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Unread 03-24-2012, 01:33 PM   #1
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The Pre-Christian Character of CCM

(Not sure how this will come across. I decided to have fun with it and not worry too much about tone. Please assume a lighthearted attitude while reading. I would be very interested in your lighthearted reactions.)

Ever notice how popular, secular songs tend to be catchier and more artful than their contemporary Christian music (CCM) counterparts? I've pondered the reason for some time. Recently a new insight came.

It is not just that the Church is poor imitator of the world. Our Lord tells us as much when He says the children of this world are wiser in their generation than the children of light. The children of Cain even devised musical instruments before the sons of Seth. There is a reason why the phrase 'cutting-edge CCM' would be an oxymoron, a contradiction in terms. Moreover, the pride of life, forbidden to Christians, fuels contemporary cool.

But that is not all. Typical praise band music is pre-Christian in a sense. Consider these assertions from Eugen Rosenstock-Huessy in The Christian Future or The Modern Mind Outrun:

"In the Divinity, Father and Son unfold the quality of being, by spreading it through two generations. And the Spirit, lest he be confused with the wit of the moment, is explicity said to descend from the interaction of the two generations, the Father and the Son. The analogy for man should be obvious. He can't be the image of God if he serves the spirit of his own time."

Even so, the analogy for music should be obvious. The abrupt change in church music styles that occurred in the past few decades grew out of the wit of the moment, the 1960's rejection of traditional, Western, Christian culture. Whereas, by contrast, the Church's own internal musical culture, developed over centuries and spread and shared across generations, began with simple psalm chants, later flowering into such masterpieces as Bach's masses, the never-trust-anyone-over-30 generation persuaded many in the Church to make a clean break with previous generations.

As a result, proponents of CCM preferred to bury the past out of sight rather than resurrect it in a new, more glorious form. The alien spirit of contemporary, secular culture was introduced into the sanctuary. The Church's own vast, historic treasury ignored. The contemporary church outdid the prodigal son, for he was at least aware that he had an inheritance to spend.

But there is hope. Just as the prodigal son grew weary of husks instead of fine fare, so there are signs that CCM is groping its way toward maturity. Already the campfire songs that passed for praise music in the 1980's have started to seem insipid. I don't hear those as much anymore. Transgenerational music makes a comeback as old hymns receive fresh attention and expression--although it is a pity that the old lyrics are modernized so needlessly, and always to the detriment of their original poetic beauty.

As in the early church the Psalms were recognized as foundational for music, so now perhaps CCM musicians will become more musically Trinitarian by looking to the Psalms for Holy-Spirit inspired, trans-generational, substantive, source material. Good things will ensue when CCM proponents discover and pause to listen to the long line of psalmodists that have preceded them since the days of the early Church.

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Unread 03-24-2012, 02:01 PM   #2
and you were wondering??
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I think much of what you have written here is pretty insightful.

I have recently been reading a very interesting book by Marva Dawn entitled Reaching Out without Dumbing Down: A Theology of Worship for This Urgent Time. She has much to say concerning tradition, and especially about the flowing of creativity out of traditions, especially liturgy and art. Tradition has the ability to remind the church of the past, but also of the eschatological future.
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Unread 03-25-2012, 03:56 PM   #3
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Well said. Openness to the future is, in fact, one of Rosenstock-Huessy's emphases. Thanks.
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