person Singular

I saw a criticism of a 1991 Tom Booth song at the Chant Cafe:

For Holy Communion, they sang “I Will Choose Christ”, which puts the focus on what I am doing as opposed to what God is doing.

It’s hard to know if the objection is more about the style of music or how this was rendered. Consider the text of verse one:

How many times must he call my name and show to me that he is God?
And as a servant he calls to me, “You must serve too.”

My assumption is that Tom was channeling the frequent biblical adventure where God calls (Samuel in 1 Samuel 3, Isaiah 6, Isaiah 40, Jeremiah 1) and sometimes we resist and protest, as did Jonah and Jeremiah and countless unnamed others. But Christ is clearly the actor in the text, and the second half of this verse is a clear allusion to the Last Supper of John 13:14-15.

In verse two, the singer asks Christ to teach and heal. The third verse focuses on the cross and death of Christ. Tom adds a note of death to self, and wraps up with the Christian hope that we will “rise with (Christ)”–it’s all Paschal Mystery as far as I can see.

As for the repeated “I” reference, is it so different from Psalm 40 which we sung last week? Six first-person references in the first three verses. Then there were too many to be bothered about counting them. “I” and “my” certainly outnumber “God.”

 … my cry … my feet … my steps … a new song in my mouth … my delight … my heart … my lips … my witness … my heart …

I don’t find either Tom’s song or Psalm 40 objectionable as a liturgical song. Individual thanksgivings, laments, and points of view are common in the Psalter and the more lyrical passages of the Bible. The liturgy itself seems to care little for first person reference. By the Cafe’s commentator’s standard, the Credo is all about me, what I believe. Right? Wouldn’t it be clearer just to skip the whole verb credo and just acclaim, “There is one God, the Father …” and leave the one or four references to self completely out of the picture?

That said, I don’t see myself composing a text with six I’s in the refrain. I’d prefer singing “We will choose Christ.”

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About catholicsensibility

Todd and his family live in Ames, Iowa. He serves a Catholic parish of both Iowa State students and town residents.
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