Musings

Hello folks! This space has been really quiet for the past few months, and it may still be quiet for next new few months, but that doesn’t mean it’s dead. I’ve got several projects I’m hoping to bring out into the open before the year is over, and I hope they can be helpful to those of us coming out of the ATI system. I also will be finishing my master’s degree in November, so that should free up a little time for me to write more.

Today I’m not going to be examining a particular IBLP publication; instead, I wanted to just talk about a few things that have been on my mind.

It’s really hard to shake habits and inhibitions that are drilled into you as a child. We don’t have a worship minister at my church; there’s a pool of about 10 people who take turns each Sunday. One of them has a particular fondness for singing upbeat songs and leading the congregation in very simple dances. And every time she does, I stand there stiff as an board made of awkwardness. I can’t dance in church. I know it’s ok; I know all the verses about dancing in worship.

But moving your body in response to music is bad. I remember my dad telling my sister to stop bobbing her head in time to the music our neighbor was playing. My sister was horrified; she had let the rock music get into her head and influence her without even realizing it! So when your 6 or 9 or 12 years old and even clapping with a praise song is looked down on as border-line sin, you just lock your body down and refuse to move. Moving your hips is bad, bobbing your head is bad, basically responding to the music in any way is bad, so you just place your hands on the pew in front of you and sing without moving a muscle.

The same is true with drinking. The only time I’ve ever had alcohol was when I was 7 years old, and mistook the champagne at an anniversary party for Sprite. For years I’ve said that it’s because there is a history of alcoholism in my family, and I don’t want to risk it. But that’s not actually true. Sure, there are a few alcoholics in my family history, but what family doesn’t have that? The reason I don’t drink is because it was drilled into me ever since I was little bitty that the world is watching and our witness is dependent on upholding these “high standards” and if you can’t even go into a movie theater for fear of what people might think, do we even need to mention what they might think if you buy alcohol?

And so my sister had a big party for her 33rd birthday (that’s when a hobbit comes of age, after all) and she served mead. She offered me some, and it smelled incredible. My wife had some, my mom had some, my dad had some. And I just. couldn’t. drink it. I tell myself over and over again that it’s perfectly fine, that we’re under grace, that we have freedom in Christ, that I’m just living in bondage to a lie…and yet I can’t drink.

I did have a bit of a break through this summer. We went to a friends’ wedding, and there was dancing at the reception. It was awesome; everyone at the table I was at got up and danced. My wife got up and danced. So I spent a while just sitting there, holding my daughter and feeling awkward. But I finally decided that just because I have weird hangups from being raised in a cult, that doesn’t mean my daughter has to have those hangups too. So I got up and danced with her. It was awkward, and I had no idea what I was doing, and I’m sure I looked like a total dork, but I danced with my daughter. That was cool.

What hangups do you have from your time in ATI? I’m curious to hear about your experience.

In which Gothard comes THIS CLOSE to making a valid argument.

Welcome back! We’re back at it today, looking at Ten Biblical Reasons the Rock Beat Is Evil in Any Form. Here’s a really cool cover of a Micheal Jackson song that can will serve as our soundtrack for today’s post.

Reason number 6: “The ‘rock beat’ disobeys God’s command to avoid ‘all appearance of evil.'”

rock music looks evil

It’s not worth it to spend too much time on this point, because Gothard is painting with such broad strokes it makes it almost impossible to nail down exactly what he’s saying. As near as we can figure, there are two forms of “sound” and “dress styles” and “appearance.” There is a Godly form, and a worldly, evil form. If you sound, or dress like the world, then you are not avoiding the appearance of evil.

This sounds great if you’ve locked yourself in a place far from civilization for the past 40 years (that sounds eerily like what some of our parents tried to do…). But if you’ve ever been out in the world, you realize that life is not nearly so well defined, clear cut or obvious. The bad guys don’t always wear black. You cannot judge a person to be either worldly or Godly from their clothes.

As to Christian groups putting satanic symbols on their album covers…yea, whatever. I’m not even going to waste time on that. If somebody cares to produce an example, then I’ll address it.

Here’s a fun one:

Not only is it difficult, if not impossible, to distinguish wordly rock groups from most “Christian rock” groups, but it is also very hard to determine which members are men and which ones are women, because of the long hair, skirts, and other attire worn by many of them.

Yea, I’m just going to leave that one as is.

Reason number 7:

The “rock beat” contradicts God’s command not to be brought under its power.

Wow, stop the presses! This is big news. God himself has spoken, and he has told not to be brought under the power of the “rock beat.” I wonder what verses I have missed. I didn’t even realize the words “rock beat” appeared in Scripture! Let’s see what verse it is:

All things are lawful unto me, but all things are not expedient…I will not be brought under the power of any” (1 Corinthians 6:12)

Oh. So, actually, God didn’t issue any commands about rock music. We’re told not to be controlled by things that are lawful. In other words, we shouldn’t become addicted or enslaved to things. I feel…slightly cheated. It’s almost like Gothard is willing to twist Scripture to suit his own purposes.

