Here’s an important question that picks up on what was arguably the most serious assertion of Part One (which you can read here). Some of you may have already seen a discussion about this on Facebook; please note that this is sufficiently different so as to be brand new – although the argument is exactly the same. Please take a look for yourself!
Is your connection between the slave trade and classical music based on both being in the same time period? I didn’t catch a stronger connection in the article but maybe I missed it. If that is the case then what other inventions, institutions or cultural phenomena do we discount because it happened to be founded whilst other deplorable practices were going on? Hymn tradition may have come during the slave trade but so did scientific inventions…
Now, the first point to make is that this interlocutor has been clever enough to think carefully before wording this question. It makes no direct accusation and also acknowledges the possibility that something has been missed. If it were to be the case that I have made that connection on solely that basis, we will have big problems. The question is…did I do that?
Thanks for wording that question as carefully as you did. I’ve been wondering how long it would take for someone to pick up on it.
What I haven’t done is simply suggest that because Anglo-European hymnody developed at the same time as the European slave trade, they must be connected. By my lights, that would not even qualify as an argument. What I also didn’t do in Part One was spend a great deal of time explicating this specific point – for the simple reason that it was already over 1800 words and was/is only intended to provide the wider background to the relationship between what I am loosely-but-seriously referring to as ‘conservative Adventist’ aesthetic positions on music and that list of Nazi rules about jazz. But I did, however, leave some important clues to attest to the fact that my claim that modern Anglo-European hymnody would not exist in the way we know it without the slave trade is more than short-scale speculative feeling masquerading for serious thought.
You mention ‘scientific inventions’ – particularly apposite examples of things that would not have developed in the way that they did without the “spectacular proliferation of wealth that came from the slave trade” (Part One). Of course we benefit from modern science, but even secular scholars are more and more aware of the ways in which the ‘scientific method’ which has led to much success is also a liability in certain contexts. So the ‘alpha’ status of science in Western academic culture is no longer what it was.
For Bible-believing Christians, that’s no surprise. If ‘science’ is what makes ‘evolution’ possible, then it is ultimately limited. Unfortunately, we haven’t thought about how this works with culture and religion. Christianity is not a Western phenomenon – not in strict Biblical-theological terms – but it has become the most Western of paradigms in the way that it exists practically.
I made the point that European sacred music is not merely music – it is culture. Now, in a sense, the history of religious thought in Europe is intrinsically linked to what would loosely be described as the development of European culture. An especially sordid example is the way in which the Catholic Church in Spain got happy about the profits from the silver mines of South America which were largely dependent on the coca leaves that the indigenous workers chewed. It was understood that the coca ingestion was not very good for those workers in terms of their health, and some Catholic priests protested. However, eventually it was decided that the material benefits to the Church far outweighed the problems. So the role of coca in the life of an indigenous South American manual labourer developed as a culture and is a foundation/precursor of the role that the modern synthetic compound we know as cocaine plays in global society – which is why it is utterly incredible that the Roman Catholic church, no less, is the historical force at the bottom of this!
[Those of you with your heads in the sand over Christianity and colonialism need to wake up! My family used to know another family where the wife and mother was a white South African whose family treated the indigenous black people terribly whilst singing Anglican hymns every Sunday in church. For decades that lady utterly refused to take the claims of Christianity seriously – for no other reason than any religion that allowed people to treat other human beings that way could not be a religion worth following. BUT – when we was on her deathbed, she asked my mother to pray for her…]
These profits to the RC Church had a signal effect on the wider economy of Spain, which eventually overtook Italy in economic terms around 1500. But Italy still benefitted from European prosperity! Anyway: the massive expansion of European church buildings from 1500 onwards (starting with St Peter’s in Rome) is linked to the multifarious ways in which national economies of Europe were developing. It was not just the immense size and scale of these churches as structural edifices that made the funding issue so important – it was the ongoing maintenance of these church communities and all the things needed for worship and ritual. And surprise surprise…you’ve guessed it – MUSIC was a big part of that.
