Wednesday, February 13, 2008

The Music Diversion

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.


Cara Nilsen said...

I'm late in reading this post, but it's a great topic to address. I teach and substitute for high schoolers and find myself alarmed at how addicted they are to their portable music devices. A couple of times I have brought up the idea of fasting from their music since they display so many addictions behaviors. They plead and groan and pitch fits when I take them away during class time. It's something teens should really think about.

Dale Fincher said...

That is great, Cara! Keep on 'em!!

I have a youth leader taking students through my book right now where I challenge the 'fast.' And she's having the same reaction and feels like that's when real work starts to happen. It's good stuff!

Matt Hearn said...

I'm glad you posted on this. There is something to this. Don't know really what it is but music seems to have a strong hold on alot of us. I really love it, but from time to time I have to back off so I can hear the voice of God. Great insight.

From a fellow recovering PCC grad.


Dale Fincher said...

Matt... good to hear from you!

Your comment reminds me of the person who complained they never heard God's voice when they prayed. Then they were asked, "Well, do you ever stop talking?"

There is a time for music and a time for silence. Both are good.

But humans are really good at hiding behind 'good' things. And that's bad. :)

It's a real soul-searching question we have to pose to ourselves as well as to those we serve.

Like professional athletics, I think we've 'industrialized' this art form too much... and it is losing its soul. And we're often using it hide our own.

Just some thoughts.

Thomas said...

Some of our greatest music was written for the church. J.S. Bach wrote extensively for church services, most notably the Mass in B-Minor, the Magnificat, and many choral works. His best-known work, the Toccata in D-Minor, was written to test the organ's bellows. Most of his works were intended for one performance, but were of such quality that they remained popular to this day.