Let’s see…rock music is an addiction…blah blah blah…a stronger beat is needed…blah blah blah…testimony about addictive rock music (“It is so easy to slip into!”) blah blah…

Yep, nothing new here. Wild claim, twisting of Scripture and more personal testimonies. Let’s move along, shall we?

Reason number 8:

The “rock beat” opposes God’s command not to mix light with darkness.

Oh boy, more circular logic! “Rock music is evil, therefore verses that tell us not to mix light with darkness apply, therefore rock music is evil!”

Ok, here’s something interesting. Gothard tells us that “God ordained preaching, not music, to reach the lost.” This is an interesting claim, except…it’s beside the point. The idea Gothard is presenting is that a syncopated beat is inherently evil. Even if you can convince me that music (of any sort) shouldn’t be used to spread the Gospel (because it’s wrong to sing the Gospel message? What?), that doesn’t really have anything to do with the moral status of a syncopated beat.

I love the music video for She Hates Me by Puddle of Mudd. It’s hilarious.

Ok, now we finally get to point 9, which I’ve been looking forward to writing about, because this is the one part of the booklet that I can actually agree with. Let’s see what he says:

rock music ministers 1

rock music ministers 2

Wow, I almost agree with this. Gothard has hit on a very real problem, both in Christian music and in Christian outreach to youth. Many older leaders in the church who feel out of touch with today’s youth will ask a younger, “hipper” Christian to teach the youth. But sadly, churches often choose someone without asking important questions about his spiritual maturity, Biblical knowledge and ability to provide wise counsel to youth. This is a serious problem.

But, while the issue of poorly equipped ministers is not to be taken lightly, it has nothing to do with rock music. The final two paragraphs simply do not follow from the previous points. Gothard’s argument boils down to two points:

A. Teachers and ministers should be qualified and equipped to teach the word of God well, therefore

B. Rock music is vulgar and comparable to pornography.

That simply doesn’t make sense.

Finally! The last reason!

The “rock beat” violates God’s command to protect our bodies as God’s temple.

Gothard claims that rock music damages our bodies in three ways:

  1. It damages our hearing.
  2. It damages our brain cells.
  3. It damages our concentration.

Yes, playing music too loud damages your hearing. PLAYING CLASSICAL MUSIC TOO LOUD WILL ALSO DAMAGE YOUR EARS! DUH! I feel the need to beat my head against a wall for a minute…

rock music damages our brains

Ok! Finally! We had to wade through 9 reasons, but we’re getting something that actually, really addresses the rock beat! But…wait, who did this research? And when? Was it peer reviewed?

Well, Google is a thing, and I think I’ve found the research. Here’s an article that seems to reference it, but again, there are almost no details. But at least it gives me some names: let’s see what an Ebsco host search yields. Searching for Gervasia Schreckenberg yields…one result. It’s a letter to the editor of the New York Academy of Sciences and it talks about how life begins at conception.

Ok, no dice there. Let’s see if we can get anything on Harvey Bird.

Nothing.

Ok, Ebsco host is the place for finding academic, reliable research. It’s odd that I’m getting nothing. Maybe we can google again…

Nope, no luck. I sent emails to both universities, requesting information on the research. From the few tidbits I could find online, it seems that perhaps they played non-stop drum beats for a group of mice for three weeks, which apparently drove them nuts. Well, duh. That’d drive anybody nuts. But last time I checked, most rock music contains more than just a single drum beat, and it doesn’t last three weeks…

rock music you can't think

I take it back! Everything I ever thought about how poorly the sources in the previous paragraph were cited, I take it all back! That’s the height of responsibly citing all sources of research when compared to this. “Further research”? When? Where? Who? How? Peer reviewed? Published? Repeated by any other reputable scientist?

You see, while it may seem that Gothard is finally leaving his logical fallacies behind and offering solid evidence, he’s still just offering smoke and mirrors. Because Gothard refuses to give us details about the research, and doesn’t give us the option of personally examining the evidence, we’re forced to just take him at his word. This is contrary to the entire concept of research. Scientists who conduct and report on research are very careful to record exact details about their experiments, the conditions and how they reached their conclusions, so others can carefully critique their methods. Any scientist who refused to explain details, or to submit his work to peer review would find any claims he made ignored. And anyone who tells us “research has shown” without giving us the opportunity to examine the details should be ignored as well.

Well folks, we did it!  It took two weeks and 9400 words, but we’ve made it through this booklet!

Some closing thoughts on music:

  1. To listen to Bill, rock music is one of Satan’s primary tools to attack and destroy both Christians and non-Christians alike. As we saw in the story last week, Gothard teaches that we don’t even have to listen to rock music for it to have an ill effect; simply have a recording existing in the home can give Satan an in-road for attack. If rock music truly is such a horrible tool of the devil, why is Scripture entirely silent on the topic?
  2. Why has Satan taken so long to bring out one of his most effective tools? Why did he wait thousands of years before introducing the rock beat?
  3. The Bible is entirely silent on the subject of musical styles. The only direction we are given is to sing a new song to the Lord. God is creative. And he is pleased when his children are creative as well.

