Thursday, 3 February 2022

The Lord's Prayer

When I was a kid, school assemblies always began with a recitation of The Lord’s Prayer. It was always a very solemn and serious affair. By the time I got to high school, however, for some unknown reason The Lord’s Prayer had been set to music - I always thought this stripped away its gravitas and imbued it with a distinctly comedic flavour.

I went to a private high school for boys. It was supposed to be a non-denominational school, but our weekly assemblies carried a heavy Christian vibe and a lot of our guest speakers were disturbingly evangelical. For instance, every year this withered old missionary used to hand out tiny red bibles and regale us with a song about the Holy Land. It was a horrible dirge and this guy used to belt it out like he was trying to blow up our PA system. The refrain was a jarring “JERRRUUU-SALEM! JERRRRRRRRUUUUUUUUUUUU-SALEM!” and the entire school used to sit through it while cringing in collective embarrassment. There was always an awful stunned silence at the end. No one ever applauded; we didn't know how to respond. Once, some nameless student spoke for everyone when he whispered too loudly, “What the fuck was that?”

Every Monday we students opened assembly by singing either the Lord’s Prayer or The Battle Hymn of the Republic. I always thought The Battle Hymn of the Republic was an odd choice for an Aussie school. Anyway, whatever we sang, we sang it accompanied by the school band. Our The Lord's Prayer was an up-tempo rock ‘n roll lite version that I just couldn't take seriously. One morning as we geared up to sing it, the band's lead guitarist substituted the song's usual bland intro with his own improvised grinding/wailing riff. I can't say if he meant it as blasphemy or parody, but it was obviously an unsanctioned move because it drew dark looks from our headmaster. I completely lost my shit. The rest of the song proceeded as usual, with everyone singing along. No one in the peanut gallery seemed to find that guitar intro as funny as I did. Even if I’d wanted to join in – which I never did – I couldn't because I was practically crying with laughter. I don't know who he was, but the lead guitarist became my hero that day.

The song finished with another of the band guys tacking on a glorious, single-note outro on the glockenspiel. *Doink* I hadn't yet recovered from the wailing guitar, and I totally lost my shit again. There was some scattered giggling around the place, and the headmaster tried to murder the glockenspiel guy with glares. The look of outrage on his face was so priceless that I just couldn't help myself. My muffled snorts and heaving shoulders caught the attention of my biology teacher who gave me a verbal warning.

To this day I can’t hear The Lord’s Prayer without cracking up. The addition of music to religion doesn't make it better - religion is already intrinsically awful and, frankly, irredeemable. If anything, it just makes music worse.

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