Monday, March 30, 2009

Enjoyment and Discernment

From this morning, sitting in the full sun, with Frank Burch Brown and a cup of dark roast coffee. Definitely the way one wants to begin the work week!

First, a word about what I perceive to be the thrust of Brown's message: Music (along with all artistic media) used in worship will change, is changing, and must change. How we navigate that change is important, and is the concern of clergy, musicians/artists, lay leadership and congregation. Do not read the following quote and mistakenly assume that the book, Inclusive Yet Discerning is a rant against new music in worship. "All a poet can do is warn."*

The risks of uncritically appropriating secular styles can be especially great when the church seeks out accessible music and media that it hopes will be attractive to youthful newcomers. Suppose, for example, that we in fact live in a society that consumes amusements at a rate never before seen in history. Suppose that Neil Postman has a point, therefore, when he argues that we are "amusing ourselves to death." [Neil Postman, Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business (New York: Penguin, 19860.] Suppose, moreover, that the major entertainment corporations, the "merchants of cool," invest almost unimaginable quantities of money in researching and marketing to a teen culture that has more wealth and independence than ever before. [See The Merchants of Cool, Frontline, PJB Video FROL-1909 (Spring 2001).] Suppose, finally, that there is a genuine if elusive connection between the kind of music being marketed most widely and the morally questionable goods being sold most aggressively. It should be evident, then, why the wholesale adoption and "baptism" of commercially popular music and media for the purposes of luring youth and newcomers to church can be risky business. This is not to deny an importatnt - even key - role for popular music in church. But if popular (and other) artists are to bring their gifts to the house of worship, both they and the leaders of worship will need to exert considerable effort to discover what is appropriate.
Inclusive Yet Discerning, Frank Burch Brown, p. 45
(Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2009)
Key words from the book and chapter titles should be considered when reading this rather personal pull-out quote ... Inclusive, Discerning/Enjoyment, Discernment. Let's none of us get too polarized, and may I grow, grow grow in this balance!
* a rather inapt quote from the World War I poet, Wilfred Owens, used on the title page of Benjamin Britten's "War Requiem" - the work from which I first learned the phrase te decet hymnus. Sorry, the mind is a vast mysterious wasteland ...

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