Gentle Fudge
religion, politics, current events, and other fashionable dinner conversation.
Monday, January 29, 2007
Rockin' Religion
Music is essential. It stirs emotion, it invokes memories, it translates groanings of the soul that words cannot express, it ascends to the divine and binds with human nature. In short, it is magical. And it has been a source of controversy for centuries especially in The Church. (Religious) Dualism separated the world into the Secular and the Sacred. Neither of the two were to intersect lest the Sacred become tainted.

Many preachers in the 50's spoke against the Devil's Music -- to quote Reverend Lovejoy "rrrock-and-or-rrrollll." It sparked unholy desires, they warned. It bred sin. Many churches today still struggle with the concept of "drums in church." I quickly fell in love with the blues and boogie stylings of the 40's and 50's, proudly baptizing my left hand into musical "blackness" on the piano, a style that was virtually non-existent in my white bread congregation. To this day, I consider myself the wooden spoon that stirs the pot.
Larry Norman put it beautifully: "Why should the devil have all the good music?"

Music is often the reason many show up at a church service. I wish it were more than that and we would decide to shake ourselves out of our spiritual comas and start going out and making a difference, but baby steps, I remind myself, baby steps. Everyone is at a different stage and has a different calling. Musically, many young-uns like myself are left wanting from the "contemporary" style and skip church for this reason. I began wondering why -- why is this style predominant? What happened to reaching the masses through experimental music and dynamic lyrics? Why have we retreated back into our xtian ghettos, locked away from reality? When did it become a bland soup of bouncy, repetitive cliches underscored with simplistic composition and stolen riffs and hailed as meaningful and life-changing, while any song that doesn't specifically mention Christ is tossed aside as worthless?

The average "contemporary Christian" music audience, I learned, are women 35-45. More in-depth research can be found here:
The research primarily focuses on xtian radio. It has some good history as to how this phenomenon has come about.

I had been raised on the somnolent sounds of early xtian "rock" music. Nothing against Keith Green. Great lyrics, great music. A true pioneer. As with Rich Mullins. And I love the music now; I've helped orchestrate some beautiful arrangements. But they weren't as kicking as the, ahem, secular artists of the day like Guns'n'Roses, Prince, or The Cure. If it was loud, fast, and edgy, I went for it. But my home church was musically dualistic, so we were strongly encouraged to shun non-xtian artists. To help fill the void, lists were created by xtian recording labels comparing xtian groups to secular groups: "If you like (said style & band) you will like (said style and xtian band)." The lists were often very inaccurate. The theory was that if we listened to only "good music," we would abstain from "bad actions" which allegedly stemmed from listening to "trashy" music. Guess what? It doesn't work that way.

"Contemporary" xtian music is a misnomer; it does not reflect current music in any way. It's at least five years behind the current trend and many styles are not welcome within the walls of the institutional church. I'd love to hear some thrash, metal, or even hard-core rap before the offering is taken up. 'Tain't gonna happen, I'm sure. And I'm not talking concerts, either. And I'm also curious about the need to label it "xtian." I've never heard other bands branding themselves solely by religious affiliation.

I read recently about a new church opening in England that plans to use U2 music during its services -- a "U2-charist" that plans to have a live band and around 500 worshipers. Interesting concept. As my "next step" brain works, I'd love to know what the church's main purpose is. If you ever dissect U2's lyrics, you'll see numerous links to faith, biblical references, and social awareness. Bono is a fascinating person and not afraid to speak about what he believes in. BeliefNet has an excellent interview.

Music is a tool, one facet, that can be used to express faith and belief. It doesn't matter what instruments are used. It doesn't matter what style we choose. It doesn't matter if we express our doubts, exasperations, or despair to G-d in addition to the praise-and-worship overkill. (Sorry, cynicism showing. Pulling up the socks...) We are human and life isn't pretty or safe. We were never promised that it would be.

And G-d doesn't need our songs. G-d is complete without us. But G-d takes joy in our joy, in our music and our desire for self-expression. So sing a new song. Even if it does include drums and requires you to reach beyond a coddled xtian audience.

NOTE ON THE PIC: If you'd like to learn more about how religion and music is reaching out across the seas, check out David Pierce and No Longer Music. Not for the faint of heart. Live what you love.

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posted by Sara @ 1:55 PM   2 comments
State of the Union
People are confusing. Being the cynic that I am, I will generally subscribe that good can come about if we're willing to work at it. But this is the age of instant gratification. We want our rice cooked and on the plate in 90 seconds. We will sit with our turn-signal on, waiting for the soccer mom to load up her three young children in the SUV to get that prime parking spot 20 feet from the entrance even though there are open spots further down the row. We will spend an extra $5.00 for convenient, ready-to-serve entrees without caring about the extra "ingredients" that require a B.A. in chemistry to decipher. What exactly is "caramel color" and why is used both in Coca-Cola and sliced roast beef?

