Contemporary Christian music isn’t bad. Well, not all of it anyway. In fact, over the last seven or eight years of blogging, I’ve had the honor of making the acquaintance of a number of fine Christian musicians, folks like Dan Lord, Mike Furtaw, and Nick Alexander.
But there is no escaping the fact that I’m a lifelong rock and roll kind of guy. Secular or not, the art form has provided me hours of joy and helped get me through some pretty rough times. I may not thank God for all the popular music out there (I’m pretty sure Pharrell’s “Happy” is playing on a loop in hell right now), but I definitely do for some of it.
Now, that doesn’t mean I necessarily want to hear it during mass. Pope Benedict XVI infamously condemned rock music as being opposed to the essence of sacred liturgy when he wrote…
“In not a few forms of religion, music is ordered to intoxication and to ecstasy, music supposedly of holy madness, through the delirium of the rhythm and the instruments. Music becomes ecstasy. We experience the profane return of this type today in rock and pop music… Because rock music seeks redemption by way of liberation from the personality and its responsibility, it takes, in one respect, a very precise position in the anarchical ideas of freedom, which predominates today in a more unconcealed way in the West than in the East. But precisely for that reason, it is thoroughly opposed to the Christian notion of redemption and of freedom as its exact contradiction. Not for aesthetic reasons, not from reactionary obstinacy, not from historical immobility, but because if its very nature, music of this type must be excluded from the Church.”
Fair enough. I’m not convinced his assessment of rock music applies to every single song out there, but I absolutely agree that particular forms of music are better suited for liturgy than others.
But, you know, just because it’s not really suitable for the holy mass, I still believe you can find God in some popular music if you look for him. If you’ve read my other blog, The B-Movie Catechism, you know how this works. You just have to take a cue from Acts 17 of the Christian New Testament in which St. Paul ran across an altar in Athens dedicated to some “Unknown God”. Paul used the altar as a springboard for conversation with the locals about his new religion and its own "Unknown God," Jesus. He took something non-Christian and showed how to recognize Christian ideas in it.
Well, that’s what I’m going to try and do here. Each week I’m going to add a song or two to the Jukebox Hero Hymnal, my breviary with a backbeat, and take a look at the possible spiritual content found within them. Some of the tunes will be obvious. Others, not so much. Some of the artists will have purposely alluded to God in their work, others would probably deny it. Either way, I’m going to find it.
Feel free to argue my selections. Suggestions are also more than welcome. Let’s listen to some music and have some fun.