"Sing Unto the Lord a New Song" is the results of a research paper I did on music for a sophomore writing project. The ideas are not my ownI simply compiled and commented on the writings and findings of many others,. I would like to especially give credit to Frank Garlock and Kurt Woetzel, authors of Music in the Balance, and T.P. Johnson, author of Insights and Answers on Music, as well as to my parents, Mark and Sara Glaser, who have brought me up in the ways of the Lord and given me a love for wholesome music.
It is my prayer that this paper will show the negative effect the wrong kind of music has had on todays society, and encourage you in singing and listening to uplifting, God-honoring music with a positive message. Your comments are welcome. God bless you as you seek to live for Him!
Because He Lives,
Gretchen L. Glaser
January 4, 2000
Rock music, with its damaging, rebellious, and sex-filled message, has had a tremendously negative effect on our society today. We need to realize this problem and start promoting and listening to good, Christ-honoring music.
Sing Unto the Lord a New Song
Musicmentioned more than 749 times in the Bibleis a crucial issue. Young people live for music: many spend thousands of dollars a year on CDs and the average teenager listens to six hours of Rock music a day (Garlock and Woetzel 17). Cyril Scott in Music, Its Secret Influence Throughout the Ages states that music has the "power to form character" (39).
Music has a powerful impact on our lives. But do we, as Christians, realize this? What are we doing about it? Have we evaluated the music in our home to see if it is Christ-honoring? Does it reflect and reinforce what the Bible teaches? "Satan is attacking the church and home through the medium of music. It is a subtle, emotional, and effective medium which catches the Christian off guard" (Garlock and Woetzel 8).
. . . . The possession of the Lords best is frequently sacrificed on the altar of the worlds music. When a life is consumed with the sensuous sound of the world, there is little room for music which reflects the character of God. . . . . The wrong kind of music can drag you down. The right kind of music can build you up and cause your mind and heart to reflect upon Gods goodness. The wrong kind of music can weigh heavily on your emotions without your conscious awareness. It can cause your thoughts to reflect the worlds philosophy. The right kind of music, in the character of its sound alone, has the ability to teach you about the Lord and allow your thoughts to dwell on Him. (Garlock and Woetzel 20-1, emphasis mine)
Rock music, since its beginning in the early 1950s, has been the music of rebellion, defying musical barriers, being performed in a wild, spontaneous style with a raw display of emotions (McLeese 376-7). It has become a "tool for altering consciousness" (Schafer 62). Frank Garlock and Kurt Woetzel state, without apology, "The philosophy espoused by this music is completely contrary to that of the Christian life" (27). Today Rock music is the biggest mass addiction in the history of the worldharder for many people to kick than alcohol or drugs (Johnston 36).
The message comes through the medium of the music.
Many say, "But the lyrics are good!" However, the message comes through the medium...the music. The music communicates "at a level below words" (Schafer 75). 93% of all communication (not just in music) takes place without words, noted Dr. Albert Mehrabian, a communications psychologist, in the August 1993 issue of Readers Digest (Johnston 24). Lyrics "can be virtually disregardedthe music itself gives the message. Words simply reinforce what the music already proclaims" (Garlock and Woetzel 27). Music has the power to communicate. Different chords create different moodsthey are just notes, but one combination speaks of rest while the other of warning and tension. (Johnston 24) In movies, music has us on the edge of our seats right before the villain appears. Regardless of whether it is grasped cognitively, the message comes through distinctly emotionally (Lawhead 107).
So what message is put into our minds and hearts by listening to rock music? Rebellion, sex, and violence. One world-famous musician said that rock was "poison put to sound" (Shaw 1). And Cheetah, a rock magazine, lays it out bluntly: if people "knew what todays pop music was sayingnot what the words are saying, but what the music itself is sayingthey would ban it, smash all the records, and arrest anyone who tried to play it" (Johnston 38).
The message encourages a rebellious attitude.
