Pop Music as a Bridge to God?: Engaging Christopher West

jimmy-hendrix

 On the one hand, there is pop music … aimed at the phenomenon of the masses, is industrially produced, and ultimately has to be described as a cult of the banal. “Rock,” on the other hand, is the expression of elemental passions, and at rock festivals it assumes a cultic character, a form of worship, in fact, in opposition to Christian worship. People are, so to speak, released from themselves by the experience of being part of a crowd and by the emotional shock of rhythm, noise, and special lighting effects. However, in the ecstasy of having all their defenses torn down, the participants sink, as it were, beneath the elemental force of the universe. The music of the Holy Spirit’s sober inebriation seems to have little chance when self has become a prison, the mind is a shackle, and breaking out from both appears as a true promise of redemption that can be tasted at least for a few moments.
— Josef Cardinal Ratzinger, The Spirit of the Liturgy (148).

Christopher West’s new book, Fill These Hearts: God, Sex, and the Universal Longing, attempts to use pop and rock music to witness to the universal longing within us for God. Indeed West says that he enjoys “looking for God as much in a Hollywood movie or a pop song as … in a theological tome.” He says that God can be found anywhere and pop music serves as witness to this truth (which he claims is supported by Br. Lawrence, a Carmelite mystic). West turns to John Paul II’s Letter to Artists to back up his approach, quoting the line: “Even beyond its typically religious expressions, true art has a close affinity with the world of faith, so that, even in situations where culture and the Church are far apart, art remains a kind of bridge to religious experience.” He continues: “This book, with its many references to the songs and movies of our culture, seeks to cross that bridge.” Although I largely agree with West’s argument in the book, I question whether pop music really serves as the kind of bridge to religious experience that John Paul describes.

Looking more deeply at John Paul’s Letter to Artists, I do not get that sense that pop music would fit this description. The key to the use of art in leading to God is its ability to capture us with its beauty, and to point beyond itself to God through that beauty. John Paul describes the importance of beauty, appealing to artists directly: “May the beauty which you pass on to generations still to come be such that it will stir them to wonder!…. Beauty is a key to the mystery and a call to transcendence…. Artists of the world, may your many different paths all lead to that infinite Ocean of beauty where wonder becomes awe, exhilaration, unspeakable joy.” My biggest problem with West’s claim is that although I have heard many people say that they enjoy the music of the Beatles or Bruce Springsteen (or insert your favorite pop artist here), I have never heard anyone say that they were awed and filled with wonder at their beauty.

West’s focus in the book is desire, “that universal ‘ache’ and longing we feel as human beings for something.” From this perspective it is right to turn to music as witness to this longing. Shakespeare himself tells us in his play, Twelfth Night: “If music be the food of love, play on!”

Music is very much bound up with our desires, but Shakespeare points out that music is not simply an expression of this desire, but is something that is meant to shape it, to be a source of higher desire, namely love. John Senior reflects on the importance of Shakespeare’s words in his The Restoration of Christian Culture, where he says: “Love only grows; it cannot be manufactured or forced and it grows on the sweet sounds of music.” Music shapes who we are in a fundamental way, guiding our sensibilities and desires. Therefore, tilling the “soil of Christian Culture … is the work of music in the wide sense,” but “the Devil has seized these instruments to play a danse macabre, a dance of death.” The essence of this distortion is a “misdirection of love,” because “we are creatures of motion, defined by our desires.”

Senior seems to agree with West on the fundamental importance of desire, but provides a cautionary note. Music can be the food of love, but it can also act as a dance of death, misconstruing our desire so that it becomes something deadly, not ordered toward love, but turned in on itself in disordered desire. A key question in order to sort out whether music moves us in the right direction or not is the relation of beauty and eros. In fact, West’s central focus seems to be on the power of eros within us to point to the infinite: “Sometimes we hear a certain song or piece of music and it awakens something inexplicable at our core,” but he continues by saying that the “sad thing is, most of us don’t know where to direct that fire inside, so we end up getting burned and burning others.” This hits on the problem. If pop music expresses eros, is it an eros that awakens something within us to look toward the infinite, or is it an opportunity to get burned? Another way of saying this would be, is the music beautiful or a moving expression of passion?

