In his new book, Why Johnny Can't Sing Hymns (P & R Publishing), T. David Gordon argues that modern worship choruses have trumped hymns in many congregations because for decades, we have been inundated with pop music—to the point that many of us don't know better. If you eat nothing but Big Macs, Gordon says, you will never appreciate a filet mignon.
A professor of religion at Grove City College, Gordon takes a media ecology approach, which he describes as the study of "the social and individual human consequences when a new medium is introduced to a culture." Regarding church music, Gordon says, media ecologists should ask how music, "once a participatory thing, became a passive thing. What happens when people who used to sing folk music around the house are now surrounded by Muzak? How does that alter our sensibilities of music?"
In the context of the church's "worship wars," Gordon's views may seem controversial and certainly will not stop the feuding. While not everyone will agree with him, his arguments can take the discussion about church music to a deeper, richer place. Christianity Today senior associate editor Mark Moring recently spoke with Gordon.
The media ecology approach brings a new perspective to the worship wars.
The wars are still going partly because none of the ways by which people tried to explain the wars were sticking. I think media ecology allows us to better understand the division. You could not explain the change [from traditional hymns to praise-and-worship songs] on either theological grounds or aesthetic grounds. So I started asking, On what grounds could we explain it?
The Reformation also changed worship music, but only after ...