Jazz in Adventist Schools?
The following introduction and a reprinted article from Adventist Today were published in the summer/Autumn 2008 issue of Notes, a publication of the International Adventist Musicians Association. An article by Mervyn R. Joseph, “Jazz, Essential Study in Our Schools,” which was printed in the 2011 Summer/Autumn issue of IAMA Online Notes follows, along with a response by Lyle Hamel received in December 2011.
The introduction and proliferation of jazz ensembles in Adventist schools in the last two decades has generated intense debate at all levels within the church. While for some incorporating it into school music programs in Adventist schools represents a delayed acknowledgement of an important and uniquely American music, for others it represents a final and total abrogation of responsibility in upholding music standards that have prevailed for decades. While some enjoy listening to and playing its driving and syncopated rhythms and spirited melodies, others are deeply troubled by its past associations and impact on morals and behavior.
Starting with its tawdry origins as music associated with immorality, and continuing with its introduction to the U.S. public by dance bands in about 1912, jazz became the rage of the country and eventually was the engine that drove the Roaring Twenties. Adventist schools from the 1920s and on struggled with student interest in this type of music and its successor, swing band music. The experience of one school, Walla Walla College, now University, was typical of that of other Adventist colleges. While the school band had been in trouble at the turn of the century for playing ragtime music along with its marches, jazz became an even more troubling challenge.
In 1923, the college yearbook, The Mountain Ash, entered the fray with an extended story by Evelyn Parr James about Marie, an imaginary student who had come to the campus with "questionable" interests in music. Over the course of the year and experiences in the school orchestra and choir, her tastes were changed. The final paragraph reads as follows:
The day after the last orchestra concert, Louise found her roommate seated on the campus looking dreamily away toward the distant mountains which lay mistily blue in the afternoon sunshine. Marie caught her breath with something like a sob. "I don't want to leave here!" she said huskily. "At first it seemed almost like a prison. I longed for the amusements I had left, and what I would have given for some real jazz music. Then I joined the orchestra and chorus. You know how I love music, but I never before appreciated anything worthwhile. Now it seems to me that I never want to hear jazz again. I have learned to recognize the beautiful in good music, and somehow it changed my life, so I want, - well," she gave an embarrassed laugh, "I want my life to be a - a - symphony instead of a ragtime tune."
By the late 1930s, a number of student groups had been formed and disbanded. One group survived the 1938-1939 school year, an orchestra led by F.E.J. Harder, later an educator at the General Conference level. In a photo of the group, it looks like a 1930s swing band, its members attired in white dinner jackets and seated behind dance band music stands. He later described its music as "semi-popular." Another student group, similar to others on campus euphemistically called "pep bands," was the Associated Student Band that existed in the late 1940s, only to end in 1950 with an ultimatum from the president to one its leaders, a theology major, to disband the group or be expelled.
And other student groups continued for the rest of the century. Today, WWU has a jazz band, a department sponsored group that is now in its second year. It has been controversial, even becoming a story on the front page of the local newspaper.
Several Adventist colleges and universities as well as academies now offer jazz/swing band ensembles as part of their music curriculum. The following article from Adventist Today talks about the current controversy and how it is part of a larger historical and present-day issue that affects not only campus life but the church at large. Like the issue of worship music, the trend is a difficult one to discuss and resolve, particularly during an era of rapidly evolving changes in society and music.
One of IAMA's purposes is to be a forum in which issues like these can be discussed. We invite you to share with readers your thoughts about the offering of jazz in Adventist schools.
Dan Shultz, Editor IAMA publications and website
Mad About MUSIC ~ What Else Is New?
A current clash over jazz bands is the latest in a long line of Adventist music controversies.
Loma Linda Academy Principal Brent Baldwin feels caught in the middle of an age-old controversy. "I’m in a sticky situation," he said. "I have a very conservative base to work with and a very liberal base to work with."
It’s nothing new. Baldwin is fielding opposing views regarding the Loma Linda Academy jazz band. Although Baldwin says only one person, retired Adventist educator Lyle Hamel, has complained to him directly about the band, several people have expressed their negative input indirectly.
