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Home > music, religion > My Guitar Gently Weeps

My Guitar Gently Weeps

For five years during college, I attended a Christian based campus ministry group. Most of my social life was involved with this group, and I seldom found close friendship externally. I do not regret those years, nor do I regret at all the friendships forged during those times. Although my view on life has changed considerably and I have lost some of these friends in the process, I still hold on to what I can.

Like most college-aimed campus ministries, this was led by a ragtag band leading the congregation in worship music. After my first year, our particular band was missing a guitarist, and praise jesus, I just happened to play guitar. Nervously, I became involved and went to a few practices. Those practices turned into playing with the band at weekly meetings, and I went on to be a regular staple every week for four years. I didn’t sing, as no god seemed to bless me with any singing voice, but rather played more of a rhythm guitar and filler during the emotional/spiritual moments of the night.

Puppet Strings

Now don’t get me wrong. I want to preface this by saying that I was a very dedicated Christian during this time and had no doubts whatsoever about the bible and anything spoon fed by the guys up front.

Music was a very integral part to the worship service. Several people that I had talked to told me that reason they came originally was because they were near the room we held our worship services in, and heard the music. It was upbeat and very heartfelt, and the whole audience was completely into it, so it naturally aroused the curiosity of the *ahem* worldy.

I strained to be an instrument of god; that he would allow me to be a vessel for his use. Our worship leader would often times go through the same standard rigamorole: starting off calmly upbeat, moving to upbeat, slowing it down, bringing it up slightly, then slowing it down to a grinding musical halt with a spiritual high. At that point the mood was set for the speaker/preacher to begin his sermon.

God certainly used me. I felt spiritually alive up there with the guitar, doing his work. The times I felt it most were when things would swing real spiritual-like – the lights would be off and all the music would stop. That is, many times all the music would stop, except through a prearranged continuation of a smooth, lulling guitar piece while the leader of the band had a heartfelt message to get across.

I was trained in classical guitar, so coming up with basic heartfelt chord progressions was child’s play. The mood of the room aided in this and for years I felt it was god acting through me. I don’t really know what prompted it, but during one of these deeply spiritual times, my consciousness suddenly sprang to life, as if gasping air from the under-water feel of the mob-mentality of worship.

I had full understanding of where I was and what I was playing on the guitar. More than that, I had a much keener understanding of what my guitar was doing to the crowd. Emotions and spirituality were peaked, and I was cycling through the same dreary chord progression, with a little feeling. The room was silent as people were asked several times to pray.

In this unexpected awareness, I did what I always did, but now with a different frame of mind. Through the music coming from my guitar, I manipulated the crowd as if pulling the strings on a puppet.

Now here’s where you stop and accuse me of taking credit for god’s work, or for being so overly conceited as to think that I had any such control as this. Well, I can’t argue against that other than to say I was caught up observing how easy it was to manipulate this mob mentality with a few plucking strings. I’m just trying to explain what I felt and what bothered me so much from then on out.

The room was about 200 people silent, the only sound coming from my guitar. With only slight variations like a wave on the oceans, I would subtly rise in tempo and volume, slowly and carefully, like bringing a still heart back to life. This was no different than what I had done a thousand times before, except this time I had an eerie presence of mind that somehow I had missed in the past. As I made these conscience fluctuations, it was as if the entire feeling of the room rose and fell with the vibrations from my guitar.

People’s hands would raise higher. “Yes, jesus!” and various moans were heard throughout the crowd. Some would go to their knees. I’d bring the tempo down. The leader of the band would take the cue and call for more prayer, and I’d be back to my little experiment. I fully played with these people’s emotions through the guitar, increasing the intensity of the room to a near fever pitch until the song would start up again.

I felt like a conductor in an orchestra, and it scared me.

Danger

It felt dangerous. It felt like a loaded gun. It felt impossible, like I was sinning or doing something wrong in god’s eyes. After all, how arrogant must I have been to believe it was me, not god, who was controlling the mood of the room.

Most of all, it was a slight crack in the shell of belief I wrapped myself in. After that first night of my returned consciousness during such spiritual times, I was afraid of them to come up again, yet strangely drawn to see what I could do. I tried to ignore such thoughts and to focus mostly on god and the music, but there was this fissure that had opened up and the realization that we, as a band, were playing the crowd like a fiddle.

It wasn’t just me, I was part of the band, and there were times when each of us had these interludes or solos in which we really drew out the emotion of the crowd. My eyes had begun to open and I realized that this was how the band had been all along. Our fearless leader did this all the time and we practiced explicitly to bring out such emotions.

There was no god in the equation. It was just a cheap ploy to manipulate the masses, and I was as much entranced by the spell as anyone.

Tribal Dances

There’s really no difference between this kind of manipulation and the tribal African fire dances that result in trances, the crazy speaking in tongues done by evangelicals, or the mass hysteria of teenage girls at a Justin Timberlake concert (sorry he’s probably out of date but whatever). It just isn’t quite as socially acceptable for college age students to drop on the floor in convulsions during a worship service.