Did you know that Jesus doesn’t like rock music?

Greetings, and welcome back! Nothing too desperately pressing is due for my online class, and I’m (sort of) caught up on grading, so I get to blog! 🙂

If you’ve not been following homeschooling/fundie news lately, you should take time to check out HA’s expose on abuse and cover-up by the publishers of The Old Schoolhouse magazine. It’s very sad and frustrating. I’d also encourage you to read a recent series of blog posts by ex-homeschooler Cynthia Jeub, discussing patterns of abuse in her family. It’s rather chilling. Finally, Gothard apparently has dealt with 40 plus years of sin and twisting Scripture, and after about 4 months away from the IBLP helm, is completely ready to start a new ministry. Lest you fear that he might fall back into patterns of sin, you can be assured; all this mess happened because he neglected to meditate on God’s word at night (while still meditating in the morning). Now that he’s meditating morning and night, well…everything is good, right? And as long as I’m posting links, I might as well encourage you to like Throwing Out the Bath Water on Facebook and follow @badbathwater on Twitter.  Facebook is useful if you want blog posts to appear in your news feed. On Twitter I will often link to other people discussing issues related to ATI/IBLP teachings or culture.

Today we’re going back to Ten Scriptural Reasons the Rock Beat is Evil in Any Form, which we’ve been examining for a few weeks now. We’re almost finished with reason number 4. Before we dive in, why not enjoy Daylight, an amazing song about God loving us even when we turn away from him?

So, why would two Christians have opposing views on the same music? Let’s see what Gothard says.

Two Christians may listen to a contemporary rock song and give totally opposite evaluations of it. One will say, “I know that song is wrong because it causes me to be rebellious and sensual.”

Ok, before going further, let’s look at these two words. Those of you familiar with Gothard’s teachings and IBLP lifestyle know that, along with bitterness, being rebellious or sensual are about the worst things you can be. Why is this?

For rebellion, Gothard loves to quote 1 Sam 15:23: “For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft.” What’s left out is the important fact that Samuel was speaking about Saul’s rebellion against God’s direct commandment. It’s important to note that there are actually cases of Biblically condoned rebellion; what were the judges, if not rebel leaders? I don’t mean to condone all forms of rebellion, but to point out that rebellion is not necessarily an evil thing.

When we look at the word sensual, you start to get a sense for why some make the argument that Gothard is a gnostic. Gnostics teach that humans can only find enlightenment, peace or salvation as they remove themselves from and avoid the physical in favor of the spiritual. A more balanced view sees our spiritual development happening in the physical world: the two are not always at odds, and we can in fact learn spiritual truths, grow spiritually and even praise our Creator as we accept and enjoy the physical world. This view does not deny that our physical world is fallen, but sees God as powerful enough to work through this broken world to shape us into the image of his Son.

This way of thinking is critical to a healthy understanding of sex. A couple engaged in the sensual act of sex draws closer to each other, expressing love and deference to their spouse. This is pleasing to God, and is a method used to build marriages that reflect the love between Christ and the church.

So a song that makes you feel sensual is not by definition a bad thing.

Back to Gothard’s quote:

The other Christian may say, “I don’t see anything wrong with that music. It doesn’t stir up any rebellion or sensuality in me.”

Their viewpoints are illustrated in the chart “The Development of Concupiscense” given in the Basic Youth Conflicts Seminar. Music that becomes sensual will follow the stages leading to reprobation.

Therefore, if two Christians are on different levels in the development of reprobation, they will see the same music from two different viewpoints.

The Christian who has not given way to various sensual sins will recognize this music as temptation to compromise in sensuality. Those who have engaged in sensual activities will probably not be stirred up by this music. Their previous sensuality has dulled their senses, and they are tempted only by a more radical expression of the “rock beat.”

Here, why not be tempted to compromise in sensuality by listening to The Breakup Song?

So, anyone who disagrees with Gothard does so because they’ve sinned so much that their senses are dulled. I’m tempted to just leave it at that, but I’ll go ahead and explain the problem with this thinking.

This is a variation of an ad hominem attack. An ad hominem (literally “to the man”) attack is one that chooses to ignore a person’s arguments in favor of attacking the person. Here we can see Gothard attacking anyone who would disagree with his position on rock music by accusing them of having committed sins of sensuality (Gothard-speak for “sexual sin”). Because Gothard is doing this as a preemptive strike against those who might disagree with him, this can also be called poisoning the well, which is to attack and discredit someone before they’ve even had a chance to make an argument.

This type of argument simply does not hold water. You can’t yell “you are a sinner!” then cover your ears and hum to drown out what they’re saying. It’s childish and it just makes you look silly.