So when all sorts of conservative Adventist speakers lambast the poor African drum as being the epitome of straight up devil-worship and think that all forms of music with such bad origins should be banned from church, they NEED to stop the hypocrisy-by-ignorance. In fact, they need to stop talking about what they don’t know. The origins of European sacred music are not ‘holy.’ They come from a religious ecosystem that is systemically flawed from the bottom up and the inside out. Spain may have been ransacking the South American continent for silver (etc) but once Europe on the whole realised that they could turn over large parts of the world with their technology and know-how, the ransacking continued.
Since researching this issue my own technical knowledge has expanded. It turns out that from the sixth century congregants were in fact singing in church and would do so until the eighth century when the Gregorians would take singing away from the congregations and give it to the ordained clergy. [All that was new.] It would be the Moravians (c. 1500) who began to sing in their worship services as an act of resistance as well as praise and worship, and that was what influenced Luther to push for congregational singing as a major part of the Reformation. Meanwhile, slavery and imperialism are just getting started – but the wealth of Europe belonged to a small number of folks at the very top of elite society. The Roman Catholic Church was very concerned about the effect of congregational singing and the widening of participation in the liturgy – and as a result the Council of Trent led to what very few SDAs seem to have heard of – something called the Counter-Reformation, which was ultimately responsible for much of is now regarded as some of the most amazing European sacred music and that was also partially down to the profits of colonialisation.
[This year is the 500th anniversary of Luther’s 95 theses. It is also the year in which the Lutheran Church (and several others) are going back to Rome. How is it that we as Seventh-Day Adventists are supposed to slavishly endorse this proto-European sacred music as holier than the Christian sacred music that comes from any other part of the world when THIS MUSIC is the music of churches who have said ‘yes’ to Babylon?! The issue is not that these hymns cannot be sung with a different theological commitment. The issue is that Ivor Myers, Doug Batchelor, Dwayne Lemon, Jeremiah Davis, Stephen Bohr and several others refuse to ackowledge that other cultural-musical forms of expression could be in any way acceptable to God when those forms of music do not come rooted in the aesthetics of Babylon – unlike the music they insist is the only music acceptable to God…something is more wrong with this than we have realised!!!!]
As the second half of the last millennium continued, Protestant Europe’s economic power came to the foreground and the so-called ‘gunboat diplomacy’ of the 19th century saw more expansion in different ways into Asia even as the transatlantic slave trade came to an end (in policy long before practice). The Church was on the decline as a vital economic force as the later effects of the Enlightenment came into being and the Origin of Species did a great deal to put the status of the church at large on a lower level than before. By now the work of the missionaries in exporting European cultural, social and religious values has been so effective (I mentioned the word-concept ‘hegemony’) that we come into the 20th century with a set of values in which European sacred music is being written by more and more non-Christian composers (SDAH #91 is a great example – Vaughn Williams was completely agnostic) – but in addition, non-Western musical influences are now themselves being exported back to Europe. So some of the more recent musical innovations which influence modern sacred music have also come out of slavery and colonial expansion. Enlightenment (German: aufklarung) modes of thinking have produced both modern science and Christianity-as-culture.
As SDAs, we benefit from Western science (which makes modern technology possible) but we don’t elevate it beyond Scripture. Nor Western medicine either! So why have we elevated Western classical music as highly as we have? Why is this musical paradigm the only true way to worship God? Since when does Europe alone hold the keys to true musical worship?! And why on earth is the African drum maligned as it is (Ivor Myers is a case in point!) when not all drumming traditions are in aid of Satanic stuff? If – as Neil Nedley (his viewpoint is a complete disgrace) argues, even playing a drum in a marching band is deleterious to intellectual development, we need to get rid of Pathfinder drums immediately… but Nedley then goes and puts Tchaikovsky on his list of ‘approved composers’ when Tchaikovsky was bisexual and used music to help him work through his issues – including the first piano concerto which Nedley sells himself on CD as a product…and there is plenty of percussion in that piece – as well as very non-Christian sentiments being espoused in the music itself…
I have endeavoured to show that if one fails to understand the significance of the word ‘culture’ in a European context, it becomes hard to think rigorously about what made the development of that culture possible and what sustains it.
Now that the groundwork has been laid properly, Part Three is going to begin unpacking the ten Nazi rules and show how the ideology behind those rules is extremely similar to that espoused by various conservative Adventists. It’s time to wake up to the fact that what is espoused as Biblical spirituality by many Adventists is rather closer to power and control in European colonialism than a defense of true Biblical worship.