Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Is “Contemporary” Church Music a Good Example of Inculturation?

Today, I have an article under this title over at OnePeterFive. Some excerpts:
          It seems that the missionaries who went to the New World were able to take up elements of the culture of the people they encountered, including something from their music. Vatican II tells us that we should do the same thing wherever the Gospel is preached. Why can we not take up elements of today’s popular culture around us, such as rock or pop styles of music, and turn them into vehicles for evangelizing our contemporaries?
          My answer—at least as far as the realm of the liturgy is concerned—is a resounding no, for the following reasons.
          Inculturation, correctly understood, is the process of carefully discerning and integrating harmonious elements of an indigenous culture into the teaching and practice of the Faith, so as to make the Faith at home in a culture. In this way the people to whom it is being introduced experience it not as something completely foreign to them but as something that completes and elevates the good already present in their midst. . . .
          Today’s Westerners, in contrast, are post-Christian aliens, estranged from their own history and the great cultural synthesis that could and should be theirs. The history of modern music, whether atonal or jazz or rock or pop, is a history of deliberate rebellion and revolt against the great tradition of Western music, against its high art forms, its slowly developed musical language, its explicitly or implicitly Christian message. In its origins and its inner meaning, much of modern Western music is a rejection of the Catholic (and European) tradition. As a result, it is not morally, intellectually, or culturally “neutral”; it is already laden with an anti-institutional, anti-sacral, anti-traditional significance. This music is not naïve raw material waiting to be Christianized, but highly articulate anti-Christian propaganda. It rejects the ideals of lofty beauty and grandeur, spiritual seriousness, evocation of the divine, openness to the transcendent, and artistic discipline, in favor of vapidity, frivolity, profanity, sensuality, and banality. 
Read the rest at OnePeterFive.

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