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Show Notes - Episode 110

May 8, 2022

https://thepsychologygroup.com/toxic-positivity/#:~:text=We%20define%20toxic%20positivity%20as,the%20authentic%20human%20emotional%20experience.

 

https://justacurmudgeon.blogspot.com/2017/04/toxic-songs-word-toxic-gets-lot-of-use.html

 

https://kainosproject.com/2020/06/25/toxic-positivity/

 

 

I wonder how many Christians realize just how much more of their doctrine and theology they get during the worship service than they do from any sermon. It's true. To the evangelicals and ex-evangelicals out there, just think about it: how many worship songs do you know by heart and how many quotes from your pastor's sermons can you quote off the cuff. People remember song lyrics. Music impacts the way they think and evangelicals are no exception. Most can tell you their 10 favorite worship songs but they forget sermons completely by the time they're done stiffing the server at Olive Garden. Probably by the time they get around to shaking the pastor's hand and telling him how inspiring it was. I'm Spider...

 

...and tonight we're approaching the subject of Christian music from the perspective of toxic messaging, and more specifically, toxic messaging that perpetuates toxic thought and keeps people believing in errant concepts like the notion that god actually loves anyone. But that's just the beginning of the conversation. Before we get any further into that, it's the Christians behaving badly segment we hoped we would never have to cover, but here we are. I'm just going to call this CBB: I just can't even edition.

 

Christians Behaving Badly 5.5.22

 

https://onlysky.media/hemant-mehta/if-the-supreme-court-overturns-roe-conservative-christians-may-regret-it/

https://www.politico.com/news/2022/05/02/supreme-court-abortion-draft-opinion-00029473

https://time.com/6173196/abortion-trigger-laws-bans-roe-v-wade/

 

First off, the thing that's on pretty much everyone's minds: Politico published a preliminary draft of a Supreme Court decision that overturns Roe vs. Wade. This has caused an uproar, of course. This decision won't be final until next month.

 

The decision is written by Justice Samuel Alito, who was nominated to the Supreme Court by George W. Bush in 2006. “The draft opinion runs 98 pages, including a 31-page appendix of historical state abortion laws. The document is replete with citations to previous court decisions, books and other authorities, and includes 118 footnotes. The appearances and timing of this draft are consistent with court practice.”

 

A quote from the decision reads, ““Roe was egregiously wrong from the start. Its reasoning was exceptionally weak, and the decision has had damaging consequences. And far from bringing about a national settlement of the abortion issue, Roe and Casey have enflamed debate and deepened division.”

And further in the document: “Roe expressed the ‘feel[ing]’ that the Fourteenth Amendment was the provision that did the work, but its message seemed to be that the abortion right could be found somewhere in the Constitution and that specifying its exact location was not of paramount importance.”

 

“The Constitution does not prohibit the citizens of each State from regulating or prohibiting abortion,” the draft concludes. “Roe and Casey arrogated that authority. We now overrule those decisions and return that authority to the people and their elected representatives.”

 

The document also conflates the pro-choice movement as synonymous with the eugenics movement and pushes 'adoption' as a solution to unwanted children.

 

If and when this decision goes into effect, 27 states are likely ban abortion soon after Roe vs. Wade is overturned. These are: Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, West Virginia, Wisconsin and Wyoming.

 

I'm going to conclude this story here, a little later in my segment I'm going to talk a little more about this and my other stories. I haven't read the decision yet, and I would highly recommend the excellent article by Hemant Mehta on Only Sky Media, “If the Supreme Court overturns Roe, conservative Christians may regret it.” I'll read it when my brain stops screaming at me.

 

https://onlysky.media/hemant-mehta/supreme-court-boston-cant-reject-a-christian-flag-but-theres-an-easy-fix/

 

And on that note: The Supreme Court ruled today that Boston officials violated a man’s free speech rights when it refused to erect his Christian flag outside City Hall.

 

The suit was brought by Harold Shurtleff, “the director and co-founder of Camp Constitution, a non-profit group that promotes Christian nationalism. In 2017, Shurtleff applied for a permit to raise a Christian flag on a pole outside City Hall Plaza to commemorate “Constitution Day and Citizenship Day,” but the city of Boston rejected the request.

