Thursday, August 11, 2005

Drums in worship

Ingrid Schlueter of Slice of Laodicea is taking "sacred drumming" to task. As a drummer and a Christian, my interest was obviously piqued.

Before condemning a Wisconsin drum circle, Schlueter attempts to provide some background on "sacred" or "spirit" drumming. She references Mickey Hart's book Drumming at the Edge of Magic as one reference point. She then ties this into a sideways criticism of International Drummers for Jesus, who promote drummers making room for the Holy Spirit as they play, as if they were advocating voodoo in your neighborhood church.

First, IDJ is a decidedly charismatic organization. The language they use can be found in just about any other Christian application they advocate. For example, "when preaching, make room for the Holy Spirit to speak through you." Or, "when singing, make room for the Holy Spirit to work through you." Or, "when doing anything, make room for the Holy Spirit." Even if you are not a charismatic, it is a minor theological point to find fault with this kind of statement. What Christian would advise anyone to resist the Holy Spirit -- in doing anything?

What's important to distinguish is IDJ has nothing like the drumming circles she mentions. They are primarily a drumming educational outreach with an agenda to preach the Gospel. They bring in world class -- and I mean some of the best drummers in the world -- to do clinics over a weekend. At the end of their clinic, they provide some kind of testimony or a short Gospel message. The kids attending these clinics are pulled away from their secular influences to hear some of the best drummers they will ever hear -- and be positively exposed to the Gospel.

The route Ingrid uses to track voodoo drumming to IDJ is akin to me calling Athletes in Action a tool of the devil because so many athletes are criminals. Using Mickey Hart as an authority on "spirit drumming?" Hart refers to the ancient practice of drumming to call up the spirits. This practice probably goes back to the very moment man first held a tool in his hand. That Hart thinks of drumming in a New Age sense should come as no surprise to anyone familiar with his former band, The Grateful Dead. Personally, I would never let a pagan define something that I use to honor Christ, particularly something that is clearly spiritually neutral. Considering Hart's popular book has been on counters and shelves in drum stores for about 15 years, it seems like IDJ would be hailed as the right kind of Christly counter-balance. They clearly are in disagreement, and in no way support Hart's view of drumming or spirituality.

As a matter of disclosure, I want to note Bart Elliott, Nashville session musician and IDJ clinician, is a friend of mine. He was one of my favorite people and consider him a confidante when I need solid, Biblical Christian counsel.

And for the record, drumming circles -- in the spiritual sense -- should be condemned. This includes all the "man bonding" drum circles that became popular in the nineties. Frankly, these have little to do with either God or drumming. They neither represent a Biblical relationship with God nor promote a fundamental or technical understanding of drums and percussion.

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