Lemuel K. Washburn: “Singing Lies”


Go into any Christian church and you will hear the choir and the congregation singing lies. Is it not time to stop it? Is music married irrevocably to falsehood? Take up an ordinary hymn-book and you will hardly find a sensible line in it. The entire contents of the book is about God, heaven, salvation, and other equally unknown quantities, states and conditions. Why not sing sense? Why not sing facts? Why not sing truth? Why not Sing the glories of Nature, of life, of man?

Music is a wonderful power, a wonderful educator of the feelings and emotions. It is essential, therefore, that music be inspired by what is true, by what is good, by what is right. Truth should be set to music and the lips taught to sing what science has discovered, what art has done, what the universe reveals, what the world is living for.

The common Christian music is a wail of despair, a cry of sorrow, a shriek of fear. It is composed of false conceptions of Nature, of humanity, of life. It is a “doleful sound.” The triumph of faith which it celebrates is not a full, round, complete joy.

The Church does not know the music of laughter, the music of the heart. Its song seems always to hover on the brink of fear. It is not the glad note of natural freedom, but the uncertain joy of the escaped convict.

The free song must come from the free heart, must denote the free thought. Let life that is healthy, happy and human be set to music. Let us sing as we live, as we think, as we feel. The music of the hand, the mind, the heart, should be on the lips. If we could only sing what sings through us, the world would listen with rapture. We do not want “harmonious madness” nor harmonious idiocy. Pious music is stupid, false. It is inspired by the sickness of the world. We need a stronger note, a sturdier song.

Lies enough have been sung. Let truth now fill the air. Out of the great hope of the race let new songs come. We are beginning to live for life on earth, for happiness here, for love here, for victory here. Let the hands and feet, the brains and hearts of men and women move to the music of truth.

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