The rebellious spirit of rock n roll, according to McLeeses article in The World Book Encyclopedia, has been defined since the beginning (377). "Rock music fosters, preaches, teaches, and advocates rebellion in sound and word" (Garlock and Woetzel 80). Gary Allen states: "Music is now the primary weapon used to make the perverse seem glamorous, exciting, and appealing. Music is used to ridicule religion, morality, patriotism, and productivitywhile glorifying drugs, destruction, revolution, and sexual promiscuity" (165, emphasis mine). Rock movies and MTV are no different. They are simply the acting out of the message of the music. The sensuality so very evident in MTV has been in music for many years. (Garlock and Woetzel 183)
The words and music are filled with sexual content.
Ellen Willis points out the sexual content of rock music clearly, stating that everything about rock and rollits sexy beat and sexy lyricswas at its beginning a reproach, a sexual threat to the established order (15). Allan Bloom, speaking of the musicnot the lyrics, but the beatstates that rock music has only one appeal: a barbaric appeal to sexual desire (not love). He said that rock music "gives children, on a silver platter . . . everything their parents always used to tell them they had to wait for until they grew up and would understand later" (73). Dr. David Elkind states, "There is a great deal of powerful, albeit subliminal, sexual stimulation implicit in both the rhythm and lyrics of rock music" (89). One author states that rock fans respond to rocks sounds and that "the rock experience is essentially erotic" (Frith 164). Garlock and Woetzel quote many sources who described rock singers as being preoccupied with sex, using highly suggestive body movements on stage, and toying with sex through song (82). I found in glancing over reviews of just a few "tame" rock groups whose names were familiar to me (because I know many Christian teens who listen to them), that the lyrics fantasize about sex, girls body parts, and state such things as "it doesnt matter if its right or wrong." "Audiopornography," some rightly call many of the songs. If this kind of junk is allowed to be fed into teenagers minds, we have no reason to question why teen pregnancy and date rapenot to mention school shootings and other teen feloniesabound, increasing at an alarming rate. Parents are promoting the behavior they despise, by allowing their kids to listen to rock music.
Violence is communicated in each beat.
Violence is another main theme in the music itself, and is proclaimed loud and clear through the lyrics. Rock confirms peoples right to have and express strong, sensual emotions. Its message is that your feelings are sacred and nothing should be set above them. "Rock cant be made respectable. The music will simply subvert the words . . . . No matter how many reforms are attempted, rock . . . will always gravitate in the direction of violence and uncommitted sex. The beat says, Do what you want to do." (Kirkpatrick 178-9) Brutally beating parents, murdering police, rape, and other such filthy, violent acts are topics of too large a percentage of songs teens listen to. The ideas for numerous rape and murder cases have, the perpetrators admit, have come from rock songsmany of the titles themselves expose their violence, speaking of blood and slaying.
Rock music is too loud for the human ear.
Aside from the message of rock music, which should be enough to convict the Christian against rock, it has detrimental physical effects, as well. Ear doctors say that anything above 90 decibels on the sound scale is damaging to our ears, and we should not listen to it. Many rock music groups (secular and Christian), play at the 120-125 decibel level! 1 Corinthians 6:19 states that our bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit. Isnt that text applicable to music? We should be good stewards of our eardrums, too! (T. Allen 156) Exposure for even fifteen minutes to the intensity of a four-man rock group with an amplification system can cause permanent hearing damage (Garlock and Woetzel 153). In addition, many academic records prove that school children improve to a great extent when they stop listening to rock music while studying (Diamond 164).
Country music has the same characteristics.
The Country sound is considered by many to be harmless and mild, as an alternative to the "noise" of rock, and it has gained acceptance and popularity among Christians. But Country music is designed to entertain, satisfy, and please the world. All music preaches a messagewhat is the message of country music? Its lyrics overwhelming theme is triangle relationships, along with lost loves, broken homes, and the glorification of liquor. Is this wholesome listening for the Christian? Is it showing wisdom to fill our minds with such themes? Does it build or tear down the Christians spiritual life? Does it foster contentment or nourish restlessness? (Garlock and Woetzel 144-6) (Paradoxically, the country "sound"--which is derived from the rock music sound--is also used along with lyrics of praise and worship to our Savior!)
