Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Read Ken Myers, Please

I would encourage all Christians to get ahold of Ken Myers's book All God's Children and Blue Suede Shoes. Myers makes the argument that much of pop culture is shallow and that Christians ought to largely detach themselves from pop culture and instead listen to classical and folk music. These latter two musical types are both anchored in tradition and carry within themselves objective standards of beauty. This as opposed to pop music, the merits of which are found in the glazed eyes of the beholder.

Myers also encourages Christians to turn off their televisions and to read. He notes that Christians have become allergic to the printed Word. He's right on here and in the first point. As I read this book, I was disheartened to learn of rock music's rebellious background and of television's vacuous roots. There's some talk about these ideas in evangelical circles, but generally both of these ideas are mocked instead of considered. I would venture to say that most of us wade so deeply in pop culture that we aren't even aware of its effects. Though we may not know what they are, our lack of attention span, our distaste for advanced intellectual argument, and our need to be mindlessly entertained all disclose the effects of a pop culture mindset.

So do something bold. Go buy a classical music cd. Go buy a good hefty book instead of a couple of magazines. Read the book and listen to the music instead of watching Entertainment Tonight or viewing videos on Youtube or surfing the web to find mindless and shallow "news" stories. Become a thinking Christian, not a blinking Christian. Clear out some space in your life to appreciate beauty and to discover truth. You'll find as you do so that you develop a taste for finer things. Then, pass that Ken Myers book on to someone else, and let the movement grow, and the change unfold.


Blogger Paul Cable said...

Good post-
Because we're so averse to discomfort of any kind, I'm sure, from my own disappointing experience, that it's going to take a lot of practice for us to crack that thick book and plow through those dry sections to mine the gold of truly incisive argument and original thought.
Wait-oh yeah, practice = discipline = discomfort...not interested. Where's the remote?

9:00 AM  
Blogger Ryan Hill said...

Owen...you have probably posted on this in the past, and, if so, I apologize and you can ignore this question. I agree with you about our addiction to pop culture and the effects it has on us as people. But, where do you think the balance is between making yourself aware of pop culture movies, songs, news, etc. to engage people (i.e. Mark Driscoll sort of stuff) versus the need to turn off the T.V., listen to classical music, etc.? If you have posted on that previously, just tell me where it was and I will read those posts. Have a great week.

3:14 PM  
Blogger Ryan Hill said...

Also, in addition to my first question, where do you think is the line in how far we can go to be "relevant" or "aware" of pop culture in terms of what we allow ourselves to watch and hear? Do you think there is a point where we are compromising personal holiness by allowing ourselves to fill our minds with impure things in the name of cultural relevancy?

3:18 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sounds fishy, but I'm intrigued. How could classical and folk music have objective standards of beauty intrinsically within themselves? It would have to be outside them.

As a counterpoint to the thrust of Myers argument, I think there is something else to beware of. We need to be careful not to make good taste into a virtue. In his lecture on "Christianity and Culture," C. S. Lewis is talking about good taste in literature. "My dilemma about literature is that I admit bad taste to be, in some sense, 'a bad thing,' but do not think it per se 'evil'...I enjoyed my breakfast this morning, and I think that was a good thing...But I do not think myself a good man for enjoying it. The distinction does not seem to me a very fine one."

Objective standards of beauty are out there, I am sure, but let's face it: they are really hard to pin down, and doing so may not be a matter of virtue. I'm not much for Thomas Kinkade-- I prefer Klimt for the most part (or rather, I would prefer him if I knew anything substantial about painting). But I won't begrudge grandma her Kinkade.

What am I missing? Probably quite a bit. Corrections welcome.


8:11 PM  
Anonymous Riley said...

I agree with much of what you said. How far do we take it though. Are you going to stop listening to rap and focus on folk music? If not, how would you justify the decision based on the ideas in the Myers book? I enjoy the blog bro!

8:29 PM  
Blogger Dad said...

Sometimes do we find ourselves guided by the music (lyrics)that we listen too? The books we read? etc?

While being in the world we are to be meditating day and night upon the Law of God. If we find these things guiding us we need to be careful. Paul writes about people being blown about by every wind of doctrine. We also need to be aware of good teaching. Are we also being blown about by good teaching, sound concerns, without being grounded upon God's Word?

Al (Not Owen's dad and not that other "Al")

4:09 AM  
Blogger Brian said...

One only need to see the derogatory evidence of good taste becoming a virtue in the character of Hyacinth Bucket(pronounced "bouquet"). The appreciation of real beauty and loveliness in this fallen world, while a noble pursuit, is, in the end, a poor substitute for real truth and beauty in Him. Whether it be Mozart or McCartney, DaVinci or Spielberg, Fina or Dixie, the world looks for beauty and truth in the wrong places . . . and the pursuit will end in frustration and disillusionment.

5:26 AM  
Blogger Alex & Laura Beth said...

Owen, I remember reading this book several years ago and being quite uncomfortable with Meyer's argument. What is so superior about "classical" music? A lot of classical music was just the popular music of the day or the worship music of the day. What makes 18th Century white Europeans so exceptional? I find Meyer's argument pompous and intolerant of other cultures and times. I heard John Frame speak on this topic before, and he seemed to hold a similar view as Meyers - a view that, to me, is faulty. I agree that most of what you find on the radio is trash. I agree that most classical music is very fine. However, I do not agree that all rock and roll music is trash and not worthy of reaching the ears of a believer.

You wrote, "These latter two musical types [classical and folk] are both anchored in tradition and carry within themselves objective standards of beauty. This as opposed to pop music, the merits of which are found in the glazed eyes of the beholder." Why are tradition and objective standards of beauty so highly valued here? What about the originality and creativity that we see in many of today's modern musicians (in electronica, modern rock, etc.) The classical composers had a strict set of rules under which they composed, and deviation from these standards was not acceptable. It seems to me that their creativity was stifled by the opinions of white European men. We know that the European composers had no tolerence for the folk music of the eastern Europeans just because it sounded strange to them and did not follow their rules. In this case their "objective standards" led them to be supremist, racist, and intolerant.

We do not live in the era of Baroque, Classical, or Romantic music. We need to learn to embrace what is good about the times we live in, not bask in the accomplished works of the past. We are not called to uphold a certain era as "superior" but to engage the culture that we are living in. Right now, I am reading Victor Hugo and David Sedaris. I watch The Office every Thursday night. I am listening to The Constantines and Bach's cello suites.

It is dangerous to make claims about what is the best music to listen to. I am equally challenged and moved by Tchaikovsky as I am by Casino vs. Japan (an amzing electronic musician). God did not supremely gift these men of the past. He has not now lifted his hand from our modern artists and musicians. When we uphold a certain era of artists and dismiss the artists of today, we are refusing to engage the creative minds that God has placed on this earth for the present.

5:02 AM  

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