West is not wrong about eros; the problem is that the examples that he gives from Springsteen, Mick Jagger, U2, and Johnny Cash point toward a yearning that does not find fulfillment. Mick Jagger’s famous line “I can’t get no satisfaction. But I try, but I try, but I try” may say it all. West’s interpretation of Bono’s line “I still haven’t found what I’m looking for” is also very telling. West says: “If eros is meant to lead us to the infinite, then in this life we will be ever seeking and never satisfied. That, I think, is what Bono is singing about. From that perspective his song of longing is not a statement of doubt and despondency, but a very realistic statement of faith and hope: for one would not continue the search if he had lost faith or given up hope.” Is this song of U2 a testament of eros’s ability to be a bridge to God by seeking and not finding? Isn’t the point of eros’s yearning in music and art that in beauty it has found at least a glimmer of what it is looking for?

There is nothing wrong with pointing toward pop music’s expression of eros in a diagnostic way, but we should not expect it to be prescriptive. Should we really look for God here as much as in a theological tome (although pop music may do better than some theology!). Genuinely beautiful music can do more. It can serve as a bridge to God, not by providing us with grace, but by pointing transcendentally toward a beauty which is found most fully in God. My problem with pop music is not that it is worthless and never worth listening to. In fact, it can provide us with enjoyment, entertainment, and emotional relief, but that is not the same as saying it can lead us beyond the problems of our life and culture. Rather, pop music reflects our broken culture (and thus our own experience), which in many ways is confused, that is, it can’t get any satisfaction and can’t find what it is looking for. We know that music played a crucial role in the sexual revolution in the 1960s; in fact music embodied the movement and advanced it. Unfortunately, most, but not all, pop music seems saturated with the opposite of the transcendentals, and is intended to arouse the baser passions rather than inspiring the higher parts of the soul. It is not worthless, but is it transformative?

Is it possible to find inspiration or seeds of the Word in contemporary secular music? I suppose so (see West’s experience on page 5), but to look for them there, we must be very desperate for inspiration. We are overwhelmingly going to find inspiration for shallow and lesser loves there, both because of the explicit messages and the interior movement of the music itself. Pop music indeed serves as a testimony of our restlessness, our fallen desire, of the misdirected eros that consumes. It is a witness, but not a corrective. West criticizes a presentation of Christianity that is presented without “the beauty of truth” and with an “ugly tune.” I agree, and I would insist on that same standard for what we look toward to move us in our culture, and agree that we need to stop turning toward the “wrong music.” West may say it best when he summarizes Pope Benedict: “Without this healing and restoration, eros ‘is not an “ascent” in ecstasy,’ but a fall, a degradation of man.” This directly relates to music: its beauty directs eros and points toward the divine; when it simply represents our fallen eros, it rather manifests our degradation. When music is truly beautiful it can contain the sublimation or sublimity that West talks about, making music one of “so many foreshadowings of heavenly bliss.”

Music should be the food of love! It is meant to nurture and form us. Should we then follow West in affirming the ability of pop music to serve as a bridge to God? Although there may be some truth to this approach, I think we have to question seriously what benefit it brings to do so. People are already saturated with pop culture. That is a big part of the problem! Affirming people where they are at in this way does not encourage them to change, but keeps them stuck where they are at. The reason we find more inspiration in contemporary pop culture is that we have lost the heights of love. Rather than finding life in the music of love, a music that is beautiful and therefore grounded in the true and in the good, we would much rather join in the devil’s dance of death, with its immediate gratification and disordered passions. We need to ask ourselves what is truly beautiful. When we answer that question we will know what can serve as a bridge toward God.

R. Jared Staudt

By

R. Jared Staudt is Assistant Professor of Theology and Catholic Studies at the University of Mary in Bismarck, ND and Co-Editor of the theological journal, Nova et Vetera. His interests include systematic theology, especially in St. Thomas Aquinas, and the relationship of religion and culture.

  • Deacon Ed Peitler

    The one value I can see in pop music is that when it is juxtaposed against that music which uplifts and transports man to the domain of the divine, its limitations can be appreciated and perhaps motivate us to seek that which is of a higher plane.

    I recall seeing a reference recently to Edvard Munch’s “The Scream” and the fact that it is the highest selling work of art of all time. While it’s emblematic of our culture and has value in informing us of where we are, it also has value when it is viewed against other works of art that truly transport us to a place that is transcendent and to where God intended us to be from the beginning.