One popular country music celebrity said, "Im not proud of a lot of things in my field. There is no doubt in my mind that we are contributing to the moral decline in America" (Aranza 29). Another, who had three marriages with affairs during all three, stated, "I am against authority." When asked if he realized the influence he had on America, and whether it bothered him that people might follow him in the same direction, he responded, "They would do it anyway" (Garlock and Woetzel 147, quoting Willie Nelson "The Barbara Walters Special," ABC, 16 June 1982).
Christian Contemporary Music.
Christian Contemporary Musiccommonly known as CCMhas become the "alternative" to rock music. But, it is too much the same to be a real alternative. CCM artists are taking the fleshy sound of rock, rhythm and blues, jazz, country, pop tunes, etc.mimicking their godless styles, dress, and image as well as their methods (Johnston 28)and are trying to appeal to the spiritual. It cant be done, logically or scripturally (Hart 123). "How can that which communicates sensuality be used to worship the Lord or to preach the Gospel? It is absurd to think that one can unite Christian lyrics with the medium of the world (rock music) and expect the meaning and communication to remain the same" (Garlock and Woetzel 30-31). "Sacred music is not for entertainment. Christian music is first and foremost a vehicle for praise unto the Lord" (Garlock and Woetzel 54). Many in the Christian community have embracedenthusiasticallythe music, antics, and philosophy of the worlds music, and accepted it as suitable for praise and worship (Garlock and Woetzel 82). They tend to choose a church based on its music style rather than its doctrinal position (Johnston 28). Do non-Christians who are tired of the worlds noise hear an immediate contrast when they listen to the music in your home? "By mimicking the genres of music so clearly associated with the world system, we blur the gap between the values of Satan and the values of God" (Johnston 28). Todays generation of Christians is feasting on sensuality. The problem is not our music, howeverthe music is just a symptom of the real problem in our hearts. (Johnston 36)
The lyrics are trite and shallow.
Too many times the lyrics of Christian songs are trite and shallowyou cant tell whether theyre directed to a lover, friend, or spouse, or to the Lord. God-honoring lyrics in the Bible were different from average CCM. Praise of God and His glory was the theme. God said in Isaiah 48:11, "I will not give My glory unto another." (Richards 38) It is impossible for CCM to touch someones heart. The meaning is disjointed. Though CCM may be desired by some because it sounds like the world, it does not elicit a response from the listeners heart toward God. (Swaggart 3-4) The listener may be tricked into feeling hes had a spiritual encounter, when in reality it was only physicaland sadly, not just a physical encounter, but sensual, as well (Garlock and Woetzel 140).
The songs are I-focused not God-focused.
Another saddening aspect of CCM lyrics is that they are I-focused not God-focused. More feelings and emotions about "you," "me," and "I" are expressed than anything about the Lord. If you removed all the first and second person pronouns from much CCM, you would just be humming most of the time. This reflects the me-centered theology of today. (Garlock and Woetzel 120).
The Christian lyrics dont mattermessage is through the medium.
Regardless of the lyrics, they still don't have the impact that the music does... "Music . . .communicates directly to our hearts and souls" (Merele-Fishman and Katsh 96). The world says that it (the rock music sound) is pure sensuality...and yet some Christians respond, "Its not that bad." Theres a problem with that scenario!! The performers intent and motivation may be very sincere, but the sound, ignoring the lyrics, preaches sensualityregardless of motivation or sincerity on the part of the performer (Garlock and Woetzel 142). If Proverbs 23:7 tells us that we are as we think in our hearts, how can there be any justification for listening to this kind of music? (Garlock and Woetzel 37) The blind hymnwriter Fanny Crosby said, "The church must never sing its message to the music of the world" (Johnston 29).
The artists have a lack of morals and a Savior.
