Charismatic Style Worship: Getting High on Music

Republished June 20, 2003 (first published March 2, 2003) (David Cloud, Fundamental Baptist Information Service, P.O. Box 610368, Port Huron, MI 48061, 866-295-4143, fbns@wayoflife.orghari) -

On a research visit to the large charismatic City Harvest Church in Singapore on February 8, I was reminded of the power of rock music. On Saturdays, City Harvest has two services, one at 4:30 p.m. and one at 7:30. I attended the 7:30 session. The music was pull-out-the-stops rock & roll and was the loudest I have ever heard in a charismatic church or conference, even though I have attended many of them. The music featured TWO drummers, electric guitars, a keyboard, and a powerful brass section. Several worship leaders, both male and female, swayed and pranced at the front of the stage.

The several-thousand-seat auditorium was almost full and the people were very, very exuberant. As best as I could tell from my vantage point, almost every person joined in enthusiastically during the worship time, singing, clapping, jumping, swaying to the potent music.

When I walked out of the auditorium and got away from the sound of the music, I actually felt a little lightheaded from not being accustomed to such loud music. It has been more than three decades since I last heard music that loud in an enclosed environment, and that was at a rock concert before I was saved. It was such a relief to get away from the relentless pounding.

I am convinced that if you took away the rock music, churches like this would lose their large crowds almost instantly. Rock music is a drug in itself.

ROCK MUSIC IS HYPNOTIC

Timothy Leary, the '60s LSD guru, who was an expert both in drugs and in rock music, testified: "Don't listen to the words, it's the music that has its own message. ... I've been STONED ON THE MUSIC many times."

Leary was right, of course, about the hypnotic, addictive, sensual power of rock and roll. And notice that he IS NOT TALKING ABOUT THE WORDS, but of the music itself, of the rhythm, the backbeat, the heavy relentless syncopation.

Musician Andrew Salter observes, "Rock music is an IDEAL VEHICLE FOR INDIVIDUAL OR MASS HYPNOSIS" (Salter, cited from
Pop Goes the Gospel, p. 20). Likewise, John Fuller, in his powerful book Are the Kids All Right, warned: "Rock music in particular has been demonstrated to be both powerful and addictive, as well as CAPABLE OF PRODUCING A SUBTLE FORM OF HYPNOSIS in which the subject, though not completely under trance, is still in a highly suggestive state" (Fuller, Are the Kids All Right? 1981).

David Winter, in his book
New Singer, New Song, observes: "An incessant beat does erode a sense of responsibility IN MUCH THE SAME WAY AS ALCOHOL DOES. ... You feel IN THE GRIP OF A RELENTLESS STREAM OF SOUND to which something very basic and primitive in the human nature responds."

Indeed, rock music is powerful and addictive and is capable of producing forms of hypnosis, and who is to say that this is not precisely what is happening in the charismatic and evangelical rock and roll praise sessions?

ROCK MUSIC BREAKS THROUGH TO SPIRIT REALMS

No less an expert on rock music than Jimi Hendrix agreed that it is hypnotic and that it connects people with a spirit realm, when he said:

"Atmospheres are going to come through music, because the music is a spiritual thing of its own ... YOU HYPNOTIZE PEOPLE to where they go right back to their natural state [which, biblically speaking, is the fallen, sinful state]... People want release any kind of way nowadays. The idea is to release in the proper form. Then they'll feel like GOING INTO ANOTHER WORLD, a clearer world. The music flows from the air; that's why I CONNECT WITH A SPIRIT, and when they come down off THIS NATURAL HIGH, they see clearer, feel different things..." (Jimmy Hendrix, rock star,
Life, Oct. 3, 1969, p. 74).

Please note, too, that Hendrix was not talking about the words of rock music, but the music itself. Much of Hendrix's rock music did not have words.

The spirits with which Jimi Hendrix associated were demonic, as we know from the Bible. And his frank testimony, speaking, as it does, from beyond the grave, is a loud warning to "Christian rockers." What confusion and folly to think that we could take the same music that has allowed rockers to break through to demonic realms, "to the other side," as Jim Morris of the Doors put it, and incorporate that very music into the service of a completely different and holy realm of spiritual life!

ROCK MUSIC IS SEXUAL

Not only is rock music hypnotic, it is sensual, sexual. How can music that has always been acclaimed by the world as sexual, all of the sudden be spiritual? Consider just a few of the hundreds of quotes that could be given. All of these are testimonies of secular rockers who have no agenda except to honestly describe the nature of rock music as they see it:

"The main ingredients in rock are ... sex and sass" (Debra Harry,
Hit Parader, Sept. 1979, p. 31).

