Monday, October 29, 2007

Music, Memorizing, and Related Musings

Last week I came up against a situation that I found disturbing in many ways.  Our church, like many, produces an annual Childrens Christmas program which is one of those musical plays.  It's a given that these are usually somewhat cheesy (in my opinion! LOL), but they do give kids an opportunity to sing and act in a Christmas play that hopefully shares the true meaning of Christmas on some level.  I've come to the conclusion over the years that these plays are seldom truly an "outreach" but may have some value as an "inreach" - by which I mean that the children learning their lines and the songs spend all those weeks memorizing and being at practices, which gives the parents and those directing the play many opportunities to talk more about the words in the songs, the message in the play, and the story of Christ's miraculous advent on earth and all that it means.  In recent years, I've heard from folks in our church how the childrens Christmas play is a big outreach, and to be honest I am a little skeptical about that particular aspect of it.    But of course, like I said, it offers kids the chance to be a part of something that should be fun and hopefully evangelical in nature.


That being said, it's assumed that the play itself would actually contain a salvation message, right?  Sadly, that didn't seem to me to be the case in the play that was chosen for our group this year.  I was looking forward to Kennady's first time being in the play, but she was rather ambivalent about it, so I decided to have a listen to the practice CD and see if the music would capture her attention.  It didn't, but it did capture mine, and not in an entirely positive way! But more about that in a moment.  The play itself seemed to promote the idea that stealing is "okay" if it's done by poor people, because they can't afford to buy things; and that we shouldn't hold people accountable for stealing if they are poor.  The script touched on the message that Jesus is the gift that none of us deserve, and that's why we need to be generous to those in need around us.  Honestly, I thought perhaps it was a liberal, secular school play to which someone had added a few token "Jesus references" and some Christian lyric songs.  How disappointing!!! With some rewriting, the play could certainly be very effective, but as it was presented, my thought was "how can the publisher be pitching this script to churches?"  I am not the only one who felt this way, and the ending of the play has been reworked by the director and some other folks at church into something that is better by far, so I'm very glad of that.  I don't think it addresses the fact that stealing is a SIN, and I'm not sure that the rewrite contains an acknowledgement of guilt or remorse before all the forgiveness themed dialogue and Scripture they added kicks in, but it surely is worlds better than the milksop that the publisher offered.


But I still have a problem with the play - more specifically with a piece of music in the play.  There is a song in the middle of it, that as far as I can tell, is completely unnecessary to plot development.  Three girls come in with a "hero-worship" attitude towards the girl that is the main character of the play - and she is a fine character, she is the one who is collecting donations of food and toys for less fortunate folks at Christmas.  Anyway, the three girls that come into the scene want this girl to be their new best friend, and it's obvious that they are attracted by her "celebrity" status as a result of her good works.  The song they sing contains the following lyrics (I have not reproduced the entire song's lyrics here, because I no longer have all of them, and because it may infringe on copyright, I'm not sure):

I wanna go where you go - I wanna bask in your glow - I wanna walk how you walk... we can I.M. each other all day. We can think of each other always. We can go to the mall; we can shop all day long...I wanna get what you get... I wanna think what you think... we can hang out together weekends... we can talk about boys, we can make too much noise...

That is sung directed to the girl, by the way.  Sung by girls aged about 8yo - 10yo.  My daughter was not even cast in this song, but I still said "NO WAY"  I am told by the director that this is supposed to be silly and they are staging it as the comic relief type portion of the play and that the audience is expected to laugh at the frivlous attitudes of these girls.  Maybe so... but the "frivolous" attitude is never addressed in the play at all.  It is just a song and that is it.  And like I said, a song - and action in the play - that is entirely unnecessary to the rest of the story.  At best, it provides the device to move the main character out of her garage so that the poor disadvantaged children have the opportunity to steal the stuff.  I can think of so many other ways that this could be accomplished without this offensive song.


So my question is this: is it offensive?  Am I taking it too seriously?  I do not want my daughter (she's only six now, but even when she's ten I don't want this for her) to think that it is acceptable, "normal" or even funny to be so focused on shopping and IMing, and to talk about boys!  I'm willing to believe that this is in fact fairly common (NOT normal!) behavior for young girls that are not being properly trained in virtue and modesty etc and are largely influenced by the world and its media, but I surely don't think that the Church should promote or condone this in any way - even by poking fun at it.  And maybe the parents in the audience might catch the joke, but I'm not convinced that it will be clear to the kids.  I could be wrong about that.  But even so - this song will be memorized by the three girls cast in the part, and will be well-known by every child participating in the play. 


