Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Be Careful Little Ears What You Hear

  A few years ago I was watching my daughter playing softball. In this particular tournament, a disc jockey was playing popular music over two loudspeakers. He played between innings and in-between every batter. The girls, including my own, loved it. I hated it. “Why did you hate it?” you ask. Well, it wasn’t that they were playing music, it was the music they were playing. You see, and I’m being generous here, I would venture to say that at least seven out of every ten songs were nothing short of vulgar. Vulgar has two definitions. First, vulgar connotes: “of, characteristic of, belonging to, or common to the great mass of people in general; common; popular.” Second, vulgar means: “a) characterized by a lack of culture, refinement, taste, restraint, sensitivity, etc.; coarse; crude; boorish b) indecent or obscene.”
            The songs were vulgar in every sense of the word. One of my boys remarked to me, “Don’t they know this tournament is for ‘12 and under’ girls?” Obviously, [and maybe because I was there?] he felt the weight of vulgarity, spewing forth for all to hear. Let me add, he felt the weight of vulgarity, spewing forth for all to hear and enjoy. Yes, enjoy. In our society, vulgarity is quite enjoyable. I observed many of the girls, in the dugout and warming up on the field, sort of “dancing” [thankfully, none of their “dances” were inappropriate] to the music. None of this was surprising. This kind of movement to music is almost involuntary. We’ve all experienced this.
            Also, not surprising but rather disturbing, was the response of the parents to the onslaught of vulgarity aimed towards their little girls. Parents, especially moms, seemed to enjoy the sexually charged maestro every bit as much as the impressionable youths in their care. I heard moms singing along, rhythmically swaying in their lawn chairs, delighting in illicit lyrics with their young daughters.  Some at this point, will judge me to be a Puritan, a prude, or something worse. But something is amiss when vulgarity is no longer met with any amount of shame whatsoever.
            There was a time, in the not so distant past, when such filth wasn’t fit for “women and children.” Such things were considered unfit for women and children because it was perceived that women [here we refer to women in the sense of “ladies”] and children were pure or innocent. I am persuaded that our society has all but lost its sense of shame, and consequently, we have severely diminished the concept of innocence. This diminishing of innocence results in our children, at younger and younger ages, being inundated--unceasingly bombarded--with graphic sexual images and words. If you don’t believe this, turn on the country music channel or rock music channel on your television. If you do this, I assure you, every day [mornings and afternoons] and every night you will be confronted with words and images of perversion. In pop culture, vulgarity rules the day.
            Some time later, as I discussed this moral erosion in popular music, someone remarked to me, “Well, most people don’t think about things as deeply as you do.” My reply to this assertion was basically twofold. First, a question: How deeply does one have to think in order to comprehend such blatant vulgarity? The messages in popular music today aren’t hidden. They’re incredibly straightforward and explicit. Subtlety is a lost art and the days of “innuendo” are long gone.  Whoever writes such vulgar lyrics clearly isn’t thinking deeply, so why is “deep thought” necessary to navigate the writer’s shallow cesspool? Vulgarity is shallow, not deep. This too reflects dismally on our culture. Second, I pointed out to my friend that I witnessed mothers and daughters singing along with the music. In other words, they were thinking sufficiently enough to utter the right lyrics at the right time. Granted, they may not have consciously processed what they were saying, but nevertheless the message seeps through. And the message which inevitably seeps through is absolutely demoralizing.
            Some would say that I’m making much ado about nothing. The argument may sound something like this, “Well, sure. The music’s vulgar and everybody knows it. But what’s the big deal? It doesn’t hurt anything or anyone. Older generations have always disapproved of popular music. Remember Elvis? You’re just showing your age. Lighten up!” I understand the sentiment, but I believe it to be misguided; and a study published in Pediatrics, backs me up on this.
Teens whose iPods are full of music with raunchy, sexual lyrics start having sex sooner than those who prefer other songs...Teens who said they listened to lots of music with degrading sexual messages were almost twice as likely to start having intercourse or other sexual activities within the following two years as were teens who listened to little or no sexually degrading music. Among heavy listeners, 51 percent started having sex within two years, versus 29 percent of those who said they listened to little or no sexually degrading music. (http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/14227775/)

           I remember a little ditty from childhood with a line which reads, "Oh, be careful little ears what you hear." I don't suppose I fully appreciated the truth of these lyrics as I belted them out in Sunday school.  But the established truth is, that messages set to rhyme and rhythm have a way of seeping into our consciousness and affecting our thought patterns. Why else would studios, stadiums, and stores, select sound tracks? Why don't dental offices play the theme from "Jaws"? Why do churches wage "worship wars"? Because music matters. So do be careful little ears what you hear. Be careful indeed.

2 comments:

  1. I think it depends on the genre of music as well. Most of the music I listen to is secular, but I don't listen to sexual lyrics. I think pop music, rap music, and R and B can be heavily sexualized, whereas rock, folk, and alternative can be hit or miss with that stuff. JMO.

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  2. Yes, I agree. I listen to secular music too. I have "mix" cd's containing selections from U2, Journey, Coldplay, Pearl Jam, Alison Kraus, etc.

    My position is this: Christians need to be discerning to all forms of media. We should interpret all we see/hear through the lens/filter of scripture. (I will address this more in next week's post.)

    Thank you so much for your comment. (And boy...did I date myself with that playlist or what?)

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