Notice the circular reasoning that happens here as well. Christian A is spiritually discerning, because rock music bothers him. Christian B is not bothered by rock music. We can tell that he has sinned, because evil rock music doesn’t bother him. And how can we tell that rock music is evil? Why, because this Christian who has sinned isn’t bothered by it!

Moving along, let’s look at reason number 5.

Amoral musicOk, let’s just accept for the time being that Gothard is correct about all actions and words being moral. Even if we give him that, this still doesn’t make any sense, because Gothard is not talking about a word or an action; he is talking about a musical element. He’s talking about a particular part of the alphabet that is used to create a musical sentence. Claiming that the rock beat is evil is analogous to claiming that “th” is morally wrong.

But even if we accept that musical elements have moral value, Gothard still hasn’t shown the rock beat to be evil. He’s told us it is evil, and he’s shared stories from people who agree with him, but he hasn’t actually shown us why it is wrong yet. Confident statements do not a solid argument make.

rock music testimony 1

 

rock music testimony 2

rock music testimony 3

Oh, wow. I just…can’t even…wow.

Ok.

Let’s make a bullet list of the crazy, shall we?

  • Note that the rock music wasn’t played for the child; they skipped it every time. In fact, the little girl encouraged her parents to skip over the rock music, showing that she was not at all rebellious about her music choices.
  • Pictures of alcohol will cause your child to behave poorly? PICTURES OF ALCOHOL?!?!
  • “Having these things in our house did not please Jesus.” The same Jesus, who, you know, turned water into wine. That Jesus. You know he hates pictures of alcohol.
  • “She wasn’t agreeable” about you burning a gift give her after surgery? YOU DON’T THINK? I wonder why on Earth she wasn’t agreeable about that! Must be the evil devil music.
  • We don’t know how serious this child’s illness/injury was, or how difficult or long the recovery process was. But anything that requires surgery at 3 years old is a fairly big deal. That type of ordeal is hard on a child; in cases of prolonged or extreme illness/injury some children can develop PTSS symptoms. Regardless of if this child had a serious medical issue or not, providing a loving and strong support system is extremely important to her emotional health. The parents started off well: a gift right after the surgery was an excellent idea. It showed that her parents loved her, that she was being taken care of. Of course that tape became her favorite; it signified the love of her parents. How damaging to burn the symbol of your love for your child while telling her that “Jesus doesn’t like it”!
  • How much is it going to mess with this little girl’s perception of God when she is told that Jesus doesn’t like her favorite thing?
  • Gothard’s world is truly terrifying! Satan managed to creep into this home and attack the entire family through music that they weren’t even listening to! Remember Christ’s words of comfort to his disciples: “Be of good cheer, I have overcome the world! Except for cassette tapes and pictures of alcohol. Those things are, like, seriously bad. Make sure you burn them, ’cause I can’t help you there.”

 

 

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.

Rock music might cause teenagers to communicate with their parents. The horror!

A few notes before beginning today:

The counseling booklet that blames rape victims and declares them “guilty” is still for sale.

Libby Anne at Love, Joy, Feminism has written about some of the advice found in the Advanced Seminar textbook. It’s worth a read. If you aren’t familiar with her blog, be sure to check it out. Her series examining Debbie Pearl’s Created To Be His Help Meet was the primary inspiration for this blog.

Today we’re looking at Gothard’s summarization and response to an article in a Christian magazine that encourages teens to have open, honest dialogues with their parents about music. First, let’s see what the article says:Article 1

Article 2

Overall, this seems like some pretty good advice. Perhaps it’s a tad superficial, but hey, it’s still good advice. Now let’s take a moment and address some of the comments that Gothard just had to insert.

These insertions really are interesting. Gothard takes half a page to respond to the article, yet he still felt the need to insert his opinion three times before the quote is even finished. It’s almost like he doesn’t want us to actually let our guard down and think about what they’re saying. He’s like that kid who can’t stand by quietly while his brother tells his side of the story.

And what upsets him so much he must interrupt with his own thoughts?  First he’s upset that these tips come from conversation with three teenagers, rather than coming from Scripture. It’s hilarious that this comment comes right after Gothard has given us testimonies from three teenagers. That’s legitimately funny. But on a serious note, why is it a bad idea for Christians to talk to other Christians about life? One Christian spoke to three other Christians and said, “Hey, do you have any tips for other Christians on how to foster better communication among people?” How is this wrong? Isn’t this one of the advantages of the body of Christ; that we are able to offer advice and ideas to each other?

The second thing that Gothard has to comment on is how this article is advising kids to “be thoughtful of others.” In Gothard’s mind, this is inappropriate teaching; being obedient to parents is much more important than being thoughtful.