Hamel and others blame the initiation of jazz bands at campuses like Loma Linda Academy on university jazz bands— specifically Southern Jazz Ensemble of Southern Adventist University—for recruiting academy students to play jazz. "Why does Southern have such a program, and why are they permitted to bring reproach to all of us who have served this fine university?" said Hamel, who taught and directed music at Southern from 1959-1964.
Ken Parsons, director of Southern Jazz, doesn’t take responsibility for the recruitment of academy performers. "To say that ‘SAU made us start this group’ is absurd," Parsons said. "Every academy principal is the captain of his ship, and if he feels an ensemble such as this is contrary to the mission and standards of the school, he’s certainly within his rights and powers to prevent one. Whenever we perform for a school, I make sure the principal understands ahead of time the nature of our presentation. I’ve never had one refuse us."
Baldwin didn’t refuse. He welcomed Southern Jazz with open arms, and so did his students.
"When they saw [Southern Jazz], the kids got really excited," Baldwin said. "They were saying, ‘We want one, Mr. Baldwin!’" Baldwin saw a need for a small band that would easily fit into smaller churches and would have more flexibility for community performances, so he gave his permission for such a band to form; however, he points out that calling the group a "jazz band" is a misnomer.
"When they go to churches and play, do you think they play jazz music? No," Baldwin said. The band plays worship music for church services and a mix of jazz music and big band for community performances.
"If it was strictly a jazz band," Baldwin said, "I would have an issue because the older generation in the Adventist Church views jazz as negative."
Bruce Ashton fits this category. A semi-retired associate professor of music at Southern, Ashton says, "Jazz was the 1920’s ‘F’ word. It was a street word for ‘dirty sex.’ There must have been something about the style of the music to make people think that way about it and call it that. Jazz is music with an attitude—with an ‘in your face’ style."
But not everyone holds this view. Parsons says he established Southern Jazz at the request of Dr. Scott Ball, dean of the School of Music, and "with the blessing of the university administration."
"The group has been very positively received, in general," Parsons said. "I know there are those who do not enjoy jazz, and some that do not feel it appropriate music for a Christian group, but I have received very little negative input."
A History of Division
What is considered appropriate music has always been an issue in the Adventist Church. Some call certain music styles rebellion against Christian living and don’t believe they bring anyone closer to God. Others argue that performing such music is either neutral or a way of delivering the gospel message to those who don’t know Christ. Most Christian artists, such as the controversial Adventist jazz vocal group Take 6, claim this as the reason for their sound.
"We’ve accomplished what we set out to do, and that’s to reach people in all walks of life," Take 6 member Claude V. McKnight III told the New York Times. "It has never made sense to just sing in church or to people who supposedly already have the message. You take it out into the . . . streets to the people who really need it."
The Heritage Singers’ founders Max and Lucy Mace have a similar purpose and consider the contemporary-sounding group a ministry. But many Adventists didn’t view the group in the same way, criticizing them in the early 1970s.
"As in anything new, some people were not willing to accept change at first," Lucy Mace said. "Max had a dream to have a larger group with tight harmony and within the group have a quartet. We weren’t criticized so much for our music. It was more because we had a guitar and bass guitar on stage."
Groups like The Heritage Singers and Take 6 are a present-day reflection of groups past like The Wedgwood Trio, later called The Wedgwood after group member Don Vollmer quit because of his spiritual conviction when the group changed from offering a simple folk-gospel style to a more edgy, complex sound in 1969.
"To me, the new music compromised and betrayed its message. I had no doubt that many people would enjoy it, but I seriously wondered about its power to uplift and convert," Vollmer told Marilyn Thomsen in her book Wedgwood: Their Music, Their Journey.
Besides The Wedgwood’s intra-group struggles, the Adventist Church rejected the group’s music about 1973, closing doors to performances and putting an end to their career despite their large and mostly young fan base. Their last album, Dove, was recalled a month after its release when Adventist stores banned its sale.
"A longtime friend told us that years later he found Dove in the bargain bin at an Adventist Book Center," group member Bob Summerour told Thomsen.
Of course, today the Wedgwood music that was once banned is often considered harmless and innocent. That is, unless you’re in agreement with Louis Torres, vice president of Mission College of Evangelism.