Memorized.  That's powerful, I think.  Because even IF there would be something added to the script to explain why their attitude is wrong, it's the song that I believe kids will remember long after they've forgotten the lines in the dialogue.  My theory is that music touches something "extra" in our minds and souls, and implants itself.  Probably there is all kinds of research to prove this, but think about this - how many of us learned our multiplication tables and parts of speech from Schoolhouse Rock?  How many commercial jingles do you know? (Oscar Meyer comes to mind!)  Do you remember theme songs from TV shows that you watched often, even back into your childhood?  (Flintstones, Happy Days, Laverne and Shirley, etc)  How many radio songs would you be able to sing along to and know most of the words?  (My DH and I discussed this quite awhile ago, and we estimated that most Americans our age probably have songs numbering in the hundreds, perhaps even more than a thousand, at least partially memorized - hear the intro and you can sing the first line, for example)  How many of the hymns or praise songs that you sing at church do you know at least partially from memory?  Now compare:  how many Bible verses do you know by heart?  Have you memorized the Preamble to the Constitution or the Declaration of Independence?  How about Lincoln's Gettysburg Address, or Martin Luther King's "I Have a Dream" speech?  For most of us, I think we'd have to admit that the musical or at least rhythmic things we've memorized are easier to remember, stay with us longer, and "come back to us" with a prompt much more easily than prose. 


So, assuming that is true - and I can say with certainty that it is true for ME - why then, would we want our children to store in their memories a song that promotes an unhealthy obsession with being "exactly like" another person and behaving in ways that are not age-appropriate at best? 


I totally "get" that in any dramatic presentation there is very often a "bad guy" and someone needs to portray that.  LIke the character "Edmund"  in The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe.  But that's a slightly different league than an amateur Christmas play, I think.  I also "get" humour.  I laugh at all kinds of things, and understand the need for humour in these little plays.  But I honestly don't think this song is funny. 


So I've let the director know that my daughter will not be in the play.    And I've stated my reasons.  I don't expect that everyone will agree with me, but it's interesting to note that at least two other families have complained about the same things, for the same reasons, and with the same results (pulling their children from the production).  They are homeschooling families.  I'm not sure what the other parents are thinking, or if they've even listened carefully to the lyrics and realize what they consist of.  But the song will remain in the play, and for that reason our children will not.


Feel free to give me your feedback, even if you don't agree with me.  As a result of thinking through my objections to this particular song, I've had to admit that maybe some of the songs I have allowed in my home weren't wise choices, and that I've certainly not always been as vigilant.  So there are lessons for ME to learn and hopefully I will do better now that I've had a little wake-up call.




Anonymous said...

I agree! Stand up for what you believe in. Otherwise it'll get worse... "oh, no one will care"...

Go Momma Power!

Dini HJ said...

I think you are sooo right, and I may need to think more carefully about some of the songs in our home. Interestingly enough, although my church's play this year is mainly performed by kids, they are using an adult male to be the "Bad Guy." Maybe somebody there was wise enough to catch on to the fact that you don't want to implant bad lyrics in a child's mind?!?

Heather S. said...

WTG for sticking to your convictions, however hard they might be to follow through on! I especially think it's good that you let the director know WHY you pulled K out rather than just doing it with no explanation. A lot of people would have done it that way, which is chickening out in my opinion. I would think in a church program of any type, one would want a song talking about how much you want to be like Jesus rather than like another person, you know?

Heather S.

drewsfamilytx said...

Bravo to you for sticking up for what is right! Maybe someone will get the message to look for both style AND substance in the next Christmas play.

What does your pastor think about this proposed program?

We have had some really great programs at our church the past few years. The music is excellent and there is always a clear presentation of the gospel message.

I'll have to try to find out the name of this year's play... we've been working on the music since the beginning of summer but I have no idea what the play itself is called! Pretty bad, huh? ;-)

LindaI said...

I think you need to make a stand for your own families sake. Even though our family chooses one way we often differ from a lot of people at our church. The key is, this is what our family chooses. And my kids need to know that just because others, even Christians might think it is right, we go with what we are told by God. Setting that example and sticking to your hearts feelings is the way to go. Someday the youth group kids might make bad decisions. Kennady needs to know that just because church friends say yes, does not mean it is right. So having the foundation of you sticking to your guns even against a church play is a great example. You have to go with what you feel is right. And I agree with you here 100 percent. I do not want my kids singing about all the materialistic things. Perhaps in youth group because they can know the difference. But she is too young for that now. Even to be cast as a bad girl in the first place. If it was Harrison perhaps but not the childrens play. JMHO

Anonymous said...

I honestly think you are doing the right thing. If more parents said no to their children participating in things that give the wrong message, maybe more things would change. I have to totally agree with the way songs stay in our heads. I do know the preamble to the constitution but only because I learned it as a song. I know the 50 states in alphabetical order for th same reason. Rhyming and songs have a great impact on everyone involved. And, if we are not careful about what we let our kids participate in.....who will be?


Tom said...

I just think that you homeschoolers are a troublesome lot lol.............Good for you sticking up for standards....

Bobbi said...

I'm in TOTAL agreement with you...think about this...Satan was the highest angle in Heaven...what was he in charge of? Music!!! (Okay I'm paraphrasing here, but indeed he lead praise and worship) Why do you think there is so much ungodly music? Why does music have such and effect on people?

I think 100% you did the right thing!!!




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