As I was leaving the Seminary library today I heard Radiohead’s Nude coming from the checkout counter. Beautiful song, although a bit depressing – “don’t get any big ideas; they’re not going to happen” and the bit about someone going to hell. At the time it struck me that I hadn’t heard any Christian music yet at the school outside of chapel. At the semi-annual Seminary men’s meeting they played John Mayer. Now I actually like Radiohead and John Mayer, but you have to admit the lyrics aren’t always the most edifying.
Last week in Covenant Theology class the professor told the future pastors to focus on the lyrics to the music because no one ever remembers the sermons. That means the songs need to have theological depth. Often that means really old songs with antiquated language. Today I wondered if that plan is backfiring. The trouble is most people don’t listen to hymns for fun. They listen to Brittney Spears and Eminem. A friend of mine was on staff at a large church in my home town that plays old hymns set to more modern music. She got disillusioned though because of the time the elders spent in the office talking about the Beatles (and beer). The problem, again, is that they didn’t actually enjoy those wonderful old songs, at least not enough to listen to them outside of church.
Music is one of the most powerful forces on Earth. The church can’t abandon that arena. The future pastors need to encourage the future Christian Bjorks and DJ Shadows, not leave music to the world. As William Booth of the Salvation Army asked, “Why should the Devil have all the good music?”