The same neurons are firing in all circumstances, and they have little to do with any god. The mob mentality rules supreme in such scenarios. It feeds upon itself like a feedback loop, and our minds attribute such manufactured ecstasy with an external deity, or whatever it is we are intending to worship.

My favorite example has to be our old friend Benny Hinn:

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Categories: music, religion
  1. kip
    October 9, 2007 at 1:17 am

    Wow. I was also involved in Christian music – keyboard, vocals – and I got the same sense that you did. It eventually lead me to leave the church. Benny Hinn, what a guy!

  2. Alan
    October 10, 2007 at 8:25 am

    Wow….. The Christ that I know is outside of my actions. My work with worship music is a reflection of what I have in my heart. Large group praise (worship, preaching, etc) can create a peer pressure that’s nothing more than a pep-rally, but when it’s rooted in faith in Christ it can be encouraging and strengthening to my faith. “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness…..”

  3. October 11, 2007 at 8:58 am

    This guy seems like he’s trying to be jesus or god, etc. My mom sends him money, how cruel religion is too some elderly folks. I just want to SMACK HIM! 🙂

  4. October 12, 2007 at 12:16 am

    Hey man, great post, very thought-provoking. It prompted me to write a response of sorts at my blog, Worship Rising (I’m a pastor and musician). Feel free to check it out if you like. Thanks!

  5. October 17, 2007 at 4:34 pm

    Thanks, nogodsallowed, I really feel that worship leadership is something that shouldn’t be approached lightly– sure, I hope that an energetic time of corporate worship happens each week, but it is more important to me that we go about it all in the right way. The last thing I want is to be someone who looks “right” on the outside but is driven by selfish motivations– that was the kind of person that Jesus had some pretty intense opinions about. Simply trying to push the right musical buttons to get a impulsive response from the crowd goes against the most basic concepts of what I think worship is all about.

    As far as my community understanding: I think my worship volunteers, especially the leaders, know that authenticity is key, and that means taking an uncomfortably close look at how and why we do what we do. As far as the church on a whole, probably not, as we rarely get to talk about the specifics of worship leadership in a large group setting. When we do teach on worship, I emphasize that worship is really between the community and God… those of us on stage are really just there to facilitate, to “start the conversation” and then get out of the way.

  6. Jim
    November 1, 2007 at 10:00 am

    Interesting perspective. I have attended a few churches with praise bands and left two because it became a show, not a church service. Now that I’m in a praise band, I can see how easily that can happen. In group prayers with the band members before practice and service, it is often prayed that the music and our gifts be for God and the congregation which is encouraging, but outside of prayer, you can certainly witness “musical egos” rearing their ugly heads. I’d like to think that I don’t have much of a musical ego, but playing in front of people, even if it’s in a church, is still performing. I think its a constant battle of reminding yourself why you’re there.
    Your situation is a sad one because you lost your faith. Your faith appeared to be based solely on your music though, and its got to be in your heart; you have to want to believe, and have “faith” that there’s something better on the other side…

  7. nogodsallowed
    November 1, 2007 at 10:08 am

    Jim – I’d have to disagree on your statement that my faith was based solely on my music. I never got into the musical aspect until a lot later in life after committing everything to christianity. My decision to leave the faith involved much, much more, and involved me trying to find a shred of evidence or reason *anywhere* that would make christianity true. I found none.

    And of course, while that may be sad to you, it is wonderfully exhilarating for me to be free of christian dogma and superstition 🙂

  8. Idetrorce
    December 15, 2007 at 2:25 pm

    very interesting, but I don’t agree with you
    Idetrorce

  9. cd
    February 29, 2008 at 11:47 am

    I wonder if, rather than, using that Benny Hinn pulp plast accompanied by demonic music as support for your argument for the cult religion seekers of the masses; that you use it as an analagy of what has transpired in your own life. You can see and identify with what Benny Hinn is doing. That power is not your own. God gave it to you for His use. It is your choice to run with it or to abominate it. You even got the awareness of it. What do you choose, Chad. You remind me of Jonah. He was imbued in every conceivable way with prophesy. His life emmitted God. Even when he was running away from God his very presence caused people to repent and go to God. You are running from God, even saying there is no God and every word you scream, in every word chain you put together, it screams God you are my God, my God prove it to me. Who can prove it to you? Do you test God? You are playing with fire, Chad. Do you want to be burnt. Wouldn’t you rather be purified?

