The author of this piece, Cultural Limits, is a friend of mine, and a co-author with me on The Conservative Citizen. She’s also as you’ll see both a serious Catholic and a well-trained singer. That makes her, to me at least, qualified to speak on music in church. Perhaps even better qualified than me! 🙂
In any case, I agree completely with her, whichever church we are speaking of. Here’s CL, from the DC Gazette
On Tuesday, the very day that the latest Pew Research survey came out that said Christianity is in decline in the United States, a certain pastor in a certain parish in a certain American Midwestern city known as the Rome of the West met with the choir director. For the most part, he was very pleased. However, there were some concerns. His complaints: the choir sings too much choir stuff, too much Latin, too much of it is old, not enough modern pieces, the congregation sinks back to listen and then doesn’t have anything to do and doesn’t participate in other congregational singing, blah, blah, blah. (Never mind that half the people who come to that Mass do so to hear the choir sing all the old special stuff. They tell us this.)
Earth to Monsignor: no Catholic congregation sings completely and you can’t make them…well, other than “Holy God We Praise Thy Name,” but we come out of the womb singing that.
On a not so heavy note, and perhaps a bit off-key as well, “Of course not, CL, if you want congregations to sing out, one goes to Anglican, Lutheran, or especially Methodist churches., It’s what we do best!”
In the Catholic Church, we call this affliction 70’s priests. Most of them are good men who are good shepherds of their flocks, but they have a blind spot when it comes to Latin and REALLY good music at Mass as well as listening being a form of participation even when they are not speaking – and just because of the way Catholicism is, Mass is the center of public prayer, so this is a pretty hot topic. In the time of the 70’s priests’ formation, the rebellion against “the establishment” and tradition was in full swing. For whatever reason, they seem to think that to be relevant, music has to be fresh and new and constantly ephemeral. Not that the traditional literature wasn’t ephemeral at one time, but only the cream of the crop survives. (Music being something other than junk doesn’t seem to come into their consciousness.)
In the few days since that meeting between the choir director and Monsignor, who seems to forget that Latin is still the official language of the Church, the magnitude of the Pew Study sank in a bit (the one that pinned the Catholic Church as shriveling up), one millennial – the people we are assured are leaving the Church in droves – chimed in as to why.
The truth is, my relationship with you is still love-hate.
I love the theology, but I hate the expectations of pseudo piety.
Love the gospel, hate the patriotic moralism.
Love the Bible, hate the way it’s used.
Love Jesus, but hate what we’ve done with him.
Love worship, but hate Jesusy entertainment.
The piece is “Dear Church: An open letter from one of those millennials you can’t figure out.” It rambles and it does reflect the generation that hasn’t quite figured out that they’re not all that (and how the Church really uses the Bible, but that’s another matter), but there are insights there that the wider church, not just Catholicism, needs to know. Basically, the young people can see through the bull$#@! of not being authentic and not teaching morality while living it at the same time, something they have in common with Mahatma Gandhi, actually.
The writer of that piece calls the entertainment aspect the bells and whistles, but it’s what he says farther down that’s more important.
Don’t expect a “worship style” to do your dirty work. Contemporary worship hasn’t worked. The longer we extend the life of this failed experiment, the more we see the results.
In my experience, contemporary worship brings in three groups. Baby boomers who are still stuck in their rebellion against the establishment, parents who mistakenly think that contemporary worship is the only way for their kids to connect to the church, and small percentage of young adults who haven’t left the church and haven’t known anything besides contemporary worship.
In modeling worship after commercial entertainment, you’ve compromised your identity, and we’re still not coming back.
And even if we did, would there be any church left? Would there be anything beyond the frills, the lights, the performance, the affected vocals? Would we still see a cross? Would we still find our place among the saints who have come before? Would we find reminders of our life-long need of grace?
Or would we have been hooked by something altogether different? Would we merely find your answer key for the great mystery of faith?
Answer key for the great mystery of faith…. Great line. And the rock bands around the altar…uh, yeah. There’s a reason traditional Mass is making a comeback in some places.
Using music as symbol of all that is wrong with religion and worship these days, as a classically trained, operatic soprano with over 30 years of training and experience whose choir was just told that we sing too many of the historic motets that I love so much (and too loudly, apparently, even if that church building was built before artificial amplification and it’s a professional challenge to be heard and understood without a microphone) this kid has a point. All the “relevant” stuff comes off as fake, fluffy entertainment. It’s not grounded, good, or lasting. Not only that, it does not inspire to holiness, which is what the point of worship and religion should be – and that should be the same for any follower of Christ, not just Catholics.
She is very, very right here, I think. And here, too.
Another good piece on this same topic was published by Matt Walsh at The Blaze.
She ends this way, and I’ll let her here as well, for two reasons:
- I learned a long time ago that women like to have the last word, 🙂
- She is completely right!
And that’s how we ended up here. That’s it. That’s the problem. It’s plain as day, yet every time this conversation comes up, we’re told that Christianity is declining because Christians are too religious, too bold, too outspoken, too moral, and too firm in their beliefs. That’s the conventional wisdom, but as we’ve seen a thousand times over, the conventional wisdom of an unwise society should never be taken seriously.
Read her whole article at The DC Gazette