Headphones and Public Worship

I understand the use of headphones, but I think this trend of privatizing music is worrisome, as the increasingly burdensome privatizing of reading away from almost all orality is worrisome, reinforcing our idolatrous perception of self as truly autonomous monad. We witness here the progressive disintegration of society into a mere shadow of itself. Performance and edification are social things, and I think we must be very careful to prevent them from becoming decontextualized pieces of information.

…lest we think the opera house or concert hall is the only place for music to shape a common consciousness. Perhaps this is a symptom of professional music being readily available to us wherever we are as long as we have those mp3 players (iPods, if you’re an Apple person). Autonomy isn’t everything.

So it is with music in service of the Lord’s Day worship of the Church. Whatever the music is, whether it’s of the style that people normally listen to or not, what it expresses in the lyrics and the musical score is to speak for all the congregation, not just for one solipsistic mind. On the part of the leaders, first and foremost as the common experience of God’s people (i.e. his nation) is the Bible, both the Old Testament and the New Testament testifying to his salvation of mankind; on the part of the congregation, the people must let the voice of God’s people through the ages become theirs.

The society of the Church, after all, is public. Her piety, her work, her life is public. Let her worship truly be public, not a private thing projected into the visible sphere.

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