What About Bluegrass?
April 30, 2008 (David Cloud, Fundamental Baptist Information Service, P.O. Box 610368, Port Huron, MI 48061, 866-295-4143, firstname.lastname@example.org; for instructions about subscribing and unsubscribing or changing addresses, see the information paragraph at the end of the article) -
I received the following question from a reader:
“You have dealt with CCM, Southern Gospel, and Rock and Roll in the churches. There is one area that seems to exist in the fundamental churches that no one pays much attention to. That is bluegrass gospel. CCM and rock and roll are easily discerned but bluegrass is far more palatable to the Christian and accepted among Christians. Bluegrass, like other forms of music, has its deep roots in the world no matter what spiritual word you lay down beside it. So often when people engage in this music the religious music is not enough so they start to go to popular songs that are secular. Godly music has never inspired me to listen to the world’s music. It seems to me gospel bluegrass is of the flesh and for the flesh. I have seen the same effects produced by bluegrass gospel as rock and CCM has produced. Attitudes, standards and respect for the word of God seem to descend. Is this something that ought to be in our churches?
“We have a couple of young fellows and a couple of older fellows in our church that have a real appetite for bluegrass gospel. One fellow has even missed church services to attend bluegrass festivals. On occasion after Sunday night service they will pull out their instruments and start playing bluegrass. The issue is this: I do not want to cultivate the appetite for bluegrass in my children and have discussed this with the Pastor. He basically does not see it like I do and it has continued. (A note about my Pastor. He has high standards, he is an excellent bible teacher and preacher, and I do love him dearly.) Instead of fellowship after the service we have had to leave because I don’t want this influence on my children. Have I gone to the extreme? Is my assessment of the music unfounded? Should this music be played at the church? (I will note that this style is not played in the church service.) Should I just keep my mouth closed on the issue and leave when necessary?”
REPLY FROM BROTHER CLOUD
I personally don’t believe we can make a wholesale condemnation of bluegrass the way we can with rock.
There are dangers, some of which you mentioned.
For one, I see the possibility of bluegrass creating an appetite for unwholesome secular music. We know that the field of bluegrass today is merging with rock, just as country music merged with rock decades ago. So there is a danger of “cross over” and falling in love with the sensual back beat. As a friend said, “There is definitely a style of bluegrass that is honky tonk and I don’t want to associate with that.”
Then there is the danger of bluegrass becoming an idolatrous priority in a believer’s life. You gave the example of a fellow who missed church to attend a bluegrass festival. He is on the road to serious spiritual backsliding if he is not careful. But any activity can become an idol. That is why John ended his first epistle with the words, “Little children, keep yourselves from idols” (1 John 5:21). Our fallen, duplicitous hearts can latch onto anything and make an idol of it, and we have to guard against this at all times.
Further, there is the potential for bluegrass leading believers into involvement in secular spheres of bluegrass festivals and such which might be unwholesome. The Bible warns, “Be not deceived: evil communications corrupt good manners” (1 Corinthians 15:33).
I think these are real dangers that pastors and parents would be wise to be on guard against. I know some godly families that play bluegrass and have not fallen into the trap that you described, but the danger is there and should be understood.
That being said, I don’t believe that the dangers of bluegrass are inherent with the music itself. I believe it is possible to enjoy some bluegrass or old country styles of music without being drawn into the world. I see it as a type of folk music that is not inherently bad.
There is an aspect of bluegrass that is associated with worldly partying, but blue grass has always been more than that and there has always been an innocent fun side to the music. Bluegrass is not intimately associated with rebellion and lust the way that rock and roll is. Rock has been a vehicle for rebellion and for serving the flesh since its inception. That is what rock music is all about. “Sex, fun, and rock & roll” is a true slogan. Those things go together hand in globe, but I don’t believe that is true for bluegrass. As one friend said, “The melodies and story lines are not sexual like a lot of rock is.”
I have prayed about this for many years and reevaluated my position several times, and I have never had the liberty from the Lord to condemn bluegrass wholesale as I do with rock.
In Christ, Bro. Cloud
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