Let’s think about a situation: your employer invites you to a special, award-ceremony banquet in which your elite company, a leader in the business world, is going to award some here-anonymous soldier for heroism on the battle-field and an act of valor beyond the call of duty in which he died saving his comrades. It is to take place at a five-star ball-room of a five-star hotel. True glitz. Chandeliers. Bellboys. French-looking guys dressed in tuxedos performing as maître d's. In other words, this is upper crust stuff for upper crust people, for an upper crust (and altogether worthy and honorable) event.
You show up in sneakers, sweat-pants, and an Aeropostale t-shirt.
Let’s think about another situation: it’s your wedding anniversary. You’ve now been married to the woman you love and to whom you have given yourself for one, three, nine, twenty or however many years it has been. This is the person to whom you should show your devotion, kindle your love, and to whom you should show your deepest admiration and love. She has been a blessing beyond blessings in your life and you know it. She is the most precious gift you have ever received from God’s goodness. You should show her your appreciation of her constant, and tender love for you.
So, to do this, you take her to McDonald’s and get her a Big Mac in the drive thru.
There is just one more scenario we need to consider in comparison with the previous two: It’s Sunday. You go to Mass, the reliving of the Passion, death, and Resurrection of the God who loved us into existence, loved us through our sins, and loved us, literally, to death—His death—on the cross, with all the sufferings man has experienced magnified in His humanity. At this Mass, you receive God into your soul, the God you made in love out of nothing, and, by His love, keeps you at each moment of your life from returning back into nothingness. This God humbles Himself to look like bread and wine, even though He knows this will cause a lack of reverence and devotion due to lack of belief in the amazingness of it. But He loves us enough to do it anyway, to be with us always. This God loves you infinitely more than all the love of anyone who has ever love you put together.
So you show up and rock out to a “folk Mass” and “Christian” rock music.
Do you see the similarity in these three situations? You might notice a similarity between the first two; but why bring in the third? you ask. How does Christian rock music at Mass compare with the inappropriateness of the other two scenarios? Simple. It’s ignoring what is due and replacing it with something that caters to one’s own personal taste, comfort, and most significantly, “feelings.” It, like the other two cases, is a situation of feeling over obligation.
In the first case, the fallen soldier deserves our respect for the ultimate sacrifice he made in service to the people of his country, to you, in the sweatpants and t-shirt. So an occasion in his honor demands that one go out of his way to show proper respect in his deportment and dress at the occasion. Showing up in the disrespectful sneaker/sweatpants is disrespect of the dead and borders on blasphemy against a human person, if such a thing existed.
In the second case, as your lovely wife (and she should be lovely to you, the more you know her), she deserves your signs of love and devotion. She has given herself to you to be loved in a genuine and other-centered manner, and in so doing gave you all of her love in that same genuine and other-centered way. She loves you in a such a way that her love for you never considers herself, because you are the center of her love. You know this and you should love her the same way. Showing this love is done by giving her the best gift you can give her when the occasion calls for it; something that befits the depth and level of your love and reflects it in the energy expended to acquire this gift. Thus, McDonald’s drive thru brings your sign of love and devotion to the level of a four bucks and a greasy hamburger.
Finally, with Christian rock music everywhere, but especially at Mass, there is a similar, yet more grave, disregard for the respect, honor, and love due. Rock music caters to our passions and our emotions. It caters to them like any catering company caters to its customers: it feeds and gluts them. Rock music in general is a music that is particularly self-centered. It easily becomes the focus of our activity. At Mass, our focus should be God. We should be elevating ourselves the best we can towards Him. With rock music at Mass, we not only impede our souls being elevated to God, but actually pull our souls earth-ward and try to pull God down to our level. That is akin to blasphemy. Why is Gregorian chant the official music of the Church? Because it is centered on God, not only lyrically, but, also musically. Though Christian rock music may be centered on God lyrically, it overwhelmingly centers itself musically on our human passions. This type of music does not elevate the mind to God, but creates a focus on the physical passions.
A good test to determine whether or not a worship song or music type is appropriate for worship, is to remove the lyrics and listen only to the music. Is the music, once the lyrics are removed, conducive to worship and glorifying God? Does the music, on its own, raise the mind to God? If not, it is not worship music, and should not be used to praise God. If the lyrics were to be removed from all the Christian rock songs that are currently the rave, would the music of these songs raise the minds of their listeners closer to God? I don’t think so. I think they would rock out to the music, just as they would to Bon Jovi, Linkin Park, or One Republic. Acceptable form of giving praise to God? I think not.
What right has man to pull God down to this earthly, merely human level? In all the ways of naming man’s relationship to God, there is no name that suggests that this could be acceptable: Creator/creature, Savior/saved, Redeemer/redeemed, and the list goes on. All these names suggest a relationship of total dependence and necessary gratitude on the part of man with God, a relationship that must recognize its place below God not as a place for God to be pulled down to as if He were our equal, but rather as a good to be fulfilled by trying to reach up to God. We must try to be like God, not make God be like us. If that means going out of ourselves to sing music to Him that does not immediately gratify our emotions and passions and senses, then so be it. The music we make for God should be the best music we can make. In order to make this kind of music, we must come out of ourselves and what feels good to us and think only of what could give all the glory to God. Let’s not consider ourselves anymore when we worship God; let’s rather consider God.