The Issue

Yesterday I asked what I thought was a simple, on-topic question, "Why do some Christians object to rock music?" (the original text of of the question is behind the edits). I hadn't really anticipated the responses that it received - especially the close and change in title - and would like to understand where I went wrong.

The facts behind the question are that there is / has been a movement within Christianity to discourage people from listening to rock music as a genre. The movement has nothing to do with taste in music, but is about a moral objection to rock music as a genre. I have met people who hold this view, but have failed to elicit the reasons for their POV. Having talked to other Christians about rock music, they tell me that they have encountered this perspective, too, but have been unable to give me any background. Some have mentioned Christian musician Larry Norman as an example of someone whose music was considered unwelcome because it was rock music. A bit of Googling verifies that some groups continue to espouse this POV. I want to understand the reasons why this movement exists.

The Close

At one point the question was closed, with the reason that:

This question is not a good fit to our Q&A format. We expect answers to generally involve facts, references, or specific expertise; this question will likely solicit opinion, debate, arguments, polling, or extended discussion.

Now, from my perspective I was very careful to word the question in a way that I thought should avoid argument and at the same time elicit the information that I actually want. For example, quite deliberately does not ask:

  • If some Christians actually listen to rock music. I know the answer to that already.
  • If Christian Rock (rock music with gospel-inspired lyrics) exists. I know it does.
  • For music recommendations
  • About the validity of the arguments against rock music. I asked what they are, not if they are right.
  • To discuss whether a movement against rock music actually exists. It is perceived to do so by myself and others I have talked to, and there is evidence for it elsewhere on the internet.
  • Whether or not rock music is actually immoral.

Now, all of these questions do indeed invite discussion, debate and opinion. But I didn't ask any of them.

Interestingly, some of the responses I received do imply that some people thought I did want answers to some these questions. Should have explicitly stated that I wasn't interested in them? Or should I expect people take questions at face value?

To me, it would appear that there must be one or more clear-cut, factual answers to the question I actually did ask. I imagine that they would look something like this (note that these are not real answers, just examples of the kind of thing I would expect):

  • Rock music has origins in pagan religion XXX
  • Rock music makes people smash up hotel rooms
  • The Bible says XXX and some people think this means that drums invoke the devil
  • It was a cultural thing, used to apply because of XXX, but doesn't apply any more
  • People who believe this have misunderstood preacher XXX when he said YYY

Any one of these answers would, "generally involve facts, references, or specific expertise".

Indeed, some of the responses I received - about the lyrics and quotes from secular musicians - suggest that some people have clearly understood what I was asking and answered appropriately.

So, why the close? How could I have avoided it and still asked the question? Or is there something fundamentally wrong with what I asked?

The Change in Title

Following my edits to clarify the question, the title of the question was changed to, "Is rock music sinful / immoral?". To my mind:

  • This is a completely different question. It no longer asks for the reasoning behind a movement, but asks about the morality of an activity.
  • The new question effectively asks for both sides of the argument. I would have thought that it was far more likely to "solicit opinion, debate, arguments... or extended discussion." than would my original question.

How is this an improvement?

share
    
I'm pretty confused myself. I tend to agree your original question title was better, I'm not sure why "is X a sin" is a better format. –  Caleb Sep 3 '11 at 15:10
    
@Shog9: perhaps you can provide the best answer, since you closed, reworded and re-opened it. –  Wikis Sep 3 '11 at 15:35
    
@Wikis: have done. –  Shog9 Sep 3 '11 at 20:35
2  
It's not an improvement, and your original question was completely legitimate IMO. We've all met folks who have that belief, but sadly reality doesn't make it good enough for this SE... –  mxyzplk Sep 3 '11 at 20:52
add comment

2 Answers 2

First off, thanks for bringing this up. It's good to have these discussions; this site won't stand without community moderation, and we need a clear understanding of what form that should take. I was fairly critical of your question in the comments, and I'm going to be even more critical in the paragraphs that follow... But don't take this as a personal attack - you did the right thing by asking here.

So, lemme start by making one thing very clear: you can't side-step asking an "argumentative" question by only asking for one side of the argument. It doesn't work. If folks want to argue, they'll argue... You're asking a question, not moderating a debate.

That said, I wasn't even particularly concerned with the argumentative aspect. I wrote, "off-topic, not constructive, potentially argumentative" - it's those first two you should have addressed... So I'm going to skip your first half-dozen paragraphs for the moment (BTW: ever notice how common it is for folks to ask one-line questions and then follow them up with pages of Meta defense once they're closed?) and move on to what you expected from your question:

To me, it would appear that there must be one or more clear-cut, factual answers to the question I actually did ask. I imagine that they would look something like this (note that these are not real answers, just examples of the kind of thing I would expect):

  • Rock music has origins in pagan religion XXX
  • Rock music makes people smash up hotel rooms
  • The Bible says XXX and some people think this means that drums invoke the devil
  • It was a cultural thing, used to apply because of XXX, but doesn't apply any more
  • People who believe this have misunderstood preacher XXX when he said YYY

Any one of these answers would, "generally involve facts, references, or specific expertise".

Only one of these hypothetical answers has any direct connection to Christianity. And frankly, if these are the sorts of answers you were expecting, then I have to wonder why you bothered asking at all. You don't know who is leading this "movement", you don't know what their specific objections are, and your expectations are that they fall into the wild and easily-debunked urban legend category. Except, since you were only asking for the one-side's arguments, they wouldn't have been (riiiight?)

Indeed, some of the responses I received - about the lyrics and quotes from secular musicians - suggest that some people have clearly understood what I was asking and answered appropriately.

