Tuesday, October 23, 2018

The Normalization of Aberrant Behavior Now in Evangelicalism and Fundamentalism

This is not part two of my post from Monday, where I will likely break down how music communicates for what someone called spiritual babes or adolescents.  This is related to part one though.
Here are two paragraphs from yesterday's Washington Times:
The Trump administration may soon spearhead efforts to define sex and gender according to biology. In a Department of Health and Human Services memo leaked to the New York Times, officials argue the federal government should adopt a definition of sex and gender “on a biological basis that is clear, grounded in science, objective and administrable.” This move would essentially roll back changes the Obama administration made, which allowed folks to choose their identity and receive federal protections under Title IX. 
According to the memo, HHS proposes that a person’s sex be either male or female and match that of their genitals at birth. “Sex means a person’s status as male or female based on immutable biological traits identifiable by or before birth. The sex listed on a person’s birth certificate, as originally issued, shall constitute definitive proof of a person’s sex unless rebutted by reliable genetic evidence,” the memo says.
I'm using these paragraphs as an example of the world's normalization of aberrant behavior.  This is behavior that at one time would have been (1) criminal, which turned to (2) psychological disorders, (3) socially unacceptable, then (5) tolerated, and finally to (4) normalized.  A Christian would have just titled this sinful or something like immoral, deviant, or reprobate.  Calling something a psychological disorder is one of the steps toward normalization.  When something has become normalized, the people who oppose begin with some to be targeted as if they have the disorders, are at least mocked as destructive to a "civil society."

For years, the cultural left in this country, which is closely akin to the overall left (and this is no accident), has put pressure on institutions and then society in general to accept and then even celebrate aberrant, strange, and depraved behavior.  It has used the school system, the media, and the Democrat party to do this.  The changes have infiltrated everywhere and some more stark, bold, and rebellious than other.  When this has become normalized, religious figures are supportive and then the church capitulates.

I'm 56 and I've noticed the changes in my lifetime occur like the following.  Someone pushes the boundary of social acceptability.  Opposition is shamed by the cultural left.  The cultural left picks up the formerly unacceptable practice as acceptable and in style, promoting the change.  More embrace it.  It becomes societally acceptable. Opposition is silenced through propaganda and finally legally. There are probably more steps in there, tinier ones to get to the end, but you get the picture.  The changes occur in fashion, literature, entertainment, recreation, education, and then entire institutional structures change, including the family and church.

Let me give you an example.  I never saw a particular style of dress among women until a moderately successful comedy movie, 13 Going on 30.  We didn't have television or go to movies, but I remember ads on public transportation in our metropolitan area on buses and billboards with a photo of the young actress, Jennifer Garner. Reading back on the film, it grossed 22 million in the first weekend, which is very successful as an opening.  Prominent in the advertising was the photo of Garner wearing a silky camisole, what was at that time only worn in private in the bedroom as lingerie.  In the movie, she wore it in public.  I remember seeing it and then thinking, "Wow, I can't believe that's being worn in public."

Shortly into the run of the movie, I started seeing women in public wearing camisoles, the same kind Garner wore in her movie.  I made the connection.  Maybe they had worn them before, but this was new to me.  Then women were wearing the camisole as a blouse with a lacy border hanging down over their waistline.  Usually they had something covering their arms, but you could see the camisole underneath.  As a man, the idea of the bedroom and sex came to mind when I would see it.  It wasn't just association.  It was a bedroom look, being worn in public, sometimes under a business coat to mix those two features of modern female life.  And finally women wore them in church.  Now it's normal for women to wear the camisole in public and in church.  Maybe that in particular is not in style anymore, but I still see it worn.  The Wikipedia article on camisole says that it started being worn as outerwear in 2000.

I never saw a man with a man or a woman with a woman -- at least I didn't know about it -- until I saw stories on NBC news, which attempted to justify the behavior with interviews and polls.  Then in 1980 CBS did a report called, Gay Power Gay Politics.  I never had seen anything like that and it shocked me.  I knew about homosexuality from the Bible, because of the story of Sodom and Gomorrah in Genesis 19 and other passages. I didn't know it was happening in the United States.  Now we have same sex marriage.