    • uncle max

      Read ‘Voyage to Alpha Centauri’ by Michael O’Brien. The painting plays a part.

    • Other Joe

      Eros detached from relationship (free longing) is a bridge to sex. Ask a groupie. In ages past popular music has been banned as demonic for this very obvious reason. If we could answer in words the question what is truly beautiful, we wouldn’t need various mediums to explore the question. Talking about Mozart, Jimmy Hendricks or sex (come to that) is a poor substitute for the experience itself. Led Zeppelin used music as a bridge to sex and Satanism. It is very stirring stuff, but I don’t see any bridges to the divine. The Beatles used some nicely crafted tunes to sell materialistic nihilism (“Imagine”) as well as sex. The longing of youth for acceptance, approval, sex, excitement, transgression and an illusion of significance is easily inflamed by artists and sometimes to the point of hysteria. The artist may work in any medium including politics. Like anything else in a fallen world, there is good and bad art made by good and bad artists. The fact of art is not a bridge to anything. The fact of passion is not a bridge to anything. Like Eros itself, it is the use of the thing (passion or art) that can lead to God or away from God. It is by their fruits that ye shall know them.

      • uncle max

        ‘Imagine’ was a John Lennon song. Hearing it for the 1st time I got as far as “Imagine no possessions – I wonder if you can” and turned it off.

        • http://renewthechurch.wordpress.com/ Thomas Richard

          Indeed. “Imagine there’s no heaven – it’s easy if you try. No hell below us, above us only sky. Imagine all the people living for today…”
          The spirit behind and within that song seems to require little to no imagination to me.

  • Ed Rivet

    Without having read it, I can assume that the point of West’s book is not to speak to advanced Christian thinkers like Jared about the nexus between music and the universal longing for God. The book addresses the less advanced thinker, who understands pop music but does not understand true beauty or eros leading toward God, and makes the connection for them. West’s book would seem somehow off the mark to someone who has this already figured out. But that’s failing to understand the audience West is targeting. You can’t put elementary school minds into a college theology class. He’s not “affirming people where they are at.” He’s meeting them there and inviting them on a path to a deeper understanding of truth.

    • http://suscipesanctepater.blogspot.com/ Matt Roth

      It doesn’t matter to whom West is addressing the book, because if West’s point is to some degree incorrect, then he needs to be corrected to avoid the spread of his error, which unfortunately will be lapped up by Catholics looking to fill gaps in their spiritual instruction.

  • jacobhalo

    I am a religious person and I love Rock music. I don’t see the connection.

  • John O’Neill

    As a traditionalist I have never found a musical piece as inspiring as either Mozart’s AVE VERUM or Faure’s IN PARADISUM. I cannot find much in American culture that leads me to God in the way that these beautiful hymns have taken me to that place of inspiration. I also have a Pavarotti recording of the very beautiful PANIS ANGELICUS which is exquisite. I think West is well meaning in looking for something in the pervasive Americanized culture and wish him good luck if he finds it.

  • http://renewthechurch.wordpress.com/ Thomas Richard

    I also have not read Mr. West’s book, but presuming all that this article suggests, I agree “There is nothing wrong with pointing toward pop music’s expression of eros in a diagnostic way, but we should not expect it to be prescriptive.”

    There is a stunning and dangerous “dumbing down” taking place today, as it is seen in poor or non-existent adult catechesis and spiritual formation, shallow homilies, and popularized books on the Faith especially written for and to the poorly formed laity. I am saddened to see so often a catering to the level of the poorly formed, and not an effort to raise them up.

    We are all called to holiness! God made us to be saints! Our vocation from God demands to be taken seriously! Yet there is such a sleepy contentment with the status quo blending with the secular culture throughout the membership – and in our sleepiness, many seem not to see at all what is happening among us, to us. This culture is growing darker by the day, and that which is gravely disordered, depraved, and lethal to the soul is being fed to the children, the teens, and the adults as the norm and as “art” – as merely reflective – “certainly not formative!” But it is formative, and it is forming death among us. And we in the Church are saying it is OK, and one can even find God there? Have we become such children of this age, that we have forgotten where God is in truth to be found?

