Viewpoint on Church Music Debates

May 18, 2014

Great experience today:  I now know what to do about the church-music wars!  Either a revelation from God or dyspepsia from too much Tabasco Sauce!  

But here goes: Consider how much carnage litters the ecclesiastical landscape of western civilization from the interminable wars over what music we should use during our worship services. Here’s the road to armistice. Try to follow my logic,

(1)  Every literate American, of course, has an iPhone with an iTunes app which is capable of making available, at the touch of a button, several thousand songs.  And that is not to mention radios, TVs, short-wave sets, the web, etc. etc., literally ad infinitum, ad nauseum. No cubic foot of space in the cosmic blogosphere is devoid of “church” music.

(2)  Now, there being 168 hours in every week, let every Christian listen to his religious music of choice (anthems, hymns, choruses, solos, instrumentals, a capella or accompanied, etc., everything from Beethoven to bangy-clangy, from Bach chorales to kum-baya) for 167 hours and forty minutes.  Night and day, waking and sleeping, dining and dieting, dusting or dreaming, whatever.  Not just any music, but the very best of every genre.  Got it?  Contemplate the vision of hundreds of millions of church-types literally gorging, all week long, on the worship music of their choice.

(3)  Then, the churchman can attend church on Sunday morning, determined to face musical torture of twenty minutes without murmuring about whatever sort of music or non-music he is subjected to.  I realize that’s asking for a terrific work of supererogation, a counsel of perfection, but don’t leave yet, because…

(4)  All that will come easier if, to begin with, our “worshipper” realizes that to mumble and maunder about how horrible worship music is declares to the entire universe (including angels) his spiritual lunacy!  And his utter surrender to the level of a consumer and not a worshipper.  (“Mr. Music Man, I am not here to worship anybody; I am here as a consummate American Consumer and you had better give me what I want to consume or you’ll be the consummee!  You will remember, of course, that I, and I alone, among all humans, know what is acceptable to God and what is not acceptable to God in this matter!”)  Still difficult?

(5)  This process will be immeasurably easier if our “worshipper” would imagine, beforehand, the Judgment Seat of Christ where, inevitably (see I Corinthians 3: 9-15, etc.) the words, deeds, thoughts, motives, etc., of all Christians will be judged (yes, that’s the word).  Now, imagine listening to the testimonies of hundreds of thousands of modern Christians---men, women, and children---suffering martyrdom (I trust it won’t give pain to your tender sensibilities, but that word means to be murdered, often raped, tortured to death, decapitated, sometimes hacked to pieces, sometimes burned to death, often with family members being forced to watch). Missiologists report that on average, over 300,000 Christians every year are slaughtered like cattle (sorry!) for simply being Christians.  Don’t  move on until you get that report session well-fixed in your consciousness. 

(6)  And, now, it is time for the modern Christian (perhaps YOU!) to report. “Ah, yes,” he retorts, “but think about me! I had to sit, every single Sunday morning (voice strident!) for a full hour, in a commodious and climate-controlled and secure and ornate edifice (our new auditorium was recognized as the most impressive new building in the city last year!) sitting on the softest seats in my city, with twenty-five churches to choose from, in a peaceful land, and hear horrid music which prompts one man to lift his hands and another to sit on them, with some swaying to the music and others standing like statues, some clapping hands and others clasping them, some patting one foot, another patting two, and a third refusing to deny Jesus by patting anything, and all that amid some songs ten verses long and others four verses short, some written ninety years ago and some nine minutes ago and some obviously never written at all!  The entire scene is utterly nauseous.  My friends and I, as a regular religious ritual, would drive in our luxury sedans out to the country club for Sunday lunch and we would all commiserate together over a sumptuous meal that we had to endure such torture, a torture comparable to having your toenails pulled out without anesthesia---and that for a full twenty minutes!  EVERY Sunday!  Think of ME!  Have you no PITY?”

That simple and inexpensive exercise would, infallibly, produce an immediate and permanent armistice in the celebrated church-music wars.  Punta finale!  Just saying.

An aside to all our third-world brothers and sisters:  it occurs to me that you know very little about that word anesthesia.  We, on the other hand, have produced an entire pharmacopeia on the subject.  And are constantly adding to that knowledge, discovering new and exotic ways to stop hurting.  We have learned how to assuage pain of every conceivable sort, including the pain demanded by “the cost of discipleship” as one of our true western martyrs recently phrased it.  

I notice that you are quiet.  Good.  Maybe you will hear the angels weeping.

Bill Anderson