I find this fascinating because, ever since the Adrian Peterson scandal broke, a number of bloggers have been talking about the topic of disciple in general, and the goal of parenting in particular. Is the goal of parenting to create obedient children, or encourage children to become empathetic, considerate and responsible? To give a somewhat simplified example, is it more important for a child to take out the garbage because his mom told him to, or because he understands that it will improve the quality of life for the family? (Here’s a good blog post on the topic, if you’re interested.)

Gothard comes firmly down on the side of obedience here, and I really have to wonder why. Blind obedience is a seriously dangerous thing. “I was just doing what I was told!” is a refrain we hear all too often every time a military scandal breaks. Shouldn’t we be much more concerned with raising children who can assess a situation and choose a course of action because it’s the right thing to do, rather than because they were told to? Isn’t that what we expect from those children once they are adults? If so, why train them to do one thing, and later expect another?

The third thing Gothard has to interject is a comment about how rock music is difficult to understand. This is just funny, considering how difficult some of the music produced by the Institute is to understand. Listen to this one, starting at about 1:20. Please don’t think I’m saying there’s anything wrong with that music; I’m actually quite a fan. But it’s the height of hypocrisy to sell that music, and complain that other people listen to music you can’t understand.

Finally, something has to be said about the letters that Gothard is putting in bold here. The last sentence is interesting; “Your goal is to communicate to your parents why your music is important to you.” It’s hard to say exactly why these words are placed in bold (until you read further in the booklet), but it seems clear that Gothard takes issue with the idea of children having their own, individual goals or tastes. He implies that when a teenager speaks to a parent, it is somehow wrong for the young person to have a goal. He implies that it is somehow wrong (sinful, even) for a teenager to have his own tastes in music. It is wrong for his music to be important to him.

This thinking is so wrong, so twisted, that I’m not sure how to explain it. A perfect child in Gothard’s world doesn’t have an opinion, and doesn’t have personal taste. They don’t consider musical styles and select one that speaks to them; they robotically listen to the music their parents want. These children never have an opinion, and even if they did, they would never dare to speak to their parents about that opinion.

This is how we are supposed to raise children who are “mighty in spirit”? This is a recipe for raising children who have no identity, no concept of self outside of their parents. What a terrifying idea!

Now let’s take apart some of Gothard’s half-page response to the article.

Article 3

Article 4

“The writer is very aware that many parents of teenagers are not in favor of the music which their sons and daughters are playing.”

So? What’s that got to do with..well…anything at all?  Remember, Gothard is giving Scriptural reasons why rock music is evil in any form. What does some people not liking rock music have to do with that?

“What appalling counsel to say, ‘Be willing to listen to your parents’ music. If you parents are willing to listen to your music, it’s nice to meet them halfway.’”

Is it just me, or does this not really count as “appalling counsel”? It seems that “appalling” might be better used to describe this.

“Deception is encouraged by urging the young people to ‘choose carefully the songs to play for them…’”

This is deception? Telling teenagers to think about how to best present something that is important to them is telling them to lie? Wow.

“To say that ‘different generations tend to like different types of music’ is totally disregards the destructive nature of the ‘rock beat.’ This statement also disregards the true meaning of deference. Deference is limiting my freedom in order not to offend the tastes of those God has called me to serve.”

Umm…nope, that’s not what deference means. Deference is “a way of behaving that shows respect for someone or something.” You don’t get to just redefine the English language whenever you want to, Mr. Gothard. Deference is must more than just limiting my freedom; it can also mean respecting a person’s mind enough to discuss a topic you might disagree on. And you don’t get away with talking about the “destructive nature” of rock music just yet; all you’ve done so far is tell us about three teenagers who had negative experiences. You have to present real evidence before you can talk like the case is already closed.

“The conclusion of the article is a blatant defiance of parental authority: ‘Don’t expect too much; you may not convert them to your style of music…your goal is to communicate to your parents why your music is important to you.’”

And there you have it folks, straight from the horse’s mouth; a desire to communicate to your parents why something is important to you is “blatant defiance.”

Misdirection and linguistic tap dancing

10 Scriptural Reasons

Hello folks! It’s midnight, I have phone calls to make, homework to do and I really should be in bed…but there is bath water to be thrown out!  I’ve fallen so far into the development of concupiscence that I’m listening to rap music and drinking Dr. Pepper. Quickly folks, hide your kids.

A few notes before we begin: I recently had a conversation with a friend on Twitter who informed me that Bill Gothard has been made aware of the problems with victim blaming in the counseling booklet and has promised to ask IBLP to stop selling that book until it is corrected. Of course, I can’t vouch for how accurate this report is, or how sincere Gothard was, but it’s good to know that TOBW is having some effect.  (It’s worth noting that the booklet is still for sale.)

Moving on to today’s topic: Ten Scriptural Reasons Why the Rock Beat is Evil in Any Form.  Earlier I spoke about the use of personal testimonies, and how they should be used in a logically constructed argument. Today we’re going to look at the first of these Scriptural reasons. As I did last time, I’ll be randomly inserting links to non-approved music, so we can all stay sane.

