Each Wednesday I publish an earlier column that I hope will be instructive, informative, inspiring, and sometimes infuriating. The following column was first published in 2007.
No, I have not apostatized nor have I joined the “rush to Rome” as have some Anglicans, Lutherans, Evangelical groups, and Mennonites. However, I find myself agreeing with the pope about bad church music. One headline screamed, “Pope to purge the Vatican of modern music.” It is not bad music because it is modern but because it is “atrocious” especially in Italy, including the Vatican. Benedict wants a return to “traditional sacred music.”
I’m concerned with the atrocious music in many Bible-preaching churches that have deserted traditional hymns and Gospel songs. The Christ-honoring hymns have been replaced with twangy, ear-assaulting, mediocre, non-memorable chorus that are usually without meaning.
The Pope has already started “cleaning house” by no longer using “rotating” choirs from all over the world to sing in St. Peter’s. Well, one does not have to be too bright to know that it is difficult to know what you are going to get with a different choir each week.
Some musicians have already been sacked by Pope Benedict and have been replaced by men “closer to his heart.” Others are expected to go. Well, the Top Honcho has the right to have people around him that reflect his philosophy, doctrine, etc.
The International Church Music Review recently criticized the St. Peter’s choir, saying: “The singers wanted to overshout each other, they were frequently out of tune, the sound uneven, the conducting without any artistic power, the organ and organ playing like in a second-rank country parish church.” Sounds as if they are describing the music in some independent Baptist churches where singers often sing without any preparation—and it shows!
Mgr Valentin Miserachs Grau, the director of the Pontifical Institute of Sacred Music, which trains church musicians, said, “How far we are from the true spirit of sacred music. How can we stand it that such a wave of inconsistent, arrogant and ridiculous profanities have so easily gained a stamp of approval in our celebrations?” The director added: “Due to general ignorance, especially in sectors of the clergy, there exists music which is devoid of sanctity, true art and universality.”
The Pope hopes to solve the problem with a return to the Gregorian chant although that is not much of an improvement, in my opinion, but my opinion will not be considered by the Pope. He wants to use music by 17th century composers, etc., in St. Peter’s and his reformation musical message has gone out to all Catholic Churches.
Damian Thompson, editor-in-chief of the Catholic Herald opined: “The next generation of choir directors have been charged by the Pope with the task of reintroducing beautiful music into church. If they succeed, then at long last the pews may begin to fill up again.” But that won’t happen without a major battle and while the Pope can control the music at St. Peter’s, he cannot control it in thousands of churches worldwide. He will have a major fight on his hands since many music directors in Catholic churches are highly paid and some musicians write and publish their own music so it is in their self-interest to stay with the music that produces additional income for them.
Damian Thompson, declared, “There’s something troubling about diocesan composer-liturgists advising churches to use liturgical material in which they themselves have a commercial interest. This already happens a lot in America, where the coziness of the relationship between dioceses and composers is little short of scandalous.”
Thompson reports that music composers attended a summer school for Catholic musicians “who may not know how to write music, but they hold the right ‘progressive’ (c. 1968) political views and are fluent in the vocabulary of ethnic sensitivity and ‘empowerment.’ ” It seems they ended their summer sessions last year by producing an outdoor performance of “dancing, drumming and singing in African that ‘Satan has had it.’” Sure sorry I missed that. Evidently, Satan did also.
Thompson, dripping with justified sarcasm said of much of the Catholic Church music: “There are few more terrifying sounds than the fumbled guitar chords that herald a Gospel number sung by arthritic Christian hippies.” Wish I had said that.
So Catholic Churches have major problems with music as do many evangelical and fundamental churches although the generational perpetrators are reversed. In Catholic Churches, the bad guys are older, more mature, well ensconced musicians who are supported by rebellious priests. They won’t surrender without a fight.
In Bible-oriented churches, the perpetrators are usually young men who like trendy, light music that compares to Kumbaya. Often the lyrics don’t offend but neither do they teach, inspire, or motivate us to godliness. But what is lost in value they make up for it in volume. As Rick Warren says of his church music, “It is loud, very loud.” Scuttlebutt says that sometimes it is so loud, it breaks street lights a block away!
Music is not an end in itself. It is preparatory to the preaching of God’s Word. If the music detracts from that or does not enhance that end, then it is out of place. It may be all right in other environments but not in a worship service.
The Apostle Paul wrote in Eph, 5:19, “Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord.” Then in Col 3:16, he wrote, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.” Note that the music should be Scriptural (if not actual Bible verses then at least Biblical in content); melodious (that would eliminate about half of modern music); and admonishing.
Evangelical and fundamental churches have come a long way baby–in the wrong direction. We are being led into the swamps of this world by the pied pipers of second-class music, often followed by feel-good messages.
I’m with the Pope. Let’s have a musical reformation.
Fact, Fraud or Faith?
by Don Boys, Ph.D.
Only an uninformed fanatic says that evolution or creation can be proved scientifically. Christians believe in creationism because we believe in the veracity of the Bible but we also have scientific evidence to support our position. In every debate I’ve had with evolutionary scientists, the arrogant, asinine accusation is made, “Well, evolution is scientific while creationism is religion.” Evolution is about as scientific as a voodoo rooster plucking ceremony in Haiti. Almost.