 

City officials told him that no non-secular flags were allowed on the city's flagpole. It often raises the flag of the countries of visiting dignitaries or days to honor Americans of various heritage. Shurtleff argued that these flags often contain religious symbols, and the flag of Boston even contains the phrase “God be with us as he was with our fathers.” So, of course, he sued the city, saying his Constitutional rights had been violated. He lost this case in the first court he brought it to, and of course, it was appealed.

 

Various groups for the seperation of church and state including the American Humanist Association, urged the Court to uphold the decision in an amicus brief. This appeal was also denied.

Unfortunately, they appealed all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, who unanimously ruled for the Christian Nationalist, saying that they went too far.

 

There is an easy fix for this. Justice Stephen Breyer says in his opinion, “the city’s lack of meaningful involvement in the selection of flags or the crafting of their messages leads us to classify the flag raisings as private, not government, speech—though nothing prevents Boston from changing its policies going forward.”

 

Of course, until Boston fixes the flagpole policy, there's nothing preventing the KKK for instance, for applying to display their flag. So hopefully they hurry up and change it.

And on ‘oh for fuck’s sake’ news:

 

https://onlysky.media/hemant-mehta/a-teacher-tore-down-a-non-christian-verse-on-her-classroom-prayer-wall/

 

A Christian teacher in Tulsa, Oklahoma is preaching to her students in a public school classroom. Because of course she is. And it's not the first time she's done it. Of course she's faced no consequences for this because this is where we are now.

 

According to the Freedom from Religion Foundation, “Memorial High School biology teacher Amy Cook created a “prayer room” in the back of her classroom where students could go and pray. It’s a wall littered with Bible verses and the like. That’s problematic enough. But one of her non-Christian students attempted to add a different kind of prayer to the wall; this one asked for the “gods and goddesses” to help students achieve their goals.”

 

You can imagine how well this went over. From the submitted complaint.

 

Mrs. Cook pulled our complainant out of class and berated them for not being a Christian. Mrs. Cook reportedly told our complainant that if they didn’t repent they would “burn in hell” and that she was required to intervene as a “good Christian.” Our complainant reports that principal [Dr. Rebecca] Grooms, and assistant principal [Jim] Vestal are aware of this illegal conduct but have taken no action to correct it.

 

This teacher has also railed against sex education and LGBTQ issues. When she ran for political office (which is fine and legal), she wrote on her campaign website about the “liberal brainwashing” and “political indoctrination being slipped into our schools,” and claims she fought back by 'modeling Christian values' for the students in her classroom. She insisted that modeling her faith didn’t amount to “indoctrination,” which is literally contradicted by the “prayer room” in the classroom. (her campaign has since ended) When Cook’s campaign against accurate, comprehensive sex education occurred, the principal supposedly backed her up because “she is a believer herself.”

 

The FFRF is demanding the school take action. “[FFRF] is asking that the district take immediate action to ensure that Cook no longer discusses her religious beliefs with students, encourages students to pray, shames students for their religious beliefs or in any way promotes or endorses religion to students. And the district must immediately remove the “prayer room” from Cook’s classroom. Given Cook’s egregious behavior, FFRF is advising that she be terminated, and administrators at the school be reprimanded and reminded of their duties under the law.”

We can only hope.

….

Lastly, as much as we don’t want to admit it, these stories are all related. All of them involve Christians interfering in public spaces (and private ones!) to push their Christianity on others. You know that video of Ana Kasparian of the Young Turks talking about how she is tired of dealing with people who push the bible to try and dictate how she lives her life? Yeah I'm feeling that sort of a way right now.

 

What is happening, what will happen when the final majority decision of the Supreme Court comes out to officially overturn Roe vs. Wade, is what happens when you give even an inch to the Evangelical Christian Right. This is what happens when liberals, when progressives DON'T VOTE. You get an enabler like 45, who pandered and put into lifetime appointments the worst of the worst unqualified people and replaced Ruth Bader Ginsburg with a Handmaid's Tale cosplayer. All 45 and his cronys cared about was what the nominees thought about abortion.

