Date of this Version
Using music as a focal point, although another of the arts might serve as well, I have discovered that the arts are a kind of camera obscura of society. Like that optical wonder, they reduce the whole of its identity-sanctions and values, sacred and secular beliefs and customs- to a faithful reflection in miniature, in living colors (Mantle Hood, The Ethnomusicologist. New York: McGraw-Hill , p. xviii).
The author of this statement, Mantle Hood, is an ethnomusicologist, one who studies the music of cultures outside those in the western European tradition (his perspective is therefore a global one). If what he asserts is valid (and I believe it is), then his statement ought to be of considerable interest to present- day Christians. Although the music of Christian worship is not the focus of enormous attention in today's world (neither the arts nor Christian worship are among modern society's central concerns), the practice of the arts in the church (and especially the practice of music) is a faithful indicator of a church's "sanctions and values ... beliefs and customs." With that idea in mind, the following excerpts from a recent article in The Wall Street Journal suggest that we are in the midst of a basic shift in some churches' understanding of themselves and their worship.