This spills over into not thinking before we speak. After all, we can always take a page from Hollywood and go into rehab if we offend or over-indulge. Take the latest from America's favorite state, Virginia. First, the George Allen Scandal which may have cost him the election. Now, Senator Virgil Goode.

The Chair of the Charlottesville Sierra Club wrote Congressman Virgil Goode. True to our automated nature, a letter came back that struck a nerve. It was published first in the local weekly and soon made its rounds over the World Wide Web. Now, I am all for free speech, but as a representative of the people, I also believe in discretion.

In brief, Keith Ellison, a Muslim, had been elected to serve the Fifth District of Minnesota. Apparently Sen. Goode took exception to that and, in his letter, made it known: "When I raise my hand to take the oath on Swearing In Day, I will have the Bible in my other hand. I do not subscribe to the Koran in any way. ...(I)f American citizens don't wake up and adopt the Virgil Goode position on immigration there will likely be many more Muslims elected to office and demanding the use of the Koran." Sen. Goode refused to apologize for the letter and stood by his statements. A representative from his office stated that the letter had been sent in error and was meant for "other" constituents.

Reminding Sen. Goode that he was an American citizen, Sen. Ellison decided to use Thomas Jefferson's copy of the Koran for his swearing in. Even tastier is that Jefferson has strong ties to Charlottesville; the founding father is the little town's claim to fame, next to Dave Matthews. The University of Virginia was founded by Mr. Jefferson and his home, Monticello (flip over your nickel for a picture), is open for tours.

True xtianity states that we are to love others as ourselves, even if we disagree. The tone of Sen. Goode's letter is anything but that. Why would anyone wish to take an oath on something that is not personal? Would Sen. Goode take his oath over the Egyptian Book of the Dead if it were our common religious book?

There was some local retaliation against Sen. Goode which I do not condone. As with others who have been caught in the snare of bad judgment or hatred, forgiveness is the only acceptable outcome with or without the guilty requesting it. I didn't say blind trust. I didn't say looking the other way. I didn't say repressing the memory. I didn't say laying down and letting it happen again and again. It is more so for us, so bitterness doesn't eat away at our conscience. It's hard. It takes work. It is not for those who wish to get over it and move on "now."

I do wish for an admission of guilt, but I don't see that happening. As ignorant as I think Sen. Goode is, I do [wish to] forgive him and pray that his eyes open up to see that this country is made up of all races, religions, and creeds. That is what it was based on; freedom to believe what you will, not being forced to attend church, not experiencing persecution if you subscribe to a different religion or denomination, not having to revere the government as infallible under threat of prison or death.

In a grand display of public forgiveness, Sen. Ellison sought out Sen. Goode and extended his hand in friendship and was accepted. I hope the exchange was more than just politics as usual.

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posted by Sara @ 12:55 PM   0 comments
Tuesday, January 09, 2007
Reflecting and Moving On
Life happens fast. New lives have come into the world and we've lost a few good men and women. Some of the same old names are up to the same old tricks with a new wrapper.

Many look forward to what will be a fresh start. The new year brings out the Nostradamus in many of us. We predict what will change, what will be, and what will die. We resolve to lose weight, quit smoking, exercise, eat less, save more, spend more time with family, spend less time at work, less time hypnotized by screens, love more, hate less. Then we relapse. Our will quickly dissolves and we fall back into old habits, bitterly disappointed that we failed our own high standards.

Resolutions are nearly impossible to keep. I've always joked that if I can't win, I don't want to play. This is why I don't make resolutions. Like adopting healthier eating habits in place of latching on to the newest dieting fad, if there isn't a daily commitment to change, we are destined to fail. Our sweet tooth will always get the better of us. I know I'll screw up. I know I'll fall back into old patterns. I also know that change is a process, not something to scratch off a list.

Now if we can just pass this along to others.


posted by Sara @ 10:15 PM   0 comments
About Me

Name: Sara
Home: gypsy wanderer, United States
About Me: Those who know me find me stubborn, opinionated, open-minded, strong-willed, of some intelligence, and yet they still hang around.
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Love God. Love all. Serve both.

There is wisdom in turning as often as possible from the familiar to the unfamiliar: it keeps the mind nimble, it kills prejudice, and it fosters humor. -George Santayana, philosopher (1863-1952)

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