The Women’s Home Journal in 1921 entitled, “Does Jazz Put The Sin In Syncopation?” said:
Jazz originally was the accompaniment of the voodoo dancer, stimulating the half-crazed barbarian to the vilest deeds. The weird chant, accompanied by the syncopated rhythm of the voodoo invokers, has also been employed by other barbaric people to stimulate brutality and sensuality. That it has a demoralizing effect upon the human brain has been demonstrated by many scientists.
A reading appreciation text at the University of Texas in 1922 reads:
We feel that the League is presenting an opportunity to member schools to do a great work in combating the immoral music which is now so popular at least insofar as the rising generation is concerned.  From the days of ancient Greece to the present time educators have recognized the high educational value of the right kind of music.  Emphasizing this point the editor of the Tacoma Washington Ledger says: 
"In this day of jazz and the abomination of sound which passes for music, anything that will lead youth to know and consider the worth while things that the great masters have handed down is to be commended.  To know good music, real music, is to love it, and where there is love of music, there is always promise of good morals, good citizenship, for love of the true and beautiful, makes for better men and women and a better world in which to live."
The Etude Music Magazine in 1922 stated.
There can be no question that some kinds of music stimulate irregular desires and therefore must be considered immoral in their tendency.
Christian Nation in 1903 said:
According to the Cumberland Presbyterian a college professor of that state is reported as saying that many of the gospel hymns of today are immoral explaining that he does not mean the words but the music. I include in the list of immoral songs six waltzes, two two-steps, and seventeen polkas. I do not think that words set to such music are inspiring or suitable for religious exercises.
California has normalized indolence, indigence, and derangement.  Any one of us should, and I believe do, even if you won't admit it, look at this and easily discern it as depraved and unacceptable.  It isn't normal.  It shouldn't be normal, and yet it is.  It happens because people won't even say what it is, at least out loud and with a necessary disapproving manner.  Disapproval is disapproved.

In 1978, Californians put Proposition 6, what was called the Briggs Amendment, on the state ballot and a strong majority of Californians approved it.  I was in 11th grade unaware of its existence.  It banned gays and lesbians from teaching in the public school.  On youtube, you can watch San Francisco citizens from that time period being asked by disapproving journalists if they support it, and you can see the fear in their faces.  This is the first phase in making the aberrant normative.

At the time, Anita Bryant was crossing the country for opposition and during a televised interview, someone violently slammed a pie in her face.  She wept and prayed for the man.  Bryant was savaged by the educational, media, and establishment elite.  Proposition 6 lost.  Even Ronald Reagan opposed it.  The tide had changed in America.

Music changed very little until the inception of modernism.  In the United States a large majority of people knew what they heard in the music emerging from that period was starkly different than a premodern transcendental view of beauty.  Above I included reactions to what they heard in jazz.  They knew it was immoral music -- not the words, the music.

People knew something was wrong like someone would know that something is wrong with the bum on the streets.  You don't have to give a chapter and verse.  You can judge it as wrong, applying biblical principles.

Rock music is trash.  All the popular music that proceeded from jazz is garbage.  It's worse than that, but someone can tell that it's wrong and that it is immoral.  It is the soundtrack of this world that will disappear when the Lord Jesus Christ destroys religious and political Babylon.  Those tunes will be no more.  This aberrant music is perverse to normalize it for a society, let alone a church.


Kent Brandenburg said...


The Outlook, a Weekly Newspaper, 1904:

Whether it is the operatic airs of Italian Catholic churches or the trivial "gospel" tunes of Protestant churches music in worship which, though it attracts numbers, degrades taste and banishes reverence, is, as a Western professor calls it, immoral. Such music is immoral because in the name of religion it coarsens the mental fiber of worshipers and deprives them of that sense of awe the "fear of God," upon which religion itself depends.

The Musical Courier, July 7, 1921:

There are those who have reached the stage, not through the medium of an influence of educational uplift, but more through that of hearsay and the desire to coincide with the views of those who stand for the better things. They assume the attitude of condemning all music coming under the head of ragtime or jazz, but seem willing to accept everything else. These individuals fail to realize that there is a vast collection of music quite as extensive as our modern deluge of rag and jazz, which, although not as coarse and sensuous, is of a nature to lead many into the lower depths who might otherwise become converts to the better. This class of music embraces a large percentage of our so called teaching material from the first through the third grades, much of the music found in Sunday school hymnals and other church music in the form of anthems and sacred vocal solos. Much of this music, but for the religious character of the words, possesses a rhythmical subtlety that makes it much more suited to the dance hall than the church. Here we have an example of ignorance causing devout church members to condemn one form of bad music and accept another that is just as bad. If a larger percentage of the church leaders possessed a finer sense of discrimination in this respect there would not be such a vast amount of musical drive heard today in our Protestant churches.

Kent Brandenburg said...


The Christian Examiner, 1855:

An organist who played a waltz as a voluntary after prayer told a friend of ours that he was not to blame, that he found that secular music was more popular than sacred music; that he had frequently been reproached with the dull character of his music, when he played really religious voluntaries and complimented when he introduced lighter themes; and that he thought that the musical people of the congregation were as much to blame as himself for this desecration of the house of worship.

In other words those who had no religious feelings in their hearts, light and worldly minded people, liked worldly music, and looked upon religious music as they did upon other religious matters as being dull and tiresome.

Brendon Dunn said...

Hi Kent

Those quotes you found are excellent. I am collecting info on the origins of Jazz to send to a pentecostal pastor in my town whose church puts on an annual Jazz concert, and these will be useful.

The quote that described Gospel Tunes as immoral may at first reading seem harsh, but I think it is correct. Many of those songs were written in imitation of the 19th century sentimental ballads (the pop music of the time). Their lyrics are theologically weak, man-centred, subjective and nauseatingly repetitive. Their light and lilting tunes are more suitable for the carnival than the church. Yes there are some exceptions, but generally the gospel songs have more in common with CCM than traditional hymns, and churches whose main diet is gospel songs will eventually transition to CCM.

I was thinking about your remarks regarding the majority of people in the US in former times knowing certain types of music were garbage when they heard it. Would you say this was because of the Christian foundation of the society and the influence upon its morality, or is it something inherent in man (or combination of both)? This is what I have been musing on, and I'd be interested to see what you think.

God gave man the faculty of conscience, that inner voice which discerns between right and wrong. Now the fall has corrupted the whole nature of man, making him utterly depraved, inclined towards sin instead of righteousness and completely unable to please God. This corruption has also defiled the conscience so that its judgment is impaired, and can only become pure and good through regeneration. Yet even in unregenerate man, the conscience still operates and guides them to "do by nature the things contained in the law", and serves as "the law written in their hearts" (Romans 2:14-15), this being the moral law.

Man's conscience guides him in issues of morality, the rightness or wrongness of a thing. Man knows within him that it is wrong to lie or steal. Seeing, hearing, doing, saying or thinking something immoral should prick the conscience, unless that conscience has become utterly defiled and seared. Sadly, Satan is using the media, education system, pop culture, and many other means to sear consciences from a very young age so that instead of being being disgusted by things like seeing two men kissing, they come to accept it.

We know that there is a moral component to art, including music. An active conscience, even in an unregenerate, should recognise certain types of music as being immoral when he hears them. A century ago, most people could recognise that, but in our day people's consciences have been conditioned to accept immoral music, and this has even spread to professing Christians.

There was a fascinating comment at Sharper Iron, where a pastor confessed to listening to Hillsong for the first time, and he said it was "hard to actually listen to it", he felt "ashamed", and he felt like he was "looking at pornography", yet he put those feelings down to his "cultural conditioning", and therefore the music "isn't evil at all".

I don't know about you, but if I listened to music purporting to be Christian, designed to glorify God and edify the believer, and came away feeling like I had engaged in some immoral and filthy activity, I might take pause to consider that perhaps God was activating my conscience and that the music may not be Christian after all.


Kent Brandenburg said...


Thank you, and I agree with everything you wrote. Well done. You are right about the conscience, how we discern and judge, which they are labeling as "subjective." They are permissive and lascivious. It's easy to see what's wrong.

I this piece I wanted people to see how it changed. Rock music proceeded from jazz and the principles are already violated, so the move is easy from jazz to rock. However, the reaction is what I said. I also wanted to highlight even secular sources saying it was immoral. Of course, it was in a period between 1900 and 1930.

Don Johnson said...

Interesting, thanks for the quotes. I am not sure I agree that the gospel songs are *entirely* connected to the culture, but in the main I think we are on the same page.

It is interesting that I can get the SI guys to agree *in principle* that music/art can be either moral or immoral, but they will not admit that the testimony of worldlings proves anything. One would think that it would at least give some pause, but no.

In my piece, I made a comment that CCM musicians are not innovative, just imitative. By that I meant that they really have not pushed the standards of music in any direction but have simply followed the innovations of the world. One fellow wrote me privately to push on that notion a bit. I think it is quite true. The fruit of the Spirit is "peace, joy, love, gentleness..." etc. One would think the music of the Spirit (or "in the Spirit") would reflect those same things. Distinctively Christian music, the distinctive sound of hymns and such, sound like that to me. And they bore the world.

I wonder what you think of that reasoning?

Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

Kent Brandenburg said...


I recently purchased "Honky Tonk Gospel" by Gene Edward Veith, and he, not attempting to make anything look bad, says the same about Gospel. I got it a few days ago, because I had seen it quoted. It's mainly the story of country music as it relates to church.

I found it interesting that they agree it is moral or immoral, but that there is no possible way to know. I'm saying this is just a refusal to move, volitional not intellectual. It could be a number of reasons why---like it personally, works for church growth, people they want to keep like it, don't want to stick out, and want a pat on the head from evangelicals, the cool guys in the room.

I agree they just imitate. It isn't spiritual or shows the fruit of the Spirit, I agree. Veith in his book says that this all started because it looked outward instead of upward. That caused it all, which is where I put the emphasis too.

Thanks Don.