Rock music and water hoses

Today’s goal is to get through more than a single reason that rock music is evil. This booklet contains ten reasons, and I’ve taken about 4700 words to cover the first point. So unless I plan on writing a book (not a bad idea, actually…) I probably should start covering a few of these things more quickly.

Here’s a cool cover of Viva La Vida.

So, reason number 2 that rock music is evil: “The ‘rock beat’ violates God’s command to ‘give no place to the devil’” (Why does he always put “rock beat” in quotes? I’m starting to develop a twitch whenever I see it.) Let’s read what he says:

“When sons and daughters disregard the instruction of their parents by listening to the ‘rock beat,’ they are guilty of the kind of rebellion which is described in I Samuel 15:23: ‘For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry…’”

So, once again, we’re not actually talking about rock music. He’s talking about kids rebelling against their parents. Now, there’s a lot to be said on that topic, and on Gothard’s rather unique take on both obedience and rebellion, but we’re not going to get into that right now. Gothard is practicing misdirection again; he says he’s going to talk about the evils of rock music, then talks about rebellion against parents.

Then we get another testimony, which is rather typical:  “I was a perfect kid, then started listening to rock music, and IT NEVER SATISFIES! You always need harder and harder rock music.” This is one of the most easily dismissed (and laughed at) arguments that the anti-rock music people love to bring up. They tell us that it’s easy to start with music that doesn’t seem bad, but you’ll be like a frog in a pot of hot water. The beat is like a drug, and you will always need a stronger, harder beat to get your fix.

Seriously? If this is true, why do old people listen to oldies, and young people listen to heavy metal? Instead of older people shaking their heads over the crazy music that young people listen to, shouldn’t it be the other way around? In my limited experience of talking to some die-hard IBLPers on this topic, I’ve actually found this to be the best first step in helping them to see that some of their thinking doesn’t fit with reality.

Next we have a testimony from a former Satanist about how rock music is used in Satanist services. This line of argument needs to be addressed, because it figures so prominently in these discussions. We need to be careful not to discount people’s individual experiences and their response to particular music styles, while at the same time avoiding the pitfall of painting reality with too broad of a brush.

Let me first say: for many people, rock music legitimately does stir lust, or other wrong desires. My father is an example. Today he’ll tell you he “took the scenic route through college.” Sex, drugs and rock’n’roll. For my father, rock music does honestly remind him of that time; a time when he was running from God, wasting his life and trying to find fulfillment in the emptiness of sex and drugs.

At the same time, we cannot mistake association for causation. Drug users like rock music, so rock music is evil simply doesn’t hold water, because drugs users also like potato chips, and open-toed sandals and pastel colors, and the Metric System of Measurements.

Or maybe you can think of it this way: imagine someone was beaten by a water hose as a child. It would be very understandable if this person did not like water hoses, and even had reactions of fear or panic when they see water hoses. In that person’s mind, a hose is associated with abuse. But that doesn’t make water hoses abusive. Exposing your children to water hoses does not encourage abuse. Having one in the house will not open you to Satan’s attacks. Seeing a hose in your neighbor’s lawn is not a good reason to judge them.

So there are people who are genuinely triggered by rock music. Playing triggering music around them would be highly inappropriate and contrary to the teaching of Gal. 6:10. But to turn around and turn their trigger into a universal statement about the evils of something that God is entirely silent about, and to place rules and regulations on other Christians as a result is also contrary to Biblical teachings about our freedom in Christ as taught in Col. 2:20-23.

Now let’s move on to point 3 (we did it! Two points in one blog post! And I’m still under 1000 words! Celebrate by listening to this song by Phil Collins from the movie Tarzan.)

mocks God's command

Wow. “There is absolutely no way that Christians who love the ‘rock beat’ can deny that they love the world.” Statements like this make it really clear who the intended audience for this booklet is; this is not rhetoric used to convince someone of your position, this is language used to rally the troops to your cause. While packaged as the type of booklet you could give somebody to help them understand the truth (there is even permission on the front page to copy the booklet and give it to friends), it really only makes sense if you already agree that rock music is evil.

Ok, let’s unpackage these statements.

