Monday, February 22, 2010

From the Wires

A violinist who plays for the Philharmonic, played for Messiah production last fall where I sang, and has been a running friend (we were supposed to run together at the aborted Bi-Lo Myrtle Beach Marathon XIII) noted Sarah Palin was "too angry to offer a coherent response" after she was mocked by "Family Guy" on February 14. I wasn't too happy with it either and applauded The O'Reilly Factor for Pinheads and Patriots on the February 15 episode -- the Patriot was Jamie McMurray, while the Pinhead was Family Guy.

My response:

"The character in question on Family Guy took a few shots at Sarah Palin that were over the line, so Mrs. Palin decided her daughter needed to help her too. And that made me wonder why they didn't take more time to fix the Daytona International Speedway -- Fox lost an hour of Sunday cartoons to the Daytona 500. It would have been better if McMurray fending off (Dale Earnhardt) Junior on Lap 208 was at 9:34 PM instead of 7:34 PM where Family Guy would never have aired."

Debate With Civility. At church recently I pointed out the troubles with the questionable song "Spirit in the Sky" by Norman Greenbaum. Instead of discussing the song, she pointed out instead that it was better to have people attend church with loud music, and nothing can be done with sacred song. Civility in a debate was lost since she went after things other than the issue discussed, and that was questionable content in a song. She defended the song by saying the virtues of teaching lies in church. ◙


  1. Regarding the Debate with Civility, yes the Norman Greenbaum version released in 1969 does have the phrase "Never been a sinner I never sinned". However the version that is being used by the church is a remake by DC Talk, released in March of 2000. DC Talk changed the lyrics, replacing the obviously inaccurate statement to read "You know I'm a sinner, we've all sinned". You were too busy stating "facts" in your discussion that you did not hear the truth. The song you were condemning was not the song in the children s performance. This is a link to the version that DC Talk remixed, Spirit in the Sky and is being used by the children s ministry. Just like the climate debate going on now, you got your facts to this situation wrong and even charged up the wrong hill in Copenhagen. Just because you have armed yourself with "facts" does not mean you are correct in your assumptions. Just like the quotes around the word facts, what you brought up about the 1969 version was factual. However, the issue of questionable content in a ministry was addressed and you chose not to listen to the answer. At that point concerns she had regarding your methods at conveying your facts were stated. As for the "nothing can be done with sacred song" statement you made, I am at a loss. I heard how it was stated and I read it here, but the inflection is different. This reads as if you think the 1969 song is sacred to her. But she stated that she can not perform sacred hymns because she would loose the intended audience, the children. This is a children's ministry, from 2 to 19, and each child is living in today's world. Good and bad home lives, school and play, they face this world of ever increasing noise geared to get their attention. If this God centered music can reach them, make them question this temporal life all the better. Then it is all of our responsibility to minister to them in love. In Acts 17, Paul spoke to the men of Athens about their many idols. He did this not in anger not in mocking tones, but in love. He spoke to them in a way they understood. Once they were listening to the Spirit in Paul, he explained who that unknown God was.

  2. I am aware of that phrase changed in some versions. The copyright holder for "Spirit in the Sky" changed in 2005 when Edgar Bronfman Jnr took over the ownership of the holder, now known as Warner Music Group.

    But it's not just "Never Been a Sinner, Never Sinned" that came to my attention. There are two other sections of the song that are also objectionable. Instead of calling Jesus who his is (the Christ, Saviour, and Lord), he is simply referenced as a friend, similar to many religions. There's also a works-based salvation message (violates Ephesians 2:8-9), pushing of some New Age mantras, and a violation of Revelations 21:27.

    The problems with theology in modern rock music is an issue with too many songs on the market today. It's not just one line. Mr. Greenbaum was Jewish and was never a Christian.

    The song, like many others, is designed to catch people by their emotions.

  3. To tell me the copyright holder for "Spirit in the Sky" is trivial.

    And again, this version does not contain the lyrics "Never Been a Sinner, Never Sinned". The song in question is song by DC Talk and has their changes in lyrics. If you would listen to the entire song that is being played you would hear that.

    Now if you have a problem with calling Jesus a friend, then you must have a problem with the classic hymns, "What a Friend We Have in Jesus" written by Jo­seph M. Scriv­en in 1855. Or how about Charles W. Fry who wrote “I Have Found A Friend in Jesus” as a Salvation Army hymn in 1881. This hymn is also known as “The Lily of The Valley.”

    As to a works-based salvation message, I will assume (a terrible thing to do) you are referencing the "Prepare yourself" lines of the song. How would you prepare yourself? Is that not what we all will have to do, prepare ourselves? If that is not correct please enlighten me as to what is the works-based message in the DC Talk version of this song.

