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My Church Looks Like a Bar

When people walked into First Christian Church on a Sunday morning not long ago, most of them were not prepared to see the newest fad in popular worship music sitting in the front of the sanctuary.  Some of them had enough musical background to know they were looking at a percussion instrument.  For a lot of people, the one thing they knew was it made their church look like a bar.  

The reason First Christian had caved to the world was the music the popular media blared out to the teenagers day after day.  You couldn’t even turn on a radio without having popular Christian music pounding out rhythms, while your kids kept begging you to turn up the volume.  Everyone knew if it wasn’t for the broadcast media, in fact, they’d have been able to keep the music they grew up with in church.  But now that wasn’t going to happen.

Some would object.  They’d point out that percussion had no place in church.  And, the disgusting popular Christian music that needed these new instruments had no place in God’s House, either.  The church was supposed to be in the world, but, instead, there was the world sitting right there in church.  Sure, churches needed to change some things every now and then.  But, to many who stood there gaping at the front of the sanctuary, this visible emblem of a compromised church was one change too many. 

But, what could they do?  The pastor wanted it.  Most of the congregation was willing to live with it.  Some musically tasteless people probably even liked it.  But, even the traditionalists knew, you can’t turn back the calendar.  After all, this was 1934 and there was nothing to be done in this modern age, but to let that unwelcome monstrosity, the piano, stay.

[Brief commentary: Yes, pianos are a percussion instrument.  Pianos were not put in churches until the late 1920s and 1930s.  The reason they showed up then is simple: radio.  By 1930, four out of ten homes had a radio.  A decade later eight out of ten Americans were listening to radio daily.  Religious programming was hugely popular.  Most of these shows featured a preacher and a live broadcasts of small ensembles (trios or quartets) singing upbeat gospel songs accompanied by pianos.  Another historic note: Also, in 1934, a guy named Laurens Hammond will invent something a good louder and a lot more modern than the pianoforte: the electric organ.]

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