  • uncle max

    We can always try the test of time – If ‘Beat It’, ‘Day Tripper’, ‘Satisfaction’ and ‘Born To Run’ are still being played 100 years from now – we can talk.

    • TheodoreSeeber

      What is really cool about that is I can think of a hundred songs from 1913 and before that I like, some of them really popular tunes like Turkey in the Straw, but but I can’t think of a single recording artist or composer from that time period. The music that withstands the test of time; is the music that outlives its artist.

      Music, like religion, often suffers from the cult of personality.

  • Roger Sidoti

    While I haven’t read the book, it appears that the focus is on the “words” of rock music, with little discussion of the musical structure or rhythm. In my opinion, Rock music resonates with internal, primal, life rhythms. While the provocative words of rock may influence the “Eros,” the music is based on a logical, repetitive progression. In essence, Rock music is a convergence of Eros and Logos, the music stimulating a physiological awakening, and the words evoking an emotional response. Rock, why not a “bridge to God?” It depends, I suppose, on the goal of the artist!

  • uncle max

    FYI – I am 70 years old. I used to love R&R, but that was years ago.Now it bores me.

    When I see it being played on the TV there are inevitably huge mobs of people nearest the stage mindlessly whistling and jumping up and down. Closeups of their faces show me people having a mob experience. I have known that feeling and it is not good – you are in a mob of like-minded people so you feel for that time that you are absolved of any real responsibility for what you do.

    The Who concert in Cincinnati (1979?) comes to mind, as does Altamont. To me there is NOTHING scarier than a mob of people out of control.

    Panem et circenses.

  • Enrique Bellevacqua

    I am sometimes surprised by some twinkling of beauty and/or truth in a rock song. But not often. More often I am overwhelmed with the inherent ugliness. For every example of “unfulfilled yearning” that West can cite, I can come up with 10 examples of unfettered evil – and that’s without searching very hard or resorting to the awful examples to be found in many subgenres of rock, most notably metal (including the “death metal” sub-sub-genre), punk, etc. For what it’s worth…

  • AcceptingReality

    As a long time consumer of rock music I have always been attracted to that which was not necessarily mainstream. Mostly I respond to the lyrics, the poetry. I have noticed that with age and the maturation of my faith I respond to a vastly different sentiment in the lyrics I enjoy. I no longer relate to the angst and lyrical depiction of dissolute living. Rather I appreciate simple humor and loving, family sentiments.

    As a professional artist, a painter, I totally agree with what you say about beauty. In fact the difference between representational art, such as that found in the plein air painting movement of today, and modernism is that representational art is largely about beauty. Modernism is about expressions of inner rage or existential despair. Landscape painting, still life, portrait and figurative painting, today, are largely about beauty and do function as bridges to God whether the artist knows it or not.

  • John Albertson

    Plato’s description of “corybantic” music fits rock music. He banned it from the ideal republic because it exploits the passions in a de-humanizing way, and blocks access to the eternal Logos. Similarly, in an article entitled Liturgie und Kirchenmusik published in 1986 in Communio, Cardinal Ratzinger referred to the incompatibility between rock music and the liturgy of the Church. Rock music simply is degrading and to suggest that it leads one to God, is to indulge a self-conscious and pretentious attempt at social relevance.

  • poetcomic1

    There must be a middle ground between sounding like a Jack Chick pamphlet on rock music and the solemn ‘Beauty-Capital-B’ crowd. The great metaphysical question here is whether there is a time and place to ‘boogie’. I’m not saying they played Proud Mary at Cana but I could imagine the ancient Galilean equivalent – with all that good wine.

  • Dan H.

    Mr. Staudt’s perspective on rock music is one that seems to be fairly common amongst traditional practicing Catholics. I understand and can appreciate the view that much of rock music appears to be turned inward and is awash in burning eros. But to dismiss it as incapable of true beauty and as “the devil’s dance of death” is frankly a small-minded view and one that isn’t anchored in reality. It appears that instead of actually engaging with and listening to the music, Mr. Staudt has resorted to making generalizations.

    The author claims that he has never heard anyone say they were “awed and filled with wonder” by the beauty of rock or pop music. He clearly hasn’t talked to very many people about it, because I have this experience all the time, and know many others who have as well. One example off the top of my head is U2’s “Where the Streets Have No Name,” particularly the sublimely melodic guitar parts in the intro and outro.

