THE THEOLOGICAL PREMISES
- IMPORTANT POINT: To say that some action, event, or thought universally detracts from everyone’s relationship with God is to say that action, event, or thought is sinful. This is what sin is: a rupturing of, in a minor or major way, one’s relationship with God.
- The Catholic Church, though Scriptures, Tradition, and the Magisterium, has declared certain actions, etc. as sinful.
- i.e. Choosing to murder someone, no matter the subjective or cultural situation, is always wrong, since it always ruptures a person’s relationship with God.
- However, when we begin to take other events, actions, or thoughts that the Church has not declared as sins, and to assign them the definition of sin, we are dealing with one of two things:
- actions that are specific to contemporary times, i.e. driving your car too fast or cyber bullying: the Counsel of Nicea could not deal with these; or
- subjectively creating new form of moralities. We are imposing ethical standards that are our own. At the very least, this is wrong; on another level, we are drifting from our Catholic faith; and on a different level, we are being bad evangelists.
- This is exactly what you are doing when you say that Metallica always affects in a negative way a person’s relationship with God.
- We could get angry or at least fed up, and rightfully so, at a Catholic who says, “Well, the Church says that’s a sin, but I don’t think so. It’s fine for me; it doesn’t adversely affect my relationship with God.” In quite the reverse form, but equally incorrect, you’re saying, “Well the Church doesn’t say it’s a sin, but I think so. The Church doesn’t say it adversely affects everyone’s relationship with God, but I think it does.” The first speaker is a cafeteria Catholic; the second is either egotistical or poorly informed; either way, he is not acting Christianly, just as the first man is not.
- Please note: What I wrote above does NOT mean I can’t say: “Most people are negatively affected by Metallica;” “As a parent, I don’t want my kids listening to Metallica;” “Let’s make a commitment not to listen to Metallica;” “If so-and-so asked me if he should give up listening to Metallica, I would say yes,” etc. I’m not saying I agree with all of these statements; I’m simply saying that my earlier statements aren’t contradictory to these.
- Final theological point: You may say, “Well, you say Metallica is usually not good for people, and I say it always is. Isn’t that close? Aren’t we almost saying the same thing?” No, and one of my most important points is this: Our different conclusions, while they look similar, have extremely different ethical foundations; and this is important to note. Your premises, stated or not, are:
- A genre of music or a specific band can be labeled as intrinsically wrong/evil
- (and this is more incorrect) We can use our opinions of things to create ethical boundaries not supplied us by Mother Church. This is wrong.
- I firmly believe that you hold your values about music on good faith; I also firmly believe that they are based on insufficient theological foundations, developed on account of your social background (growing up in the POH and having a conversion in and through the POH), and a few examples that aren’t good enough for a real survey, let alone a moral belief.
- The specific affectation of music is relative and cultural. This simply means that music’s affect on us will have greatly to do with our cultural, social, and chronological background (living in the 90’s as opposed to the 20’s).
- IMPORTANT ANALOGY/EXAMPLE: The Beatles: When the Beatles came out, people probably had your exact same argument: “Hey, I’m not exactly saying the Beatles are “intrinsically evil,” but they CAN’T have a positive or neutral affect on anyone --- and that’s a fact.” And guess what? There may have seemed legitimate reasons to hold to this argument: in their mind, everyone who listened to the Beatles and went to concerts did drugs, rebelled, left the Church, etc. The argument above seemed reasonable. And perhaps it may have been best to not let kids listen to the Beatles (although I’m not saying I definitely believe that). However, this same music does not have the same affect on us today. Do you see the point? It isn’t the BEATLES MUSIC that is or was evil, wrong, or HAD to affect people’s relationship with God in an adverse way. Instead, it was the affect the music had on kids of the 60’s. We wouldn’t say that the Beatles music MUST affect people adversely, even if it may have seemed that way. From a distance --- 40-50 years --- we can now see that it was the culture, the times, the society, etc. that had the poor affect. And yes, it had to do with the music --- I agree with that --- but it was the “way it affected the people then” that is important, good, or bad --- not the music itself. [If you don’t like the Beatles example, replace them with Simon and Garfunkle or the Beach Boys, for I’m sure people had the same argument against them.]
- Music does have positive and negative effects; it is extremely powerful. However, the way to deal with it in a Christian way is NOT to label groups or genres as evil simply because it looks like that or we really think it is or it’s a strongly held opinion; as I said before, this act is in essence UN-Catholic. We can’t make up morality.
- [PS: Music doesn’t fit into our Christian sense of sin --- not exactly at least. Why? Because sin comes in the form of an action, thought, or failure to act; and one of these three things ruptures our relationship with God; and it is this rupture that is evil. Therefore, music can’t be evil in and of itself. It is the act of listening to it that can be evil; and listening to it is evil only insofar as it ruptures our relationship with God.]