 

I'm not gonna rehash 2016 now, because we know what happened and if you pretend otherwise you are in denial. But let me tell you, this is JUST the beginning. In the next few years, the rights we've fought for decades to put into place will be gone unless they're codified into law. Gay marriage? Gone. Interracial marriage? Gone. Easy access to birth control? One of the first things they're gonna do away with.

 

Not only that, women's rights could take even more of a tumble. We as a society have such a short memory that we forget that women's rights have not been here very long. Before 1974, women couldn't get a credit card in their own name with out a husband (or a man cosigning for her). It wouldn't be until 1980 when the EEOC declared that sexual harassment was a form of sex discrimination. Marital rape did not become a crime in all 50 states until 1993. The birth control pill was approved as a contraceptive in 1960 for married women but it was still illegal in some states and illegal to sell to unmarried women until 1972.

 

I could rant on, but I'm just going to end it with VOTE. Vote like your life depended on it because it DOES.

 

https://www.oneadvisorypartners.com/blog/the-history-of-women-and-money-in-the-united-states-in-honor-of-womens-history-month

 

https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/factcheck/2020/10/28/fact-check-9-things-women-couldnt-do-1971-mostly-right/3677101001/

 

PATREON/PROMO

 

Next Week: We're going to look at the concept of Pro-Life and show the stark contrast between what it should be and what the people behind the dismantling of RVW think it is. There's just a tad bit of disparity. That's May 15. On May 22nd it's our review of A Thief in the Night. And no, we aren't going to spend months poring over the Mark IV movies. This is going to be a one and done. May 29th is our anniversary... and it's a road test week so we will be taking it off. So enjoy your long Memorial Day weekend with some of our older episodes...

 

 

 

 

Let's start with the hymns because for years and years, that was Christian music. The gospel quartets and traveling preachers all used the hymns to augment messaging that paints God, his love, and what living for him is like in a light that the Bible simply never does. And these songs lay the foundation for virtually all the toxic music littering the CCM airwaves today. The hymns are what Kurt Vonnegut would refer to as “the first germs in an epidemic of mind poisoning.”

 

And with this first set of hymns, I want to talk about the concept of toxic positivity.

 

ThePsychologyGroup.com defines toxic positivity this way:

 

We define toxic positivity as the excessive and ineffective overgeneralization of a happy, optimistic state across all situations. The process of toxic positivity results in the denial, minimization, and invalidation of the authentic human emotional experience.

 

They then outline the signs, most of which have a more personal correlation, but I liked #4: Minimizing other people’s experiences with “feel good” quotes or statements

 

I even found Christian sources that corroborate this sentiment. They know. At least the ones with even a little capacity for rational thought do. I was amazed to find even one source that admitted it, but kainosproject.com did.

 

There is a library of hymns that are all about this and we're going to look at just a few right now:

 

https://justacurmudgeon.blogspot.com/2017/04/toxic-songs-word-toxic-gets-lot-of-use.html

 

It Is Well With My Soul

 

When peace like a river attendeth my way

When sorrows like sea billows roll

Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say

It is well, it is well with my soul

 

It is well (it is well)

With my soul (with my soul)

It is well, it is well with my soul

Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come

Let this blest assurance control

That Christ (yes, He has) has regarded my helpless estate

And has shed His own blood for my soul

 

Because He Lives

 

Because He lives

I can face tomorrow

Because He lives

All fear is gone

Because I know

He holds the future

And life is worth the living

Just because He lives

 

Heaven Came Down (And Glory Filled My Soul)

 

https://digitalsongsandhymns.com/songs/4398

 

Leaning on the Everlasting Arms

 

https://www.hymnal.net/en/hymn/h/558

 

This Is My Story

 

Perfect submission, perfect delight,

Visions of rapture now burst on my sight;

Angels, descending, bring from above

Echoes of mercy, whispers of love.

 

Perfect submission, all is at rest,

I in my Savior am happy and blest,

Watching and waiting, looking above,

Filled with His goodness, lost in His love.

 

Saved! Saved! Saved!

 

Saved by His pow'r, by His pow'r divine,

Saved to new life, to new life sublime!

