Time to face the music

7 08 2008

Lisa: “We’re the MTV generation. We feel neither highs nor lows”
Homer: “Wow! Whats that like?”
Lisa: “Meh”

Today I had coffee with my brother in law. I have a tough time deciding whether he’s an extrovert or introvert. He’s definately quieter than me, but is still very friendly and outgoing. Sometimes its not important to place people into a box. I had a good time and enjoyed the conversation. He works at a stadium, the kind that hosts large rock concerts. So rightly we got onto the topic of music. Those who know me know that I am a passionate musician. However we both realised that allure big bands have is somewhat less than it used to be. 


When  Neil Young suggested that “music has lost the power to change the world”, He put into words what I had been feeling for some time. We may have more ways to get music but we are no longer as interested as we used to be. My dad has always been an avid collector of Vinyl (Cliff Richard and The Shadows to be precise) and I can still remember us as a family getting our first CD. We didn’t even have a CD player. But CD’s were infinitely better than vinyl or tapes on every count. Better sound quality, no analogue hiss and you didn’t have rewind them. Now I own too many CD’s and don’t have enough space to store them. What were once treasured and highly sought after posessions have become as common as sandwhiches. 

Ask me what CD I enjoy the most and I struggle to answer. I really don’t have a favourite. In order to understand the seriousness of that claim you need to understand where I’m coming from on the issue. I am a serious musician. I was semi-professional for four years. I recorded in some of the best studios in the country and made music videos too. I used to go to all the concerts, and kept my ticket stubbs as a matter of pride. Yet I am no longer moved by music today. It has lost a lot of its meaning. Today we could probably talk of the post-MTV generation. Have you noticed how little music is actually played on so called “music” tv stations? They are awash with reality shows, sexually explicit dramas, and profane comedies. Everything but music.

Musicians in the 60’s and 70’s were revered as great artists, inspired people, and the ones who would change the world. During the 80’s it became all about corporations and excess. Musicians were living the new “American Dream”. They were wealthy, successful and popular. In the 90’s there was a rebellion against those ideals that came in the form of Grunge (a style I fell in love with). The bands of old were labelled as “sell outs”. When grunge fizzled out, bubble-gum pop took over in the form of Boy Bands, Girl power and Hip-Hop. What used to be called selling out, was now called “building your brand”. It didnt matter how many styles you blended together, you didn’t even have to stick to one genre. This is where we find ourselves. Artists like Gwen Stefani are a prime example. You can be a punk rock chick one day and a hip hop star the next.  However, it has been very neccessary for musicians to do this in order to survive. MP3’s have impacted bands financially. The internet connects us to all the “free” music we could ever want. You could download every song in my CD collection without paying anymore than a months ISP charges. You can do all that and not consider it stealing. But hey, whats stealing to you is only sharing to me, right? Or so the myth goes. Musicians are forced to release more albums more frequently with more special features and freebies only to find that the fans don’t care.

You would expect a tonne of protest songs on the radio since the war in Iraq began, but really we don’t hear any. Such is the influece of tolerance and politcal correctness. We have lost our democratic right to protest. Musicians may be too afraid to alienate a part of their fanbase. Alienation means losing an income stream. The Beatles may have made money when people bought their albums to burn them, but today burning music has taken on a completely different meaning.

Perhaps the this is just symptomatic of a bigger problem. We are so concerned with causing offense that we refuse to talk about controversial matters. This attitude has also influenced the church. Back in the 1600’s eternal destiny was a daily concern. People were so worried that they would die during their sleep and wake up in hell. The very environment the Catholic church exploited by selling indulgences for sins. Today nobody preaches about Hell, and I wonder if anyone still cares. Rob Bell seems more concerned with “how humanity brings hell on earth” rather than eternal destiny. Post-modern thinking has left many in the church with a feeling of paralysis. How do you defend the gospel in light of the “tolerance” battle cry? Ravi Zacharias points out that the reformation came out of a fresh reading of  Pauls theology. Today it may be neccessary to re-read James’. Faith without works is dead (James 2:14).

