My friend Kyle is what I’d call a rock ‘n roll priest-in-training. Those are two things about him that I’ve always be intrigued by and admired–his love affair with music and his passion for the Lord. I mean, seriously, does your pastor write theological blogs about how Jesus relates to Weezer? I didn’t think so. I’ve known Kyle since my early college days, and so when I was thinking of someone to ask to write a guest blog about faith, his name immediately came to mind.
My exact request of Kyle was to write a blog explaining how his faith and his love of music connect and inform one another, which was really just a sneaky way of getting him to answer that question for me personally, since it’s something I wonder about often. What I got back was a beautifully written treatise on the power of music to move human spirits and point them to the Creator.
But enough out of me, this is Kyle’s jam…
It is very rare that I meet a person that does not enjoy listening to music. I always find them somewhat odd. It might be because I’m a musician and a music lover, but, even deeper than that, music seems to connect to the core of our humanity. It seems to be a specifically human thing. We organize beats and notes in rhythm and harmony due to reason, not solely due to instinctively attracting a mate. Music seems to captivate man. His emotions are moved by it. Passions are excited; anger rises up; anxiety is soothed; sadness is comforted.
Why does it cause pleasure inside of us? Why do we enjoy music? Because it is beautiful. It is ordered. Even back to ancient Greece, music was understood in a numerical sense. It was ordered by rhythm. Harmonies are harmonious due to their numerical distance from the root note. Beauty comes from order and symmetry, just like patterns and shapes in art. St. Augustine, in his treatise On Music, extrapolates from this orderliness in music a manifestation of the Holy Trinity. Such orderliness, although it comes from human creation and are sound waves, communicate something completely spiritual, the divine beauty and orderliness of the Trinity.
This all seems rather philosophical, and indeed it is, but does it connect to real life?
I remember the first rock concert I ever attended. I was a sophomore in high school and went with two friends to see Lit at the House of Blues here in New Orleans. “My Own Worst Enemy” was popular on the radio, and I was super excited to be in the House of Blues to see them. I had just started to get active in my faith at the point. I was a semi-regular at the youth group and was starting to perceive spiritual realities in my life. A band named Motorway opened up for them. They were decent, but I was ready to rock out with Lit. When they came on stage the crowd, myself among it, went crazy. Adrenaline was high, and the energy was strong. Lit put on a great show. The lead singer was very active and interacted with the crowd. He had a bottle of vodka in his hand, as liquid company, for most of the show. They played all the songs I was familiar with from the their album A Place in the Sun. I sang along with every word. There came a point somewhere in the show, in the midst of one of the songs, that my heart turned up toward God in praise. The beauty and orderliness of the rhythm and harmony of the music and my budding faith connected. Wow. Praise God for music, I prayed. “I praise You for the beauty of this music.” The content of Lit songs in anything but praise. They are rather quite melancholic. “You make me come / You make me complete / You make me completely miserable.” Yet, my mind and my heart transcended the content of the song to the beauty of rhythm and harmony, which then turned my heart to God, Beauty itself.
However, in that room, of a few hundred people, I was one of maybe a small number who lifted their hearts to God due to Lit’s music. Music, which has the capacity to lift our minds to God, can be debased or distorted (not a Boss foot-pedal) into glorifying man and his creation rather than God as creator. This is the trap of secular music. Some glorify the music. This occurs often in jazz and in jam bands but is not exclusive to these genres. The music is worshipped (for more on this see my blog). Many times, in Rock and Pop music, the musicians are worshipped. God, the true end of music, is lost in idol worship. I find it no ironic fact that the most popular music show on television is named American Idol.
In no way am I saying that secular music is evil or from the devil, as some of our Christian brethren will. I am rather saying that because of the culture surrounding secular music, we are more liable to be led astray. Strong Christian faith, even weak Christian faith like mine at the Lit concert, can transcend the lies of worshipping created things and see that music leads to God.
Here one might expect me to plug Christian bands that I like or certain types of sacred music, and, although, I am honestly tempted, I will not follow through. Music lifts man to God. Words lift man God. Each person reading this knows what music, which song, lifts their minds to God. They are beautiful, maybe not the most beautiful. They might not have the best harmonies or the most pleasing rhythms, but nor are we, who are images of God, perfect images our creator.