Those attending the Inaugural Prayer Service at the Washington National Cathedral for President Donald Trump received a thrill (and returned a standing ovation) from an unlikely source. Marlana VanHoose—20 years old, blind and moderately cerebral-palsied—lifted her magnificent voice in praise to the three-in-one God with a splendid rendition of How Great Thou Art.
Miss VanHoose combines a child-like aspect with jaw-dropping artistry. She presents virtually none of the glitz and glamour so prevalent in today’s entertainment world, and often in the church as well. Nor does she merely entertain. She sings with the confidence of mastery and the conviction of a heart changed by Jesus Christ. No one hearing her could fail to be moved. Indeed, first lady Melania Trump rose to lead the standing ovation.
The video is embedded below. (Please note: the audio level is low, a headset is recommended for the full experience. … If there are problems with the video playing, please go here to view it in your browser.)
Listen to this stirring performance, and honor the God who created humans in His own image to declare His glory. Give thanks to the First Musician whose gift of song weaves its way into the deep places of our hearts where it produces joy and then spills back out into waves of glorious thanksgiving and praise. Acknowledge the God who “chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong … the lowly things of this world and the despised things–and the things that are not–to nullify the things that are so that no one may boast before him” (1Co 1:27-29 NIV).
Not only is the artist remarkable; so is the music. How Great Thou Art, penned by Swedish poet Carl Gustav Boberg (1859–1940) and set to a Swedish traditional tune, is outranked only by Amazing Grace as the most popular hymn of all time. This young woman brings new life to an old favorite hymn. I was stunned by her treatment of this great hymn.
I had not sung this hymn in many years, though it was a favorite when I was a young man. The soaring message lifts our hearts and minds to worship the God of glory.
And when I think that God, His son not sparing, sent him to die, I scarce can take it in.
That on the cross, my burden gladly bearing, he bled and died, to take away my sin.
Then sings my soul, my Savior, God, to Thee, how great thou art.
This hymn comes from another era when our fathers’ faith in the living and just God drove them to write perhaps the most moving and foundational political documents in history. Surely it’s more than mere coincidence that the minds and hearts of the generation of Christians who wrote such hymns also wrote the documents of America’s founding. These old hymns, and the Declaration of Independence, and the US Constitution were all drawn from the same deep well of Judeo-Christian theism.
I am reminded of Scott Allen’s post, What Does It Mean to Be Free? He writes of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s discovery of the relationship between good hymnody and political understanding.
Today, we are drifting from content-laden, God-centered hymns to self-centered, content-light choruses. We are losing appreciation for our founding history and the richness of our historic documents. I wonder if the mindset of the modern church, with its worship framed by emotional, low-content messages, could ever produce the political documents needed to found a free nation.
For more on Marlana VanHoosen’s performance see our friend Rick Pearcey’s Pro-Existence post, Melania Trump Weeps as Marlana VanHoose Sings “How Great Thou Art.”
- Darrow Miller and Gary Brumbelow