Monday, September 11, 2006

An Argument Against CCM: Can It Cut Both Ways?

One of the more powerful arguments used against CCM is that so much of it borrows its musical style from the rock genre, and the rock genre is inseparably associated with sex and rebellion. In other words, people who grew up in a rock culture or listening to rock music can do nothing other than associate the style of CCM with the music that was a defining characteristic of their previous worldly, immoral lifestyle. Personally, I'm inclined to believe there is much to commend this argumentation as valid.

While I heard this argumentation being advanced recently, a thought struck me for the first time. Hypothetically speaking, what if some people grew up in a hypocritical, legalistic, self-righteous, pharisaical atmosphere where hymns and gospel songs were sung? What if these people could do nothing other than associate those hymns and gospel songs with their bankrupt, anti-Christian religious heritage?

Would this mean that these individuals should not sing or listen to recordings of hymns or gospel songs? Would it mean that churches whose members suffer from these associations should not use hymns or gospel songs in their services. Can it possibly mean that the whole genres of hymns and gospels songs are inherently immoral?

Of course I'm not suggesting an answer. I certainly hope we don't have to chuck all the hymns (but as for the gospel songs . . .). I don't believe that we do. I simply wonder how the argument can and should be consistently applied.


NeoFundy said...

Many of the anti-ccm arguments do cut both ways, and I am not really anti-ccm (though I do oppose most ccm on different grounds). However I am not sure if that is the case here...The rockers have made a point of identifying their own music with something that is overtly wicked.

In contrast, the association with the conservative musicians is not overt and direct. In the first case, the musicians themselves make the case, in the second, the hearer makes the connection.

Who makes the connection seems significant...

Ben said...


I think your argument is valid on the rock side. But I haven't heard CCM artists state their intent to make the direct associations the rockers have talked about. There's no doubt that they are often trying to copy secular forms, but they're not making the same arguments about the associations of the music that the rockers are.

In addition, I don't think the real issue is exclusively in the intent of the artist. The argument frequently gets to the point that individuals who've experienced rock culture associate the rock music style with the rock lifestyle; therefore, we shouldn't use the rock style.

I'm asking what we do if there is a hypothetical parallel between the pharisaical religion's music of choice and and the individuals who associate that music with that false religion.

In other words, we make both "authorial intent" and "reader response" arguments against rock. If we're going to do that with rock and CCM, we're also going to have to do that with hymns and gospel songs. By the way, authorial intent may not be an issue with old hymns, but it certainly is with the music from the era of revivalism.

KEP said...

Don't forget that one historical root of rock and roll is church music -- appalachian and african-american church music, but church music none the less.

So, maybe we should all listen to Rock (forget about CCM which is just poorly performed rock) because it is associated with the church.


NeoFundy said...

I actually think both authorial intent and audience response are involved in evaluating music, but unlike many, I do not believe they are significant or deciding factors at all. I object to any music (conservative or otherwise) that uses music without considering that the music is actually part of the message (not simply a vehicle for the lyric), just like the tone of my voice is a critical part of my telling my wife, "I love you."

Ben said...

I don't quite disagree, but I think "reader response" is certainly more important. The reason is that the music we use in church isn't a conversation between our church and the author/composer. It's our half of a "conversation" with God. The composer isn't a party to that conversation.

In other words, if the Mormon Tabernacle Choir chief composer writes a piece of music that is intended to be used as praise of the Mormon God, but it is consistent with the Bible, and the music complements the message, then I would have no problem with its use in my church.

NeoFundy said...

Hmmmm...I guess when I speak of authorial intent, as regarding music, I am chiefly concerned with the "performer." Perhaps that explains some of our differences?

Keith said...

Am I overhearing fundamentalists (or paleoevangelicals or neofundamentalists or ?) having a cultural conversation?

Ben said...

Yeah Keith. This might not be pretty. You might not want to watch.

Ben said...


I'll agree with you that there can be a problem if the person singing in a church has a different objective from the congregation or its leadership.

Recorded music for personal listening is a different issue that introduces other variables, but I'm not really dealing with that question in the authorial intent of the original post.

Keith said...

Ow contrare Ben (that's French, I think -- the other happy fundamentalist, your friend Bob, probably knows how to spell it and pronounce it correctly) there's a reason people "rubber neck" at traffic accidents.


Chad said...

I agree with you that the arguement can go both ways. What is interesting is that people always use the terms that the music "goes against their consceinces." Where does it say in the Scripture that we can't change our consceince. Shouldn't we be doing that anyway? Shouldn't we be "renewing our minds?"

greg456 said...

"Hypothetically speaking, what if some people grew up in a hypocritical, legalistic, self-righteous, pharisaical atmosphere where hymns and gospel songs were sung? What if these people could do nothing other than associate those hymns and gospel songs with their bankrupt, anti-Christian religious heritage?"

Hey, it's about time you mentioned your family on your blog.