Thanks to Rhett, I saw a recent article written by Chuck Colson regarding the issue of worship styles in Church and the replacement of conservative Christian talk radio by “meaningless” Christian music programming. Here’s an excerpt:
When church music directors lead the congregation in singing some praise music, I often listen stoically with teeth clenched. But one Sunday morning, I cracked. We had been led through endless repetitions of a meaningless ditty called, “Draw Me Close to You.” The song has zero theological content and could be sung in a nightclub, for that matter. When I thought it was finally and mercifully over, the music leader beamed at us and said in a cheerful voice, “Let’s sing that again, shall we?” “No!” I shouted loudly. Heads all around me spun while my wife cringed.
Now let me preface the following with the fact that I think Colson has done a great deal of good with his prison ministry and his Angel Tree project. Also, there are actually some ideas he brings up in the article that I can agree with to a certain extent. But after reading that article, I’m reminded of why the Christian Church has become so irrelevant with figures such as Colson being one of the louder voices reverberating inside the christian bubble.
First, let’s address the obvious. Who really cares about what kind of music Colson likes or dislikes in church or any other application? I’d actually be more interested in what kind of paper shredder he endorses or what kind of lock pick he prefers, but that’s beside the point. Additionally, do we really need to hear about personal anecdotes how Colson like’s to obnoxiously scream out loud in church? Poor Mrs. Colson. I can’t say I’m a huge fan of “Draw Me Close to You” either, but it’s hardly due to the lyrics. Either way, who cares what either Chuck or I think?
I don’t take issue with Chuck’s taste in music as much as I take issue with the black and white moralism that saturates his whole article. Let us remember that the only reason we know Colson’s name is because of his part in covering up the Watergate scandal under the Nixon administration. He was convicted and sent to prison for 7 months for obstructing justice.
I find it ironic that someone with Colson’s sorted past has become so comfortable in the seat of judgement and has become so certain as to what’s best for christians everywhere to listen or sing along to (Heaven forbid we sing songs that could be sung “in a nightclub” as he puts it. Maybe Colson, the big lover of hymns, has either forgotten or is unaware that some of Martin Luther and Charles Wesley’s traditional hymns were adapted from music heard in taverns. Whoops!). For Colson, if Christians prefer music programming compared to “sound teaching” over the airwaves, then he contends that we’re all on our way to illiteracy. He writes:
The decision by Christian broadcasters to avoid moral controversies could result in the Church withdrawing from the culture as it tragically did a century ago. The great strength of radio, as with books, has been to present in-depth teaching that engages Christians cognitively. Unfortunately, thinking analytically is something Christians find increasingly difficult. According to a government study, the average college graduate’s proficient literacy in English has declined from 40 percent in 1992 to 31 percent ten years later. The study defines proficient literacy as the ability to read lengthy, complex texts and draw complicated inferences.
Who’s to say illiteracy is all that necessary to follow Jesus? I can’t imagine the slaves in Ephesus who were hearing Paul’s letter could read very well. Does that mean they can’t experience the redeeming and loving God as well as those who can read? Also, in terms of the programming changes that have concerned Colson, maybe he hasn’t considered that Christians are becoming sick and tired of analytical thinking when approaching God. Maybe music is a welcome change to the moral issues so often ranted about on Christian radio. Colson claims that the truth must be “learned” but maybe people are tired of learning and want to experience the truth.
As I mentioned before, we only know Colson due to his illegal activities while serving Richard Nixon, but that’s not totally accurate. Yes, Chuck has had his own “experience” where he discovered the “truth”. That experience came in the form of some hard time and a little C.S. Lewis. From that experience, he’s emerged and done some very good things and has served many in the prison system that for the most part are a forgotten faction of society. For that he is to be appreciated greatly.
Like Colson, we all have our sordid pasts. At the end of the day, I am no better than he is. Because of those blemishes on our record, big and small, we have no solid ground to stand on when spouting our hallow moralism. If a house wife turns off “Focus on the Family” and switches to Michael W. Smith, don’t blame her or the radio station. Maybe it’s time for those like Dobson and Colson to take off the analytical thinking cap and take a look in the mirror. What can they do differently to connect with her and compell her to seek the will of God? May I suggest that telling her that her taste in music sucks is not the first place to start. Then again, if Colson’s bad experience in prison has helped him emerge the better man, maybe he can allow the rest of us to experience the “prison” that he calls “blissful amusement” and hopefully we can emerge as the great “morally controversial” figure he is today.