- Below are three examples. Please note that my examples don’t PROVE my argument --- just as opposing examples don’t disprove me. They are here simply to show you that my rather abstract points above make some practical sense in the world.
- Example 1: Jimmy from Florida. Jimmy was a sophomore at FSU; he had had a deep conversation to Christ his freshmen year. When I met him, he was developing his prayer life, going to Mass daily, etc. I remember coming home from a Spirit Night with him in his car. He threw the radio on, blasting some pretty hard music. My initial instinct was to judge or question him, thinking in my mind, “Wow, I guess he isn’t too converted yet. In time, in time…” I was extremely convicted later that I had it wrong. At the moment in his personal walk with Christ, the music he was listening to was NOT rupturing his relationship with God, despite the fact that when I heard the specific kind of music I automatically thought of druggies, prostitutes, and Satanists. As Jimmy grew spiritually that year, he ended up telling me he felt convicted to not listen to as much music. As his relationship with God changed, so did his relationship with the world. He felt called to give up some of his music, but in the same way that Tom Appert said God might call him to give up classical music. There’s nothing intrinsically wrong with either; there’s nothing universally negative about either. It’s about a person’s walk with Christ.
- Example 2: Miller. I lived with Miller for a year. Now Miller likes some heavy crap. Without ever putting the stuff on myself, I got a decent dose of stuff WAY heavier than Metallica. Do I think it was good for Miller? That’s irrelevant, and I hope you understand that. My point is elsewhere. For me, Metallica used to raise in me scenes of rebellion, drugs, sex, violence, etc. Now, quite frankly, a lot of it seems trite, silly, cute, twangy, and immature. It doesn’t hold those long held feelings like it used to. What’s my point? Once again, it’s how the music affects you that is important, and how it affects you has to do with every single person. If I run into a Metallica song on the radio, I don’t always leave it on; but at times I do. Do I listen to much of it? Hardly any. But that’s because I feel the Lord has called me to other things, in the same way that 5 years down the road He may ask me to give up some of the music I listen to now. But I can listen to a song on the radio and enjoy it; bottom line. It’s as if we that grew up and had conversions in and through the POH have some negative nostalgia about the sound of Metallica and like bands. But that’s not objective or universal; and it won’t always last.
- Example 3: My Mom. Unlike your family, we talked a lot of the YA rules out, a major one being music. My Mom always witnessed to us. She told us that she had a conversion and continued listening to Simon and Garfunkle (S&G). At one point, she realized that the music was making her sad, and her sadness was not a sadness that was bringing her towards God. Even before she met the POH, she gave up S&G. At that moment, the community’s rule made absolute sense. I can’t blame her one bit for thinking it was absolutely true. However, even before the POH revamped their teaching, my Mom came to her own, newer conclusion. She realized that S&G wasn’t wrong in itself; it wasn’t wrong for her to listen to it. Earlier, it probably helped her relationship with God to give it up entirely, but that was a specific moment. Now, she doesn’t listen to S&G all the time; I’m not even sure she has a CD. But she will ask us to turn it up if we’re listening to it; and she even has her favorite S&G song as a ringer. To her, the POH’s revamping, once again, made complete sense. It wasn’t extremely unreasonably for her to claim S&G was intrinsically wrong; but at the same time, she realized it had no theological foundation; last, she realized it didn’t completely make sense, at least once she was in a different situation and life-state.
- I share these examples with you to counter your examples. Remember, examples don’t prove anything; they simply help convince people that certain abstract principles make sense in practical life. I urge you to consider these examples whenever you consider the few you cling to so strongly.
- I hope you don’t take this the wrong way. Sometimes I’m bitter in speech or writing. I don’t intend to be. This is simply a topic that I have thought and prayed on a lot. It got on my nerves that someone from the younger generation still wanted to label non-objective things with objective labels: “always wrong,” or “always harmful,” etc. I understand that some of the older generation will never be convinced; but I’m very disheartened if those of the younger generation can’t.
- Feel free to respond. However, if you do, please don’t simply counter with other examples. You really need to get at the heart of the theological battle at hand (see points 3-6).
- Please don’t take my next and last point as a snide criticism of the community. I have learned to love Christ through the POH. The POH has more men and women that love and live for God than I have ever seen. And I believe in the POH. It is my love for the POH that leads me to my last point.
- When it comes down to it, we need to learn from our mistakes. The community has in the past made very objective claims about non-objective things: “It’s wrong for a boy to wear shorts.” Music, while something that should always be discussed and monitored, still falls under this tendency of going outside of our ethical bounds for the sake of keeping the faith strong. However, at the end of the day, if you’re out of your ethical bounds, you’ve drifted from the faith.
PS At a different time, we can discuss why the POH’s teaching came about; there are plenty of cultural reasons for its inception and people’s cleaving to it.