Garlock and Woetzel state that Christians need to start understanding that too many CCM artists share only a very few of the Biblically-based beliefs which Christian communities hold (123). Statements from CCM personalities prove that "Christian" artists are lacking Jesus: One said that she believed religion was just a "cop-out," that she was no fundamentalist Christian, and "not a member of those born-again peoplethose Christians that are going to Heaven while other people go to hell" (Peters, Peters, and Merrill 138-39). Another said she was realizing that God cant solve everyones problems, and that she felt that people who hold convictions against premarital sex must have had some past sadness (Jahr 97-100). "I am trying to be sexy in a Godly way," is how one CCM singer described her music and performance style in the August 19, 1985 Christianity Today. Yet they masquerade as witnesses of the Gospel! Based on the evidence, Garlock and Woetzel suggest it is a different gospel (123). The same methods the world uses to give their music a sensual sound, CCM artists are now employingits not ministry any more, just sensual, flesh-gratifying entertainment (Garlock and Woetzel 93). What the performers believe in their mind and heart affect their singing and their following (Smith and Carlson xii). As true worship, our music should overflow out of a heart filled with an understanding of God that comes from having Christ dwell in us richly. We must be controlled by the Holy Spirit, filled abundantly with Gods Word, or our music will never be right and acceptable to God. (Johnston 26)
There shouldnt be crossovers or sound-alikes in CCM.
Most Christian artists are seeking to "broaden their appeal," making their music the type that Christians and the world enjoycrossover, its called. This should disturb us, because that means they are watering down the Gospel! Christian youth magazines have sound-alike charts, for fans of rock groups to find a CCM group that has the same sound. Regarding a certain secular group who has several Christian sound-alikes on these charts, a Newsweek article said, "They play the kind of music that parents love to hate. Its loud, disgusting, without redeeming social merit" (Miller 70). We as Gods people should be establishing standards of excellence in our music, not trying to copy the world (Johnston 29). Besides, as Garlock and Woetzel point out, if they are sound-alikes, then theyre not alternative (108)! "Christian rock" is an oxymoron. We cannot, and we must not, call "Christian" what is so decidedly evil.
Music is not to be a witnessing tool.
Evangelization through music is a common ideal among CCM artistsand it is a worthy, commendable purpose. Witnessing can and does take place as the children of God praise Him through music. But, "when the purpose of the music is to evangelize, the element of praise is weakened by the attempt to appeal to the world. . . . Prayer and praise in song unto the Lord will yield results with God" (Garlock and Woetzel 113-4). Do we have to trick people into being saved? Using music to evangelize "cheapens the priceless, trivializes the profound, mixes sensuality with sanctification, confuses lust with Biblical love, blends carnality with Christlikeness, blurs the distinction between holy and profane, and seeks to blend light with darkness." But what you win them with, you have won them to. (Johnston 29) Charles Haddon Spurgeon stated, "This is the suggestion of the present hour: if the world will not come to Jesus . . . shall not the church go down to the world? . . . . This then is the proposal. In order to win the world, the Lord Jesus must conform Himself, His people, and His Word to the World. I will not dwell on so loathsome a proposal . . . . The true servant of God is not responsible for success or non-success. Results are in Gods hands" (Johnston 45).
Music in the church is not for entertainment, but for the edification of believersit must present the unvarnished truth to warn and encourage others toward obedience to it. Too many times Christian entertainers "think they are reaching the lost, but in fact they are weakening the church and deceiving the lost." (Johnston 26-7) What has CCM taught us about the doctrine of Jesus Christ, compared to what we know about Him from Gods Word? The lyrics have diminished to unintelligible chatter what we claim is profound, spiritual truth. The fundamentals of our faith have been changed, if you look at the "Christian" contemporary music lyrics. The object is no longer Christ but our self-esteem; the goal is no longer holiness but happiness; and the source is no longer the Scriptures but our experience. "Christian music currently reflects this. We are producing a generation of people that feel their God, but do not know their God." (Johnston 30-1)
A New Song.
