The Myth of Neutrality
I was rummaging around the internet recently looking for reviews of new CD releases and came across a rather interesting phenomenon involving
the latest work of Neal Morse entitled Sola Scriptura. I was struck by a number of reviewers who saw fit to draw attention to the “religious” or “Christian”
nature of the lyrics and made every effort to either warn people of the content or at the very least try to get them to look beyond the lyrical content if only to enjoy the music.
I’ve been listening to progressive rock music for close to 35 years now and I have to say this is kind of interesting to me. That some reviewers would see fit to have to almost apologise for the lyrical content of a progressive rock artist.
So I started to think about this strange situation, because when it comes down to it, all artists are “preaching” some kind of message they want us to hear and appreciate. That’s why they spend time crafting the words the way they do. Some of those messages espouse an atheistic worldview, others will preach an eastern mysticism, there will be some nihilistic messages, even a few New Age, some Marxist, some pagan and yes even some Christian.
Now as I look back over those 35 years of progressive rock listening I’m at a loss to remember any reviews that have been as critical about any of those others preachy messages as the one’s I recently read regarding Sola Scriptura.
There is no logic in holding one message or worldview up for criticism and yet ignoring others and giving them a free pass. I shudder to think what would happen if we started putting little qualifiers in reviews warning potential listeners; Caution lyrical content contains messages of Marxist and Socialist behaviour, listeners beware. Or listeners should be warned that New Age mysticism is prevalent in the lyrics and so you may wish to ignore what’s being said. That would be foolish and I don’t think there’s anyone who would advocate such a thing. For the same reasons I would suggest there’s no place to call into question lyrics which have a Christian leaning.
It’s been said that the Christian message is a “convicting one” and certainly that might cause some to feel uncomfortable. After all who among us likes to be shown where we might be missing the mark in our worldview. But then that’s what artists have done throughout history. They hold a mirror up to society and say, “This is what I see.” Sometime the pictures not so pretty. Sometimes hearing a message that preaches a message of conviction is a good thing. Who wasn’t just a little pained at listening to the lyrics of Sylvan’s Posthumous Silence as they laid out the story of child abuse. Or what about lyrics that deal with suicide, family break-ups or any number of other social issues. Aren’t these lyrics meant to convict us to take some action?
Or are these reviewers saying they only want to be convicted about things they feel comfortable with? I’m sensing an oxymoron here. Lyrics set to music are meant to stir the passions. Not to foment hate, but rather to contemplate.
I also got the impression from some of the things I read that the reviewers were trying to secure some neutral ground in their warning of the religious content of Morse’s Sola Scriptura. Yet I heard no such qualifying regarding the lyrics of Tales of Topographic Oceans and the Eastern mysticism it spoke to.
In any case you don’t speak to the content of a writer’s message by sweeping the words away. If you feel the need to debate the lyrical content you do so. But you don’t just warn people off the message. All of which brings me back to the title of this piece; the myth of neutrality.
These reviewers may think they are providing some kind of neutral antidote to Morse’s message but they are doing nothing of the sort. Each of us sees the world through a set of eyes that is backed by a specific worldview. When we call into question a specific view it is because we see the world differently. But that is in no way neutral, it’s just different. There is no neutrality being practiced here. So unless these reviewers have a specific goal of calling into question another person’s worldview, with the goal of debating the merits of their respective views, I’d say nothing needs to be said.
The world of lyrical content in progressive rock music is large. There’s room for many views. And just like we wouldn’t put a disclaimer on any non-Christian or atheistic views, I’d say it’s time we stopped trying to “warn” people about pro-Christian content. It’s not only illogical to hold to this methodology, it also borders of marginalisation. Surely we’re mature enough to see the positive value of a positive message in a world full of so much negativity. Remember you aren’t being neutral when you call someone’s views into question you are simply putting your contrary views on the table.
At least that’s what I think.