Classical Music (or lack of) in Church Culture

I just finished reading Chasing Francis by Ian Morgan Cron. Cron is an Episcopal pastor with a interesting postmodern/emergent/liturgical slant. In this pseudo-novel, the main character is a successful American mega-church pastor who goes through a crisis of faith. He spends much of the book trekking across Italy tracing the life and thoughts of St. Francis. I appreciate that he admits up front that the book isn’t much of a novel or much of a thought-out piece on ecclesiolgy. Nevertheless, I enjoyed the book even if a lot of it was pretty contrived.

One fakey part I have to point out though. During one chapter our evangelical mega-church pastor has a conversation with a young woman who happens to be a professional cello player. This is the vehicle the book uses to discuss aesthetics. Anyway, during the conversation, our hero mentions that he enjoys the music of Arvo Pärt. Wait a minute! Stop the tape! I’ve known a lot of American evangelical pastors. And with almost no exceptions, not a single one of these guys could tell you the difference between Mozart and Beethoven, let alone claim to be a fan of the minimalist Estonian composer. I remember writing a paper on Arvo in university. He’s written some fascinating music, making extensive use of harmonics in his orchestration. I couldn’t find a real nice example to post here. Sadly, I don’t own any recordings of his works. Here is a something though from YouTube. Pardon the cheesy photo montage.

Anyway, I’ve spent the last two years being drawn toward our local reformed congregation. They have a thriving church here. Some of the following I can only see in hindsight now. Anyway, I’m not directly involved with them now. The thing is, it wasn’t that I was enamored with Calvinism, it was simply the higher culture of many of the people in the congregation, especially some of the leadership. I was so sick of hearing every January sermon laced with Super-Bowl references. I was tired of loving classical music and having the only thing on my pastor’s musical radar be the latest Casting Crowns album. Now I know Christ is neither high-brow nor low-brow. He is neither Vouvray nor Bud Light (nor Pepsi for that matter). The pastor who knows Bach inside out is not higher spiritually than the one who loves NASCAR. Frankly though, I don’t really want to hang out with the racing fan all day. I think he feels the same way about me.

I believe groups of people form communities most of the time based upon their interests, things held in common, and how well they get along with various individuals. Doctrinal distinctives just aren’t often as driving of a force as we make them out to be. I am willing to bet that most churches are divided along lines of culture and demographics, not doctrine. Just some of the leaders think it is doctrine and the people follow, as is appropriate. Anyway, I’m still looking for someone that digs the same music I do. But the Lord will build me into his church based on a lot more than that I think!