If we consider the observations made by authorities who are informed, respected, qualified, and unbiased in their fields, there is no doubt that any believer wanting to please the Lord will condemn rock music and speak against its use in any setting, be it sacred or secular (Garlock and Woetzel 144). We need to sing unto the Lord a new song (Psalm 33:3). The church needs music which draws people to the Savior through conviction, and praises Him, lifting Him up, rather than music that pulls Him down to mans level. When our musics purpose is to praise and glorify God, in faithfulness to His Word, the Holy Spirit can and will use that music to bring others to Christ. (Garlock and Woetzel 149) ". . . encourage listening to the finest music with understanding and pleasure, and to stretch ones ears and imagination. The more we acquaint ourselves with that which is truly great and beautiful, the more we will dislike and turn away from that which is shallow and ugly" (Smith and Carlson xii). "We . . . need to ask for discernment . . . so we will seek that which is wholesome and beautiful" (Smith and Carlson 271). Why sing songs which have no purpose? We need music of merit!
Sing as unto the Lord.
We are not told just to sing a new song, but to sing it unto the Lord. When music is viewed as a ministry to Him, as opposed to entertainment for the listener, the differences are obvious in both the listener and performer (Garlock and Woetzel 177). Too many times music is sung for the purpose of the singers glorification and promotion. The musician becomes the main attraction, instead of the Lord. Jesus becomes the platform upon which the musician displays their flesh. It would be like when Jesus rode into Jerusalem on the donkey, if the people had applauded the donkey. This is foolish and sad! (Aranza 44)
The church's music is not for entertainment but worship.
Music in the church is serious business. Those involved in this ministry must reflect in their everyday lives the beauty of holiness and be a testimony to the Gospel of Jesus Christ, which has the power to change appetites, actions, and ambitions. (Garlock and Woetzel 172) They should display maturity in the Christian life. It is because of a lack of maturity that so many problems exist in Christian contemporary music. Rock n roll performers "get saved" and then instantly become Christian rock n roll artists. Theyre babes in Christ, needful of instruction from the Word, encumbered with baggage from their life in the world, and are instantly supposed to be spokesmen for Christianity. The Christian musician must be mature in faith! (Garlock and Woetzel 177) Margaret Clarkson said, "True hymn writers have not primarily sought to write hymns, but to know God; and knowing Him, they could not but sing" (Johnston 39).
The churchs music should be different from the Worlds.
The sound of CCM is too similar to the sound of the world. The sound, and the message communicated, must be distinctively, recognizably different (Garlock and Woetzel 132). "The Christian cannot be satisfied as long as any human activity is either opposed to Christianity or out of all connection with Christianity . . . . The Christian, therefore, cannot be indifferent to [anything] . . . It must all be brought into some relation to the gospel" (Machen 4). It is not a question of whether your music is in line with my music standards or anyone elses. "It is a question of whether our standards of music are in line with the Word of God . . . . Taste is not the issue. It makes no difference whether we like it or not. The issue comes down to the matter of whether or not it is a proper medium for communicating and praising . . . Christ. Our view of God determines what kind of music we use to tell of Him, and what music we use to praise Him." (Johnston 25) We need discernment and a desire to fill our homes and churches with music that has a power for good, and we need discipline to avoid the sound of the world. We need to stop asking, "Whats wrong with it?" and ask, "Whats right about it?" (Garlock and Woetzel 180-3)
There needs to be a balance of the beat.
Frank Garlock and Kurt Woetzel likened the rhythm of music to the pulse of the body. "If your body has no pulse, it is dead. If the pulse is visibly evident on the surface of your body as the veins and arteries throb, your body is sick. If you have a pulse but it is not noticeable, you most likely have a healthy body." The pulse is there to sustain life, but not call attention to itself in that role. Rhythm should play the same partit should keep the music moving, but not dominate the sound. (66) Not to say that rhythm should be done away with. It should be in proper balance with harmony and melodythe balance following the principles true in all Gods creation. (64) If you remove the exaggerated beat, in some cases you can create wholesome musicbut with the heavy emphasis on beat, the music is sensual (104).