“The ‘rock beat’ not only originated with the ungodly elements of this world, but it expresses the evil intentions of the world’s system which is opposed to Christ and His Truth.”

Wow, really? I didn’t know that placing the emphasis in an unexpected place was capable of expressing so much. That’s an interesting statement. Do you care to provide any evidence to back up that statement, Mr. Gothard? No? Nothing? Ok, moving along then…

“The very phrase ‘rock ‘n’ roll’ describes a form of immorality. To say that we can have ‘Christian rock’ is like saying we can have ‘Christian immorality.’”

Yes, rock used to refer to sex. So what? Personally, I’m kinda a fan of sex. It’s pretty fun. I even have it on good authority that a few of the church fathers had sex. Some scholars have gone so far as to suggest that Solomon, the wisest man of his time, may have written erotic poetry.  Why should we be afraid of music that is associated with sex? This really is a topic for another post, but why can’t some people just chill out about sex?

“Furthermore the ‘rock beat’ does not come alone. It was originally designed to stir up and express rebellion to authority, as well as immorality.”

Fascinating. I’m no musical historian, but it’s interesting to note that black musicians in the 1920’s, who were highly sought after for their musical talents but still couldn’t use the same drinking fountain as their employers, had a very significant impact on the development of rock music. Rock music has often been the domain of those labeled as “rebellious,” but quite often these people were in situations quite worthy of rebelling against.

 “Those who try to put Christian words to a ‘rock beat’ are simply imitating the world…and violating God’s command…’love not the world, neither the things that are in the world.’”

Honest question: does this apply to other forms of art? Godless Greeks developed a great deal of the concepts used in modern architecture; do we need to build our houses differently to avoid breaking this commandment? I know a lot of Christians enjoy decorating their homes with patterns, but you cannot deny that many of these patterns are inspired or influenced by centuries of Islamic art. Have geometric shapes been tainted too?

Where does this thinking end? If we read “love not the world” to mean “don’t learn anything from the world,” how are we to maintain enough contact with the world to influence it for Christ?

Next Gothard quotes from a report in the Chicago Sun Times, which includes quotes from a report by the American Medical Association.  The AMA cautioned doctors to be on the lookout for signs of depression or drug use in teenagers involved in the heavy metal subculture.

Yes, there are elements of rock culture that are extremely concerning and highly unhealthy. There are also elements in homeschooling culture that are highly unhealthy. The connecting link here is not music; the connecting link is sin, and the havoc that it wreaks on our world.

There is also no understanding here of the diversity that exists in the musical world. I don’t think this is intentional. When Gothard reads a report about heavy metal culture, I don’t think he realizes how different that is from other forms of rock music. In Gothard’s view, a Toby Mac concert belongs in the same category as an Insane Clown Posse concert. There is no evil intent here, just gross ignorance.

Reason number 4: “The ‘rock beat’ disregards God’s command not to offend other Christians.”

The rock beat

Ok, this is just funny. I wonder what else the “rock beat” is capable of doing? Does the “rock beat” ever pick up milk on his way home? Has the “rock beat” ever gotten a ticket for speeding? Does the “rock beat” remember to call his mother on her birthday?

I addressed this just a moment ago, but let me repeat: if somebody is honestly offended by the music you enjoy, then you ought to turn it off when that person is around. I learned a lot about this from a music minister in Washington State, who had no issue with rock music, but out of deference to my father did not use any during church service. She realized that her relationship with her brother in Christ was more important than the exact style of music used in service. I wish my father had understood this same truth earlier.

“But take heed lest by any means this liberty of yours become a stumbling block to them that are weak.” (1 Cor. 8:9) In other words, be considerate of weaker brothers. But understand that these are weaker brothers. They are not more spiritual or more discerning; they don’t understand the liberty we have in Christ. And while we should be careful not to cause them to stumble, shouldn’t we also help them overcome their weakness? Enshrining, teaching and applauding weakness is not the answer here.

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2 thoughts on “Rock music and water hoses

    • I agree. It seems to me that some of these issues stem from an inability to see that the world is not entirely black and white. The very idea you espouse (forms being amoral–that is, without moral value, positive or negative) has been railed against by many in IBLP circles.

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