Louder Fenn

Monday, April 22, 2002

You bloggers are crazy. I tried writing a comprehensive response to Bryan's post about guitars in church, but was stymied by the amount of time it was obviously going to take. The partners at my firm will fire me without a second thought if I submit my billable hours with twelve percent devoted to some client called "Blog." So, while it goes against my grain to offer only half a response, here goes:

Using the Psalms to justify guitar music is a bit of an overreach. There are a lot of steps from three-thousand year old harp music to Innagoddadavidda. No mention of "outside church": true, but no mention of in church. No mention of guitars. Maybe we should only be using harps? Maybe only playing three-thousand year old cymbals? Etc., etc.

The simple fact is that absent a more clear-cut command to use guitars in church from the Psalms, I do not believe that God intended for us to suspend our judgment regarding music and art and cut loose with some rockabilly in church because David wrote about praising God on the timbrel.

I am not foreclosing different forms of music -- I'll try a mass with Arvo Part any day. I simply and graphically stated that the guitar music one hears in church today is bad music. This is an opinion, but only insofar as all judgment about art is opinion. Some artistic judgment is valid or else we are left blessing the recent "art" exhibit that made the news rounds that consists of cadavers cut open and manipulated into various positions by the "artist."

Now, I also said that guitars as such should not be in church, and I will stick with that, too. There is a spirit to different sorts of music, there is a spirit to different instruments. And I am saying the spirit of the guitar is not suitable for church. It is like the traditional "Queen of the May" song that Catholics would sing at the May crowning of a statute of the Blessed Virgin Mary: I like the song, but it is sounds remarkably like an old Irish bar song. Fine song, not right for church. Guitar sounds good -- not right for church.

Finally, I do not believe that we should all find the church that suits us, per se. I believe that church should universalize -- take the best that mankind has to offer and offer it, so that we may pray as one. Church is a public prayer -- it should seek the highest common denominator. It should not splinter into little churches, each offering what a tiny and discrete minority enjoy. While it does not keep me up at night that some people use guitar music in church (or other things I believe to be problematic), I also do not believe that it is proper that everyone just find what suits them and let 'er rip.

-Jimmy Tomato

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