Monday, May 24, 2010

new tongues

There is a pattern of human behavior by which people generally relate to the kind of music, language, literature, etc that is popular when they are 18 – 35 and then those forms of expression become the ones they "like". They are the expressions they relate to and identify with.

The trouble is, when we identify with a certain decade or a certain voice, and then cease to be interested in other, newer voices, we cease to be active. We cease to have an influx of new ideas. This cannot be the natural state of the reflections of an infinitely creative Mind!

Why on earth do we cease to be interested in the languages that are being created after that short period in our lives? Perhaps it is because the new music being made is often made by younger people, and the messages they contain don’t feel relevant to us when we are older and more experienced? That seems reasonable to a degree.

But what about all the creativity, the real, interesting language and human imagination that is expressed in new expressions? Regardless of the literal message, there are new elements that are inspired.

Where do new expressions come from? Surely they come from God. Why are there always new expressions, decade after decade? Because the infinite fountain of ideas is constantly speaking to the human race and we are bringing forth those ideas to the best of our ability. Can it be in our best interests to write off these new expressions as the irrelevant works of people rather than to seek out within them the pure, living voice of God?

Jesus said "And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues;” What are these new tongues? Surely they are new, God-inspired ideas being spoken and expressed in the world. New ideas are being brought forth all the time. New, wholesome, expressive, pure ideas are making their way into the world constantly. These new ideas challenge human thought to grow, to assimilate more of the character and quality of God.

For example, rap music is relatively new on the music scene – just in the last 40 years or so. In terms of its current iteration it could be described as a "new tongue". I frequently hear people decrying rap music as "lewd", "violent", "misogynistic", etc., but that is inaccurate. Rap music itself is not those things. Lots of its songs may have those elements in it, but a drum beat, a rhyme scheme, a confident voice – the elements that constitute rap music - are not those things. They are innocent. They are the pure new expressions.

In a world that presents us with seeming good and bad all mixed together, if we want to grow, to learn, to be open and see the good that is coming forth into the world, we must become willing and good at valuing the good that is right flush against something bad. To continue with this example of rap music, we must be willing to see that there is a brilliant, joyous, expressive drum beat, an authoritative and compelling bass line, and insight, wit, and thoughtful words, right in the midst of those qualities we don’t value. If we are not able to do this we will remain left out. We will render ourselves deaf to this new tongue. And this is all not to mention the countless rap artists out there who are creating songs with a purely positive message.

Having the Mind of Christ, Jesus knew exactly what it was like to have one's best ideas misunderstood, misrepresented, and abused. Still, he knew it was necessary to express those ideas – for the good of all. And, Jesus knew that people, reverently searching out goodness, God, would find new ideas. He knew that because God's ideas are good, we would love them and find it necessary to express them and share them.

Jesus said "In my name," we would cast out evils and speak with new tongues. Reverence for goodness, absorbing interest in reality, and desire to do good for others is this "In my name". That is to say, in the character of Christ.

It should become more and more normal for us to live hungrily, joyfully interested in the voices that are coming into the world. We should listen to all the voices and become better and better at practicing the counsel of John to "believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world."

Why should we not be able to learn and feel a musical language that is invented when we are in our 70s? no age group owns an artistic form. Older folks don’t own classical music (made centuries before they were born). And younger people don’t own rap and hip hop. These expressive languages, both made by and for the glory of God, belong to every one of God's children equally.

Recently I was speaking with a 90 year old woman after a concert I had given. She said "This isn’t my music, but I liked it anyway!" It made me glad, and it also caused me to think, "It is her music." She is as alive today in 2010 as she was in 1935. As a member of the world she has as much a right to call this her music as does anyone else. She doesn’t belong to a decade long ago.

We hear that it is more difficult to learn a new language as an adult than as a child. And this human belief extends as far as we allow it too. New musical forms are no different than languages like French or Swahili. They are sets of sounds and forms being used to express spiritual ideas.

As spiritual beings it is our function to interact with ideas. There is no "time of life" when it is easier or harder for a spiritual idea to interact with other ideas. As reflections of the one spiritual God we have all of His infinite qualities at our fingertips. And, by the same rule, we have every ability to understand and FEEL all the broad, diverse expressions of His Voice.

Let's allow ourselves to be the big, magnanimous, inspired and living beings that we are meant to be. Let's lay claim to the immense diversity of gifts that are ours. Let's acknowledge our ability to hear, feel, and understand the reason why God put all these voices in the world. Let's celebrate them, purify them, and be blessed and renewed by them.


  1. Totally agree, Alex! Rap is poetry in motion, and I love it, especially when it has a killer groove...and I'm heading toward my 7th decade on the planet.

  2. It sounds like what you are talking about is resistance to change. Even Wagner and some of Beethoven's music was greeted with derision because they dared to compose outside their musical traditions. Thank goodness they did!