    Mr. Staudt discusses the “yearning that does not find fulfillment” in songs by Springsteen, the Rolling Stones and U2, as if they are meant to provide answers to mankind’s eternal longings in a “prescriptive” way. The fact that there are people who look for misguided salvation in rock songs doesn’t mean that artists shouldn’t honestly express themselves through music. My take on Bono’s line “I still haven’t found what I’m looking for” is simple- it’s a cry for the eternal amidst a fallen world. If you listen to the wonderfully melodic chords of the song and all of the words in context, it’s clear that the song is a profound message of faith and hope- Bono makes it explicitly clear that he is a believing Christian. And yet, how many of us believing Christians can say that we have had moments of unquenchable longing, moments of loneliness and mourning in a world full of suffering and death? Last time I checked, that applies to each and every one of us. That is what Bono is singing about, and that is what makes it such a profoundly beautiful work of art.

    For me, the value of great rock music (or any other art form like film, literature or graphic art) is that it expresses the artists’ longings, emotions or ideas in a profound way that the listener can find catharsis in. This is often achieved through the use of melodious chords,
    unique rhythms or sound effects, evocative vocal harmonies, etc. by artists like the ones mentioned above as well as dozens of others like Bob Dylan, Van Morrison, the Beatles, and on and on. When done with true artistry, how is this not beautiful? Mr. Staudt repeatedly mentions that only truly “beautiful” music can serve as “a bridge toward God,” yet he fails to give any concrete examples. Is he talking about Mozart’s concertos or Beethoven’s symphonies? Or perhaps he means Gregorian chant? His argument would be much more convincing if he explained how the beauty of a piece of music moved him instead demeaning an entire musical genre that he doesn’t care for.

    Mr. Staudt concludes by saying that since people are already saturated with pop culture, we shouldn’t “affirm them where they are at.” That’s true- we shouldn’t affirm them, we should engage them. The way you engage people in our culture is by meeting them where they are at and dialoguing with them, not by preaching theology that they have no basis of understanding for. This is part of the value and potential of popular music (and indeed literature, film and graphic art): to suggest rather than proselytize; to find common ground in the human experience rather than to draw sharp divisions. I think it’s high time practicing Catholics start engaging the culture instead ignoring its appeal and dismissing it as “the devil’s dance.” I agree with Mr. Staudt that we do need to “ask ourselves what is truly beautiful” and to discern what we listen to accordingly, but there is plenty of beautiful pop and rock music out there amongst the trash. Practicing Catholics would be remiss to ignore this fact, and Catholic artists would be remiss to ignore the opportunity to contribute their voices to that of the beautiful.

    • http://wasteyourtime.mtgames.org/ Scaevola

      Thank you for this. The tendency to overgeneralize in arguments of art is sadly a strong one.
      .
      The mode of thinking expressed in this article tends away from the m.o. of the new evangelization–which is to engage with the world, not to withdraw from it.
      .
      It might be added that Mr Staudt’s inability to find moments of transcendent beauty within the popular milieu is perhaps in part due to his a priori rejection of its artistic worth.

  • B4b

    Speaking for self, I am awed and filled with wonder at the beauty of some pop and rock music. An example is The Beatles “A Day in the Life.”

    • uncle max

      ‘A Day in the Life’ and ‘Day Tripper’ are my 2 favorite Beatles’ songs. I just don’t think they’ll pass the test of time.

      Sit in a vast, quiet, dark Cathedral some time while the organist is practicing and you’ll know what I mean.

      I am NOT talking down to you or anyone.

  • http://thebodyguardtob.wordpress.com/ Jim Russell

    At the beginning of “Fill These Hearts,” West makes clear that the work is a “dialogue between sacred and secular”–and yes, you’re correct when you say “there may be some truth to this approach.” There is. And doing so doesn’t merely affirm people “where they are” but rather *engages* them in a conversation that is respectful of the human person while at the same time offering them a view of the sacred, which they must then respond to, either for or against.
    It’s probably true that not everyone has the same gifts and the same call to engage in such a conversation. But thanks be to God some *do* have this call–without a willingness to have a “dialogue between sacred and secular,” we lose the opportunity to really be heard by many of those immersed in the secular culture.
    As it is, West uses pop culture and music and film themes precisely because so many *do* hold a kernel of truth regarding the universal longing for that which truly “satisfies”. It makes it clear that such longing is truly written on our human hearts by God. Once this is acknowledged, West then has the opportunity to help people understand that this longing is ultimately for God and His Truth. It’s his particular gift and call, and he’s good at it.