Life now is sweet and my joy is complete,

For I'm saved, saved, saved.

 

When poor and needy and all alone,

In love He said to me,

"Come unto Me and I'll lead you home

To live with Me eternally.

 

He Keeps Me Singing

 

There's within my heart a melody;

Jesus whispers sweet and low,

"Fear not, I am with you, peace, be still,"

in all of life's ebb and flow.

 

Jesus, Jesus, Jesus,

sweetest name I know,

fills my every longing,

keeps me singing as I go.

 

And these songs gave birth to some of the worst toxic positivity themes in modern worship music. Songs like Trading My Sorrows, You Turn My Mourning Into Dancing,

 

And that, listener, is the tip of the iceberg. The very tip. A crystal on the very tip. And you can see how learning to think this way, especially when the message is set to music, sets the individual up to have a very narrow view of life and robs them of the ability to come up with effective ways of dealing with their problems. That is just one toxic message we find in Christian music.

 

God's Love

 

We're going to revisit this subject in just a few minutes but I want to just mention a few of the hymns that turn the volume on the “God is Love” message to eleven.

 

There are so many, I'm just going to read off some of the titles that speak for themselves...

http://www.hymntime.com/tch/top/jc/jchislov.htm

 

And these are the songs that led to songs like

 

Jesus Loves Me, This I know

Pass It On

Oh How He Loves You and Me

 

Praise and Worship is saturated with this kind of mind-numbing nonsense...

 

I Could Sing of Your Love Forever (Delirious)

Arms of Love

Whom Have I But You

Your Love Is Amazing

Deeper (Delirious)

 

Death

 

What about hymns that glorify and romanticize death? Oh, there's a few of those... and some of the above examples go there, too. So let's look at a few hymns that teach us to be happy about one day dying.

 

Amazing Grace

Holy, Holy, Holy

It Is Well With My Soul

In the Sweet By and By

I'll Fly Away

The Old Rugged Cross

Looking for a City https://www.hymnlyrics.org/requests/looking_for_a_city.php

 

And these songs paved the way for more recent examples of songs that suggest that some people are better off dead. I think immediately of Home Free by Wayne Watson and If You Could See Me Now by Truth, both songs about death after prolonged illness.

 

Home Free: https://genius.com/Wayne-watson-home-free-lyrics

If You Could See Me Now: https://www.flashlyrics.com/lyrics/truth/if-you-could-see-me-now-73

 

Then there's the concept of reward after death that songs like Thank You by Ray Boltz romanticize and ones like That's All The Lumber by Eli warn about.

 

Thank You: https://www.azlyrics.com/lyrics/rayboltz/thankyou.html

That's All the Lumber: https://www.newreleasetoday.com/lyricsdetail.php?lyrics_id=30143

 

Petra took the messaging in both directions, too... on the same album! Their album Not of This World contains two songs about death – one joyful and one cautionary: Graverobber and Bema Seat

 

Graverobber: https://genius.com/Petra-grave-robber-lyrics

Bema Seat: https://www.azlyrics.com/lyrics/petra/bemaseat.html

 

And I would be remiss if I neglected to mention the song To Live Is Christ by Steve Fry:

 

https://www.justsomelyrics.com/576940/steve-fry-to-live-is-christ-lyrics.html

 

I can't even with the sheer audacity of those lyrics.

 

 

How about Purity Propaganda?

 

I can remember a few songs back in the day that we used to play on the Christian radio station I worked for that had overt themes of what a Christian woman was supposed to be. They had titles like “Virtuous Woman” and “Woman of the Word.” Then there was one set to Proverbs 31:30: "Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised." I remember those immediately but I'm sure there were plenty more. THOSE were just your run of the mill misogynistic themes. What I find even more sinister is when they push purity doctrine. I want to zero in on three songs in particular and one that was particularly toxic based on how it accidentally went mainstream.

 

Let's start with Somewhere In The World by Wayne Watson. I swear I heard this song at every girl's baby dedication for years running. It's a super creepy song that, while all speculative, really, really, REALLY comes across like someone surveilling an underage girl.

