• Boom, BabyOver the past few weeks, I’ve been presented with a somewhat new objection to modern worship music: sensuality.

    One of my baptist fundamentalist friends said she didn’t want a church that “aroused her flesh.” Another told me that Christian contemporary music took him back to the bars and back seat sexual encounters of his pre-Christ days. I was told I couldn’t understand this, because I hadn’t been into the party scene. One said that modern church music would be a stumbling block to new believers.

    I’m not discounting their personal feelings; I just don’t understand them. The new believers with whom I congregate haven’t mentioned any disconnect but revel in a church that celebrates what they’re feeling as they move into their exciting new life.

    Last night, I attended a concert of my favorite worship group, the David Crowder Band, and not for a second felt any sexual impulses. I responded physically to the songs, to the emotion, to the presence of it all. But the only sensuality that crossed my mind came later with the hope that, after this date with my wife (and ice cream stop afterward), the date would end like a lot of our enjoyable dates end.

    To be fair, I used to hold my friends’ objection to contemporary anything in the church, thinking any of it to be carnal compromise.

    This still-rampant perspective of contemporary worship is rooted in ignorance. It assumes [1] that bodily movement to music is itself unholy and stemmed from sensuality, [2] that only sensual songs invoke a physical response, [3] that God meant something else in Psalms (in multiple passages), when he told us to shout and clap and dance and raise our hands before him, [4] that God wasn’t pleased by David’s physical response of dancing, [5] that non-uniform worship responses are indecent and disorderly in religious venues, and that [6] Ecclesiastes “time to dance,” must apply to those outside of faith or somehow to liturgical melodies and instrumentation.

    Many of the people who want to cut these verses out of their Bibles also think that Jesus, whose Proverbs warned against even looking at wine, created grape juice at the Cana wedding, too. He didn’t. It was wine, folks. These conservative believers don’t want a Bible that doesn’t fit neatly into a religious, straight-edge framework. They can’t codify a mysterious God or a life path looking “into a glass darkly.” It’s easier to make standard, across-the-board bans than to allow for creativity and personality in our respective personal worship.

    We now understand as an educated culture that people learn and express themselves in different ways—and that we understand and give love with different “love languages.” Is it that hard to think there’d be more than one way to communicate with the God of creativity, variety, and inspiration?

    Do you really think the God who designed a universe and an earth with so many different sounds and sights to point to him wants to limit how his children declare his Lordship? He uses crashing waves and cricket calls, mocking bird impersonations and thundering falls, pounding hooves and cat purrs. And he invites our pensive ballads and loud Hosannas, our introspective prayer songs and clapping cries.

    I’m reading through Psalms right now, documenting all the different ways we’re told or shown worship in just that collection of Hebrew poetry. I’m roughly 20% through the 150 chapters and already have found dozens of different worship activities.

    I’ve heard some of my old peers even say that church music shouldn’t evoke excited emotions—only calming moods. I don’t know how you get that from cymbals and timbrels and any other percussion instruments Psalms invites us to use. I don’t know how you clap or shout or dance to pan pipes and organs. The traditional Hebrew music I’ve heard rarely sounds like a dirge or Methodist soundtrack.

    Every culture (including ours), from the most backwards to the most Western, celebrates with dancing and drums. It’s not just the product of contemporary European instruments, media, or secularism. Somewhere, God built into us a desire and capacity for celebration, expression, and emotion. We all express that in different ways.

    I’m not opposed to traditional-style song services. Liturgy is one of many relational pathways that connect people to God. Even Gregorian chants evoke God-thoughts for some folks. I’m just tired of being judged as some inferior—or worse yet: carnal—believer, because I get excited about God or personally reflective with him though contemporary sounds.

    If I’m wrong here, my consolation rests in that [1] Jesus reads our hearts, not our words or presentation and [2] that Jesus promised to translate for us to our Father. So, all of our worship gets upgraded to its sweet smelling savor when raised from pure motives and adoring hearts.

    Stock image(s) used with permission through purchase from iStockPhoto.com ©2008
    This entry was posted on Sunday, March 30th, 2008 at 11:00 pm and is filed under Ponderlust. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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