A culture that exalts the image of the self will also sing along to Amazing Grace.
Past generations of Christians had little problem thinking of themselves as wretches (in contrast to wretched).
What do they think they’re singing?
From Fleming Rutledge.
It is baffling that our whole society knows and apparently loves to sing “Amazing Grace.” What are people thinking of when they sing, “Amazing grace, how sweet the sound / that saved a wretch like me”? The man who wrote the hymn was a slave trader who came to see the wickedness of his activities. Most of those who sing the hymn today know nothing of this background. It is startling to hear it robustly sung by people who are so imbued with today’s talk of self-esteem that one can’t imagine them identifying themselves as wretches. A chasm of incomprehension has opened up between the way of the old slave trader who knew that he had been redeemed by Christ in spite of himself and the contemporary notion of a generalised sort of spiritual self-improvement. The joy of the hymn writer is specifically that of being released from the burden of sin. His gratitude is “for the means of grace and for the hope of glory.” The link between the confession of sin and a prevenient state of blessedness, however poorly understood today, remains indissoluble.
Fleming Rutledge, The Crucifixion – Understanding The Death Of Jesus Christ Eerdmans, Grand Rapids MI, 2015, pg 170.