This article entitled, “Music that changes,” in the Christian Century has a quote about how each of us has a “spiritual soundtrack” of music. My interpretation of the meaning of this is that, for most people, some music “feels” worshipful and other music does not. This provides a point of entry into worship on an emotional level. The “spiritual soundtrack” idea is, I think, more helpful than understanding our reactions as simply a matter of personal preference.
I’ve sometimes described this concept by saying that people feel moved by the things that move them. I might feel puzzled about why certain things are moving for another person emotionally, or even occasionally disappointed by what I observe, but it really doesn’t change anything. I can’t talk anyone into feeling affection for the things that are important to me.
For church musicians, this sometimes is expressed by wishing that people didn’t love old sentimental Gospel hymns like, “In the Garden,” or want to sing camp songs. For others, it might be an aggravation that their church’s band doesn’t play the latest songs from Christian radio, but rather just “folk music from the 70s.” Others identify specific composers as the culprits. In the Lutheran Church, John Ylvisaker used to often be on the receiving end of what can only be called a kind of elitist bullying. Today, there are actually websites created by Roman Catholic musicians who hate Marty Haugen and David Haas.
I suppose we can attempt to explain why a specific song or style of music or type of accompaniment can have such power for us. Ultimately, it doesn’t really matter, though. The “spiritual soundtrack” will keep playing for each of us. Let’s treat one another with love and respect, and commit ourselves to honoring the things that are precious to others.