[I]n most areas of life, Christians will agree with non-Christians that different types of music are better suited to various activities than other types of music. For example, we could probably all agree that it would be unfitting to play a funeral dirge at a barn-raising or rap music to help a baby get to sleep. It is only when it comes to the activity of worship that Christians tend to make an exception and say that any type of music is just as appropriate as any other type.
This was something that came up last year when Christianity Today asked Mars Hill Audio host, Ken Myers, about various Christian hip-hop artists. In his responses to Russell Moore’s questions, Myers asked us to respect the integrity of hip-hop as a style by recognizing that, as a vehicle, the style is better suited to certain types of words than others. That is, form and content are organically related in ways that Christians are often apt to ignore.
“Music sounds ‘like feelings feel,’ said Myers. That’s why no one could credibly suggest that Beethoven’s ‘Ode to Joy’ conjures ‘feelings of melancholy, humility, tentativeness, or ennui.’ And no one could claim that Gregorian chants are ‘brimful of arrogance, assertiveness, anger, or brashness.’
“By contrast, Myers said, ‘Hip-hop is quite successful in [expressing] raw energy barely contained; it is a form that dares its hearers to contradict its address with a threat of escalation or retaliation.’ In other words, rap is anything but about ‘reticence, patience, self-giving, or submissiveness.’
“‘Hip-hop with a bowed head (or a bowed heart) is hard to imagine; it would be unfaithful to the spirit of hip-hop, and to the spirit of reverence,’ Myers said as we continued talking over e-mail. One cannot, he said, rap the Sermon on the Mount without altering the fundamental meaning of either the text or the form, any more than one could easily perform ‘Girlfriend in a Coma’ set to Fleet Foxes’ ‘White Winter Hymnal.’ To use ‘pious and humble’ hip-hop lyrics would be to ignore or denigrate ‘the musical vocabulary of hip-hop,’ since it is a style ‘more at home with a confident swagger than with receptive poverty of spirit.’”
Myers was not arguing that hip-hop is bad, or that it is incompatible with Christian practice. Rather, he was asking Christians to respect the integrity of hip-hop as a style by recognizing that its forms are intrinsically more suited to certain types of content than others.
(Robin Phillips, Music: Myths, Meanings, Messages and Mediums, emphasis added)
A few years ago John Piper created some controversy over his declaration that Christianity had a masculine feel. The claim raised several issues, one of which was the way a divorce of theological reflection from Christian tradition leads to a lopsided and impoverished theology … It undermines Christianity to say that it has a “masculine” feel. Instead, Christianity has a human feel.
Considering the historically informed material I omitted with the ellipsis, I don’t see how Dale Coulter (click through if only for the arresting “masculine” illustration), the most thoughtful Pentecostal writer I can recall ever encountering, can remain a Pentecostal (i.e., a Protestant). I predict (unwilling to wager anything I can’t afford to lose, of course), that it won’t last, since “to be deep in history is to cease being Protestant.”
Food for thought:
Some years ago, while I was serving as Commissioner at the Federal Election Commission, I entertained a delegation from China. Working through an interpreter, I was asked to give a brief description of campaign finance law in the United States. I tried to provide a simplified explanation, but as they asked questions, the complex nature of the law emerged. Soon I was attempting to explain the legal differences between “expenditure,” “independent expenditure, “express advocacy of election or defeat,” “electioneering communications,” “generic campaign activity,” “federal election activity,” “public communications,” and more. Finally, the interpreter had to stop me. “I don’t have any more words to make these distinctions,” she said.
[T]his idea that gay kids are always and everywhere the victims in high school and not the victimizer is not true. Many are victims, but many are also victimizers. Same is true of Christian kids. Same is true of black kids. Same is true of everybody, because that’s how human nature is …
The gay housemate I once had who cheated me out of hundreds of dollars, and left me hanging on by my fingernails when he ran out on our lease — this was a guy who had been friends with me for years, but who decided that since I was a Christian and therefore a member of the oppressor class, anything he did to cheat me was justified. He wasn’t a bad guy because he was gay. His full-on embrace of a gay identity enabled him to express the worst aspects of his personality without the common decency that held it in check. When he was just our friend, he saw himself as a person like all the rest of us. But then he became Gay, and he changed. This was a middle-class white guy who, to my knowledge, had never before been victimized. He was popular. And yet, for some reason, after he came out, he changed, and not for the better. Suddenly, he had an identity, with a prefabricated set of opinions that told him whom to hate and why hating them was a sign of virtue.
Again: it’s the human condition. We are all susceptible to it …
Does your conscience bother you? If it doesn’t, something’s wrong with you, and you had better look into it.
The resurrection is more than fact, it is a person … The Church does not shout, “Christ rose from the dead! Fact! Fact! Fact!” It shouts, “Christ is risen from the dead! Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!”
Lazarus was raised from the dead. Christ is risen from the dead….
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“The remarks made in this essay do not represent scholarly research. They are intended as topical stimulations for conversation among intelligent and informed people.” (Gerhart Niemeyer)