The lead bass player for Bill Haley and the Comets in 1967-68, the young Torres was convicted the music he was playing was not pleasing to God. "So I dropped [the Comets] in spite of the fact that my pastor tried to encourage me to just change the words," Torres said. He holds the same conviction today.
"What Bill Haley and the Comets began has contributed to regressing back to the primitive jungle beats utilized to incite war, sex, or ecstasy," he said. "It is sad the church forgets that God does not change just because the world changes."
Behind School and Conference Doors
As new pop-culture sounds rise under a Christian label, and as old, classical jazz surfaces within the Adventist school system, about the only thing that doesn’t change is the disagreement. Music, not just love, has always been a battlefield.
Even the music at the 2000 General Conference in Toronto was controversial; people who liked or disliked the use of drums, rhythms, and eclectic sounds were split seemingly down the middle. While some deemed the music cultural, others thought it an apostasy. Some walked out when certain music was played, according to Ruth Ann Wade, associate professor of music at Montemorelos University.
Some thought Adventist theologian Samuele Bacchiocchi was cleansing the sanctuary from rock music at the 2000 Toronto Session when, in the exhibit hall, he jumped onto the podium and ripped the microphone from a performing group, Valor. "He grabbed one of their mikes and began a tirade against ‘this rock music.’ The ABC manager had to come out and retrieve the microphone," attendee John McLarty said.
Although this may have been interpreted by some as Bacchiocchi’s scorn of rock music, Bacchiocchi said it had nothing to do with the style of music being played.
"The issue was not the kind of music that they were playing, but the fact that the band set up their platform and played full blast next to our booths where we were trying to communicate with our customers," Bacchiocchi said. "Three different booth owners asked them to turn down the volume, but nothing happened. Since they were stubborn . . . I walked onto the platform and told them to go elsewhere to play their music."
Five years after that conference, new guidelines toward a Seventh-day Adventist Philosophy of Music were written and released by the Autumn Council of the General Conference Committee. Compared with preceding music guidelines released in 1972, the 2005 guidelines on music are less specific, more generalized, and suggest recognizing music from other cultures.
One thing the 1972 guidelines include that the 2005 guidelines leave out is "Certain musical forms, such as jazz, rock, and their related hybrid forms, are considered by the Church as incompatible with these principles."
Instead, the latter guidelines say that "secular music is music composed for settings other than the worship service or private devotion. It speaks to the common issues of life and basic human emotions. It comes out of our very being, expressing the human spirit’s reaction to life, love, and the world in which the Lord has placed us. It can be morally uplifting or degrading. Although it does not directly praise and adore God . . . it could have a legitimate place in the life of the Christian."
What each individual considers "legitimate" secular music and how they define it, and which kinds of music should be allowed within Adventist schools and churches, is an issue that, no matter how fine-tuned our guidelines are, will always march to the beat of its own drummer.
Reprinted with permission from the January/February 2008 issue of Adventist Today
JAZZ - Essential Study in Our Schools?
Mervyn R. Joseph
Lyle Hamel in the Winter 2011 issue of the Andrews University Focus alumni magazine indicated that he was taught at Emmanuel Missionary College, now Andrews University, that jazz was not an acceptable type of music to be listened to or to be a part of Seventh-day Adventist education curriculum. I believe as a music educator, jazz in our institutions should at least be an integral part of the listening curriculum and where the expertise exists, should also be an ensemble experience option.
