Lauren and Mikaela--identical twins living on opposite coasts--blog about the story of life and their adventures in faith.

6.18.2010

For Fear of Music

It’s a world far far away and yet so close to home. It’s a world governed by a distinctively and unashamedly anti-Christian nation. It’s a world of exoticism, deserts, searing sun, idolatry, persecution, and burkhas. It’s a world in which every day you would be called upon to take a stand for Christ—a stand that could cost you your livelihood, your freedom, or your life. Every day you may be called into question to explain to those unwilling to hear explanation why you will not wear the required Muslim garb. Every day you may have to choose between uttering a few words that declare alliance with Allah or speaking those most difficult yet most precious words, “I belong to Jesus.” Every day you may be confronted for sharing the Gospel with your fellow countrymen in the streets. And now, every day you may face intense persecution, serious repercussions, and swift discipline if you commit another horror in Iran. If you teach music at a school.

Ali Bagherzadeh, head of the private schools office of the Iranian Education Ministry said, “The use of musical insruments is against the principles of our value system.[i]” Teaching music has always been banned in Iran’s state schools, and Iran considers it such a serious offense that a school that disobeys can be closed and its director blacklisted from opening any other schools. All instruments are banned from schools, and Iran’s 16,000 private schooled students are now left staring at the closed doors of their music classrooms, their violins and clarinets torn from their hands. I am incensed at this breach of freedom, but not flabbergasted. I am apalled, but not shocked. Because to me, you see, music is one of the best ways of bringing glory to my beautiful Lord, one of the best ways of worshipping Him, so it does not stagger me that a militantly Islamic nation would take issue with that. Bloomberg Businessweek doubtless thinks that Iran is simply being intolerant of an art form, but Iran and I and—I hope—you, too know better.

“The use of musical instruments is against the principles of our value system. [i]” A tidal wave of renewed enforcement of Islam’s moral teachings is sweeping Iran, so it should really come as no surprise that they are attacking music, unless you have always viewed music as just a means of pleasure. Psalm 138:5 would contradict that viewpoint:“Yes, they shall sing of the ways of the LORD, For great is the glory of the LORD.” You probably already know this, but it bears repeating and shouting from the rooftops anyways: God created music to honor Himself. Music in line with His standards—be it classical or sacred or folk or traditional—gives glory to Him and inspires chilling, trembling fear in those who would reserve glory for themselves and their false gods. Yes, fear. Psalm 40:3 even says,“He has put a new song in my mouth-- Praise to our God; Many will see it and fear, And will trust in the LORD.” (emphasis added.)

For Christians, music is not just an art form, but also a command. Ephesians 5:19 commands us to be “speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord.” Psalm 33:2 commands again, “Praise the LORD with the harp; Make melody to Him with an instrument of ten strings.” You don’t need to be a concert musician or even able to carry a tune in a bucket to obey the command of Scripture—obedience is all that is required, not proficiency! I’ve always thought of the song “I Love You, Lord” as the theme song for those of us who are not the best singers, for it begs, even if one is entirely tone deaf, “Take joy, my King, in what You hear! Let it be a sweet, sweet sound in Your ear.”

But simply banning Christian music is not enough for Iran because even so-called “secular” music can bring glory to Him. “Let’s be safe,” I can hear the school administrators discuss among themselves. “We don’t want any Christianity infiltrating our borders. So we don’t want our children learning to play the violin or the cello or the trumpet, for they could learn to love Bach or Dvorak, and such music is unacceptable, for it is the music of Christianity!” Some may reply, “Ludicrous!” but I would argue that Iran is doing the only sensible thing possible if they would desire to cut their people off from any opportunity to hear about or worship God. To not ban music and instruments would be a grave mistake for any Islamic nation, for it would allow a chink in the iron enclosement they have built around their people, a chink that could allow the light of Christ to shine through. Their worst fear would be that their people would be able to say, “Behold, God is my salvation, I will trust and not be afraid; 'For YAH, the LORD, is my strength and song; He also has become my salvation.' (Isaiah 12:2)”

But herein lies the sad climax. Iran is uneasy enough to ban music of any sort from their schools and their schoolchildren. We rise up in horror. But are not Americans apathetic enough to cold-shoulder music out of their schools, be they public, private, or homeschool, and their lives? Because of the very fact that Americans have freedom to participate in and learn good music, do they forget to do so? For education, Americans may be guilty of choosing sports over music class, or choosing superfluous science labs and perfect spelling tests over music appreciation. At home, DVDs may bury that dusty classic CD and more movie theater tickets may pass through hands than concert tickets. At church, I’ve observed too many people mumbling their way through meaningless songs, and even professional musicians who are not apathetic towards music struggle with taking all the glory for themselves. And all the while the people of Iran look on with longing eyes as their freedoms are taken away one by one. Yes, the government of Iran is very afraid of the power God has given music. We should be afraid of the absence of it.



Picture Credit
[i] Sheikholeslami, Ali. “Iran Bars Music in Private Schools, May Impose University Code.” Bloomberg, June 1, 2010. http://www.businessweek.com/news/2010-06-01/iran-bars-music-in-private-schools-may-impose-university-code.html

31 comments:

  1. We will never fully understand the unknown, to each their own, we cannot judge them about something we do not know about or have ever experienced, it is their loss though

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  2. "Queen"--Interesting comment! Although...I am not sure what the "unknown" you are referring to is. Iran? Life without music? Islam? In any case, I believe that since God commands us to enjoy music and use it to praise Him, that that command remains true no matter what the situation, culture, or country. I do not pretend to judge the Iranians, only to pray that they soon come to the knowledge of the one true God and are able to truly worship Him with the music He has created. You are certainly right, though--it is their loss.

