How an Abuse Victim Might be Guilted by Some Christian Hymns
UPDATE Sept 2021: I have come to believe that Jeff Crippen does not practise what he preaches. He vilely persecuted an abuse victim and spiritually abused many other people in the Tillamook congregation. Go here to read the evidence. Jeff has not gone to the people that he spiritually and emotionally abused. He has not apologised to them, let alone asked for their forgiveness.
[October 20, 2022: There have been some changes made to this post. For more information, read the Editors’ notes at the bottom of the post. Editors.]
I am in my church office on a Sunday morning going over my sermon notes and listening to our worship music leaders practice. Among other pieces, they will be leading us in this well-known and widely cherished Fanny Crosby classic, Blessed Assurance [Internet Archive link]1. (Most of you probably know that Fanny Crosby was blind.) This time as I listened, I did so through the ears of an abuse victim sitting in a pew, carrying the load of confusion, fog, false guilt, and all of the other trash that her abuser has laid on her. It struck me that the following verses would very likely not bless her at all, but in fact would add to her load of shame and false guilt. See what you think —
(1) Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine!
Oh, what a foretaste of glory divine!
Heir of salvation, purchase of God,
Born of His Spirit, washed in His blood.
This is my story, this is my song,
Praising my Savior all the day long;
This is my story, this is my song,
Praising my Savior all the day long.
(2) Perfect submission, perfect delight,
Visions of rapture now burst on my sight;
Angels descending, bring from above
Echoes of mercy, whispers of love.
(3) Perfect submission, all is at rest,
I in my Savior am happy and blest;
Watching and waiting, looking above,
Filled with His goodness, lost in His love.
It seems to me that many hymns that came out of the 1800s are not at all the best music the Christian church has produced. Numbers of them are filled with an unrealistic, empty sentimentality (see, In the Garden, for instance). Yes, yes I know. Mess with these kind of beloved traditions and you may as well say you are ripping pages out of Holy Scripture. I’ve been through all of that. Blessed Assurance is, in my opinion, characterized by lack of substance and crosses into the mushy genre designed to emote. Sorry, Fanny. (Fanny will probably have words for me and my cousin when we meet up with her in heaven if she knows that once when we were kids in church on a Sunday morning my cousin, while we were singing one of her hymns, pointed to her name “Fanny.” That’s all it took. We got one of those horrible cases of the non-stoppable giggles. As Providence would have it, the pastor’s wife was sitting right behind us an whacked each of us alongside the noggin. Hey, Mrs. Pastor, loosen up! I mean, you’ve gotta cut kids some slack in those cases. You cannot stop those giggles!) But to move on.
Let me ask each of us — do the words of this hymn accurately express the common experience of every Christian? Do they accurately express the experience of abuse victims while they are being oppressed by the wicked one? No! And yet they are presented in hymns like this as the ideal, common fare of the truly spiritual believer, implying not so subtly that if you are not praising your Savior all the day long, if you are not seeing and hearing visions of rapture bursting above, if angels are not descending upon you — then you just don’t measure up! “Where is your faith? Fanny was blind. What are your troubles compared to hers?”
Empty sentimentality is dangerous. By “empty,” I mean devoid of substance. A vacuum when it comes to biblical truth. Check out the hymn’s words again. How many of them are actually presented in Scripture as the normal experience for every Christian? Angels descending? Visions? I call us all back to Colossians 2 where we are repeatedly instructed to beware of this very kind of thing. Oh, I know, Fanny probably didn’t mean to say that she actually saw angels and visions. But she is saying that she experienced and felt this kind of thing “all the day long”.
And then there is this “perfect submission” business. I assume she means perfect submission to the Lord. Is any Christian capable of PERFECT submission to Christ in this life? No. Decidedly, no. We strive for it. We battle our flesh by the Spirit. But perfect victory is only going to come on that Day when Christ appears.
There is another dangerous theme lurking behind this perfect submission. It says “abuse victim, quit whining. If you were perfectly submitted to Jesus, then no matter what you are suffering, you too could be experiencing what I am — angels and rapturous visions and blessed assurance that Jesus is yours. So get to work on it!” But what is the very normal experience of Christians who are suffering? I suggest that the norm is far more often perplexity at the seeming silence from heaven. “Lord, where are you? Jesus, please deliver me. All day long I cry out….but….” And I cite the Word of God on this. Just look through the Psalms and you will find this very experience written about by David and other Psalmists.
So, thanks to Fanny for the good words she did write in many of her hymns. But remember — when you are singing out of a hymnal or from the overhead at church, those words were written by human beings, not the Holy Spirit. Do not hold them on par with Scripture. Do not be taken captive by the traditions of men. And do not feel guilty if angels and rapturous visions don’t invade your life later on today.
1[October 20, 2022: We added the link to Hymnary.org’s page containing Fanny Crosby’s hymn Blessed Assurance. The Internet Archive link is a copy of that page. Editors.]
[October 20, 2022: Editors’ notes:
—For some comments made prior to October 20, 2022 that quoted from the post, the text in the comment that was quoted from the post might no longer be an exact match.
—For some comments made prior to October 20, 2022 that quoted from the post, the text in the comment that was quoted from the post might no longer be found in the post.
If you would like to compare the text in the comments made prior to October 20, 2022 that quoted from the post to the post as it is now (October 20, 2022), click here [Internet Archive link] for the most recent Internet Archive copy of the post.]