Posted by: Nathan | February 15, 2007

Are Gender-Separated Worship Songs Sexist?

Last Saturday night, J and I were blessed to attend Flatirons again, and we were both excited that the closing tune was “Prince of Peace”—a fantastic praise song and a Bethel staple. For those who know the song, you already know that the verses involve what is a pretty standard Christian music device: the gender-separated echo. First the guys sing a line, then the girls sing the same line (in this case, “You are holy / You are mighty,” et cetera).

We loved singing it, especially the amazing split chorus wherein the guys sing a slower melody while the girls counter it with a driving torrent of praise. But afterword, J mentioned that she didn’t always like being an “echo.” I had wondered previously whether the echoing in worship songs bothers Christian women, so I thought I’d open the topic for discussion.

I guess what bothers me is the assumption; if there’s an echo on the screen during worship, you know it’s the ladies who will be echoing the fellas. Again, let’s not let it ruin the worship of our God, but I am interested in your thoughts.

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Responses

  1. Great post (and a beautiful song)! I’ve thought about this often myself, usually during “Prince Of Peace” in fact.

    On the one hand, it’s nice that a song with echoing can just come up in a worship service and everybody knows what to do. But also, if a worship leader has time and energy to tell us what the next line coming up is even though it’s in giant letters on the screen (I hate that), certainly there’s time and energy before a song (or during the musical intro) to say “men sing the echo part”.

    I think a good question to ask yourself is “if a worship leader in my church changed this, would anybody be offended by the women leading and the men following?” Sadly, I think that would be the case in a lot of conservative churches today. This shouldn’t come as much of a surprise, as women always being expected to echo in songs is no more sexist than only men collecting the offering, passing out communion, or leading prayer.

    I’ll admit that sometimes, just to be ornery, I do sing the echo.

  2. One also can think aesthetically (sp?) about it. In my opinion, female voices just sound better in harmony (which is the purpose of some echoes) than male voices do–mostly due to the fact that male voices are too low, thus making it harder to distinguish (ie, more muddled). There are few cases where male harmonizing is preferable.

    I had never thought of it this way before, though. Interesting.

  3. I do think it sounds nice to have male and women voices separated for a time just for recognition of how the two voice types are different separately before bringing everyone together again. Maybe you can go further and say it’s supposed to symbolize our different natures, but yet one in Christ as the unifying force? Eh, eh?

    I prefer to think of it as this, though. The writers are letting the guys give singing alone a shot, and then forcing us to hear how dominated we get by the women. I mean, isn’t that the case on nearly every one of those songs? The guys try…then the girls not only sing louder, but sound much better, too…maybe it’s sexist to make the guys go first! We’re being insulted!

  4. Better than on 5 pounds since his age difference, a threat to admit naked old men that could.

  5. Hmmm… Is jyzivsyf saying that hymns are age-ist, as well? Or perhaps anti-nudist? I can see it now: “Crown him with nothing at all, he’ll be much more at ease…”

  6. I was going to delete jyzivsyf’s comment about naked old men, but Kyle’s rejoinder is just too priceless. Thus, I will leave the comment but delete the almost-certainly profane link.

  7. For some reason, this post garners illicit comments from strangely named folks.

  8. So it would seem. Baleeted.

  9. You seem to be fighting an uphill battle, my friend. Slog on…

  10. This is truly becoming a chronic issue.

    Attention all would be spammers: the word “sexist” in the title of this piece does in no way relate to physical relations between people. Henceforth, please keep your revolting spam away. Thank you.

  11. When we were. We didn’t want to burn myself. Susie was boys masturbation only.

  12. Okay, you stupid robot: if you’re going to post filth, at least use correct grammar. “When we were” is not a sentence. And when describing Susie, please use an adjective rather than a noun. Honestly, that’s like saying, “John was great big sneeze.” You don’t make any sense.

  13. Hilarious

    FYI, in your WordPress admin panel you can click OPTIONS > DISCUSSION. Check the middle and bottom boxes under “Before a comment appears” and/or change the field in “Comment Moderation” to 1 or more links, and comment spam should pretty much disappear. Not that I mind these entertaining asides.

  14. Thanks for your helpful tips, Jason. Yes, we’ll be seeing fewer of these. Who knew that so many sickos were interested in the gender politics of worship music?

  15. Can someone explain why this post and the Coffeemate one repeatedly get pounded with fake and/or obscene and/or grammatically nonsensical comments?


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