  • hombre111

    I have celebrated Mass in a cathedral with wonderfully uplifting music, including chant and polyphony. I have celebrated Mass with Hispanics playing and singing their own uplifting music with a bounce and heavy beat. My sense is that this article is an Anglo problem. Other cultures might see this in a different way.

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  • Timothy

    I appreciate the balanced (and I thought, very charitable!) way Christopher West’s approach was characterized–particularly the recognition that the emotions and desires pop-music is stirring are at base good ones and meant to drive us toward God–I also appreciate the caution from Dr. Staudt that merely stirring things up does not mean bringing them closer to finding their ultimate resting place, which is God. There is such a thing as rousing a person only to let them down or to mislead them into a false resting place.

    If Art is man’s attempt to improve on nature, or to facilitate the natural, and to bring it more safely and efficiently to its proper goal…then Dr. Staudt’s words are good reminders that our Art should be not merely reminders that we yearn for something–but also an orientation and a help towards finding that which we desire. Pop music (or any kind of art form) which stirs passions without ordering them properly or guiding them to their proper end, can truly be called a temptation and even a perversion of art–instead of waking us and inspiring us to move towards the good–they can be occasions of becoming yet more lost. In a sense, they are drugs which we can indulge in, to the point of wasting time and energy that was meant to drive us purposefully toward the truly beautiful and good.

  • brd

    There is music and there is art – music has rules, whereas art does not require. Much of modern sound is art, not music. Several years ago Fr. Jackson wrote a nice series of articles about this; you can find them here:

    http://www.olmcfssp.org/cms/images/uploads/Insert_07.10_.7_.pdf
    http://www.olmcfssp.org/cms/images/uploads/Insert_07.10_.14_.pdf
    http://www.olmcfssp.org/cms/images/uploads/Insert_07.10_.21_.pdf
    http://www.olmcfssp.org/cms/images/uploads/Insert_07.10_.28_.pdf
    And as it has been said many times “beauty is in the eye [ear] of the beholder”.
    I like all sorts of art, rock, country, classical, jazz, etc. But each has an appropriateness of time and place and some music, such as chant, is much more appropriate for the sacred than are others.

  • merengue

    Christopher West’s musings and talks have become increasingly meretricious. I feel he is being swept away by the world. I’ve heard him speak live twice. The first time was over 10 years ago and I enjoyed it. The last time was about 4 years ago and it was terrible… couldn’t stop talking about Playboy, Hugh Heffner, stupid movies, stupid pop music – no sense of quality or truth; no fear of the Lord; and no respect for the Divine mystery of our sexuality.
    Music isn’t good when it’s Christian; it’s Christian when it’s good.

  • Nick g

    I read the book and loved it. I think Mr. Staudt’s arguments against Christopher Wests approach is restating Christopher Wests position in the first place. What we see in pop music and pop culture are signs of our longing for the infinite, but often misdirected.

  • John Uebersax

    Our culture is divided in large part because our religion dissociates the body. Rock music (in its better forms) celebrates the body. We need religion *and* rock music. As long as religions categorically denounce things like rock music, we will continue to have intense polarization, disunity, and conflict — both individually and collectively. We need to think instead in terms of integral paradigms, and seek harmonization of the disparate elements of our soul.

    Plato’s chariot (Phaedrus 246–254) has two horses: the noble right one, and the more ‘libidinous’ left one. If you want your chariot to reach the supercelestial, you’ll need both horses working in unison.

    God knew what he was doing when he made us human beings (with material bodies) instead of angels. God’s glory is man fully alive: and that means with a body!

    • musicacre

      Ever hear of the Pied Piper? There are some things out there which are momentarily attractive that can ruin us…even if gradually. Maybe that’s the worst kind of ruin…the kind you don’t notice.

