Originally posted on http://digitaldiatribes.wordpress.com on February 8, 2008.
Late last year I completed a Catholic Rock CD. Now, bear with the short marketing schtick, but please check it out here at CD Baby or here at DigStation. Even if you’re not ready to buy, CD Baby is pretty cool because they allow you to listen to a couple minutes of each song. You can either order direct from them or download the music. DigStation doesn’t offer quite as long a clip, but you can download from there at a little less cost, I believe. If you’d rather buy direct from me, then just e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Seriously, I know that everyone has choices to make with their money, and I appreciate any support. If cost is an issue, send me an e-mail and we’ll work something out. I’m not in this to make tons of money, and I appreciate interest. I’m serious about that.
So, that’s the marketing plug. But some of you may be wondering about this whole “Catholic Rock” thing. You’re not alone. Some of my good friends – good people and devout Catholics – haven’t exactly rushed to my door and bought a copy (some have – thanks, guys!) Now, lest you think I’m complaining, I am not. Everyone has their own preferences, and I knew that the Catholic Rock genre isn’t much more than a niche market. Thus, I am posting about it and hopefully drawing some attention via the internet when people search for Catholic Rock Music!
Anyway, I know one of the issues. It’s this whole Rock beat thing. Some are convinced it’s evil, demonic, what have you. And it’s not just strictly Catholic Rock. They would say the same about all Christian Rock, or secular rock. The theory being, I guess, that the beat itself is inherently bad, and everything it touches, Catholic or otherwise, is poisoned.
I am here to suggest, with the invaluable help of some recent articles by Mark Shea in the National Catholic Register (December 2007), that such thinking is faulty. Mr. Shea suggests that it is the kind of thinking that blinded the Pharisees. Since he can say it much better than I can, I urge those of you who have struggled with this question (as well as other questions about how in the world the Church can use candles in ceremonies like the pagans did, or other such things) to read the following three columns: Pharisaic Purity, A Christian Approach to Purity, and Sterility and Fruitfulness. It is worth the time.
In my own bumbling way, I’ll try to summarize his point, which is one I have always agreed with but couldn’t completely explain why I agreed with it. Let me start with a short excerpt from his final article:
“The other day I heard a woman on the radio call a priest because a relative of hers said that going to see a card-tricks-and-rabbit-from-a-hat magic show would “open her” to the demonic (the good Father assured the caller this was rubbish).
There are Christians who fear spiritual contamination from yoga exercises that involve absolutely no invocation of pagan deities or non-Christian spiritual elements. According to them, mere adoption of a yoga posture is somehow going to “open you” to the power of fallen angels.
There are Christians who believe Christian rock is demonic.”
This last line, of course, most applies to this post. But what is Mr. Shea getting at? A quick synopsis is this: Back in the day, the Pharisees were under a worldview of “bad contaminates good.” Thus, all the rituals of purification whenever anything “unclean” came in contact with something “clean.” I will forego the countless examples of this, but that’s the general idea. The result of this thought is that evil actually conquers goodness. That evil has the power to contaminate all that is good.
But then Christ came and turned all this upside-down. Christ actually touched the leper, and clean conquered the unclean. Good conquered the bad. Christ showed us that you can take something that is flawed and purify it, and use it for good. The Church, in many ways, have adopted material things or symbols throughout the centuries, and purified them. They have used things that were previously used for evil purposes and now use them to help point to Christ.
This kind of thing freaks people out. Since some item was used by pagans, they think, the item itself is bad. The symbol itself is bad. The music itself is bad. The dance itself is bad. But that is not true. The fact that people use things for evil purposes does not make the things they used an evil thing. It means that the purpose was evil. We still eat apples (or figs, or whatever fruit it was) despite Adam’s and Eve’s use of the fruit to bring about the fall of man, for crying out loud.
And so, the discussion turns to Catholic Rock. It’s not everyone’s cup of tea. I understand that. I am not suggesting it be played at Mass. But, darn it, if somebody like Rock music and there is a Catholic alternative, then I am confident in saying it is lightness and not darkness. Yes, I know that the “beat” has been used for secular purposes (some worse than others). Yes, I know that people have linked secular rock music with sex and drugs. But, like the Pharisees, the idea that the beat contaminates a song about Christ is upside-down. Christ purifies the music. He understands that people have different tastes. He understands that some music will reach different people in different ways. He ain’t afraid to use it. And neither am I.
So, all you Catholics who have wondered about secular rock, and how such a thing could be rightly used for Catholic music – wonder no more. Again, I encourage a read of Mark Shea’s columns. He says it better than I. And it makes perfect sense. I am indebted to his insight.
Catholics are very appreciative of the sacred in a traditional sense. And I think that’s great. My issue is not that we should not have a sense of awe of the sacred. It is not that we should not appreciate the sacred forms of music, and use them in our worship. My issue is with the person who thinks that, when I’m riding in my car or listening to my IPod, that if it isn’t Gregorian Chant, then I’m somehow sinning. Mark Shea has it right when he compares such an attitude to that of the Pharisees.
Also, to my non-Catholic friends… Be not afraid of the Catholicity of the music. Please give it a listen. Most songs are not overtly Catholic, though a couple are. As a Catholic, I listen to a lot of Christian music, even though at times it can deviate from Catholic teaching slightly. Overall, the message is pure and I appreciate the love of God that comes through in that music. I would hope you would give my music the same opportunity.
Hey, I’ll even take pity purchases. Feel sorry for a struggling Catholic artist in a niche market! And, by the way, if you e-mail me, I will also agree to forward part of the dollars from the purchase to a trusted charity that both of us can agree to support.