Psalms of Disorientation
The problem with a hymnody that focuses on equilibrium, coherence, and symmetry (as in Chapter 2) is that it may deceive and cover over. Life is not like that. Life is also savagely marked by disequilibrium, incoherence, and unrelieved assymetry. In our time—perhaps in any time—that needs no argument or documentation.
It is a curious fact that the church has, by and large, continued to sing songs of orientation in a world increasingly experienced as disoriented. That may be laudatory. It could be that such relentlessness is an act of bold defiance in which these psalms of order and reliability are flung in the face of the disorder. In that way, they insist that nothing shall separate us from the love of God. Such a “mismatch” between our life experience of disorientation and our faith speech of orientation could be a great evangelical “nevertheless” (as in Hab. 3:18). Such a counterstatement insists that God does in any case govern, rule, and order, regardless of how the data seem to appear. And therefore, songs of torah, wisdom, creation, and retribution speak truly, even if the world is experienced as otherwise. It is possible that the church uses the psalms of orientation in this way.
But at best, this is only partly true. It is my judgment that this action of the church is less an evangelical defiance guided by faith, and much more a frightened, numb denial and deception that does not want to acknowledge or experience the disorientation of life. The reason for such relentless affirmation of orientation seems to come, not from faith, but from the wishful optimism of our culture.1 Such a denial and cover-up, which I take it to be, is an odd inclination for passionate Bible users, given the large number of psalms that are songs of