  10. April 14, 2008 at 1:31 pm

    Wow what you wrote about how music works was so on point. If people only would understand how music effects the listner. What you said about God was so off. God is in control of those who desire Him to use them. What you experenced was the same Dark demonic influence that caused a third of the angels to fall with their Musician leader Satan. Ezekiel 28 12-19 wher Satan was kicked out becouse he thought the wonderful worship sound his beauty and body created was comming from him. He forgot that all he had was created by God for His purpose. Lucifer “meaning the son of the morning” at that time Was created as the angel to reflect Gods Glory. He was created with all types of instruments and stones in his body. The problem arrose when he forgot his purpose. Just like use we forget that God gave us the gift of music to usher people to a place where they can see Him, worship Him, and find His will out becouse the music opens the soul. As a musician when we allow Satan to use us we use the same gift to manipulate and control people for the devils evil purpose. The soul is open for what ever the message is put in. This is part of the reason our yourt are out of control. Much of it is the minipulating of concious for satans evil work. I am a guitar player and the minister of music at my church Living Waters Ministries Towson MD. I am also a christian who loves Jesus with all my heart and a student of His word. Dont be an instrument used by the devil for his purpose. Most musicians dont have a clue of the real purpose of music and its power. That’s why christians have to know whom they follow and allow the Holy Spirit “Christ” to work through them. Your revelation was the chance for you to decide who you will serve. Isaiah 14 10-17 shows How lucifers pride in his gifting got him kicked out of heaven and his resting place will be in the lake of fire with all those who he has decieved. Dont be decieved. How will you use the gift God has given you?

  11. elijah
    May 30, 2008 at 7:51 pm

    hmmm… well I play guitar too, not well, I sing even worse. And yet in kowing this, I try to let Holy spirit bring god’s presence when I begin to praise. I try to let Holy spirit bring my worship to life and works best for me when I am singing…. NO One in their right mind would want to here me as I have had no formal musical training, save some basic guitar lessons. Now it might interest you that the presence of God that I feel can come even when I’m home alone just reading psalms aloud, the more I agree to the word of God while I’m speaking the more Jesus comes alive in me if you will.

    Thus I believe this to be Godly praise and worship, that I would praise him in spirit and in truth, whith all that I am.

    Now as far as your personal convictions, I would day it could be possiple that God was showing you that the worship band was not allowing the rest of the church to worship in truth and spirit, and perhaps no one in the band was either. Wow to be so controlling as to not let the body do this, is indeed a great sin. For it is by the veery prescence and spirit of God that helps us to grow in our walk with God. It’s hardly the pasturs sermon of the worship songs, though proper worship music and proper teachings help the spirit work in us more quickly. For example a song like Amazing Grace, will often bring the remberence of who and where we once were spiritualy and often even physically, a wretch that is. But alas did my redeemer die for me! The spirit of God then may begin to well up in us, we feel again and afresh his love for us. And often may begin to weep at the acknowledgment of his great love for us.

    Another example is the sermon: Often I remember when I first started attending church, especially in those early days. God would often be teaching me something about him, or his word, often because this came mostly from the spirit, from talking and listening to God. I often needed and still need some confirmation. If the pastor is truely spirit led, he will say the few words in the right context to bring you the confirmation you need, even if what I needed to hear was perhaps only a comment and not an intended part of the sermon. And often when this happens I in one way or another get a feeling of agreement from Holy spirit. If there at these times, I feel no agreement I must keep seeking God for the truth. You see even a highly, anointed man gets attecked by satan, enough at times to speak what the devil wants him to speak rather than God. Remember always to intercede in prayer for your pastors and such.

    I would also say it perhaps, was’nt so much you controlling the group of people, but rather that your were not allowing them to freely give praise, of perhaps not even allowing holy spirit to first move in you as to the type and tempo of music. You see it becomes a very religous setting.

    And as far as tribal worship, yes its much like Godly worship. How can that be you ask. Well you see Satan can create noting, however since the first lie, he has been perverting all of God’s creation on earth through sin. You see God created beings to worship him. And as many suppose Satan was the head worship leader. Simply satan took the worship that was God’s and began directing it toward himself. So don’t by any means fear true worship.

    And another note. Ever notice that it often seems that Satan seems to have a better influence than God in many places of the world. I tell you this is only because Satan worshipers, often worship with all that they are, they even commit sin as a form of worship. I mean these freaks get into it heavy.

    However too much of the church don’t know how to worship very well, they are often held back. It is worship more so than even the spoken word of God that opens gates in the heavens and brings his glorious presence down to us, that we may indeed dwell in his presence, and he in us. Did you know that twirling is a form of worship, dancing, shouting, praising, blowing horns, declaring, and making all kinds of noise. But with God unlike Satan there should be some spirit led order to it.

    I tell you the truth, if your church has invited God’s presence and then begin greiving the very spirit of God by trying to lead the body of christ, rather than letting the spirit of God do so. He will tell some to leave, he will convict and rebuke others. And in all of this if the church does not turn back to the lords spirit for direction, the gentle spirit of God will leave your church. And demonic spirits will take up residence. Spirits of religion, oppresion, controll, judgment, confusion, even sickness. Oh how satan likes to use things like judgment, and offense to be taken up in th members of the body. And then with out speaking a word, these same people rise up aginst others in their spirit, in agreement with demons, and begin to in this way cast a curse on others. People start getting sick and even dying.
    This is why paul writes, he who does not discern correctly, the body of christ eats and drinks of the cup to his own damnation.

    Hope it helps….. may you never stop worshipping and praising the one true God Amen.

  1. October 9, 2007 at 1:30 pm
  2. October 12, 2007 at 12:20 am
  3. October 14, 2007 at 11:19 pm

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