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Undesirable Physical Effects

Undesirable Physical Effects

My favorite color is purple. My best friend’s favorite color is red. Which one of us is more spiritual? Sounds like a silly question, right? Except that’s exactly what we’re doing when we try to shape theology around our opinions.

A few weeks ago, the music guidelines for the 2020 General Conference Session (GC) were published online, and they caused quite the uproar in the Adventist circles I run in. Just in case you have no idea what I’m talking about, here’s the link:

The twelve guidelines give a detailed description of not only what one should expect if they perform at GC but also what is and is not deemed acceptable music. There is one phrase in particular that stood out to me, “[Music at the GC Session]…should not trigger undesirable physical effects…” I’m still trying to figure out what those undesirable physical effects might be. Fainting? Seizures? Falling asleep? Or is it referring to the clapping of hands?

A few topics always seem to cause the biggest debates in church, and music is easily at the top of the list. Should we have a praise team? What about a drum set? Is it okay to clap? But dancing is out, right? Like the music guidelines for GC, these discussions often have no scriptural support and are full of opinions and preferences. But guess what? God isn’t swayed by our preferences.

As Adventists, we often talk about how we are one of the most diverse religious groups in the world. That is something to be proud of. However, is our diversity reflected in our leadership, culture, and collective worship? Do we find beauty in the differences that come with diversity? Or do we instead deem people less spiritual because they aren’t exactly like us?

I’m afraid we’ve become so focused on what like that there’s no room for variety. We’ve spiritualized our preferences to the point where anything other than what we want is wrong. But it’s our various backgrounds and life experiences that help shape our likes and dislikes. They also inform the way we worship. Sometimes our expressions of praise won’t look the same as the person next to us, and neither of us is wrong. We won’t all like the same things, and that’s okay. But there will be times when we have to experience things we don’t like for the sake of someone else’s spiritual well-being and growth.

There is a place for repetition. Look at the angels in Revelation 4 who never stop saying, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty…” There is a place for instruments and dancing. Just ask Miriam, who burst into song after the Israelites had safely crossed the Red Sea. There is a place for clapping, the lifting of hands, and even a time to shout. David makes that clear throughout the book of Psalms.

And yes, there is a place for silence.

I love to sing gospel music. You love to sing hymns. Which one of us is more spiritual?

Norell Ferguson

Norell is an interior designer by day, a blogger by night, and a pastor’s kid on the weekends. With a background in architecture and design, she chases the link between art, architecture, and church. Norell is passionate about sharing with other Adventist young adults how to be Christian in a 21st century society. She loves traveling, politics and writing for her blog, From the Mixed-Up Files of a PK. Though currently living in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Norell can also often be found in New Haven, Connecticut, or Petersburg, Virginia.

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