Don’t Blame Beethoven!

Cadence and his Bongos at Pep Band, 2008
Lord, Protect me from your Followers
Last month my husband Rich and I had the good fortune to hear Philip Yancey speak. I enjoy his books because he’s not afraid to tackle tough questions about our faith; he carries that same courage to his appearances, I was happy to discover.
One of his points, phrased more eloquently than I could hope to, has been roaming my mind ever since. Speaking of people who turn away from their faith because of unfortunate choices made by others who proclaim to be Christians, he told the story of hearing a professional symphony in Chicago play Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5; years later he listened as a high school orchestra bravely tackled that same score. He concluded that the two performances varied greatly in their faithfulness to Beethoven’s magnificent score; obviously it had been a joy to listen to the symphony in Chicago, while the high school orchestra’s rendition was a bit, well….rough.
As a follower of Christ, and a former student violinist, who winces when the news announces that some church plans to burn the holy texts of another faith, or that members of a church are planning to disrupt a funeral by protesting–let alone the historic horrors that have been committed in the name of Christianity–Yancey’s words resonated with me.
I remembered a particularly tortured rendition of Handel’s Hallelujah Chorus that I helped to perpetrate in eighth grade. And I shuddered again, all these years later.
Last summer, famed author Anne Rice announced that she was leaving Christianity. A day or two later, she offered this clarifying comment:
My conversion from a pessimistic atheist lost in a world I didn’t understand to an optimistic believer in a universe created and sustained by a loving God is crucial to me. But following Christ does not mean following His followers. Christ is infinitely more important than Christianity and always will be, no matter what Christianity is, has been, or might become.

I’ve been thinking a lot about Mr. Yancey’s words, and Ms. Rice’s words, and Handel’s Hallelujah Chorus.
I remember that in tenth grade, I had another opportunity to perform the piece with another student orchestra. While still far from perfect, our faithfulness to the score was better than it had been two years earlier. I’d studied the score more and I came closer to reproducing it as it was written.

And so it is with faith. We’re imperfect people trying to follow a score written by a perfect God. Sometimes we hit the wrong note, whether it’s an earnest mistake or we’re lured by a conductor who would abuse our faith in an attempt to sway our actions. Sometimes a whole movement of His symphony is poorly rendered–at least that’s what it feels like to me, when I pass through a time of stumbling. And I’ve stumbled a lot.

In either case, it’s not the Composer’s fault. And I keep studying His score.

1 Beware of practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them; otherwise you have no reward with your Father who is in heaven.
Matthew 6:1 (NASB)


  1. All I can say, AMEN!!!!!! Very beautifully said! Thank you!!! 🙂

  2. Thanks for your kind words, Dori!