"Rock is the total celebration of the physical" (Ted Nugent, rock star,
Rolling Stone, Aug. 25, 1977, pp. 11-13).

"That's what rock is all about--sex with a 100 megaton bomb, the beat!" (Gene Simmons of the rock group Kiss, interview,
Entertainment Tonight, ABC, Dec. 10, 1987).

"Rock 'n' roll is 99% sex" (John Oates of the rock duo Hall & Oates,
Circus, Jan. 31, 1976).

"Listen, rock 'n roll AIN'T CHURCH. It's nasty business..." (Lita Ford of heavy metal group The Runaways,
Los Angeles Times, August 7, 1988).

"Rock music is sex. The big beat matches the body's rhythms" (Frank Zappa of the Mothers of Invention,
Life, June 28, 1968).

"Rock 'n' roll is pagan and primitive, and very jungle, and that's how it should be! The moment it stops being those things, it's dead ... the true meaning of rock ... is sex, subversion and style" (Malcolm McLaren, punk rock manager,
Rock, August 1983, p. 60).

"When you're in a certain frame of mind, particularly sexually-oriented, there's nothing better than rock and roll ... because that's where most of the performers are at" (Aerosmith's manager,
USA Today, Dec. 22, 1983, p. D5).

"Rock music is sex and you have to hit them [teenagers] in the face with it" (Andrew Oldham, manager of the Rolling Stones,
Time, April 28, 1967, p. 54).

"The great strength of rock 'n' roll lies in its beat ... it is a music which is basically sexual, un-Puritan ... and a threat to established patterns and values" (Irwin Silber, Marxist,
Sing Out, May 1965, p. 63).

"[Rock music] is the strongest drug in the world" (Steven Tyler of the group Aerosmith,
Rock Beat, Spring 1987, p. 23).

"Everyone takes it for granted that rock and roll is synonymous with sex" (Chris Stein, rock manager,
People, May 21, 1979).

"Pop music revolves around sexuality. I believe that if there is anarchy, let's make it sexual anarchy rather than political" (Adam Ant,
From Rock to Rock, p. 93).

"What made rockabilly [Elvis Presley, Bill Haley, etc.] such a drastically new music was its spirit, a thing that bordered on mania. Elvis's 'Good Rockin' Tonight' was not merely a party song, but an invitation to a holocaust. ... Rockabilly was the face of Dionysus, FULL OF FEBRILE SEXUALITY and senselessness; it flushed the skin of new housewives and made pink teenage boys reinvent themselves as flaming creatures" (Nick Tosches,
Country: The Twisted Roots of Rock 'n' Roll, p. 58).

"For white Memphis, the forbidden pleasures of Beale Street [where the bars and whorehouses and gambling dens were located] had always come wrapped in the pulsing rhythms of the blues. ... Elvis's [rock & roll] offered those pleasures long familiar to Memphians to a new audience" (Larry Nager,
Memphis Beat, p. 154).

"Rock and roll aims for liberation and transcendence, EROTICIZING THE SPIRITUAL AND SPIRITUALIZING THE EROTIC, because that is its ecumenical birthright" (Robert Palmer,
Rock & Roll an Unruly History, p. 72).

"Rock and roll is fun, it's full of energy ... It's naughty" (Tina Turner, cited in
Rock Facts, Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and Museum, p. 12).

"Rock and roll was something that's hardcore, rough and wild and sweaty and wet and just loose" (Patti Labelle, cited in
Rock Facts, Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and Museum, p. 17).

"Sex, violence, rebellion--it's all part of rock 'n' roll" (John Mellencamp, Larson's
Book of Rock, p. 170).

ROCKERS ARE SIMPLY IN LOVE WITH ROCK MUSIC

Kind reader, did you consider the previous quotes carefully? What do these, the movers and shakers of the realm of rock and roll, know about rock music that the "Christian rockers" do not know?

In fact, I believe the "Christian rockers" know these things very well, but they will not admit it, perhaps not even to themselves, because such an admission would not fit into their agenda of being able to hold onto their beloved sensual rock music and supposedly have the holy Christ, too.

