It is nearly impossible to go anywhere or do anything these days unaccompanied by a soundtrack. Sometimes I wish they’d just turn off the music.
I mean, I don’t really need to hear the latest hit blaring out of a two-inch speaker at the pump where I get gas.
More often than not, I’d rather just talk to my meal mates than try to shout over the rhythm and bass blaring from the restaurant sound system.
And I suspect the upbeat tempos I hear in most grocery and department stores have been scientifically proven to prompt more sales.
But I’ve decided this is a losing battle. Our culture seems compelled to add musical accompaniment to every activity. An August National Public Radio segment, “Your Songs for the Delivery Room,” convinced me I’m just out-of-sync.
The network’s All Things Considered had asked listeners to tell about the music they listened to while they gave birth. Evidently, in the 30-plus years since my kids were born, a “delivery playlist” has become a requirement.
For sure, some of the responses made me smile. A top choice was “Push It,” a pulsing tune from a hip-hop group called Salt-N-Pepa. Others chose “I Want to Be Sedated” by The Ramones, “King of Pain” by The Police, or “Ring of Fire” by Johnny Cash.
Maura Welch of Manhattan, Kansas, said the “rousing and joyful overture” to the opera Carmen was playing just as her son was born. She also remembers a day two years later when the same music was playing and the toddler remarked, “I don’t really like that song. It always gives me a headache.”
I’m with ya, buddy. Even though I love music, much of the racket assailing my eardrums whenever I leave the house makes my head ache too. And all of this led me to think again about the role of music in our churches.
Never mind the arguments about what kind of music we should be using. Instead, I’m wondering why we must always use any music at all. Why not try a worship service with no music for a change? Or, in any service, why not introduce periods of silence following a Scripture reading—for personal reflection and application? How would we grab attention and prompt thought with quiet instead of the sound system’s assault?
Maybe we’re just being culturally sensitive to turn on the music every time people gather for worship. Why shouldn’t church be like every other venue they visit? A good question, which leads to a second: Why shouldn’t we—at least sometimes—make worship compelling because it’s unlike anything else the world throws at us?