    • Bibbit

      Are you a Catholic? If so, do you attend Mass much? If that’s another yes, then have you not noticed how during the mass we stand, we sit, we kneel, we genuflect, we strike our breasts (well, those who know better do), we speak, we sing, we make the sign of the cross, we consume Real food? The priest does even more! It is not accidental that the Church has us do these things. She knows well we are humans, we have bodies. It is because of that that we are called to all this human work and movement during the mass. The Church also knows we are fallen beings, so she does not simply assent to every desire her members have. Maybe in time she will fall hard on your side of this discussion, but maybe she will do the opposite. Did you know that at one time people clamored for opera music to be used at mass? It was, you know, at one time very popular with the public. Will you leave the Church if she decides, as she did with opera, that rock is inappropriate for the mass? You sound like maybe you would.

  • musicacre

    It IS possible to detach from the frenzy of a culture that is always pushing something, even if temporarily. We homeschooled and it actually served a dual purpose; it also detached my husband and I from the cheap culture so we could together explore some richer culture. That was an unintended benefit. We now have 6 children that are all familiar with the great works of music, at least 5 that really prefer classical music and three are professional musicians, one directing a Latin Mass choir. All this from merely unplugging the tv for 25 years and offering music lessons! It was an education for me also, as I had grown up with the banal ringing in my ears all my growing up years in the 60′s and 70′s! I truly have music now that refreshes, entertains, and uplifts me…..all periods of classical music. (inc. baroque, romantic, 20th century, etc.) I’m still learning….

    I realize for some people that Chris West may be a beacon for their long way back home. but as an NFP teacher I don’t find his approach which borders on the sensual, is helpful in teaching young couples. Mu husband and I started teaching when we were still a “young” couple.

  • http://zaireadams.blogspot.com/ zai

    For those who think that rock music is NECESSARILY degrading, I can point you to a few “Christian” artists that actually do it well and show a definite reach for God. The problem is their “Christian” label means that many people will not get to hear it. David Crowder has two brilliant albums that are based on the Mass (one specifically and one sort of in the background). They are definitely rock songs and definitely point to places most songs these days don’t point to. The Kyrie Eleison is especially brilliant (Give Us Our Rest is the album).
    As a musician, the issue of such exposure is the reason I would no join the Christian Music Industry. It cramps creativity because you have to be contained and you cannot fully explore topics in ways that you can independently or as a secular artist. People may not know my catholicism is behind all that I write (even the stuff before I was catholic, like G.K. Chesterton) but they will get a glimpse of the faith.

  • wanker

    Will God ever forgive us ? Where do you wackos come from ? Where does this Wacko come from? Questions. Hmmmm. Christian cult worship of the “Banal Popes and his Band of Friendly Pedophile’s”?. The only religious band to evolve in the last 50 years. And less we forget those 17th century Popes having orgies with prostitutes and giving prizes to the best preforming stunts on the pope. Wow. Real proud of these cultural icons are ya.? Is this Religion or Culture? Evan today 2014 this very minute somewhere in the world some Holy than thou Priest is raping some poor innocent child. Religion and Culture. If your looking for decadence. How far does one have too look? Backwards or Forwards !

    “People are, so to speak, released from themselves by the experience of being part of a crowd and by the emotional shock of rhythm, noise, and special lighting effects. However, in the ecstasy of having all their defenses torn down, the participants sink, as it were, beneath the elemental force of the universe.” By R. Jared Staudt, sounds like a bad religious church service to me or a young child being delivered to the Gates of a Sexual Hell by a trusted Priest maybe?. Any concert that I ever attended (73 1/2) never once did I sink as it were, beneath the elemental force of the universe. “Life is a celebration”, “God gave me everything”. “The air that I breath, the velvet green I walk upon” Wow, maybe this writer of this article is one of these people who needs to be narcoticsized to function with any signs of mature stability or maybe he should clean up his own backyard before he attacks someone else’s and stop his psychological psychosis of hiding behind the bible as a shield of self righteousness. God made Weed. Man made Alcohol. Maybe he just needs too chill a little . Like a narcotics pusher maybe he’s using the Bible to con the weak and the sick. “Fill These Hearts: God, Sex, and the Universal Longing” could be very well a subliminal bridge to all these pedophile Priests. Come Children…………………take line 666 from chapter X and it’s easy to say “Bunk” and “Bunkers Again” Interpretation in the eye of the beholder. Truth or Fiction, Hidden Motives grant me the serenity to see the difference. I know the writer means well. Open the Gates of Debate, not the Gates of Delirium.

