Why The Church Should Stop Using Pop Culture To Make Conversion Easier

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

I once heard Bishop Barron say somewhere that conversion is a mixed bag of tricks. He is certainly not wrong in that assessment as there are many doors by which people enter the Church. However, I’m a big believer that whilst conversion may be a mixed bag of tricks, some tricks work better than others, and sadly the Catholic Church in Ireland isn’t willing to let go of some of them.

I sat down with a Dominican priest once, who wanted to defend the idea that using the Pop culture was helping make conversion of the youth easier. Sometimes when priests see a small number of youth interested, they immediately begin to think, “it’s working…it’s really working…lets stay en route” but I couldn’t have disagreed more with him.

A bit of background about me. I’ve been a musician since the earliest days I have a memory of my living childhood. My entire family is musical and in love with pop culture. When it comes to the modern mainstream and liberalism, apart from my father and mother, my entire family and uncles are all mainstream. We know a good tune when we hear one. We know how the liberal world operates and how it finds the very notion of Christianity repugnant.

The Church 50 years ago, after the wonderful most fruitful second Vatican council decided it was going to incorporate folk music and popular forms of instruments and songs of the mainstream, applying them to Christian culture. They felt that if we could just strike a chord to the one the mainstream is playing we’d make great leaps forward at bringing about conversions and putting bums on seats.

It backfired. The liberal world hated them even more for it. Why? Because not only did the music sound corny and uncool, it was an approach that lacked authenticity. As a former liberal secularist myself, I know that my circle of liberal friends would be annoyed at someone compromising who they really are just to convert us. They were, in our eyes, not being authentic and real. They were being fake, pretending to be cool and one of us just so they could win us over. For us it was a form of corny and uncool desperation.

When the Church lacks authenticity, we see that interest in liturgical life even from its own members begin to dwindle. This is because such behaviour of appealing to the mainstream by use of the mainstream is so plainly obvious that it has the opposite effect and backfires. It only serves to drive an even bigger wedge between the already large gap that exists between the Church and the new modern secular pagans.

Musical taste is something that widely varies. Even in the mainstream pop culture, there are many tastes of music that caters for all. But there are musical genres out there that have a universal appeal, that even the most hardened death metal loving rocker can enjoy. What is that music? Believe it or not it’s the Churches greatest treasure…GREGORIAN CHANT.

The problem with using the mainstream culture at liturgies is it can’t appeal to everyone. It doesn’t have a universal sound. You’ll see some people enjoying it, and others looking the other way. It divides the congregation and creates more problems than it solves. But whenever Gregorian chant comes on the scene, suddenly the shoe really fits. The music suits the look of the Church. Could you imagine playing rock or techno music over the sweeping scenes of New Zealand played out in movies like Lord of the rings? NO!. It wouldn’t be music that would fit the scene right?

Well, believe it or not, someone banging drums and electric guitars in a great big Basilica does not fit the scene. You and I both know it, so why are we continuing to ignore the elephant in the room? I think it’s because we are convinced that Gregorian chant is considered old hat. It’s old school and who likes that? I have found that the conservatives in the Church really don’t know how the liberal creative mind works. They really believe that by using pop culture this is going to make the Catholic faith appealing but it doesn’t.

What about National culture, how does this tie into all of this? I think it was Pope Paul VI who said that although God is above national culture, it nevertheless is a useful tool in conversion. So, the Irish flag, the history of the people and their national timeless music can be used in the Church. Absolutely. But what differs between National culture and Pop Culture?

Pop culture is very difficult to keep up with. Already, all the corny music Catholics wrote in the 80s is beginning to sound like it belongs in the 80s. Being a musician I know that my own songs and melodies are now considered very 90s and turn of the millennium.

You see, pop culture changes drastically every decade, even sooner than that at times. It’s similar to the industry of technology, what is cool today will not be cool tomorrow. Now, we have all these old hat songs being played in the Liturgy. There’s old women singing their charismatic folk tunes from the 60’s and it sounds dreadful to the youth.

We need to bring back discipline in the Church, we must accept that the use of Pop culture is hard to keep up with. Not only that it comes across to a modern world as inauthentic. You are not being YOU, you are not being CATHOLIC. You’re being phony and compromising your churches rich history to convert us but we are onto you. That’s exactly what the liberal response is.

It is sad, that nobody will take this post seriously. I’ll get my usual five clicks from a few readers, and the problem will go on for as long as God will allow it to. But, at least I’m able to get the diagnosis right. This is one area I really feel I’m confident in because I was incredibly immersed in the mainstream liberal pop culture that I KNOW what it is they are. I KNOW how to reach out to them, but I’ve never really been given a voice. The conservative voice in the Church quite literally REFUSES to humble itself and reconsider its approach on evangelising. Sometimes I get the impression they WANT to drive a wedge between them and the world.

Appealing to the popular culture is suicide. I’ve made my point. Enough said.

God bless.

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