It is interesting to note that the 1972 revised edition of A History of Western Music by D. J. Grout has only a few minor references about jazz, whereas the current 8th edition of the book now includes four chapters of a much more detailed discussion of the music of African Americans and vernacular styles. This includes the historical development of jazz, its precursors, the significant influence of jazz on the Western canon of music, and a broadening of the meaning of jazz as art music.1
Before proceeding, the first question we must address is what kind of music is jazz? In 1987, the U.S. Congress passed a resolution declaring jazz a "valuable national American treasure." The full text of the resolution also states that jazz is an "art form," but it is also a "people’s music"; that it is "an indigenous American music" but also international, having been "adopted by musicians around the world." Although jazz is a "unifying force" that erases ethnic gulfs, it is nevertheless a music that comes to us "through the African American experience." 2
While this resolution seems to sum up the music’s contradictory qualities, one can nevertheless indicate three different categories that position jazz within our society. The first is that jazz is an art form. Jazz has been called "America’s classical music," and it can now be found in the heart of the cultural establishment, whether in concert halls, television documentaries, or university curricula. Jazz has always been created by skillfully trained musicians, even if their training took place outside of the academy. Their unique music demands and rewards the same respect and care traditionally brought to classical music.3
Jazz is also popular music. This may seem like an exaggeration when jazz recordings comprise only three percent of the market. But jazz has always been a commodity, something bought and sold, whether in live performance or in the media - especially during the Swing Era of the 1930s, when vast audiences heard or saw Duke Ellington, Count Basie, and Benny Goodman on the radio, in the jukeboxes, or on movie screens. Today, jazz musicians still sell their services in the commercial marketplace, constantly negotiating with the restless tastes of the American public.
Finally, one may also think of jazz as folk music, but not in the usual sense of music performed in rural isolation. Jazz is distinctly urban, at home on the street corner and comfortable with modern technology, but on a basic level, the qualities that mark jazz as different from other musical genres stem directly from its folk origins. And generally, these folk resources are from African American cultural experiences, with roots that can be traced back to Africa.4
It is important here to briefly discuss some of these musical characteristics of African music that have survived in African American music, both secular and sacred, and are the roots of jazz. After more than 350 years of contact with European and American cultures, the musical characteristics of African tribal music are still alive. They are found in ragtime, blues, jazz, rap, gospel and all other forms of African American music.5 Some of the key elements of African tribal music that have survived are call-and-response form, improvised solos, audience participation, syncopation, non-developmental music, repetition, and emotional intensity.
Call-and-response is by far the most common form of tribal African music surviving today. This can be an exact group repetition of the soloist’s verse, group repetition of the soloist’s refrain, or the soloist singing the first half, and the group responding with the refrain. Examples of these variations can be found in spirituals, gospel songs, and early instrumental jazz. In the typical black church, there is usually a regular interchange between the preacher and members of the congregation, as when the preacher says something important, members of the congregation react by saying "amen."
Improvisation is the heart and soul of African tribal music. In African musical traditions, no effort is made to repeat a traditional tune or melody exactly. Singers and instrumentalists feel free to personalize songs so long as the original melody can still be recognized. Improvisation is essential to jazz. The combination of the spontaneous (the improvised) with the preconceived (the arranged) gives jazz its uniqueness, excitement, and drive.
In African tribal tradition, there was no separation between performers and audience.6 Everyone got into the act and participated in one way or another, by dancing, tapping a foot, singing, clapping or hitting a percussion instrument. Today, we approximate this coming together of audience and performer in black churches, gospel and jazz concerts, and pep rallies.
Hand clapping by those not actively playing or singing was expected, and sometimes the hand clapping became highly syncopated and complex. Syncopation, or displaced accent, is an essential characteristic of jazz. In western European musical tradition, rhythmic accents, for the most part, fall on downbeats. Syncopation is a vital part of African-American music, from work songs, spirituals, gospel, jazz and rap.
The Greco-Roman/Judeo-Christian foundations of western European civilization placed great emphasis upon logic and linear thinking. Music has to evolve, go somewhere, usually with a beginning, developmental section, followed by an obvious ending. African culture viewed life - and music - differently.
Within their cultural context, life was seen as cyclical, rather than evolutionary. Intuition and spontaneity were valued over logical deduction and development.7 Music was not forced to prove anything - it simply had to be exciting, pleasant, and satisfying to both the listener and performer. Endings were often vague or nonexistent, implying that the music would resume where it left off at a later time.
There is more repetition in African tribal music than there is in most styles of western European music. There are usually subtle changes in the repetitive phrases, but the Africans stay with the phrase until they have wrung every drop of interest out of it. To Western ears, the music sometimes sounds monotonous; however, close observation will reveal a myriad of subtle changes with each repetition.
