Singing in the Pain

Among the activities most unsafe to do in groups during this pandemic-spread-by-respiratory-contact is sing. That is a total bummer–not least because it gives an easy boogeyman to believers who want to frame the “hoax” virus or the “overblown” response to it as an excuse for attacking religion in the USA. (Checking in with friends in Asian, British and Canadian Christian communities, this conspiracy theory has uneven traction in other places.)

People raising their hands in worship

I love worship singing. Some great moments of renewed strength have come from group worship leading to either that quiet, peaceful blanket of love so many of us know descending in sweetness, or that wild happy vibe that brings a different kind of sweetness with silly fun. Both have been delights throughout my life.

My husband came to Christianity in his fifties. Before and after, he found singing a source of strength in social justice situations, and a relief from the drains of a demanding and sometimes pedantic day job in Academia.

So it’s easy to move the pandemic into feeling personal: we can’t SING together because it expels too much used air too forcefully to be safe? ICK! DOUBLE ICK!

Charismatic evangelicals in particular seem to be swallowing an astroturfed, baited hook with the line: YOUR GOVERNMENT FORBIDS! This is act two of the drama; act one starts with “the virus makes it unsafe,” but that doesn’t make people feel nearly so persecuted, and therefore important. Kinda weird, but there it is: do you want to be someone’s wind-up toy, while yelling you won’t be someone else’s wind-up toy? Be prayerful, not gullible.

No, we can’t sing together face to face, but that’s not the same thing as we can’t sing. We can in our “infection units” (with household and selected friends) and we can online; some Christian communities are doing that. (A word to the wise: mute the mics of all but the leaders, because Zoom has terrible delays that will do the same thing as a large group trying to carol a neighborhood at Christmas; the back 50 will be .5 seconds behind the front 50, and if you think that doesn’t matter, wait and see what happens to Away in a Manger when it starts off pitched for a choir of soprano mice anyway. We’ve all been there.)

Jack and I have done two different types of group singing since the pandemic started; we set chairs in a circle 15 feet wide on our back deck, and told people to face the empty spaces between chairs, and hold back a little on belting out choruses. No one got sick. Not everyone has a big back yard, either. We also participate from time to time in various online folkie events, usually doing featured singers rather than group sing: one camera, one singer, one song, in a meeting of 10-70 people. It works, so long as you mute the mics for choruses.

Christians: please sing. Please sing together in your families and record it for others to see. Please don’t go out on the streets of, oh, say, Seattle, and sing in a big non-masked group and then watch the rates spike two weeks later so all the non-Christians can find one more reason to call us stupid and mean. *waves* Yo, Sean Feucht!

The government is not the enemy in this global health threat; don’t pray against the guy in front of the curtain. We’d all be grateful if you would pray against the virus and then not consider spreading it “an act of faith.” That’s more “duped” than “bold.” Just sayin’.

If you are doing best practice sing-a-longs, we would love to see the links to them. Thanks!

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