14 August 2023 |
Dear Aunt Sevvy.
You talk like you know everything, but I’d like to see you come to the defense of the music being used in worship in many churches now.
Everything has become the Vineyard or Hillsong kind of music, songs no one knows, repeated phrases over and over. They’re accompanied with instruments that would be at home in a dance hall, not a church. We no longer sing for God. Now it’s presentation and egotistical performances.
Where are the beautiful old hymns? They weren’t just songs, but they taught important truths. Instead we have songs written by proud hearts—not touching or spiritual, just loud and noisy.
Signed, Plugging my ears
You surely have a right to your opinion of what kind of religious music is meaningful to you. So does Aunty!
The problem is—especially when it comes to church culture—people try to raise the stakes by saying that their music has theological or salvational significance. Almost always, though, it’s a matter of taste, not salvation.
You don’t like the things the younger people are enjoying? You’re worried they might even be dangerous? These concerns have been expressed for millennia! In the 4th century BCE Aristotle complained,
[Young people] think they know everything, and are always quite sure about it.
In 1936 the Portsmouth Evening News wrote,
Probably there is no period in history in which young people have given such emphatic utterance to a tendency to reject that which is old and to wish for that which is new.
Scientific American in 1858 expressing concern about a dangerous and youthful new game that was all the rage:
A pernicious excitement to learn and play chess has spread all over the country, and numerous clubs for practicing this game have been formed in cities and villages…chess is a mere amusement of a very inferior character, which robs the mind of valuable time that might be devoted to nobler acquirements … they require out-door exercises–not this sort of mental gladiatorship.
The point is that what is old was once new, what is new will become old, and almost every generation of “grown-ups” pushed back against the things their children liked.
But change is inevitable. Religious music, like all art, tracks with the times and the culture. Think about this: “A Mighty Fortress” was contemporary Christian music for some generation, even though it doesn’t sound like it today!
Aunty agrees with you that many of the old hymns are wonderful. Historically, they helped to teach a less-educated population about doctrines, and lifted their hearts in times of discouragement. Hymns like “When Peace Like a River” touch the soul no matter what generation you grow up in, especially when you know the story behind it.
(Though you should also know that the words in some old hymns are pretty dreadful in today’s context, such as those that glorify militant Christianity—but that’s for another time.)
You need not share the taste for today’s music, but please don’t begrudge those who feel God’s presence when they sing contemporary songs set to contemporary instrumentals. Yes, this music is more active, has a beat, and a stronger element of emotionalism to it—but what’s wrong with that? Shouldn’t we be delighted that new generations are continuing to worship God, and are willing to be creative in how they express it?
You could even try expanding your musical repertoire and learn to like some of the new stuff. You might be surprised how fun it is.
Aunt Sevvy has written a book! You can get it from Amazon by clicking here.
You can write to Aunt Sevvy at DearAuntSevvy@gmail.com. Your real identity will never be revealed.