Worship and Music - Ethnomusicology


Master of Arts (MA)


Katherine Morehouse


Censorship, Church, Music


Christian Denominations and Sects | Ethnomusicology | Liturgy and Worship | Music Practice


Like so many of the world’s other religious institutions, the Christian church has a long and well-documented history of using music to enhance and enliven the spiritual experiences of believers. Many of the church’s greatest champions throughout history have spoken about the inherent power of music, but as history always seems to demonstrate, along with power comes the need for control. As long as church leaders have used music to attain spiritual progress, they have also censored music that threatens to impede that progress. Even today, many church leaders still rely on music censorship to protect the future and identity of Christianity. The following case study highlights the underlying reasons for and effectiveness of music censorship among the current generation of believers. Interviews were conducted with nine individuals who were students at a Free Will Baptist college when it closed its doors in 2013. Eight of the nine students relocated to one of two other Free Will Baptist colleges to continue their education. The purpose of this study is to trace the ways that their views on music and spirituality either changed or stayed the same after they left Gateway and also to provide broader observations about what their experiences say about music censorship in the modern Christian church. As information about the students’ experiences with music and spiritual authority is discussed, it becomes apparent that the role of personal experience is just as important as the role of spiritual authority in helping students to forge their own ideas about music and spirituality. It also becomes clear that as the students navigated from one spiritual institution to another, they actually chose to expand their musical preferences far more than they chose to limit them. The research from this case study ultimately suggests that music censorship is not producing the desired effect among Christian young people. Instead of complying with the music standards of those in places of spiritual authority, students instead propose that church leaders either offer the reasoning behind their standards or stop talking about music altogether.