I don’t care by Apocalyptica.

On the first page they quote 2 Peter 2:1-3:

…There shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction.  And many shall follow their pernicious ways; by reason of whom the way of truth shall be evil spoken of.  And through covetousness shall they with feigned words make merchandise of you…

Below that we have an interesting statement:

“Music in itself is a language and gives a message. Thus, those who sing and play are teachers. Teaching truth out of balance leads to heresy.”

This is an odd series of statements. Music has been called a language by many, and we all know that music can communicate emotions very well. I found this fascinating article about some research showing that musicians working together to improvise music are using some of the same parts of the brain that are used for language. But it’s important to note that other language-related parts of the brain were completely dark. Music is, in some way, tied to the language part of the brain…but we don’t understand how or why. The author of the study is quoted as saying, “Meaning in music is fundamentally context-specific and imprecise, thereby differing wholly from meaning in natural language.”

So the statement that music is a language is partially true. But we cannot take that to mean that music works in the same way as spoken language. You cannot use music to communicate, for example, that Christ was born of a virgin, lived a sinless life and was crucified for our sins. Music is totally powerless to communicate anything that specific. So when we speak of music as a language, we have to be aware of its limitations.

Then we’re told that anyone who sings or plays music is a teacher. This statement is just…odd. Ok, I see how we are all teachers, in a very broad definition of the word. But musicians don’t exactly fit the typical definition of “teacher.”

Finally they tell us that “teaching truth out of balance leads to heresy.” This really is a nice bit of linguistic tap dancing to get from an over-simplified definition to twisting the meaning of the word “teacher” to FEAR!!!  And that idea of fear is made stronger by the following sentence:

“A ‘pernicious’ disease is one that is very difficult to cure.”

This appeal to fear is really, really important. You cannot open your argument against rock music by saying “The Bible never addresses musical styles. All we know is that God encourages us to sing a new song. That’s the entire extent of what the Bible has to say about musical styles.” You cannot allow that thought to even enter the minds of your readers, so you must make them afraid. Make them afraid of heresy and pernicious diseases that are hard to cure. Raise the stakes.

Here’s 5 people playing one guitar. It’s cool.

The first full page of text starts with a definition of rock music. This definition is…sadly inadequate. “The ‘rock beat’ is a dominant and repetitious offbeat which competes with the melody and distracts from the words of a song.” How exactly do you know when a beat is dominant? Doesn’t some classical music have a rather dominant beat? What exactly is an offbeat? If you’ve got 10 Biblical reasons why it is evil, couldn’t you give me a bit more information on what exactly we’re actually talking about?

And what is this “offbeat” that is so often spoken evil of? Here’s a simple explanation of syncopation:

Yep, it’s nothing more than an unexpected twist in a piece of music. I wonder if plot twists in books are also evil? What about poetry that establishes a pattern and then breaks it? Could I summon a demon with a poorly written haiku?

Ok, here’s our first Biblical reason. Quick, listen to The Piano Guys’ cover of What Makes You Beautiful. Bonus points if you can tell me at what point in that video the beat competes with the melody.

“The ‘rock beat’ deceives youth into violating the Fifth Commandment.”

Here’s essence of this “Scriptural reason”: “There is no question that many parents are strongly opposed to the ‘rock beat.’ Therefore, those who promote the ‘rock beat’ are causing young people to dishonor their fathers and mothers.”

Whoa!  That’s a really big leap of logic right there! Let’s swap something else out for a moment and see how it sounds:

“There is no question that many parents are strongly opposed to senior hitch-hiking trips. Therefore, those who promote national highways are causing young people to dishonor their fathers and mothers.”

What if some parents don’t want their kids using chewing gum? Does that making the gum industry evil? And what about the parents who aren’t opposed to rock music at all?

The actual issue being discussed here is not rock music; it’s children obeying parents. It really has nothing to do with music at all. There is no question that the fifth commandment says we are to honor our parents. But to say that because some parents oppose a particular thing, then anyone promoting that thing is evil is a really far stretch. This is classic misdirection: the argument has quietly been turned from “is rock music inherently evil?” to “should children honor their parents?” Once they’ve shown Scriptures showing that children should honor their parents, they act as though they’ve proven that rock music is evil.

Next we have three testimonies of young people talking about their personal experience the evils of rock music. I don’t think I’m going to take the time to respond to them; as we’ve talked about previously, testimonies can’t prove a point, they can only illustrate it. But I will leave this link here; CGP Grey does a great job of explaining how telling someone that they are in pain can actually cause them to feel pain. The application here is that if you spend years telling a child that rock music stirs up evil desires, you shouldn’t be surprised if they experience those desires when they hear rock music!

I’m going call it good for tonight, because the next section really deserves its own post.

Why not enjoy some jazz while you await the next post?