One of the single greatest differences between western European vocal styles and African vocal styles is the degree of emotional intensity. There are no limits to the amount of emotional intensity in African or African-American vocal styles. Singers deliberately manipulate their voices to whisper, cry, moan, wail, bark, sob, growl or yell. At the same time, they reveal their emotions, for example, fear, love, anger, or exhaustion.
Jazz musicians try to lend their instruments the same qualities of human speech. In performances by the Duke Ellington’s orchestra from as early as the 1920s, trumpet and trombone players came up with ingenious combinations of mutes to produce unearthly, throat-growling sounds, as if they were vocalists singing wa-wa or ya-ya. Jazz musicians, much more than their classical counterparts, use these unusual sounds not only for expressive purposes, but also to attain stylistic individuality.8
Having explored this background of some of the underpinnings of jazz, we are back to the first question: is jazz an acceptable type of music to be listened to, and should it be a part of Adventist educational curriculum? I believe that jazz should be a part of our listening/performance curriculum for several reasons.
First, jazz is now respected as art music.9 The idea of art music -music listened to with rapt attention, valued for its own sake, and preserved in a repertoire of classics - began in the tradition of concert music, but by the late twentieth century it had spread to other traditions. Each style of jazz has continued to attract performers and listeners even after the "next" style emerged, so that jazz of all eras is available in performance and on recordings, just like classical music.
An example of this would be The Smithsonian Collection of Classic Jazz, an anthology of jazz recordings that revolutionized the teaching of jazz. In the 1980s, new institutions were created to preserve and present classic works of former times. The Smithsonian Jazz Orchestra, led by David Baker, gives live performances of jazz from past generations.
Jazz at Lincoln Center, founded by Wynton Marsalis in 1987 as an ensemble and concert series for historically accurate jazz performances at the complex shared by the New York Philharmonic and Metropolitan Opera, got its own hall in 2004, a short walk from Lincoln Center. By then it was widely accepted that jazz was art music with its own repertoire of classics.10
Jazz should be a part of our listening/performance curriculum because of the significant impact it has had in the works of major composers of the Western musical canon. Examples could include Maurice Ravel’s Piano Concerto for the Left Hand (1929), Kurt Weill’s Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny (opera, 1930), Igor Stravinsky’s Ebony Concerto (1945), George Gershwin’s piano concerto Rhapsody in Blue (1924), Gunther Schuller’s Concertino for Jazz Quartet and Orchestra (1959), and Transformation (1957). Schuller's concertino is a pointillistic twelve-tone orchestral work with elements of Webern’s Klangfarbenmelodie, transformed into a full-blown modern jazz piece.
It is true that one of the main functions of early jazz in the 1920s was to accompany dancing. Frank Tirro in his book Jazz--A History, indicates that "the Victorian, pro-prohibition majority of white Americans automatically associated the music played by New Orleans musicians with the lifestyles they led, so in spite of its immediate popularity, jazz was met by impassioned opposition."11
But jazz since then has evolved into widely divergent styles ranging from entertainment music to art music. However, dance music as art music is nothing new throughout the history of classical music, though it may be sanitized and stylized. Some examples studied as part of the classical canon are the 16th-century French branle, the Baroque dance suites, the minuet, Dvorák’s Slavonic Dances, Khachaturian’s exciting Sabre dance, Stravinsky’s ritual sacrificial dance in the Rite of Spring, and Scott Joplin’s rags.
In conclusion, I believe that jazz has come a long way over the past hundred years and has increasingly become music for the well-informed listener. Jazz in the curriculum, I suggest, can be studied and/or performed using a variety of combined approaches.
First, there is the art-centric approach where jazz is studied as an art-for-art sake and the focus is on the particularity of the musical work. Here the work is analyzed by breaking down its chorus structure and examining the components that went into making it a success or failure.
Secondly, jazz can be studied as an American "fusion" phenomenon that emerged through the melding of traditions from Africa and Europe, and from such sources as blues, ragtime, black gospel, Tin Pan Alley songs, brass band marches and dances. No musical form grows in a cultural vacuum. Europe’s classical composers worked with popular airs, folk styles and dances, and jazz similarly borrowed from other forms.
