W(h)ither the Great Lutheran Hymns? – “Speak, O Lord, Thy Servant Heareth”

Even if the first time I encounter a Lutheran hymn is in its LSB version, I can somehow still tell that something is off. This isn’t too surprising, as most of us have this experience time to time when we read poetry. Translation is a poetic art, after all. And while the canons of poetry and verse are not mathematical, you can still sense when they’re being violated, much as you can get the sense that something is “off” in a house where nothing is quite square, level, or plumb.

I’ll call it “hymndar.” Like gaydar, hymndar is more intuition than anything else, and it can be wrong. Mine usually isn’t, though. The first alert is a sense of incredulity. Just as a well-calibrated gaydar will make you think, “Why on earth would a self-respecting man wear that?”—but in an instant, before you can even put the thought into words—hymndar makes you think, “There’s no way that the 17th century original says this,” or something along those lines. I would say that in both cases you are reacting to something gay, but I don’t want to be offensive.


Where to begin? Whether to begin? Why bother?

Sorry, George T. Rygh, your translation was sadly lacking. The LCMS has “updated” it for you. Just like this guy is updating a Chromebook:

Hymn-smoke. Don’t breathe this!

I’ve gotta say, this might be my favorite LSB edit so far:

Sort of the LSB writ small, innit? A needless verbal change, blunting the Law, and modernized language. Beautiful in its simplicity, and by beautiful I mean “Sad!” Put some clip-art on that sucker and sell it to some cat ladies. We got us a winner.

“Why are you so sarcastic and mean?” writes one person who read one of these hymn posts. That’s a good question. I don’t think I’ve been mean in these posts. I will admit that I’ve been sarcastic, though. I’ll peel back the mask and tell you why:

Because sometimes mordant sarcasm helps us cope with awful realities. Sometimes we laugh in order to keep from weeping.

When you get right down to it, I don’t think the destruction of our hymnal is actually a laughing matter. I think it’s deeply sad. I find it very frustrating that so many of our great Lutheran hymns have been bowdlerized, mutilated, and memory-holed by the very men who are supposed to be preserving our heritage. Maybe you don’t care about that. You’re free to not care. Am I not free to care?

I’m not alone, by the way. There are dozens of us. DOZENS, I tell you.

In closing, all I’ll say is that the LSB-Bingo (pronounced “ell-ess bəh-BING-go”) scorecard that I will eventually make is definitely going to have “glad anthems” and “banner” on it.



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