Music, Movies, and The NFL

Why do movie studios and NFL football have such majestic musical themes?  Why don’t they have happy little ditties, something with rhythm and toe tapping swing?  After all, the movie studios are just entertainment and football, even NFL football, is just a game.  Yet, they bring in the timpani; they crash the cymbals, and they trumpet the trumpets.  That tells me they regard what they are doing as majestic, regal, important.  They play these themes to color how we view what they offer us.  Here is something worth watching; here is something significant, but what they offer is still just a game, still just candy for the mind.

Contrast this with what the contemporary church movement does.  Where is the royalty, the regality, the majesty of their music?  Their rhythmic, pop music says, “Here is something to entertain you; here is something to make you feel better; here is something for you to play with.” 

Music does matter.  Music does communicate.  The ancients knew this; we moderns don’t.  In Plutarch’s Lives of the Nobel Greeks, he writes of Lycurgus, the legendary reformer of Sparta thought to date to the 7th century B.C.  Plutarch says he revolutionized society by his music. “The very songs which he [Lycurgus] composed were exhortations to obedience and concord, and the very measure and cadence of the verse, conveying impressions of order and tranquility, had so great an influence on the minds of the listeners, that they were insensibly softened and civilized” (32).  Movie studios and the NFL do the same with their theme music.  They convey order, tranquility, majesty and importance.  It is not just entertainment or a game to them; it’s money, and as we all know money matters in this world.

The Church historically did the same thing with her preludes.  They too were majestic, orderly, tranquil.  They invited the soul to rise above the rhythms of this fallen life.  They say with music what the pastor will say with words at the beginning of the Communion liturgy, “Lift up your hearts!”  The Gloria in Excelsis does the same thing.  Starting with words from God through His angel, “Glory be to God on high: And on Earth peace, good will toward men,” the congregation is invited to contemplate heavenly, eternal realities as they respond in song to God’s declaration of His glory, peace, and good will toward men on earth.

What has the contemporary church, the emerging church done?  Instead of preludes they have pre-service music calculated to rouse you, to elevate your mood, to get your body swaying.  And even when they more or less stick to the liturgy you will find ditties stuck here or there to reassert the good feeling they want you hooked on.  Here is something fun, exciting, maybe even practical.  Yes, but is it important?    The movie industry and the NFL would have you believe their entertainment and their games are.  The Church would have you believe the Divine Service is.  The contemporary church would have you believe their service is contemporary, entertaining, and playful.  And you know what?  You can get by on that for awhile, but not even they use that type of music at their funerals.  Why?  Because in the face of death you don’t need what is entertaining and playful.  You need what is important. 

About Paul Harris

Pastor Harris retired from congregational ministry after 40 years in office on 31 December 2023. He is now devoting himself to being a husband, father, and grandfather. He still thinks cenobitic monasticism is overrated and cave dwelling under.
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