 

https://genius.com/Wayne-watson-somewhere-in-the-world-lyrics

 

Butterfly Kisses

 

For starters, can I just say that I was flabbergasted at how long ago this came out. 1995. Yeah. I'm thinking mid 00s but yeah. No. 1995. So Butterfly Kisses was a song by Bob Carlisle who was the front man for the somewhat-ok Christian rock band The Allies. I mean, I found them tolerable but they only ever put out one song I can say I liked. That was the mid 80s. So fast forward far fewer years than I originally thought and I hear this very familiar voice singing this song that even then I knew was a little off. For starters, had I had a daughter I couldn't even imagine some of the things that are in this song. I would never have kept her on the short leash these lyrics dictate, mostly because of my girlfriend senior year of HS. I learned a lot from her parents about how to fuck up your daughter and, like I've done in many areas of my life, I zeroed in on the “don't dos” a lot more than the “dos” and swore I would never treat my daughter like property. But that's what purity culture is all about and before it was a huge thing, this song was kind of like the playbook for it.

 

OK, let's look at the lyrics...

 

https://www.azlyrics.com/lyrics/bobcarlisle/butterflykisses.html

 

At sixteen this is the first time the idea of NOT kissing your father on the lips has crossed your mind? Seriously? Back then this made my skin crawl.

 

But the thing I hate the most about this song is its dishonesty. No evangelical girl is ever encouraged to spread her wings and fly. Most evangelical fathers would sooner pin their daughters down in a photo album than give those wings the first chance to unfurl. And at the end of the song, she's not exactly spreading her wings. She's leaving the control of one male for that of another. Submissive to daddy, submissive to her husband... where is she flying to? The kitchen? The ladies' prayer luncheon? Where's the verse about “she graduated med school today?”

 

Modest is Hottest

 

This song is so offensive it even raised the hackles of A LOT of evangelical parents. Sure, Matthew West backpedaled like crazy and tried to play it off as satire, but let's think about this for just a second...

 

You know, Steve Taylor was a satirist and while some of his music reeks of homophobia and some even pokes fun at mental health issues, his delivery was still a THOUSAND percent more classy than this shit. You could tell that Steve was being tongue-in-cheek. The song Cash Cow comes screaming to mind. But this? I'm sorry, this is something that became satire when this fool was called out for just how toxic his messaging was. First, let's look at some of the lyrics:

 

https://genius.com/Matthew-west-modest-is-hottest-lyrics

 

I don't even want to waste the time reading these lyrics. Instead, The Daily Mail did a stellar job of synopsizing the contents and the backlash it got. And this was just from the perspective of social media. Here's what they said:

 

https://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-9734227/Christian-musician-slammed-Modest-Hottest-song-promotes-purity-culture.html

 

Now here's the worst part, in my opinion. When he first posted the video, Matthew West described it as his “ridiculously silly way of reminding [his daughters] that their appearance doesn’t define them.”

 

I'm sorry, but this song fails miserably at that. It's all about how their appearances define them. It has literally everything to do with that. If you dress less Amish and more Kardashian it defines you as a girl with less worth than one who dons a turtleneck and sensible pair of slacks. Really, Matt? That's what you were trying to communicate? Epic. Fucking. Fail.

 

And here's why so many evangelicals, especially evangelical women, didn't like it. This is from a blog by a Christian blogger. She only goes by “Beckah” so I assume it was ghostwritten but it definitely makes a point:

When I was in high school, my Christian school divided the boys and girls up for a little purity chat. The girls went into a classroom where a school administrator rolled a giant mirror across the front of the room to show what the view was if we weren’t sitting “properly” in our skirts. We were lectured on how we presented ourselves to the world so that we didn’t cause our brothers to stumble.

 

I later asked a male friend what the boys talked about in their session.

 

They played hacky sack.

 

If you’ve been baffled as to why there’s hurt around “purity culture” or why Matthew West faced backlash for a lighthearted song, that’s why.

 

That's why all right. Boys don't have to worry about how they're perceived. It's up to the girls to not cause their brothers to stumble. When a boy gets his girlfriend pregnant in Bible college, he gets a degree, she gets expelled. We watched it happen. He got to finish his degree, they tossed her out like she was trash.

 

That's why shit like this matters, Matthew West. Find a new joke.

