by David Sisler

"Music hath charms to soothe the savage breast, To soften rocks, or bend a knotted oak" (William Congreve, The Mourning Bride, Act I. Scene 1).

Listening to popular music while being held captive in a speeding automobile is not my idea of a good way to pass the time, so about twice a month I borrow a book on tape from the public library. A few minutes at a time, I can catch up on the popular fiction I don't have time to enjoy otherwise. In your mind you can picture the most marvelous things. The characters appear as you wish them to be and the color of the scenes is limited only by the palate of your imagination.

When I returned one of my latest adventures, the librarian remarked, "You sure are hooked on these audio books."

I replied, "What's the point of listening to the same annoying song repeated endlessly when you can be a prisoner in a Soviet Gulag, or warp through the final frontier with Captain Kirk and his gallant crew, or cruise the streets of Boston with Spencer and Hawk?"

I will do almost anything to avoid most popular music. Oh, give me a Sinatra ballad, to be sure, even a Beatles' classic, and the soundtrack from Cats is always in order, but most of the rest is a criminal waste of good plastic.

There is good music on the radio, however. It is brought to you by the same folks who bring the Good News on the radio -- Christian format stations, Gospel music radio.

I enjoy DC Talk's "Jesus Freak," and when I ride with my sons, we crank it up! But there are many songs in the same genre which have no appeal to me, so I change the stations -- and since there are at least three stations in our local area which exclusively play religious music, there is always a choice. I never cease to be amazed, however, by the people who criticize popular Christian music as being a spawn of the devil.

The new Christian music is repudiated because it is too loud, too fast, and causes hand-clapping, foot-stomping, and hand-raising. An appeal to a return to Biblical singing is urged by the critics. Okay. Try this one (and remember the 150 chapters of Psalms was meant to be sung):

"O sing unto the Lord a new song; for he hath done marvelous things: his right hand, and his holy arm, hath gotten him the victory. The Lord hath made known his salvation: his righteousness hath he openly shewed in the sight of the heathen. He hath remembered his mercy and his truth toward the house of Israel: all the ends of the earth have seen the salvation of our God. Make a joyful noise unto the Lord, all the earth: make a loud noise, and rejoice, and sing praise. Sing unto the Lord with the harp; with the harp, and the voice of a psalm. With trumpets and sound of cornet make a joyful noise before the Lord, the King. Let the sea roar, and the fulness thereof; the world, and they that dwell therein. Let the floods clap their hands: let the hills be joyful together Before the Lord; for he cometh to judge the earth: with righteousness shall he judge the world, and the people with equity (Psalm 98 -- emphasis added).

Make a joyful noise the Psalmist said. Noise, from a Hebrew word which means, according to Dr. James Strong, "to mar (especially by breaking); figuratively, to split the ears (with sound), i.e. shout (for alarm or joy."

"Sing lustily and with a good courage," John Wesley wrote in 1761 in his Directions for Singing. "Beware of singing as if you were half dead, or half asleep; but lift up your voice with strength. Be no more afraid of your voice now, nor more ashamed of its being heard, than when you sung the songs of Satan."

Some do sing just to be seen. Some have made Christian music a business. Some have left Christian music for secular music. Granted. But the greatest sin ever perpetrated on an audience occurs when a singer says, "I didn't have time to practice, so don't listen to the way I sing this. Just listen to the words." God and His music deserves better than that. Practice or keep quiet!

In all of the confusion and in all of the fussing about what is or is not Christian in music, two things are lost.

One, that the joyful noise is to be made to the Lord, not to any human being.

And two, Paul told the Corinthians, the most divided group to ever call themselves a church, the ones who misused spiritual gifts so much that they drew a written reprimand from their founding pastor, "By ALL lawful means, save SOME."

If one person will live forever in God's Kingdom because of the new brand of Christian music -- and it has been my privilege to meet many with that testimony -- then turn up the volume!


Published in the Augusta Chronicle 9/21/96

Copyright 1996 by David Sisler

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