Well, this really isn’t a solely religious blog, but as most of my close followers know, religion is very much a part of a my life. I mean, I would love to have a blog about this Tavis Smiley town hall I heard that aired on TvOne over the weekend, but I guess you’ll have to go to the other Tavis Smiley-hate blogs to get your fill, but for now, because of a previous post, I found a way to get a series out of this.
The first post, which is the one just before this one, I just was showing how some wanton foolishness leaves a bad mark on the church. There’s a clip, probably at a concert, and not a church service, with Gospel recording artist Hezekiah Walker and they’re having a shouting/dancing contest. Well, I’m from the church, I get it. That clip makes sense to me. But, for those who don’t attend church like that, let alone for those who don’t have any semblance of a church background, that looks like pure-D, Grade A Fool Fest. I mean, my friend always makes the comments that “white folk must think we look a fool in Pentecostal churches.” Just take out “white” and insert any group and you kind of get the picture.
So, just for clarification purposes, let me just drop my knowledge of what “the shout/praise break” really are.
Actually, my same friend says that the modern day praise break is evidence of African retentions. The best that we can point to from this contemporary vantage point is the “ring shout.” The ring shout originating from the shores of West Africa was an ecstatic moment in a worship service either outdoors in the brush arbors of the “invisible institution” or even inside near the altar of the church. The men and women would start singing or a chant and shuffle their feet in a circle until it got higher and higher into a frenzied pace–almost until exhaustion took place.
Well, this translated easily into the Spiritualist and the black Pentecostal churches because of them being tuned into the emotionalism and spiritualism of the moment. So by the time Charles H. Mason founded the Church of God in Christ at the turn of the 20th century, his background, whether COGICs will admit or not, albeit Baptist, he was heavily rumored to have believed in the gris-gris bags and the chicken feet and “putting a root” on someone. Something many Spiritualist churches still heavily believe in until this day.
What we see in the modern day church when it comes to a praise break is a result of the influence of Gospel music as a genre through the ages. Before when there was just a piano, and then drums were added and by the fifties there would be a whole band including guitars and bass guitars and also the ever influential Hammond organ.
One would be remiss to not understand Gospel music without the Hammond organ. Generally, at most churches, their primary goal is to be in possession of one of these badboys. The stopped making the original B3 and C3 models in the 1970s, but many people have rebuilt them, along with the Leslie speakers and now the company has made the “new B3” and “new C3” models, but most purists say, if I’m gonna go through all of that, just give me the original one.
The sound that is associated with the shout is all based on the music–namely the organ. And much like the ring shout, a true praise break or shout is spontaneous. That is to say, often times a praise break’ll happen after a song that the choir sang really stirred up the emotions of the congregation and the praise break acts as the cathartic release. OR, it’s like the praise break is a good nut after some awesome foreplay and love-making session.
Here’s a good example of praise break:
Usually, it’s one or two people that get caught up, the organist or keyboardist is instigating and before you know it, the keyboardist hits one good beat and if the church is Pentecostal, thats all they need because they’ve gotten a beat going. I’d submit that even without the organ and drums, as long as you have a beat you’ll have a shout. I’ve been to churches–with wooden floors–and between the stomping, the hand-clapping, the tambourines and, yes, even the washboards, that more than satisfied the spirit.
Are the people shouting and reacting to the music? Simply put, yes. It’s a learned reaction, much like Pavlov’s dog who heard the bell before he saw the food and would begin to salivate. Nonetheless, I think many times its real. I can’t deny my own experiences while sitting on the organ versus sitting in the pew when there have been high ecstatic moments in a church and I’ve truly felt something unexplainable. Then there have been other times where I’ve been in a church and seen folks damn near do flips–and felt nothing.
Yes, I’ve been to services like that, and I just sit in my pew and look. I’ve had a few people walk up to me and say, “How could you sit and not move or do anything?” Which to me is the exact opposite of those who say “It don’t take all of that.” But, I remember as a kid watching that scene from the “Blues Brothers” if that’s what they really did in some churches because I most certainly wasn’t raised in a church like that.
Personally, where I am is what is the efficaciousness of doing all of that? I firmly believe that God isn’t impressed with how well we speak in tongues, how well we dance, or even the fact that we did it just because it felt good. I say damn the idea that we should praise God just because of “who God is” and that’s all that that is doing. I think doing all of that falls bankrupt when, as other commenters said, that our actions fail to meet up with our worship services. At first I used to rail against church outsiders saying “all y’all just hypocrites” and I grew up hearing pastors provide a ready response to that of “Oh, there’s always room for one more.” The older I’ve gotten, the more I see the outsiders point of view: we claim to have all the answers and all this power from God, but not a lot has changed. We’ll hock and spit in church on Sunday, and be ready to cuss someone out leaving the parking lot 30 minutes later. To me that’s just evidence that at the core we’re all human, but the badge of self-righteousness many of us wear prevents us from seeing it as such.
At its core, I have nothing wrong with praise breaks and shouts, and of course as a musician I love hearing what riff the organist or band is going to go into next. And yes, many of us are used to keep up such a pace for extended periods of time. I mean, for our last Late-Night at school I think we were gone for about 45 minutes from start to finish and not to mention after the preacher was done.
I open this for discussion and further inquiry. I’d be interested to see what’s the psychology behind all of this because most interpretations rest solely in the theological realm and negate other points of views. Stay tuned for part three tomorrow.
I welcome comments and rebuttals for discussion. Also, tell me what your favorite church scene from a movie was, lol. I’d be interested to know. This is my favorite below.
Keep it uppity and keep it truthfully radical, JLL