After Dan Lucarini spent years using rock music as a praise and worship leader, the Lord led him out of it and he wrote the excellent book "Why I Left the Contemporary Christian Music Movement: Confessions of a Former Worship Leader" (Evangelical Press, 2002, P.O. Box 84, Auburn, MA 01501, sales@evangelicalpress.org).

Looking back, he testified of what was really going on in his life after the veneer of piety and the high wall of arguments in defense of rock music was removed:

"During our weekly practices, the praise band would often switch into a rock and roll 'jam session'. As the leader, I could have discouraged this but I CHOSE INSTEAD TO INDULGE MY OWN APPETITE FOR ROCK AND ROLL. ... As I look back on this, I see how hard it was to restrain the rock music beast and prevent it from taking over completely" (Lucarini, p. 31)

"At the seeker-sensitive churches we attended, the music was ostensibly designed for the unchurched but that excuse was really just a smoke screen obscuring our real reason for bringing CCM into the service. THE BOTTOM LINE WAS THAT WE SIMPLY WANTED TO USE OUR MUSIC IN THE CHURCH..." (Lucarini, pp. 62, 63)

Sadly, few are willing to be this candid; but whether Christian rockers admit it or not, the fact is that rock has been sex music since it blasted on the scene in the 1950s. Its rhythms are deliberately designed to stimulate physical sensuality above all else.

FLESH AND SPIRIT, LIGHT AND DARKNESS CANNOT BE MIXED

The flesh is contrary to the Spirit.

"For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other..." (Galatians 5:17).

Likewise, light cannot mix with darkness. Holiness cannot affiliate with unholiness. Truth cannot countenance error. God has no fellowship with the devil. Does the Word of God not confirm this?

"Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty" (2 Corinthians 6:14-18).

HIGH ON PRAISE MUSIC

The point is that worshippers who use rock music as their vehicle of praise, who think they are high on God, might very well, in reality, be high on music. I am convinced that this is exactly what is happening.

The City Harvest magazine for July-December 2002 contains a section on questions and answers. One question by a new member to City Harvest is instructive:

"I just started attending church a few months back and really felt drawn to the presence of God, ESPECIALLY THROUGH THE TIMES OF PRAISE AND WORSHIP. Yet, each time when I try to meet God in the same way during my personal quiet time AND 'FEEL' THE TANGIBLE PRESENCE that I always sense during church services, I always fail. Is this because there's something that I'm not doing right? Am I not worshipping in the correct way?"

The answer to the person's question is that he or she is looking for the wrong thing and is confused about the nature of true worship of God. Worship has nothing to do with my feelings or with a "tangible presence." Those things are easily counterfeited by the flesh and the devil. True worship is to give thanks to God and to serve Him obediently NO MATTER HOW I FEEL AND NO MATTER WHAT THE CIRCUMSTANCE.

Abraham doubtless did not feel very good and had no tangible presence when he trudged toward the mountain with his most beloved son in tow with the purpose of sacrificing him in obedience to God's command, but he was performing a most supreme act of worship.

Job did not feel tingly, wonderful emotions or any sort of "tangible presence of God" when he was sitting in the ash heap scraping his boils with pieces of clay pots and contemplating the loss of his children and wealth and rebutting his wife's complaints. But he was worshipping God acceptably and fruitfully when he endured that terrible condition and did not curse God, but trusted Him in spite of how miserable he felt. In that horrible condition, Job said, "Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him: but I will maintain mine own ways before him."

That is true worship.

It has nothing to do with being under the sway of powerful music or stirring up high emotions and pursuing a perception of God's tangible presence.

Hebrews 13:15-16 describes true worship: "By him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to his name. But to do good and to communicate forget not: for with such sacrifices God is well pleased."

Note the attributes of true worship from this passage:

* thanksgiving to God in all circumstances
* doing good works or obedience to God's commands
* communicating to those who have needs

One does not need rock music to accomplish any of these things, and, in fact, rock music provides no benefit whatsoever in any of these endeavors. Rock music is rock music, and the praise of God is the praise of God; and they have nothing to do with one another.

I challenge those committed to the contemporary philosophy to give up rock music for one month and serve the Lord without it. If you need rock music in order to enjoy and serve the Lord, you have a serious problem.

If rock music is necessary or even important for the service and worship of Christ, what did God's people do in A.D. 65 or 1240 or 1530 or 1850 or 1945?

"Oh, Lord God, I beseech you by the blood of Jesus Christ and for His glory, deliver many of your saints and assemblies from this powerful contemporary drug and give victory over the wiles of the enemy even in the very midst of end times apostasy."