Stories, and how to use them

10 Scriptural Reasons

Well, today we’re going to tackle a fun topic; 10 reasons that rock music is evil. I tried writing some on this topic last night, using Ten Scriptural Reasons Why the “Rock Beat” Is Evil in Any Form, and I ended up feeling a bit overwhelmed by the sheer weight of so many misuses of Scripture, faulty uses of logic or outrageous statements. How can you respond to so much?

Upon reflection, it seemed best to break this response into several parts. Today I won’t actually spend a lot of time in this booklet; I’d like to speak a little bit about my own experiences with music and IBLP. Then over the next few weeks I’ll see if I can go through these ten points and cut through some of the faulty logic to expose the prejudices behind it. To help us all keep our sanity, I’m going to randomly insert links to unapproved music. Here’s the first one: an Indian band called Thaikkudam Bridge does a cover of Metallica’s Nothing Else Matters. It’s awesome.

Before I talk about my experiences, let’s talk for just a moment about one of Gothard’s favorite techniques for proving a point: the personal testimony. You could make a very good argument that this is Gothard’s primary method of making his case, whatever the topic. Ten Scriptural Reasons contains no fewer than ten personal testimonies. These testimonies take up a significant portion of the booklet: out of 16 pages, fully six and a half are testimonies. The problem with personal stories is that they cannot prove a point, they can only illustrate a point. Testimonies have their place in a logical argument, but their limitations must be understood.

Allow me to illustrate with a different (and controversial) topic: global climate change. Let’s say I want to argue that the Earth is not experiencing a significant rise in temperature (please keep in mind that I’m just giving an example here; I have no desire to get into the climate debate). If I were to first state my thesis (The Earth is not experiencing any significant rise in temperature) and then follow that with 10 stories about unusually cold days in different parts of the world, I would be laughed out of the room. Why? Because isolated events cannot prove or disprove the truth of a global trend, event or principal.  It is entirely possible that the global warming is happening even though there are isolated events that don’t fit the trend. In the same way, you cannot prove that global warming is happening by giving examples of hot days in recent years.

This is not to say that examples or personal testimonies have no place in a good argument. To construct a good argument that global warming is not happening, I would have to demonstrate a global trend (or lack thereof) using measurements taken over a long period of time and in multiple locations. I would have to reference the work of respect authorities on the subject, and show how their research supported my point. I would have to present a weather model that explained why the factors my opponents say cause global warming are not having a warming effect. After I’ve done this, I can use examples to illustrate the point I’ve already proved. The hard numbers, opinions of authorities and well researched weather model are my evidence; the stories help people to understand how this evidence can be seen in the real world.

Here’s Come With Me Now by Kongos. Garage band sound mixed with steel guitar and accordion; how awesome is that?

It’s also important to make a clear distinction between a personal story and an expert witness. These two perform very different tasks in a logically constructed argument. Personal stories (be they your own stories or somebody else’s story) are from people who have no particular expertise in the subject matter. Your uncle who tells stories about Mexicans taking our jobs is an example. Me talking about oils spills in the Gulf is another example. While our stories are not without value, they are not to be given particular weight. These stories (and the opinions they directly or indirectly communicate) are just a few among literally millions on the subject.

Expert witness, on the other hand, should be given much greater weight. These are the opinions or stories of people who have spent significant amounts of time and energy studying, discussing, researching and examining an issue. They often (but not always) have some academic evidence of their expertise. They are recognized by other in the field as reliable, honest and knowledgeable. Opinions and stories from these people can be used as evidence to establish or support a thesis. Their opinion is more weighty; it simply matters more.

An important note: Experiencing something does not make you an expert. A war refugee is not an expert on war, someone who helps clean a beach is not an expert on oil spills, and a teenager who listened to rock music for a while and then rejected it is not an expert on rock music. To be an expert, you must have a deep understanding of the topic outside of your own personal experience. In the same way that feeling the cold in my hometown does not qualify me to make judgments about global temperature trends, observing rock music‘s effect on myself does not qualify me to judge rock music to be either good or evil.

I really like the band Cake. Here’s one of their best.

In a strange twist, I am now going to tell my personal experience with rock music! Allow me to explain why my personal story is pertinent, even though I just spent 700 plus words telling you that personal stories cannot prove a point; I’m not trying to prove a point with this story. Everything you just read related to constructing a logical argument to prove a point. I’m sharing my experience in the hopes that it may resonate with some of you who have had similar experiences. What I’ve written below is not a logical argument: it’s just something that might help some people think about their own experiences. Maybe I’ve felt something that you’ve felt too.

As a child there were many things that I was absolutely sure of. God was real. Bill Clinton was evil. Biking downhill fast was always worth the effort to get to the top of the hill. You should go to church on Sunday. Public school was a horrible place. The park on the other side of town had the best slide (because it was tall and had waves in it). And rock music was evil.

Really, really evil. Not just that some evil people listened to or performed rock music. Not that some parts of rock culture were wrong. Not that I didn’t like the sound. It was, quite literally, demonic. The beat invited demons into your heart, it could cause heart attacks, and it made plants die.

