I've been saying for a while that music is the #1 drug of choice among teens today. You'll also find this in chapter 1 of Living with Questions.
And when challenging teens to get serious about God, they are eager on the front of their seats. Many want to know how to love him more. But when I ask them to see what it's like to go without their music for one day, the groans begin. "No way!" you'll hear whispered. And some find the task too insurmountable to be realistic.
This is the hard work of following Jesus, to put aside the diversions we use to in the place of Jesus, to whip up our emotional life, distract us from the difficulties, and make us feel 'normal.' This is what addiction is like, and it happens with drugs, sex, and, yes, even something as legal and as celebrated as music.
The New York Times released an article last week called, "Under the influence of.... Music?"
The article highlights the negative messages on the musical airwaves today and the immediate access students have to those messages through MP3 players. Studies show that 90% of American teens have some sort of portable music machine.
What the article failed to mention was the strong addiction music itself can be, apart from the negative messages. In fact, even positive messages in music can be an addiction. For many, it isn't about the message, it's how the song makes us feel as a diversion to the difficulties of life.
If you mentor students or are a parent, challenge your teens to consider a 'music fast' for a day. Then maybe two days. Then maybe a week. Once the addiction and habit is broken, once they begin to understand the real tools to handle life's difficulties and unwanted emotions, then music has less of a hold. In fact, I suspect they would actually listen to it a lot less because it just won't offer the 'satisfaction' it once did.
At least this is what happened to me. It's refreshing to be free of it. Not only do I not 'crave' it like I once did, but I've also cultivated more skills in understanding and critiquing the art form itself. I get more pleasure out of well-crafted and meaningful musics. And find it much easier to turn off the disposable music that parades itself as art.
When addressing music addiction in the church, then we might see a different approach to worship in the church. We might put aside the instruments and speakers that drown out the voices of the Body. We might consider a selectivity to fill the room with better art and healthy music that would make the Psalmist smile.