Music and the emotions have long been seen as "entry points" into the spiritual journey. In this beautiful, grungy essay Daniel Gullotta shares with us some of his passion for music and for the spiritual. Is contemporary music a-spiritual, or even satanic and destructive of the human spirit, or does it offer something of spiritual value?
Brothers and Sisters, are you ready to rock?
Music, in my opinion, is a key part of any type of worship service. Despite being somewhat tone-deaf I love singing, especially loud at Church. I am also one of those sadly embarrassing people who clap whenever we get the chance. However, this is all because of two simple truths, I love God and I love music about God. If you were to browse through my CD collection or scroll down my media-player you would find everything from Gregorian chants, medieval hymns, acoustic praise, rock n roll, pop, metal and many other unexpected styles of music. Because of this, I want to share with you lovely people at Catholica some of my favourite albums, bands, songs and ultimately what I love about devotional music. It might help you understand me a little better, introduce you to what I think is fantastic music, or just simply see how much music is changing or has changed. So brothers and sisters, are you ready to rock?
Never Out with the Old…
Despite what many people might find, many youthful Christians don't actually mind hymns. In fact, if they are anything like me, we actually enjoy them … when they are done well. With a skilled organist and a powerful choir, some of those ancient classics can make the hairs on my neck stand! However, I have a soft spot for Gregorian chants. I find them moving and inspiring. There is a certain amount of mystery and devotion in the sound that I cannot explain. In a dark room or chapel lit only by candles, with a Gregorian chant playing the background, you cannot help but feel the Spirit surge within you. I have found them really helpful with the youth group I lead as well. Once a term, we perform some kind of worship. However, none of these kids go to traditional church or church at all. I did not want this to be like some scary evangelical concert. Nothing of the sort. I wanted something to so the kids that what we were entering was sacred. The kids really enjoyed it and tell me when they are looking to the next one. One of them asked for my Chant CD which I burnt and now she is introducing me to new ones!
Daniel's Traditional Picks
O Come O Come Immanuel
I became a Christian when I was fifteen, and joined the Catholic Church. I had never really heard any modern worship songs as my parish only used traditional hymns. However, when I was 16 I was invited to go on a Youth Camp called Emmaus. There I learned how great music could be in praising God. Some of them were songs I knew and sang at my home parish, but with electric guitars, bass, drums and with youthful voices. Some of these songs were fast, some were slow and some remain my favourites. I love singing them and they always get me in the mood to worship. It is these songs and this type of music I would love to introduce churches to. Sadly, many churches don't know how much talent is on offer in their own midst. They are easy to learn and a lot of fun. From what musicians tell me they are also dead-simple to play. Look into some of them if you can.
Daniel's Modern Music Picks
These are the Days
Battle of the Bands…
After the Emmaus Youth Camp, I went on a hunt for bands to get into. Thanks to many new-found friends they introduced me to a great range of bands that I always love to put on and listen to. Also, when it came to bands, they weren't just for worship but some of them told a story. They didn't always praise God, but they dared to question him, get angry with and explore what it meant to be a Christian in the modern world. I was shocked by some of their lyrics, such as P.O.D.'s reference to the Columbine school shooting and how D.C. Talk dared to ask "What will people think when they hear that I'm a Jesus Freak?" I love these bands, and if you haven't heard them, search them, buy an album and just let the music wash over you. Some of them are loud and proud, some are fast and heart racing and some are slow and soulful. Enjoy!
On a different note, I am fearful of the direction modern popular music is taking. It's amazing to see how violent, sexual, and explicit the lyrics are. I don't want to appear as some kind of hysterical concerned preacher, but I am concerned. The images do stick, and the lyrics are remembered. What are the kids taking in? What are they seeing? But more so, surrounded by this music, what can a Christian do? Ignore it? Embrace? Fight it? It is still an issue I am trying to get my head around. However I want to share with you my favourite Christian song. It is by D.C. Talk and it is called Jesus Freak.
The term Jesus Freak originally began as an insult to those who were devout Christians during the late 1960s. With the freedom within the Hippie movement, such as sex, music, and drugs, many young people didn't give into the social change and held stead-fast to Christianity. Soon, they quickly embraced the term and became a sub-culture of their own. It was and is used as positive term to let other people know that they are not ashamed of their beliefs. One of the most well-known usages of the term comes from Elton John's song "Tiny Dancer" ("Jesus freaks, out in the street, handing tickets out for God,"), and the term has also appeared in Felt's 1986 single "Ballad of the Band".
"What will people think when they hear that I'm a Jesus Freak?
This is my favourite song. In High School, I was bullied and picked on a lot for being a Christian. I was called a lot of names, one of them being 'Jesus Freak'. Some people found it amazing that I was, and I made friends because of my convictions. However, I am still here. So far, unmoved in my Christian ways.
Being a Christian and being young is a difficult tightrope. I want to study as hard as I can and learn as much as I can. However I want to be able to connect with my fellow young Christians. Sometimes I wonder why I am doing theology at all because I can remember a friend telling me "there be dragons…" Once you start being critical of your faith, you can never go back to a simple faith or a blind one. I remember when I took things more literally, more simply. However when it comes to songs, there is a lot of bad, incorrect, and even heretical views in many of the songs and hymns we sing today.
The song writers of the past have drawn on their times and to write lyrics that can change the minds and enter the hearts of millions. Today, the Spirit I believe is calling young people to do the same. Now, singing and playing is not a talent the good Lord gave me, but I do love singing at church, so loud that the oldies at the back frown a little, and the younger ones chuckle. Why? Because I am proud to be a Jesus Freak!
What are your thoughts on this commentary?