On the few occasions that our family ate out, my siblings and I could hardly contain our excitement. Mom and Dad would put together a list of possible restaurants and we would drive to the first one. Awesome smells would waft into the van, and we would excitedly talk about what food they might have. “This one is a Mexican restaurant!” “This one has barbeque sandwiches!” Dad would get out of the van and we would hold our breath. Were we going to eat here? Could this actually be the place? Sometimes Dad was gone a long time, other times he returned quickly. By the time he walked out of the restaurant, it felt like a black hole had opened in your stomach. Please, please, let this be the place. We all tried to judge from Dad’s expression, or the way he held his shoulders. What had the manager said?

It seemed to take an eternity for Dad to get back into the van. We all held our breath as he answered our unspoken question: Had the manager agreed to turn off the music while we ate?

Rock music was serious business in our family. We left two churches before I was 10 years old over the issue of music. I remember walking up to our pastor during greeting time to tell him about the evils of the music during praise time. Almost every time somebody sang a special our family would stand up, file out of our pew and stand in the foyer until the music was over. One time my parents let me go home with another family after church to spend the afternoon with their boys. On the way home they were listening to soft Christian rock. I knew what to do (we had been trained for situations just like these!) I boldly asked that they turn off the music, and explained that it was wrapping God’s message in Satan’s methods, and it was evil.

At the same time, I loved rock music. I didn’t dare admit it to myself. My mother was going through counseling at the time, and her counselor gave her a tape with Christian music on it. Mom didn’t actually buy into Gothard’s teaching on music, but didn’t tell us for years. (I assume this was because of the submission teaching that is so heavily emphasized in IBLP circles, but I’ve never actually asked her…I need to ask her about that…) She kept that tape in a high drawer and only listened to it on a Walkman with headphones. But whenever she left us at the house, I would run straight for that drawer, pull out the tape and listen to Our God Is An Awesome God over and over and over again. I don’t know how to express the feelings of those moments; time has dulled a lot of the memories. But the emotion was strong. I felt alive and inspired. For some reason it made me feel like I was part of a greater whole, something much bigger than the isolated world of my family.

I told myself it wasn’t actually rock music. I can’t even remember how I justified that in my mind.

(Side note: I just talked with my mother about this. She told me that her marriage was going through some very rough waters during those years, and “I had much bigger battles to fight in my marriage than what was on the radio.” She told me that she actually did communicate to us that she disagreed with Dad and Gothard about music. I don’t doubt her, but I was a stubborn kid, and apparently ignored what she said. Was this perhaps some evidence of the male chauvinism so prevalent in IBLP circles?)

When I was 13 my family moved to Wilbur, Washington, a tiny farming community not far from the Grand Coulee Dam.  There were 170,000 people in Amarillo, and I didn’t have a single friend my age. Wilbur had 800 people, yet oddly I found my first friends in that little town. JC was the son of a local pastor. He and his brother David were both homeschooled; they were a lot like us. Grady and his sister Chelsa were wheat farmers kids, also homeschooled. Annie and Melissa were in public school. We were an odd group, but each of those people impacted my life greatly. Soon we had a small Bible study, and JC and I were putting out a home school newsletter for the county. Almost every day of the week one or all of the “Wilbur Gang” would spend time at our home.

My friends all listened to normal Christian music. I was unsure of what to do; they were nice about not playing it around me, and I was suddenly uncomfortable saying that I had problems with rock music. I blamed it on my dad. Then my sister quietly shared a CD with me. It was highly secret contraband; she has purchased The Back Street Boy’s Millennium CD. I wasn’t sure what to think, but we listened, and again, I loved it.

Secretly, I began listening to different types of music. I found a country station, and listened whenever I could. At some point along the way I learned about my Mom’s feelings on music, and things became less secretive; we just made sure all music was off and hidden before Dad got home. I discovered Merle Haggard and George Strait.

After my parents learned about my porn usage, I tried valiantly for some time to deal with the lust in my life. The Rock by Clay Crosse was a great help during that time. (Wow…I haven’t listened to that song in years. Talk about taking you back…)

Though my teen years I struggled to figure out the truth about music. I knew enough about music theory to see the holes in the “syncopation is evil” argument. Loren Elms said that syncopation was like spice; so I reasoned that rock music was like spicy food. It was ok to eat some, but you couldn’t eat only spicy food. Then I thought that maybe syncopation wasn’t the real issue; there was some music that was evil, but the amount of syncopation wasn’t what made it evil. But then what did make it evil?

It took me a lot of years to come to the point I’m at today. I realize now that music, like all art, doesn’t fit so easily into these neat little boxes that Gothard wanted to paint. I don’t have all the answer about music, and that’s ok. God created music, and when we sing, or write or make music, we are expressing part of God’s creative nature, and that is a beautiful thing.