Chris and I (editor) have often spoken about the use of music in church. There are lots of aspects that can be discussed in this area and no doubt we will come back to some more of these in the future. The place that I want to begin at is the observation that ‘successful’ evangelical churches devote a lot of effort and money in providing a good choir and instrumentalists to lead worship. This will always be an attraction to the people who like the kind of music on offer. The tunes are catchy and it would not be wrong to say that many people find this ‘entertainment’ a good reason for attending a particular church. Without at this point making any judgement on the merit of the music or indeed the lyrics being sung, it would not be unfair to say that emotions are stirred and hearts are warmed by music in church long before the brain has been engaged with the message of the preacher or leader.
This reflection wants to focus on the possible disconnection between brain and emotion that takes place in many churches where endless singing and music during worship is commonplace. If there is this disconnection, and here the readers of the blog may have opinions, then there is a situation of true danger. The danger is that religion is permanently associated with spungy pleasant feelings aroused by sentimental music. Thus the engagement of the brain with issues of faith and decisions about life may never happen. In short religion or faith has become permanently associated with ‘feelings’ and the possibility of actually thinking about faith cannot easily take place.
Two further dangers follow from this. One is that the individuals who are swayed into automatic religious sensations and emotions when certain music is played are going to be vulnerable to the kinds of abuse that this blog is concerned about. The capacity to think critically about leaders, whether or not their preaching is good or even rational is going to be diminished. So congregations can become fodder for financial, spiritual and emotional exploitation by their leaders. What I have written is provocative but I want to create some sort of reaction from my readers. Is music sometimes used to ‘soften up’ worshippers for exploitation of various kinds or is it a genuine handmaid of growing deeper into faith and Christian maturity? What do you think?