Sunday, June 12, 2011

My iPod Gives Me Whiplash

Music is something that has always fed me.  Music just makes me happy.  I remember singing with my parents as a kid, singing in church from an old hymn book, singing in my basement bedroom to music my parents hated, and singing lullabies with my son in a Russian orphanage when we went to adopt him.  Music has been a part of my life from my earliest memories.  I love pop, rock-in-roll, classical, country, jazz, Broadway musicals, Christian rock, blues, and more.  I love listening to music as we drive on trips.  I love listening to Christmas music as we decorate the house.  I love listening to jazz while I write.  I love listening to musicals and remembering being there in the audience in New York City.

Someone borrowed my iPod the other day and gave it back with this comment, “your tastes are certainly … ummm, eclectic.”  It sounded like a slam but I took it as a huge compliment!  However, I have to admit that here are times when my iPod gives me whiplash.  I had it on shuffle once (a mode that just randomly plays songs by various artists) and my head almost spun off my body.   First Louis Armstrong’s “What a Wonderful Word” comes on – then Melissa Etheridge’s “I Run For Life” – then Helen Reddy’s “I Am Woman” – then The Benedictine Monk’s “Puer Natus In Bethlehem” – then KT Tunstall’s “Black Horse and a Cherry Tree” – and finally Queen’s “Another One Bites the Dust.”  Whoa.  It was like having extreme fluctuations of emotions and psychological reactions.  Music takes us places – in our heads, our hearts, and our memories.  Mine was taking me too many places at once though.

When I think of music, I am reminded of falling in love with my spouse at an outdoor Peter, Paul and Mary concert (that I went to despite really, seriously not liking PPM at all).  I am reminded of the begging for countless renditions of “You Are My Sunshine” from my toddler son before bedtime. And I am reminded of the moments of my life that music has been a vital part.

Nearly everyone I know has a soundtrack for their lives, for their faith, for their kids, for their relationships, etc.  Music speaks to us in ways that transcend easy explanations.  Some folks like music that I am not attracted to – like Hip-Hop or Rap – but it speaks to them.  Some have strong negative feelings about Country – while it brings me back to my Texas roots.  Different strokes for different folks, but sometimes debates ensue.

One of the places where music disagreements occur on a regular basis is the church.  These musical arguments are actually part of what are called – The Worship Wars.  Some traditional church members who love classical music and organs turn their noses up at the use of secular music in worship.  While other church folks who embrace secular and contemporary Christian music in their worship services cringe at the 18th and 19th century classics of their counterparts.  Some churches try to ride the middle of the road and employ a strategy called Blended Worship.  Often blended worship does nothing but make both music style’s proponents mad.  But some churches have still made this work for them.  They honor traditional hymnody and also introduce their congregants to new music on a regular basis. 

The Worship Wars are a testy thing.  They are about one group of folks basically saying to another, “Your worship, your music, your way of expressing your faith is wrong and ours is right.”  In my opinion, it is a very privileged and ego driven position to take.  It also assumes that all folks in one community of faith are attracted to the same type of music.  I do not find that to be true generally.

Like my eclectic iPod – there are a number of music styles that feed people.  I do not want to only listen to classical music any more than I want to just listen to Queen.  I want to have a diversity of music genres at my fingertips, in my worship, and in my life.  The churches that attract younger folks, typically, (not always, but typically) embrace newer music, different musical instruments, and more contemporary styles of music.  The Church needs to embrace this.  Diversity is a gift – in people, in worship, in music, and in life. 

No wars for me.  Diversity rules in my music world.  And I hope it does in the church of the future as well.  Give me a musical whiplash any day of the week.

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