The Gospel message has been and always will be a message that divides people. Its high time we faced the music. Jesus said “Do you think I came to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but division” (Luke 12). This is one of the more difficult statements to swallow. Where’s all that stuff about loving your neighbour? Tolerance often masquerades as love and it easily deceives many. Doing something in love may often cause an offence. An old youth pastor of mine once said “God said you shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free, but he never said you would like the truth.” Its taken me ten years to really appreciate the wisdom of that statement. The truth of Jesus is something that goes against mans sinful nature. He will never chose anything Holy because he loathes it. Jesus echoed confirmed this in John 6 when he said “No one can come to me unless the Father enables him“.

While unity within the church is a good thing it is not our end goal. We must do all things in love, but sometimes that means unity has to suffer. Switchfoot have a song called “The Beautiful Letdown” and the main line of the song hammers home the point “I don’t belong here.” Perhaps he was reading Philippians when he wrote that song. “our citizenship is in heaven And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body“. (Phil 3:20-21). We have the greatest news in the world and it must never be watered down. Even if we are branded as intolerant. We would do well to remember this message whenever we are tempted to make the gospel a little more palatable.

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2 responses

8 08 2008
m slater

“You would expect a ton of protest songs on the radio since the war in Iraq began, but really we don’t hear any. Such is the influence of tolerance and political correctness. We have lost our democratic right to protest. Musicians may be too afraid to alienate a part of their fanbase”

True, we do not hear all that many protest songs on the radio, but I think that has a lot more to do with the corporate stations than the bands themselves. For example, Lincoln Park’s newest CD has a couple passionate protest songs (notably Hands Held High), but those songs are not played by the radio stations, I would think out of fear of alienating anyone. Same with Greenday, some of their protest songs do get on, but not often. I know there are other more folk style artists who have done a lot of protest songs, but I can not say I am all that up on the details of the folk scene though some of my friends are.
I saw an ABC special about how today’s war protestors do not have the same scope as those in the 60’s-70’s, especially in the area of music. I wonder though if that has less to do with the artists and more with their corporate handlers?
That said, I would share what I took to be your general disappointment with the state of contemporary music. I wish there were more real musicians and less celebrities who also pretend to sing.

“We have the greatest news in the world and it must never be watered down. Even if we are branded as intolerant. We would do well to remember this message whenever we are tempted to make the gospel a little more palatable.”

I agree that we ought not to be watering down the Gospel. However, I wonder quite often how much of the offence of the Gospel we preach is a result of the true message and how much is a result of how poorly we often present it and how we focus so much on elements that were not nearly as big a deal to the NT authors and early church.
Not that we ought to be trying to make it more palatable, but we should be sure that any offence is from the true vital gospel message, and not from our presentation or anything we have added on.
Also, in our post-modern context it is necessary to adapt the way we present the Gospel. Not to give in to our culture, but to realize that many of the old assumptions we could make about the people we are talking with are no longer true, and that if we approach them in a very modernist way it will be us getting in the way of the gospel. Post-modernism has its problems, but so does modernism, and neither is inherently more Christian. We need to be extremely careful about clinging to modernist thought under the assumption that it is more Christian than post-modern thought, it isn’t, neither are an end to themselves and we just need to learn to reach the world around us as it is. We need to have convictions, but sometimes the authors who react most strongly against tolerance or post-modernism seem to really be more upset that their modernist based arguments don’t work anymore than anything else.

Sorry for the rant lol.

10 08 2008
aworthydiscussion

LOL thanks for the rant err…I mean comments LOL- I’m all for changing our style, but not for content. Too often what I see with the emerging church is that they are throwning the baby out with the bathwater. Just read Mclaren!
Sometimes its frustrating not to have your modernist down pat answers work anymore, but its also exciting. The world is changing, and we must adapt our approach.

I liked your statement – how much of the offense is cause by our style or presentation rather than the truth? Who knows, its very difficult to measure what people are indeed reacting to. Sometimes if you’re open and accepting people will accuse you of accepting sin as OK, if you over the top then people will say “who are you to judge?” – Somehow we need a balance. However what that balance is or looks like is sometimes as mysterious as the Lord himself !! LOL.

BTW – i like rants – my wife says I go off on rants all the time, so its nice to know i’m not the only one.

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