The result is blasphemy on a grand scale. Note that blasphemy is the specific, not emotional, charge of insulting God. “O Sacred Neck” insults the Lord by depicting Jesus as a drug-abusing George Floyd, and it does so on a large scale by inviting many singers to join in such worship.
The Porter’s Gate was founded in 2017 to gather the finest Christian talents and create new worship songs and liturgies for the Church. In a September 18, 2020 Instagram post to new followers, they describe their collaborators as “clergy, scholars, activists, worship leaders and songwriters,” with the purpose of “hav[ing] conversations about how to make worship a place of hospitality across lines of difference.” These conversations have been star-studded and fruitful and have resulted in a prolific musical output. Following the release of Work Songs in 2017, The Porter’s Gate released a 2019 follow up, Neighbor Songs, and dropped two new albums in September 2020: Justice Songs and Lament Songs.
O Sacred Neck Now Wounded, the premier song on the Lament album, is a rewrite of the glorious hymn by Bernard of Clairvaux. Instead of focusing solely on the person of Christ, however, the new song weaves in images of George Floyd, together with calls to “break down prison doors.” For my full critique, read An Unholy Neck Song. The song faced significant pushback before it was even released, which prompted the principle author, Keith Watts, to offer an explanation here. He argues that the song is a partial attempt to answer the question, “How might we worship differently remembering that Jesus was brown?”
The result is blasphemy on a grand scale. Note that blasphemy is the specific, not emotional, charge of insulting God. “O Sacred Neck” insults the Lord by depicting Jesus as a drug-abusing George Floyd, and it does so on a large scale by inviting many singers to join in such worship. The Porter’s Gate makes it as easy as possible to download music sheets. As for its popularity, on September 22, 2020, “O Sacred Neck” ranks in the top 20 “Hot Tracks” in the Christian & Gospel genre on iTunes, surpassing any other tracks from the Lament album. By far the greatest lament is that this new “worship” song does not worship the true God.
Yet there is more to lament for those of us in the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA). Our grief is that this song was created by people who have been appointed to lead congregational worship within our denomination. The lead sheet lists four authors, two of whom are worship directors at PCA churches: Keith Watts of Resurrection Oakland Church in Oakland, CA, and Isaac Wardell of Trinity Presbyterian Church in Charlottesville, VA.
It is stain upon the PCA that it would support the creation and promotion of popular art that is designed to help Christians heap insults upon our God.
Let’s urge one another to pray for this branch of the Church, that we might live up to our high calling of peace and purity.
Mike Littell is a Minister in the Presbyterian Church in America and is Pastor of South Dayton PCA in Centerville, Ohio.