 

Now let's talk about a prick named Benji Cowart...

 

In 2014 there was a little song called “Rude” by Magic!

 

I'm not sure what I think of it. On the one hand, it brings you back to that teenagery place where love was the best thing ever and you fell in love at the drop of a hat and it was so crazy intense that you thought nothing could ever, ever, ever tear you apart from that person you loved...

 

On the other, as a forty-something I'm sitting there thinking, “This sounds good and all but starting out in life with someone knowing that the decision involves estrangement from your family is only going to seem romantic for a little while. After that it's gonna suck. So I guess you could say it's not my favorite message-wise. I think it paints a dangerous picture in the mind of a young person. But THAT'S not the song I want to zero in on. What I want to talk about now is Benji Cowart's over-the-top, hyper-reactionary, glorifying violence, threatening murder, purely and proudly evangelical response. So let's look at these lyrics...

 

https://genius.com/Benji-and-jenna-cowart-rude-a-dads-response-lyrics

 

Why you gotta call me "Rude"

For doing what a dad should do

Keep her from a fool like you

And if you marry her anyway

You marry that girl

I'm gonna punch your face

Marry that girl

I make you go away

Marry that girl

At the bottom of a lake

 

I know what you're thinking

You think you'll still take her

Well give it your best shot

I may be a Christian

But I'll go to prison

I'm not scared of doin' hard time

 

And I love how in the midst of all this, the doting, semi-frumpy mom walks into the shot... and she's doing the laundry. Because of course she is. Because THIS is was a good Christian wife does. She does the laundry and she supports her idiot husband while he goes on a rant about murdering a kid for wanting to marry his daughter.

 

Here's how a responsible father would have penned this response. You're gonna get some of the spider's own lyrical stylings here...

 

Saturday morning you came to my house

Nervous and scared to death

Seeking permission to marry my daughter

Bruh, I know what's in your head

It's really all right

You and I don't have to fight

But I think we should talk man to man

Cause marriage is really a very big step

That I just don't think you understand

 

Can you even think about the rest of your life

I'm thinking no, no, no you can't possibly know

What you even want in an eventual wife

Yeah you think you do, but I'm telling you right now

 

Boy you better think this through

There's so much that you could do

Why you wanna be tied down

Before you know the ups and downs

Of life and of love, and this thing called romance

This isn't love, just a bulge in your teenage pants

Dude I've been there and I haven't the room to judge

But there's a difference between real love and lust

 

And notice I'm not making decisions for my daughter, just trying to get through to Romeo. And that's the way is should be. And although I think the daughter needs a verse, too, the messaging would be about the same. I wouldn't be chaining her to the radiator, I'd be making sure she understood the good, the bad, and the ugly of the situation, too. Because that's what a responsible parent does, not threaten to drown a kid in a lake while mom beebops to the music carrying a laundry basket. Fuck off. Both of you.

 

Steve Taylor

 

Steve Taylor gets his own category here not so much because he's the worst offender but because he had the most influence on me as a teenager. His music and its messaging formed the basis for a lot of what I chose to believe.

 

Now, to be fair, his music did have some important warnings about things that I always saw to be wrong with Christianity. He sang about the dangers of just following the crowd in I Want To Be A Clone. That song was a response to the errant idea that personal faith somehow had uniform rules that everyone had to follow. He Decried word faith doctrine in several songs including Guilty By Association and You Don't Owe Me Nuthin'. He spoke out against abortion clinic bombings in I Blew Up The Clinic Real Good and the dangers of avarice and misplaced pride in several songs including On The Fritz, Drive, He Said, You've Been Bought, and Cash Cow, but he also had lyrics like these:

 

I heard the reverend say, “gay is probably normal in the good Lord's sight....

 

When the closets are empty and the clinics are full...

 

He made fun of mental health professionals and their methods in Jung and the Restless. The message here: Don't replace God with a therapist.

 

Rushed from the fire to the frying pan

Entrust your soul to a shrinking man?

