by Kate Bluett
Recently, my husband and I wound up hanging out with some Charismatics. (Yes, there are Charismatic Catholics. Yes, they claim to speak in tongues. No, I’d rather you didn’t ask.) Part of this meeting (I swear, it was supposed to be a "seminar") involved the singing of "praise and worship" songs. These are not hymns, per se, since everyone knows that hymns are old and boring ("everyone" being a rather relative term). These are, for the most part, Christian-themed top-forty-type tunes (I once heard this referred to as the "Jesus is my boyfriend" genre). You know, soulful young men strumming guitars and singing about Things That Matter A Lot. (A Whole Lot. Reeeeaaaalllly A Lot. My Lord.)
Unfortunately, it seems that the singing of "praise and worship songs" brings out the worst in me. Oh, the suppression of giggles. Oh, the comments that must not be spoken aloud. Oh, the snarkiness. (Moi? Snarky? Never.) There was one song, though, that was so giggle-inducing that I had to stop singing and just clamp my mouth shut. This song committed the Handel mistake.
There’s a chorus in Handel’s Messiah in which everyone shouts, "All we LIKE SHEEP… All we LIKE SHEEP… All we LIKE SHEEP had gone a astraaaaaayyyyyyyy…." You have to hear it (or, better yet, sing it) to believe it. It’s hilarious. And it’s an example of the egregious prosody that makes me loathe Handel. But Handel has an excuse: He was not a native English speaker. He can be forgiven for not mastering the subtleties and nuances of commas. The line of course, sans music, reads, "All we, like sheep, had gone astray."
The praise and worship writers have no excuse, though. So when they write a song that combines the Handel mistake with an unfortunate pause, I have to clamp a hand over my mouth to keep from shrieking with laughter. I’m sorry, guys, but my imagination is way too active. So when you give me a pause after the line, "When we like sheep," I just want to know, "What happens when we like sheep?"
When we like sheep…
…sheep like us?
…we get out the mint jelly?
…PETA has a snit?
…had gone astray?
Oh. Right. That would be the answer.