    Yes Mr. Greenbaum is Jewish and was never a Christian. However according to the Wiki page Spirit in the Sky, he did it after watching Porter Wagner sing a gospel song on TV. He also stated that he had no particular religious intentions with the song. His was a strictly financial gain decision. But as in Genesis 50:20, "You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives" (NIV).

    We now live in a headline society, very few research issues. As I said in my first response, children are under a daily barrage of information trivial or not to get their attention. With increased media formats, the number of new songs being released yearly has got to be a much higher number than 100 years ago. I can't quote any sources nor will I attempt to locate them, but it only stands to reason it is more. Our chances of getting the attention of anyone let alone children is a slim number.

    This is not the only form of theology that the children or anyone should have. So does this all come down for your distaste of loud music? That's ok if it is, not everyone can listen to loud music. But for those that do, we listen and praise God for the message. Like any Johannes Brahms work, any song or music has got to be full of emotion. What makes a great Beethoven piece great? That is the raw emotion of hearing the music, feeling the swirling of melody or to hear the moody sound or anger come forth. Yes this DC Talk version of Spirit in the Sky catches people by their emotions, so is that a bad thing? Is hearing Amazing Grace, a song that releases emotions from Christian and non-Christian alike a bad thing?

    This all started when you assumed the Spirit in the Sky song being played was from 1969. In that you are wrong, it is a remix from 2000 by DC Talk. Please listen to or read the lyrics and you will see it is not the wrong song you think.

  4. My problem with extremely loud music in churches (>100 dB) deals with common sense. Exposure to excessively loud volume causes permanent damage. I also have a brother who is a pediatrician. At 12 I learned to prepare hearing protection at events. When you're bombarded with 100dB music for 45 minutes how can you concentrate on the sermon? Furthermore, can you her any message in a song if the volume is over 100 decibels?

    For reference, the rule book for the NASCAR K&N Pro Series states all tracks with noise limits will have those enforced. The rule regulates noise level from 100 feet, which is 80-90 decibels according to those tracks.

    Are people saying that it is perfectly tolerable for churches to offer 100-decibel (from 100 feet) church services when it's not even legal at race tracks?

    Also, John MacArthur warned in an article about church music that it was turning towards emotions, and against its goal of teaching. I have sensed this problem over the years. To say such a flawed song is appropriate in church makes no sense.

  5. You are making a presumption, that the music is over 100dB. While you admit to wearing hearing protection do you know the decibel level of the performance? Do you assume since you think it is loud that it must be excessive?

    Again, you state facts, but without correlating evidence.

    Again, the start of this was a children's ministry production being held at a local theater. A particular song was being used and you objected to the original version of it. Going off on tangents, not once did you say you listened to the song in its entirety. The reference you make to John MacArthur links not only modern music but hymns or gospel music that have been around for close to 100 years. So are these other songs inappropriate in church?

    This sounds too much like a personal vendetta. You have repeatedly attacked the music at this church. Our music at church is 15 minutes of a service, 20 to 30 minutes is the sermon, and the rest is announcements and prayers. You have made these comments on a blog, to the world, speaking as one in authority. But I say look to 2 Corinthians 10:17-18; "“Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.” For it is not the one who commends himself who is approved, but the one whom the Lord commends".

    This conversation is finished. See you Sunday at church!

  6. Wow. This is one of the reasons I don't usually discuss worship and liturgy and music on my blog.

    I don't know what church you're referring to here, but I'm Catholic and we have similar conversations which also get very heated.

    However, what we know is this: music should glorify God, and it should help us to transcend this earth in being uplifted to Him. I work in a church, coordinating several children and teen programs, and have found that quiet beauty versus racous guitar riffs tends to better focus them, helps them to learn, and brings them up to God as opposed to forcing them to learn a dionysian form of worship.

    I do see value, with teens, in using some contemporary Christian music, in meeting them where they are in the cacaphony of the world, redirecting it, and then softening it until they are READY for prayer and silence.

    But that's different than using loudness and guitars and drums, blasting out ear drums in the name of God, turning worship into entertainment, making it self-focused instead of God-oriented.

    The words of the song aren't the only issue to consider in worship music. The other thing to consider is true universality, goodness of form, and theological accuracy.

    I can say very clearly that when I go to Mass every week, I want to be taken out of this world and raised up to God, which isn't the same thing as being comfortable or entertained.

    I DO love loud music in my car, however, and while walking my dogs, etc.

    There is a time and a place for everything, but I would suggest that the Mass, or any other church worship service is not the place to sing/play loud music which tends towards the Dionysian and less towards Christ.

    My 2 cents.


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