Monday, June 3, 2013

Why Don't Men Sing in Church?

Last week I became aware of a post about why men don't sing in church. It's at a website I haven't seen before, See the post here. As of this posting it has 93 comments, which are well worth reading.

I've been thinking about this. Actually, I'd been thinking about this for a long time. The conclusion of the article is that now that words are displayed on a screen, and people aren't holding songbooks, and now that the platform has near-professional singers belting out the song, led maybe by a professional song leader, that the congregation doesn't feel the need to sing as much, and that this is true for men more than for women. Another factor suggested is that new choruses are introduced almost every week and people just don't know them, don't have time to learn them before another new chorus is thrown at them.

The comments are equally informative as the original post. Some say men don't sing because the notes generally aren't in their range. Some say men are by nature less emotional than women, and so are less likely to sing, which is, after all, expressing emotions in more than mere words. Some say singing has simply gone out of style in general. There are fewer women singing as well as fewer men, and since men tended to sing less already, it's more noticeable for men.

I suspect all of these are contributing factors to why men don't sing in church, but I have in mind the reason that I think supersedes most other reasons in importance: We have become a nation more and more used to passive entertainment.

Think of it. During most of the 19th Century, and for all time before that, entertainment was a mix of active and passive, but more active than passive. At times some kind of traveling show would come through town (a circus, an acting company, a band), and people would see a performance—if they had enough disposable income to pay for it. Otherwise, what entertainment did they have? They perhaps gathered around the fireplace and sang folk songs, perhaps to a guitar or fiddle or, for the wealthy, a piano or harpsichord. Maybe someone would read from a book, or they took turns reading from a book. Children put on impromptu skits. Maybe a couple of families would get together and do this. Maybe on a Saturday night the town would get together for a dance.

Worship isn't entertainment, of course. It's us demonstrating our love for a God who is almighty and deserving of our highest praise and devotion. However, the act of singing during worship is akin to what is done during active entertainment. So I see a relationship.

The days, instead of taking part in active entertainment in the evening we watch television, which is totally passive. When we go from farm to market (i.e. to the grocery store), instead of singing on the wagon we listen to the radio—passive entertainment. When we're not watching television we are probably playing a video/computer game. That's sort of active, but it's solitary, and the lack of two or more people participating gives it a passive feel. We might get out to shows more, though I think movies are more passive than are a stage performance by a traveling troupe. A concert is somewhat in between. It's more active than a movie, but still seems somewhat passive.

This shift from active entertainment to passive entertainment is the result of technology. First Edison gave us the record player. We went from playing instruments to listening to recorded music. Maybe we sang along at first, but soon we realized the professional on the recording sang better than we did, so we took to listening. Then the radio came along. That was so captivating, and it included book-like programs as well as music (e.g. ...the Shadow knows), that I think that began to replace even reading as an active entertainment practice. Once television brought the audio-video combination into our houses, active entertainment was essentially gone. We became glued to the tube, and totally passive.

One other aspect of this is the thought that television, radio, movies, even concerts create in us an "entertain me" mindset. We sit back, fold our arms, and say "Entertain me." If one channel isn't entertaining enough we change it. If one movie isn't entertaining enough we go to a different one. If one band doesn't excite us enough we watch a video. We have so many passive entertainment options that we will be entertained.

All this, I think, bleeds over into our expectations in a worship service. We don't say this out loud, nor even think it consciously, but we are so used to being entertained by quality, professional entertainers, that we expect that level of "performance" in a worship service. We are so used to not actively participating in our entertainment that we don't even think of actively participating in worship. If worship at one church demands too much activity of us, we go to a different church.

That's my opinion. Any comments?

No comments: