Getting personal

Mar 20, 2014 by

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Kurt Willems’ “Singing ‘We’ Instead of ‘Me,’ ” piqued my curiosity. I started with a word count on the Psalms and Pauline letters of personal pronouns “I,” “my” and “me” and plural pronouns “we,” “us” and “our.” That was easy using my computerized Quick Verse Bible program.

The NIV Psalms use 2,357 personal pronouns and 880 plural pronouns. The Pauline letters had 1,189 personal pronouns and 880 plural pronouns. Getting the word count on our songs was more difficult because it required a manual count.

I counted those six pronouns in the first 50 hymns in Hymnal, A Worship Book and found a prevalent use of plural pronouns, 304, and only 57 personal pronouns. Next, the first 50 songs in Sing and Rejoice were counted. Some Mennonite churches have used and may still use this book published in 1977. There the count was a staggering reversal, with 296 personal pronouns and 106 plural pronouns. I also did the word count in the first 50 songs in Sing the Journey, a hymnal supplement published in 2005. There the pronouns are more balanced, with 200 plural and 177 personal.

A word count doesn’t tell the whole story, but it does reveal something about the mood and thought of the author. Are we more individualistic than other generations? Maybe; may­be not. The challenge is to love God with all our heart and to love our neighbors as we love ourselves.

May the songs we sing and the Scripture we read promote a wholesome balance. I want to sing songs about “Thee” containing “we” and “me.”

John Otto
Newton, Kan.


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