The music shouldnt detract or distract.
"All aspects of sacred music . . . should draw the listener from the world and direct his attention to the Lord" (Garlock and Woetzel 119). Music in a worship service must contribute to the message and must not detract from it. It should build and strengthen the Gospel instead of cheapening or weakening it. (Garlock and Woetzel 158) The way in which a song is sung should not draw attention to the performer, performance, or the music itselfthat is stealing Gods glorythe focus must be on the Lord. The goal for a listeners response should not be, "What beautiful words!" but "What a wonderful God!" (Johnston 32) The singer must exhibit a humility that says, "Look at the Lamb of God," not, "Look at me saying, Look at the Lamb of God." We must worship God, not depreciate His glory and in actuality worship the gods of music, materialism, and sensuality. Our music should reflect our fear of God, and never show an undue familiarity with the Creator of the universe. (Johnston 33-4)
Matt Redman, in his song "When the Music Fades," sings about how, when the music fades, all being stripped away, he wants to bring God more than just a song. He apologizes for the "thing" hes made it, for he knows God doesnt want a songHe looks inside. As Matt sings in the song, this is coming back to the heart of worshipit is all about Jesus. (Redman) Lets sing unto Jesus a new song!
Music in the Balance by Frank Garlock and Kurt Woetzel. Order from Majesty Music, Inc.; P.O. Box 6524; Greenville, SC 29606; 1-800-337-1071; www.majestymusic.com
Insights and Answers on Music by T.P. Johnson. Order from TRADE (Institute in Basic Life Principles Resources); Mrs. Bobbi Pollett; E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
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Allen, Tom. Rock n Roll, the Bible and the Mind. Beaverlodge, Alta, Canada: Horizon House Publishers, 1982.
Aranza, Jacob. More Rock Country & Backward Masking Unmasked. Shreveport, LA: Huntington House, 1985.
Bloom, Allan. The Closing of the American Mind. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1987.
Diamond, John. Your Body Doesnt Lie. New York: Warner Books, 1979.
Elkind, David. The Hurried Child. Reading, MA: Addison Wesley Publishing Co., 1981.
Frith, Simon. Sound Effects, Youth, Leisure, and the Politics of Rock n Roll. New York: Pantheon Books, 1981.
Garlock, Frank, and Woetzel, Curt. Music in the Balance. Greenville, SC: Majesty Music, 1992.
Hart, Lowell. Satans Music Exposed. Huntingdon Valley, PA: Salem Kirban, 1980.
Jahr, Cliff. "Amy Grant: Im Not a Prude," Ladies Home Journal, December 1985.
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McLeese, Don. The World Book Encyclopedia. 1996 ed. S.v. "Rock Music"
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Peters, Dan, and Peters, Steve, and Merrill, Cher. What About Christian Rock? Minneapolis: Bethany House Publishers, 1986.
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Redman, Matt. "When The Music Fades." <http://www.sonicflood.com/html/charts.txt> (29 November 1999).
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Sing Unto the Lord a New Song
II. Rock Music
A. The message comes through the medium of the music.
1. The message encourages a rebellious attitude.
2. The words and music are filled with sexual content.
3. Violence is communicated in each beat.
B. Rock music is too loud for the human ear.
C. Country music has the same characteristics.
III. Christian Contemporary Music
A. The lyrics are trite and shallow.
B. The songs are I-focused not God-focused.
C. The Christian lyrics dont mattermessage is through the medium
D. The artists have a lack of morals and a Savior.
E. There shouldnt be crossovers or sound-alikes in CCM.
F. Music is not to be a witnessing tool.
IV. A New Song
Sing as unto the Lord.
A. The church's music is not for entertainment but worship.
B. The churchs music should be different from the Worlds.
C. There needs to be a balance of the beat.
D. The music shouldnt detract or distract
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