Original Research - Special Collection: Christina Landman Festschrift

Responses to violence and human suffering in Christian hymnody: A study of responses to situations of violence in the work of four hymn writers

J. Gertrud Tönsing
HTS Teologiese Studies / Theological Studies | Vol 75, No 1 | a5197 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/hts.v75i1.5197 | © 2019 J. Gertrud Tönsing | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 20 July 2018 | Published: 21 May 2019

About the author(s)

J. Gertrud Tönsing, Department of Biblical and Ancient Studies, College of Human Sciences, University of South Africa, Pretoria, South Africa


This article looks at violence and the response to violent situations from the perspective of Christian hymnody. It examines where the content of hymns reflects experiences of violence and the hymn writers’ response to this. The work of four hymn writers is studied: two German traditional hymn writers and two contemporary English hymn writers. In each case, the article examines how they describe the violent situation, how they deal with the issue of human guilt, and what their response is. The article points out that often, hymns that deal with difficult issues do not become easily accepted in the congregational repertoire. However, as can be seen in these four cases, sometimes hymn writers do manage to find the language that can ensure that a hymn or song becomes a deep-felt way for congregations to express their feelings and experiences. Important in this acceptance is whether the hymn finds an appropriate expression of hope beyond the pain.


Hymns; Violence; Response; Guilt; Pain; Paul Gerhardt; Jochen Klepper; Fred Pratt Green; Graham Kendrick; Lutheran


Total abstract views: 1951
Total article views: 2762


Crossref Citations

1. ‘That song moves me to tears’ – Emotion, memory and identity in encountering Christian songs
J. Gertrud Tönsing
HTS Teologiese Studies / Theological Studies  vol: 76  issue: 3  year: 2020  
doi: 10.4102/hts.v76i3.5618