 

Served with smiles and noble intent

I think this waiter has a fake accent

 

And then there's Bad Rap (Who You Tryin' to Kid, Kid?) with its admonishment to “drop six words in your open minds” about everything from pro life agenda to free thought to “liberal” activism to why you're an idiot if you don't have faith. And more to the point, it kinda points a finger at atheism.

 

Convictions make your skin to crawl

you act like you're above it all

you say faith is a crutch for a mind that's closed

you guzzle your crutch and shove it up your nose

 

Yeah, because all atheists are miserable drug addicts because we reject ecclesiastical fairy tales. OK, Steve...

 

Then, in the early 90s a new band emerged called Chagall Guevara headed up by... you guessed it: Steve Taylor. He said the band name meant “Artistic Freedom” since Chagall was an artist and Che Guevara was a freedom fighter. Well, Marc Chagall's work was kinda warped and Che Guevara? He was a Marxist. So it's ok to be a communist thinker but not an atheist. Got it. The first song on their one and only album, the song Murder In The Big House is all about what will happen to Christianity if Atheists have their way in the world. No, I'm not kidding, and here's just a sampling of the lyrics:

 

All of us Neros fanning ourselves

Damp with the sweat of regret

Just killing time with our eyes to the skies

Waiting on science our savior

This is the sound of your rooftop coming down

It's time to meet the maker

This is the sound of the floorboards caving in

This is the knock of the undertaker

This house is crumbling

This property's condemned

This house is crumbling

Who'll say the last amen?

 

The house in question is secularism, BTW...

 

Honestly, there's way more we could get into here but I do think we've made the point clear. There are many, many reasons why the average evangelical believes the things they do and a huge number of them come from the music they listen to and sing in church.

 

We didn't even get into worship music and the crazy shit you find in that genre too deeply mostly because as preparation for this episode progressed, it occurred to me that the toxicity that exists in Praise and Worship is truly in a category of its own. It's also radically different than the types of toxicity we discussed about these other genres.

 

Praise and worship perpetuates toxic ideas present in evangelical doctrine and sears them into the brains of believers so they go on believing. Its other toxic trait is how nonsensical so much of it is. Lots of P&W lyrics are such word salad it's enough to make your brain itch. But that's kind of a different take on toxicity than where this conversation went so... if you want some specific commentary on praise and worship, check out Episode 12 – Raised Hands, Closed Eyes: The Appeal of Modern Worship Music. We have a lot to say about it there.

 

In any context, music is a powerful medium. Our brains play well with it. And when we spend years singing hymns and worship music and listening to CCM of all description, an insane amount of information makes it into our brains and stays there. Well, can you counter that with secular music? Um... not so much. That's not the point. The point is that we need to start recognizing where those thoughts came from. They came from songs. Not the Bible. Not even anything with the level of authority of the average pastor. Not from sermons. We don't retain much from sermons. We retain music and it's the music that taught us what to believe. It's the music that beckoned us to the altar time and time and time again. It's the music that elicited those crucial emotional responses that led to automatic submission to calls to action to rededicate our lives to christ, seek the baptism in the holy Spirit and first and foremost make that vital first trip to the altar to meet Jesus for the first time.

 

Softly and tenderly Jesus is calling...

Just as I am without one plea...

 

So if so much of what we believe comes only from songs, why place undue stock in those beliefs? If you've listened this far, you are at least considering that the things you believe aren't as firmly grounded in truth as you've been taught to think they are. You need better foundations for the things you believe than song lyrics but, I hate to say it, a lot of people's faiths find their foundation in the lyrics to Christian music. If you can quote more verses to your favorite P&W songs than you can verses from the Bible, count yourself among that number. And, honestly, that was me and it was a lot of the Christians around us. We got a lot of our doctrine from hymns, worship songs, christian rock, and more. The result: it made us delusional, narrow-minded, and clueless about just how toxic our thinking actually was.

 

Fortunately, some of us make it to a place where we understand this and we hope we've helped bring you a step further toward understanding it, too. Because if you reach a point where you're anywhere between embarrassed and appalled by how much Christian music influenced your thoughts and behavior, the toxic themes start to release their grip on you. You start seeing the absurdity in taking it all so seriously. You start thinking better. And when that happens, it's proof positive that you're well on your way to getting and staying Unbound.