You got four answers. One wasn't an answer at all. Two are short, hand-wavy "bad lyrics / bad message" answers. The last is a big long list of quotes from... uh, people. Some of the quotes are about rock music. Some of the quotes are just about music. A lot of the quotes aren't about either one. The entire purpose of the answer appears to be, "Look! People saying godless things!" No conclusions are drawn, no reference to scripture or doctrine, no "facts, references, or specific expertise" beyond "you asked for bad things about rock THIS STUFF SOUNDS PRETTY BAD, EH?!!"

So... That's what you were looking for, then? That's why you asked this question? 'Cause you didn't know there were unapologetic hedonistic musicians? I should respond with some Sinatra quotes - I could ruin, like... five other genres for you...

But enough of this. Your core question here is, I believe, this:

Or is there something fundamentally wrong with what I asked?

The answer to this is, quite simply, yes!

Let's go back to your original question. The one I closed. It reads in full:

Why do some Christians object to rock music?

I'm told that some Christians don't listen to rock music, and would like to know the basis for this belief.

Fundamental flaws in this question:

  • You're asking about Christians, not Christianity. Christians often object to things for reasons that have at best a tangential relationship to Christianity. I object to "reality television". I don't have any scriptural basis for this.

  • You're asking for us to explain a belief belonging to some nebulous group you haven't identified and have apparently only heard about second-hand. I could give you just about any ridiculous answer, and you or anyone else reading would be hard put to say I was wrong, since there's no way to demonstrate that I'm not part of this unidentified group whose beliefs you've learned of by proxy.

  • You're not asking if this belief has merit. So even if we did manage to track down these Christians who object to rock music, grill them in the basis for their belief, and record it here... What good does that do? How does that contribute to our database of knowledge of Christianity? What problem does this solve?

How could I have avoided it and still asked the question?

Well, that depends a lot on what you're really looking for...

  • If you want to know if there are doctrinal objections to rock music, then ask that.

  • If you want to know if any major sects forbid playing, listening to, or otherwise involving themselves in the performance or production of rock music, then ask that.

  • If you simply want to hear bad, unchristian things said about rock music, then please, do not ask that.


Anyway... I must thank you again for bringing this up here. Asking a good question is hard; editing for clarity while preserving the intent is even harder. Communication is essential to creating a useful site; I hope I've succeeded in answering your questions.

share
1  
Thank you so much for your work as moderator, and for taking the time to provide so detailed a reply. Based on your comments, I have re-written the question completely. I understand some of your points (I hope) and have taken the on board as constructive criticism. Please do keep up the good work and fix up / revise my question as you deem fit. –  Kramii Sep 5 '11 at 21:21
    
Incidentally, the "problem" that I intended my question to solve is the one of ignorance. The purpose of this site is to help people understand Christianity. An important aspect of this is to explain the difference between what Christians say and what we are supposed to say. If we don't understand the basis on which certain views are held, we cannot possibly begin to understand this difference. That was and still is the intent behind my question. –  Kramii Sep 5 '11 at 21:43
add comment

When a question gets closed, it's always important to read the comments, as the closers usually leave feedback as to why the question was closed. In this case, Shog9 did provide feedback and explained why the question was closed:

Ok, this is "Christianity.SE", not "ThingsChristiansSay.SE". I know Christians who don't like Jazz music, or Big Band music, or music with too many violins in it... Even Christians who don't like Gospel music! So off-topic, not constructive, potentially argumentative... Eh, if you feel there's something of value to be had, please go into detail in your answer to this meta post.

The subsequent comments point to why it was edited the way it was.

Your original question was:

I'm told that some Christians don't listen to rock music, and would like to know the basis for this belief.

Okay... which Christians are you referring to? Lutherans? LDSers? Roman Catholics? Presbyterians? Just the ones in the musical Footloose? How can I tell you the basis for those Christians' belief if you don't tell me who they are?

You then revised your question to (emphasis mine):

Some Christians believe that rock music is inherrently immoral, and as a result they believe that Christians would do well to avoid rock music as a genre.

One example is the criticism of Christian Rock music by American evangelist Bob Larson, a preacher lampooned by Larry Norman for his views on this topic. I met someone in my previous church who held this view, but I was never able to get a straight answer from her as to why. I am not aware of any particular denominations / traditions that specifically espouse this point of view, and it may not be all that common these days, but several older Christians have told me that statements about the immorality of rock were more commonly encountered back in the 60s and 70s.

I would like to know the basis for this belief.

So again you lead your question off by claiming an unnamed group of Christians believe something (actually two things: rock music is immoral and that Christians should avoid it). The one example you provide of a specific person believing it, you discredit in the same sentence as being lampooned. You then point to another unnamed person who believes it, followed by saying you don't know of any denomination who believes it.

So... what exactly is the problem that we can help with? The only specific, potentially credible source for this belief that you've provided is someone you personally know. I don't know who that is, and I'm willing to be nobody on this site, except for yourself, knows who that person is or what she believes.

It's not a real problem to be solved: you're asking about a hypothetical group of Christians who might believe the same thing as an unspecified person you used to know, and more importantly, why that hypothetical group of Christians believe it.

So the only way people can actually answer the question is to mentally revise it into something that is answerable, which is why the answers went in different directions.

Shog9's edit, to ask whether it's a sin, is one such way to revise the question in a concrete way: at least we can start to figure out what traditions and faiths actually believe it's a sin rather than starting from a baseline where nobody knows to which Christians you refer.

share
    
Some movements within Christianity don't have a name, nor are they associated with a particular denomination. However, I do recognize that my question was particularly vague. –  Kramii Sep 5 '11 at 21:50
add comment

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .