It can have its place, but as Dan is arguing there needs to be a larger understanding–a true horizon of meaning–presented to young people in order for them to understand human destiny as something other than self-transformation or–as much of pop culture likes to celebrate–”self-invention.” They need to know what it means to be made in the image of God and that their ultimate destiny rests in God. These are realities into which we are born, not ones we choose, transform ourselves into, or invent.
What if we had a musical idiom–not lyrics, you understand, but a basic architecture to music–that expressed how our stories are gathered into God’s story? The idioms matter. That’s one of the reasons churchmen, like Pope Benedict, keep coming back to Gregorian chant and the polyphony of Palestrina. There’s a sense in those idioms of something beyond “self-transformation.” Oddly, when you think about it, Gospel, out of which so much of rock and roll is built, has a wonderful sense of transcendence–and even the blues, another major contributor to rock, carries limitation and tragedy in its changes. Both of these strains were hyper-sexualized as they became rock and roll.
A pop cultural musical idiom with a sense of transcendence–that’s a challenge waiting out there for a new generation of Christian musicians. This does not mean, I’m at pains to say, just taking what’s on offer and adding the Jesus emo of nasally white boys. It’s the fundamental challenge of how the music itself–as music–is constructed. I can envision such a wonder. Perhaps before I die I’ll hear it.