As I write this foreword we are halfway through the last year of the last century of the second millennium A.D. Far from being a warmed-over cyclical version of previous epochs, this century of centuries birthed much that was genuinely new: unparalleled advances in science, technology, computer systems, and powerful media cartels for both the dissemination of information and the molding of public opinion.
Yet the most invasive innovation, the broadest and deepest revision, was the transformation of society into a new type of culture with a concomitant change in societal values which goes to the very heart of life and living. This phenomenon, which I loosely term “pop culture,” like the developments in science and technology, is genuinely new. As critic Ken Myers has noted, twentieth-century popular culture is “a complete novelty in human history.” The result of mechanistic invention, philosophical disarray, and numerous alternative social, ethical, moral and aesthetic codes, its most conspicuous manifestation may be seen in the popular musical forms of the day. Actually, a case could be made for the popular musical arts not only reflecting changing societal values, but in fact creating them. Here I speak not about pop’s words but about its music, because it is in the music that we hear pop’s real message. There is little doubt that we are reaping today the results of the music sown yesterday. Not that popular music is the only protagonist in this move to a culture driven by pop values. But it does have more responsibility for the overall shaping of our national life than we are generally willing to admit.
So powerful has pop culture become that now it is society’s dominant mode of apprehending reality. Because it is believed to be the epitome of normality and is so pervasive, it is difficult for the average person to set aside its norms and look critically at the worldview values which drive such a system. Nowhere is this more true than in the Christian church. Somehow the body of Christ has embraced the accoutrements of a society in desperate need of the gospel, absorbing the nation’s popular cultural values in its own life, both intentionally and unintentionally. Not surprisingly then, the issue of religious pop music in the chancel is about as dead as yesterday’s news. Evaluation of the church’s adoption of pop culture is believed to be irrelevant, unnecessary, and a waste of valuable time and energy.
Yet a new assessment of church pop is just what author John Makujina asks us to do in this book. Though the acceptance of popular culture (and in the case of music, pop music) within the Christian church is now an established fact, its very normality across the face of virtually every variety of Christian theological persuasion is telling. In a climate of extreme multi-culturalism, pluralism, and relativism satiated with the notion that music is value-neutral and worldview-free, church music has been cut off from history, tradition, theology, aesthetic norms, and ultimately the Word. The result has been a breakdown of church music standards along with a collateral weakening in other areas of life as well.
The problem with Christian pop music is that pop changes the gospel! The musical medium remakes the message into a reflection of pop’s own muse. Indeed, a gospel proclaimed by popular musical forms becomes transformed into a different gospel. It is this essential point which is at the heart of this book. The author, not content with the “biblical witness” fomented by popular musical forms such as “Contemporary Christian Music,” gives the reader a biblically based, philosophically sound rationale for questioning its use, not as a matter of taste but as a matter of biblical principle. Taking on the musical fruit of the entire twentieth century as presently practiced in almost all Christian churches is a gargantuan task, staggering in scope and complexity and immense in its implications. Nevertheless, with courage and conviction, John Makujina takes the reader step by step through a series of well-thought-through insights which go to the heart of the church’s adoption of popular musical culture. It is a meaty, detailed, thought-provoking treatise which should be read by every pastor, musician, church official, and parishioner. If there was ever a need for such a cleansing and prophetic work, it is now.
The Third Edition of Measuring the Music is now available on Amazon.com or wherever books are sold.