A final teaching/performance approach is what DeVeaux and Giddins call the historicist narrative12 which begins with the precept that jazz creativity is inextricably bound with its past. As a work of art, jazz must be viewed within the context of the place and time of its creation. In other words, one must look beyond a work to the historical and social conditions that may help us interpret it and to appreciate the quality of the musical work.
And so I end with the belief and a declaration that jazz should be a part of the academic music study and/or performance curriculum in Adventist schools.
Mervyn R. Joseph, an associate professor of music education at Central State University in Wilberforce, Ohio, completed a B.Mus.in 1976 and an M.A. in 1977 at Andrews University and a Ph.D. at Indiana University. He can be reached at 7100 Chadbourne Drive, Huber Heights, OH 45424 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org
1 J. Peter Burkholder, Donald J. Grout, and Claude V. Palisca, A History of Western Music, 8th ed., (New York: W. W. Norton & Co., 2010).
2 John Conyer Jr. US Congress resolution: H.CON.RES 57 http://www.hr57.org/hconres57.html (1987), accessed 7 June 2011.
3 Scott DeVeaux, and Gary Giddins, Jazz (New York: W. W. Norton & Co., 2009), 53.
4 ibid, 54.
5 Jack Wheaton, All That Jazz (New York: Ardsley House, Publishers, Inc., 1994), 28-35.
6 ibid, 33.
7 ibid, 34.
8 Scott DeVeaux, and Gary Giddins, Jazz (New York: W. W. Norton & Co. 2009), 8-9.
9 Barbara Russano Hanning, Concise History of Western Music (New York: W. W. Norton & Co., 2010), 606.
10 J. Peter Burkholder, Donald J. Grout, and Claude V. Palisca, A History of Western Music, 7th ed., (New York: W. W. Norton & Co., 2006).
11 Frank Tirro, Jazz--A History (New York: W. W. Norton & Co., 1993), 140.
12 Scott DeVeaux, and Gary Giddins, Jazz (New York: W. W. Norton & Co. 2009), 512-513.
A Response . . .
Lyle Q. Hamel
The explanation for the acceptance of jazz in our schools written by Dr. Mervyn R. Joseph was well written and could be used in a secular university in selecting the teaching faculty and what is taught as solid science. This could also include the teaching of evolution as a proven fact. However, there are other guidelines I feel that should be considered when any Christian university selects its teachers and subjects to be taught.
To provide some balance to what was written by Dr. Joseph, some consideration should also be given to observations made by Paul Hamel in a talk presented in 1958 at EMC, now Andrews University, which were then printed in an article, “A Psychology of Music for Christians,” in The Journal of True Education in April 1961. What he said then can still apply to SDA schools as they choose teachers and subjects and would lead to more balanced decisions as to what is appropriate in our schools:
is scientific evidence that music influences our behavior. This takes place in
the following manner: music can affect our emotions, our emotions influence our
thoughts, and our thoughts are responsible for our conduct.
Music is only one way in which emotions can be aroused or modified, but it is an important one. Under the right conditions and circumstances, it is perfectly proper to arouse emotions of strength, or of joy, or of love in ourselves and in others - through any means available, including music. It must be remembered, however, that emotions cause us to act. Therefore, as emotional tensions mount within us, we want to be certain that we have an adequate means of releasing these tensions in a way that is acceptable to God and to society.
and psychologists have for many years accounted for the mounting toll of
neurosis in terms of the insurmountable gulf between erotic and “power” drives on
the one hand and the cultured sanctions of social ideals on the other. Music as
a factor in conditioning emotions cannot only be a means of developing
unfortunate conduct patterns, but it can also set the stage for poor mental
health by assisting in the setting up of this conflict.
