Friday, May 13, 2011

Music as the Driving Force of the Protestant Religion

An old-fashioned and original Wurlitzer Organ

When we think of the birth of the protestant movement, we often refer to Martin Luther's famous Ninety-Five Theses which may or may not have been posted on the church door but which openly denounced the misuse and corruption within Catholic practice. His later vernacular translation of the Bible making it accessible for personal perusal and inquiry to anyone who had literacy and the financial means was another deciding moment in the eventual split from Catholic tradition.

Yet many are not fully aware of the role music played in this revolution. In fact, Martin Luther fervently believed that music was one of God's most precious gifts to humanity. He also composed various hymns and firmly believed that music ought to be a standard practice during sermons. Through music all the church members could unite to glorify God.

Luther was, in fact, obsessed with using music. He openly and adamantly complained about certain members that were refusing to sing or were not improving their skills; they should not be allowed to be part of the Christian body of Christ. In his view, every pastor should make use of spreading the gospels through songs. Again, it is significant that the lyrics contain religious messages, that they be based on the Holy Scripture, point toward or illustrate important aspects therein.

Today we know of the educational value of music. It helps you memorize parts through rhyme. It can be catchy so we hum it during the day, especially when involved in idle tasks. It also gives us an emotional connection to the subject at hand. Finally, it is a fun and popular activity for everyone.

It is a fact about human nature that one has more positive affect toward that which interests us and that we consider fun. Sermons then should not be dead-serious, some might even dare say dull and boring, but they should ideally have an impact on the congregation. The pastor needs to get through to the people in order to get his message across successfully. And what better medium to choose for gathering people together since in song all voices harmonize and lyrics can be memorized sometimes for a lifetime. To learn something by heart brings it so much closer to the heart indeed!

As such, Luther had his own reasons for choosing music as part of his “show” or service. Of course, the Catholic Church was no stranger to music. But instead of having monks sing in a foreign dead language, such as Latin, why not have the members sing themselves, each on their own in a language they speak in their daily lives. It just made such a stronger impact on them.

In a world before Rock 'n' Roll and Top Forty dance music, others may have been drawn to the protestant service simply out of curiosity or maybe just for entertainment. This situation gave the pastor a chance to spread the message and to catch more soulfish. No wonder then that the protestant religion spread like wildfire over the past centuries and became quite popular among the people.

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