Sunday, July 20, 2014

Why I don't know that song



Person mentions a popular song or musician. "You know so-and-so?" "You know that song?"

I shrug. "Never heard of it."

Person gasps, faints, hyperventilates, and exclaims, "YOU'VE NEVER HEARD OF ___????"

"Oh," I joke, "I grew up under a rock."


That is the flippant answer.


Actually, the reason I am absolutely illiterate about contemporary music (from Elvis to Miley Cyrus) is that when I emerged from under that rock, I looked around, noticed that this kind of music existed, observed that it did not fit in with what I want for my life, and made a deliberate and continual choice to exclude it.

I could have, after all, emerged from my sheltered background and made straight for all the music I had missed out on all those years. I am a musician. I have an incredible affinity for tunes. Something I hear once can end up stuck in my head for days. I could easily have compensated for my upbringing and rapidly made up the time if I had wanted to. That would have been easy. In a way, it would have been much more convenient. There would have been so many conversations I could have participated in rather than being left out. I would have avoided so many occasions of being made fun of. I remember being in England and telling someone I had never heard the song "American Pie." I thought I would never hear the end of it. But no amount of not being able to talk about that whole topic of conversation, and no amount of being made fun of for not knowing that popular person or song, can dissuade me from my resolve on this point.

So it's not really fair or honest for me to cast it all on my upbringing and say I don't know about this or that because "I grew up under a rock." In the first place, I didn't grow up under a rock, and in the second place, even if I did, it wouldn't account for my continued resolve not to have anything to do with that music.

Simply put, there is a way I want to live, and a kingdom I belong to, and everything that hinders or fails to promote my growth and advancement in that kingdom must be eliminated.

The way I want to live is to passionately pursue Jesus Christ in absolute surrender for all my days. The kingdom I belong to is the Kingdom of God. I am not of this world, and the things of the world do not fit in with my life in the kingdom of God, nor do they even appeal to me.

Granted, there are some areas that are blurry to me, some areas where I still need instruction and enlightenment in order to put away things that I am unconscious that they are a hindrance to my Christian walk. In these areas, I need grace, I need the Lord's patient teaching, I need conviction, I need my eyes to be opened. For instance, the books I read. Is it detrimental to my faith to read Don Quixote or the Iliad or The Lord of the Rings? That's not clear to me. It may be clear to others, and I may have things to learn from them, but presently that area is blurry and indistinct to me. But of course, if my eyes should be opened in the future through conviction, then all those things will have to go, too.

However, there is one area that is crystal clear to me, unmistakeably bright, and blindingly obvious. Rock music is a detriment to my Christian life. It is not welcome. It has no place. It tears me down, destroys, hurts my inmost being. It invades my peace with something that is totally foreign to the kingdom I dwell in. It is altogether incompatible with my citizenship in heaven.

  • The angst and rebellion of the lyrics do not resonate with me. 
  • The pounding beat is repulsive to me. 
  • The way it tempts the body to pulse and gyrate is wrong to me. 
  • The vocal styles (screaming/belting/seductive/breathy/twangy) do not appeal to me. Indeed, they usually mystify me. Do people really like it to sound that way? 
  • The noisy, chaotic clamor is oppressive to me. 
  • The themes explore all the possible categories of the depravity of man. (Lust, greed, pride, love of money, etc.) 
  • The language is often totally outside my vocabulary. 
  • The tunes and musical structures are boring to me. Repeated notes, small variety of notes, all the same chords, predictable rhythms. Again, it mystifies me. Do people think this is good? 
  • The musicians are not people I can admire, either in their lifestyle or in their appearance. 

I don't believe music is just notes on a page, just sound waves coming from an instrument, or just mere amoral tone, rhythm, melody and harmony. I believe music has the capacity to carry spiritual content. Just as the written word is more than mere letters and ink ("the pen is mightier than the sword"), music is more than mere notes. Music has a spiritual content, and that spiritual content can be very, very dark. This spiritual content can exist even in music that is purely instrumental. A Christian who is in tune with the Spirit of God can sense what music grieves the Holy Spirit, but it takes being very sensitive, not deadened to the influence of different kinds of music (or prejudiced in favor of it).

My response to this music is absolute. I simply deny it access to my life in every possible way. I do not turn it on the radio. I do not own any music tracks that contain it. I do not let it in through my computer, my mp3 player, or any other channel that I have control of. However, living in this world, surrounded with people who love it, it is impossible to not hear it sometimes. If I walk into a store that is playing it, I will immediately start silently quoting Scripture to block it out. Sometimes, if it is bad enough, I walk out of the store. If it comes on a television, I will mute it if I have that option. If I am in the car with someone who is playing it, I will ask them (nicely) to turn it off. If that is not possible, I quote Scripture to myself and/or avoid riding with that person. If people bring up songs, lyrics, artists in conversation, I lose all interest in that conversation.

This is why I don't know the songs most people talk about. I simply haven't heard them. Or if I did hear them, it was in a situation where I was probably actively blocking them out. I haven't heard them because I have chosen not to hear them, I have resolved not to hear them, I have deliberately closed my ears to them, not because I just somehow "missed out" on the latest and greatest hits.

The benefits to my life for this decision have been incalculable.

  • I have a certain level of strength and stability that mystifies others, which I am sure they would have, too, if they cut out all the music I cut out. 
  • In quiet moments, when a song comes into my head, the only possible kind that can get stuck in my head is a hymn of praise to the Lord or a beautiful, soaring classical melody, since that's the only kind I know. 
  • I have no thoughts planted in my head of suggestive themes that I would rather not have thought of. 
  • I struggle very, very little with lustful thoughts. 
  • I don't "need" music. I can go for days without listening to any music. The mental clarity this brings is something many people have forgotten about. 
  • All of the "music storage" space in my brain is given to God-glorifying hymns and songs (and a few classical piano pieces), and none of it is given to songs in praise of anything else. I've never officially counted, but I think I can probably sing a thousand hymns from memory. This is a vast reservoir of material for private worship, which is incredibly strengthening. 
  • I am "wise concerning good, and simple concerning evil." (Romans 16:19)

Basically, I have chosen to only include in my life that which is beneficial in my life.

Ultimately, in a manner of speaking, you could say that I grew up under the Rock (Christ), and that protected me from going out and listening to a rock (concert).

So now you know the reason why.


(I imagine I will get a bit of flak for this post. This issue tends to stir up intense emotions.)

1 comment:

  1. This is brilliant! Thank you for writing this, Rebekah. I truly resonate with what you said, although I couldn't have articulated it as well as you. What do you think of contemporary Christian music? That's an area I'm still trying to figure out. While there is some nice music in that genre (if that's the correct term), there are also other songs that have the pounding beat/vocal styles that make me feel uneasy, even if the lyrics are talking about God. And I find that some modern 'worship' music seems to focus more on self than Christ. Is there an objective way to evaluate such music?

    Annie Joy


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