We all know that jazz music is used almost exclusively in night clubs, in taverns, in dance halls, in the parlors of houses of prostitution, and in strip-tease joints. Why? Only because the kind of music used assists in the successful operation of these establishments. It helps to get customers in by taking advantage of their natural liking for musical sounds. It helps the performers in the floor- and stage-shows to be less inhibited in their actions and in their dialogue, and it helps the customers to forget themselves and to spend more money on drinks and entertainment than they had planned to spend.
were suddenly to find ourselves without the means of making music of the jazz
variety, fewer people would habituate these places of questionable character,
the performances would lose much of their appeal, less alcohol would be
consumed, and fewer people would wake up in the morning wondering where they
had been the night before, with whom they had spent their time, and what they
At a convention of music psychologists at Michigan State University, I heard Dr. Curtis of Broadcast Music, Inc., say “Music has the greatest possibilities for good or for evil of anything I know,” and he was referring to the influence which music may have over people’s lives. We all recognize that a simple hymn with a real message that is well sung at the appropriate moment can have a tremendous appeal to individuals with whom the Holy Spirit can communicate. I’ve seen Del Delker, for example, get better results with a four-minute inspirational song than Elder Richards gets in a 20-minute spirit-filled sermon. In the Faith for Today TV program, in the Voice of Prophecy, in The Quiet Hour, and in other religious broadcasts, music is used mightily by the Lord for the salvation of men and women.
In Fundamentals of Christian Education, pp.
97 and 98, Ellen G. White says: "Music was made to serve a holy purpose,
to lift the thoughts to that which is pure and noble and elevating, and to
awaken in the soul devotion and gratitude to God." This is the highest use
of music, and it is a wonderful thing to see men and women drawn to their
Creator through the means of music. On several occasions, however, I have
witnessed the use of sacred hymns by the devil. I have listened to these hymns
played so "skillfully" on a Hammond organ that many of the poor
Pentecostal people in the audience were so overcome by orgiastic convulsions
that they fell to the floor, screaming, shouting, and writhing. That was the
most disgusting sight that I have ever seen - and it was brought about almost
entirely by playing music in a vulgar style.
That Satan would seek to use the gift of music for his own devilish purpose is not to be wondered at. What good thing has the Lord given us that Satan has not been able to pervert in order to degrade the human race? The following excerpt from Messages to Young People, p. 295, points this out: "Satan has no objection to music, if he can make that a channel through which to gain access to the minds of youth… When turned to good account, music is a blessing, but it is often made one of Satan’s most attractive agencies to ensnare souls." I cannot imagine a Christian person who is naïve enough to discount the Devil’s use of music; yet it pours in a torrent over the radio, TV, and record players into supposedly Christian homes, hour after hour and day after day.
I am sending some quotes from an undated issue of the Signs of the Times. On the front cover are the words "We Believe" and "SPECIAL EDITION." There is a copy of the painting showing Jesus with ten individuals of different nationalities. The entire issue is what the General Conference voted in the 2005 session on "Our Statement of 28 Fundament Beliefs." On page 27 and continuing on page 28 is statement number #22, which has the title "Christian Behavior."
This statement it is very specific about several items, including music such as jazz and rock. The quotations that follow are from this statement.
Although it was written in Roman times, the advice of the beloved disciple John is as important in the twenty-first century as it was in the first. To all who have heard God's call to live a better life, John wrote, "Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For everything in the world - the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does - comes not from the Father but from the world.
The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever" (1 John 2:15-17). True religion is much more than an experience that repeats itself once a week. It incorporates all of our activities, including our recreation, music, reading, dress, and diet (Leviticus 11; 2 Corinthians 10:5; Ephesians 5:1-3).
Questions About Behavior
Whether on the playing field or entertaining himself at home, the sincere Christian will always ask, Can I pray and ask God to bless the use I'm about to make of my time? Will this activity strengthen me physically, mentally, and spiritually? Is it pure, noble, and edifying, or will it excite my passions, honor vice, and weaken my nobler principles? Will this activity cause me to forget God and His Word, prayer, and other eternal interests? Will it nurture my spiritual nature, or will it favor my sinful tendencies and lower my resistance to temptation? Will it cause me to enter into a dream world that will make it harder for me to assume the responsibilities of life? Can I face death and Christ's second coming peacefully while I am carrying out this activity?
These questions, answered honestly, will result in the avoidance of most theatrical productions, whether on the stage, the motion picture theater, or the television. It will also lead us to abstain from dances, novels, card playing, and rock and jazz music. These negative influences will be replaced with all that is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, and admirable (Philippians 4:8). Romans 12:2 says, "Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind." When we accept this challenge, we will be able to test and approve what God's will is - His good, pleasing and perfect will.