    Led Zeppelin used music as a bridge to sex and Satanism. Another commenter stated this. What kind of demented mind comes up with this bunk?. They were a blues band who had talent, knew how to improvise and personally they had a little bit of charisma. Period. Period. Period. Oh yes, people used to tap their toes to the music. Myself included.

    Enough said. Thou Shall Not Kill.

    Q. Who have killed more people over the last 2000 years? Religious Leaders or Cultural Artisans?

    Q. In the last 3,000 years how many Gods have had Virgin Mothers? A. 200 +.

    Q. How many times in the last 2000 years has the Bible been officially rewritten ? A. 14.

    Look for the bad, you will find the bad. Look for the good, you will find the good. Da ? Look for understanding of the individual collective consciousness individually and more often than not a Rainbow of Light shall unfold. Religions, Pop Cultural is so juvenile. Is this side winning is that side losing ? All pure crap. Today the Christian Right owns 95% of all the radio stations. So are you just attacking the 5% Left who are just trying to be individuals, looking inside themselves working on being a (whole) individual when you are attacking. Or are you spearheading a Cultural Revolution like China did with Mao. 95% Right. Christian owned. Look how women are treated? Nothing more than sex objects. Rap, only answers the question, Are you kids angry and ready to go to War? Let’s March ! Let’s homogenize a generation, send all their jobs overseas destabilize middle class, turn them into good little Commies, Why? Thanks Ronald Regan, Brian Mulroney, Free Trade Eh? Are all your friends rich now? Why do Americans equate being rich and being closer to God as one and the same. Will my kids ever retire? Ever work? The United States of China and to the north Chinada. As men we should be ashamed of ourselves for selling our Children and our Childrens Children out. Is that Religious or a Cultural question. Political it would be more Religious than Cultural.

    When I was growing up when Led Zeppelin “1″ came out it was lamb based by Rolling Stone for being a rip off of Jeff Beck’s “Truth”. Individualism like Christ preached. Sounded too much like Truth. 45 years later 10,000 pop tarts all sound the same. A million rappers and can even one get past 3 notes. Yaba Yaba Daba Do. Individualism, is what made our economy strong, our Culture diverse and robust, Religion questioned and hopefully strengthened . Did religion ever redefine itself as the apes evolved as a species. As a homogenised people we are weak, running with the pack mentality and being lead by fear mongers. Politics and Religion? Certainly not Culturally.

    And Rock Music being played in Churches, even Christ would roll over in his grave. How sack-religious to the name Jesus. Excuse me a moment while I THROW UP.

    Mao’s Little Red Book is the Bible of the Future. As Ronald Regan once said in private about Communism ; If you cannot beat them, join them. From a man who understandably hated middle class fans. Starfuckers as The Rolling Stones once wrote a song about. Hence. Free Trade with China. 1980.
    Guess all I’m asking is. Will God ever forgive us for missing the Second Coming of Christ? As a collective the Sixties was really HIS last chance. Done. Over. Gone. “Sorry God we were too blind too see.” Jesus taught the Masses. Get It ? ………………………….didn’t think so.
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  • accelerator

    “As it is, West uses pop culture and music and film themes precisely because so many *do* hold a kernel of truth…”

    Yes. And West is undeniably popular. Even Peter Kreeft plugs him. But they hype betrays a burning desire to seem current and hip. Which is a bit laughable, since West aims at such a low brow common denominator — he is anything but hip. Which is OK. It’s just embarrassing how clueless Catholic commentators are here. We tout the evidential power of beauty, and fool ourselves into thinking contemporary Catholicism is more culturally nuanced than Evangelicalism. Laugh Out Loud. Check out the speakers, the blogs, the publications … Catholicism in America is Budweiser beer, and Geroge Weigel is our Sean Hannity. Our superiority complex reflects our complete self-satisfaction. Not sure who Christopher west is supposed to be, but he should also be a bit hesitant considering an 80 + year old woman like Alice von Hilderbrand can way out-write him on sex.

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