More random tidbits found while sweeping the corners of the Internet.

Professor John Stackhouse gives a cheer, a half a cheer, and a hiss to Charles Darwin in honor of his birthday:

[W]e can all cheer Darwin's work in bringing microevolution—the phenomenon of small-scale changes happening within species as they adapt to their environment—into focus. Even "creation science" proponents grant the reality of evolution on this scale.

[M]ost of us will cheer Darwin's work in helping us understand macroevolution, a comprehensive theory of how all species have arisen in the complex history of life on Earth....To be sure, Darwin's theory is not complete in its details. Confirmed Darwinists argue over how life emerged from non-life, how single-celled organisms could have evolved into multi-celled organisms, how various complex organs of this or that organism (most notably the eye) originated and so on. Darwinists also dispute whether the man's own allegiance to "gradualism" was misplaced (as his advocate T. H. Huxley warned him it was). Some wonder whether another understanding of evolution's timetable (such as the idea of rapid evolution in outlying populations—Stephen Jay Gould and Niles Eldredge's theory of "punctuated equilibria") would be better.

Where we theists get off, however, is at the third level of Darwinism, the level of "myth." It's one thing to believe in microevolution and macroevolution. Both of those levels, to be clear, are zones of scientific investigation and disputation. But at the third level—where Darwinism becomes "The Theory of Everything"—we leave the realm of science entirely. Darwinism now functions as a religion, as an all-encompassing worldview and as a "myth" in the anthropological sense—the governing story of a people. It is no longer a scientific theory....Darwinism as myth...makes no room for God or the supernatural. The physical cosmos is all there is—everything important can be explained in terms of physical phenomena. And human behaviour, in particular, is simply a result of the evolutionary imperative to reproduce oneself as prolifically as possible....The world is reduced to a grim arena of competitive reproduction. No more science pursued "to think God's thoughts after him," as the great astronomer Johannes Kepler put it. No more "art for art's sake." No more altruism or heroism or honour.

[H]ere's a cheer for Darwin celebrating the glorious adaptability of species. Here's another for the great sketch of the world as an ever-changing kaleidoscope of variation, improvisation and wonder....But only a sad shake of the head instead for Darwin's dark world, shrunken down to mere sex and violence. There's nothing we can celebrate there.

One of my favorite of Stackhouse's articles appeared in the February 2009 issue of Christianity TodayMemo to Worship Bands:  Five Sound Reasons to Lower the Volume.  I've become inured to, if not happy about, the necessity of carrying earplugs with me at all times.  I never know when my hearing will be assaulted, though I can pretty much guarantee it at theme parks, movie theaters, skating rinks, and—sadly—church.  I fail to see why volume levels above the threshold of pain are attractive.  "Feeling the music" should be an emotional sensation, not a physical one:  with the exception of some very low bass tones, if the music registers on any part of my body less delicate than my eardrums, it's too loud.

But I'm just an old curmudgeon, so I'm delighted to have a bone fide, rocking, electric guitar-playing lover of loud music, who has no doubt already damaged his hearing, stand up and shout—not rudely, but in order to be heard—"TURN IT DOWN!"

I am not 110 years old, friends. I grew up in the 1970s with fuzz boxes, stacks of Marshall amplifiers, and heavy metal bands loud enough to take on Boeing 747s and win. I have played in worship bands for more than 30 years, and like lots of juice running through my Roland keyboard or Fender bass or Godin guitar. Furthermore, I'm a middle-aged man and my hearing is supposed to be fading. But even I find almost every worship band in every church I visit to be too loud—not just a little bit loud, but uncomfortably, even painfully, loud.  So here are five reasons for everyone to turn it down a notch—or maybe three or four.

  1. I know it's breaking the performer's code to say so...but cranking up the volume is just a cheap trick to add energy to a room....Do not compensate for mediocrity by amping it up to MEDIOCRITY.
  2. [W]hen your intonation is not very good—and let's face it, most singers and instrumentalists are not anywhere close to being in perfect tune—turning it up only makes it hurt worse.
  3. [T]he speakers in most church PA systems cannot take that much energy through their small, old magnets and cones, especially from piano, bass, and kick drum. So we are being pounded with high-powered fluffing and sputtering—which do not induce praise.
  4. [C]onsider that you might be marginalizing older people, most of whom probably do not like Guns N' Roses volumes at church. And if you suspect older congregants may be secretly delighted behind their tight smiles, ask them. I dare you.
  5. [L]et me drop some church history and theology on you. By the time church music the 16th century, it had become too demanding and ornate for ordinary singers. So Christians went to church to listen to a priest and a choir.  The Protestant Reformation yanked musical worship away from the professionals and put it back in the pews....The problem today, to be sure, is rarely elaborate music. We could use a little more artistry, in fact, than we usually get with the simplistic and repetitive musical figures of many contemporary worship songs.  No, the contrast with the Reformation is the modern-day insistence that a few people at the front be the center of attention. We do it by making six band members louder than a room full of people. But a church service isn't a concert at which an audience sings along with the real performers. Musicians—every one of them, including the singers—are accompanists to the congregation's praise. They should be mixed loudly enough only to do their job of leading and supporting the congregation.

[C]hurch musicians, if you want to perform a fine song that requires advanced musicianship, by all means do it. We will listen and pray and enjoy it to the glory of God.  But when you are leading us in singing, then lead us in singing. And turn it down so we are not listening to you—or, even worse, merely enduring you. I know that is not what you want to happen. But I am telling you that's what is happening.

I would expand the message to include all church musicians, not just worship bands.  We attend the most "traditional" of our church's four services, which has a choir, not a worship band, and sings primarily hymns.  But the "organ" is actually an electronic keyboard, and a recent change is philosophy has jacked the sound up to the point where I must wear my earplugs almost every time we sing.  It's not easy to sing with earplugs, and I have some concern about blend and pitch...but console myself with the thought that no one can hear me over the organ anyway.  But when the "old, deaf" people in your service complain that the music is too loud, maybe it's time to rethink.

Let me add one more reason to Stackhouse's list:

  1.  The church, of all places, should be "safe," especially for children.  In all too many church services, however, babies and children who have no choice nor chance of escape are assailed by sound volumes that threaten to damage their hearing.  If we do not fear the wrath of God for injuring his little ones, let's at least fear the potential for crippling lawsuits.
Posted by sursumcorda on Friday, May 1, 2009 at 9:00 pm | Edit
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