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  3. When I was little my mom allowed me to choose what lessons/classes/sports I wanted to take/play...but piano was a non-negotiable! I hated practicing the same old finger excercises every day, but I pushed through. And now, 18 years after i sat down for my first piano lesson, I am so grateful. One of my greatest joys is sitting at my piano and singing to the Lord. Music is such a direct avenue to the soul, and I mourn for those who have such limited access to it!

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  4. Lauren, I do respect the opinions you raised in your post. And as a musician myself, i can share in your joy for music and its ability to bring us closer to Him who created us. However, you have displayed an enormous amount of error. First- muslims do pray to God. 'Allah' means God in arabic, just like you would call Him differently in another language. Muslims believe in 1 God(there can only be 1), the same God of Abraham. God of Moses, God of Jesus, God of Muhamad( peace be upon them all). Secondly- there is no mention in the Qura'an (the muslim holy book) that music is bad, although some muslims choose to believe otherwise. Thirdly -A true muslim will not be angry that music brings one close to Jesus (peace be upon him) because that will automatically bring one to God. It is not needed to take shots at another religion inorder to make christianity any better, because in its beauty it can do so quite wel on its own. You have not made muslims to appear as they are. Which is a shame and a loss. Peace.

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  5. Lauren, reading your post saddened me but did educate me. It is sad that a whole country of people do not have music in their lives. Music is the rythmn in which our souls should sway. I could not make it an entire day without raising my voice in a joyful noise! Because music to me is happiness in my heart! I also will pray for the people of Iran to take back their voices from the opprossers!

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  6. Dear Amelia—thank you for your respectful response with which I must respectfully disagree. My intention was not to “take shots” at the religion of Islam, nor to perpetuate error about that religion. I agree with you that Muslims pray to Allah—I never said they did not. However, Allah is not the same God that I worship. I worship Yahweh, one God, but three in one, a trinity of the Father, Son (Jesus), and Holy Spirit. The Trinity is not three gods in one god, nor is it one person who took three forms. Trinitarianism is strictly monotheistic and there is no other God in existence. However, Muslims know their god as Allah. Allah is one person, a strict unity. Crucial to the God of Christianity is Jesus, who is completely divine and completely God, but whom Muslims believe was only a good man. You believe this, because you say Allah is the “God of Jesus.” Therefore, by your own admission, your Allah cannot be the same as my God. Furthermore, the Bible says that God is love (I John 4:16) and that He loves all people (John 3:16), but the Qura’an never says that Allah is love and it actually says that Allah does not love unbelievers (2:98; 3:32). I could go on, but I’m sure you get the picture that I believe that Allah is not the same as God. To address your second point, I never said that the Qura’an condemns music, and I believe you that it does not. I simply reported the fact that Iran made this new law which stems from an Islamic worldview. I understand that you and many Muslims may disagree with this prohibition of music teaching, but the fact remains that still other Muslims and, apparently, the leaders of Iran, think it is necessary for the proper exercise of their religion. From my Christian worldview, this is what happens when one leaves the teachings of Yahweh and relies on the Qura’an and the teachings of men. Please believe me when I say that I have no hatred or animosity towards Muslims, only God’s love. I pray that my words come across this way and that you will think about what I have said. For more info, you can check out this website: http://www.carm.org/muslims-please-read-this-first

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  7. When I come across things like this I am reminded that the first and best instrument of all was created by our maker. No one can take it away from us and it takes no lessons or teacher in order to learn to use it. If you can speak you can sing. It matters not how you sound for there is only one listener that truly matters. And when this fails we know that the very rocks cry out His greatness. Good post!

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  8. Dear Lauren.... I know we have "discussed" music before and I told you I was still figuring it all out, but thought I'd update you that the Lord has led me to honor my parents' convictions against Christian rock and CCM. I haven't listened to any for several weeks now. It has been really freeing, (since I've been struggling with this decision for probably 3 years)...plus now I have the benefit of listening to beautiful Christ-centered music, which is no small blessing. Any suggestions for harmonious, Biblical (preferably vocal) music? It is hard to find! What are your favorites?

    btw, praying for you guys for wisdom from the Lord and graciousness as you ponder and answer all these comments...having 500 followers gives you 500 different perspectives of life, huh? :)

    with love in our Savior,
    Kelsey :o)

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  9. Chelsy--I loved how you said one of your greatest joys is sitting at the piano and singing to the Lord! Isn't it so wonderful beyond measure? Thank God for our parents who encouraged both of us in music! Mine were never musical, but they sure understood the power of it!
    Amanda and Ali--thanks so much for the encouragement; it means a lot!
    Amy--Although I pray that Christians in Iran are finding creative ways to incorporate music, I agree with you about the sadness of the ban. I will join in prayer with you for the people of Iran!
    Fish's Guppy--I truly loved your comment, and it reminded me of the singing at my church, where everyone singstheir heart out--with good voices and bad, harmony and out-of-tune melody, baby coos and all, and it is joyful and beautiful!
    Kelsey--Congratulations! This is truly a difficult decision, but one that I admire you for making! How good and faithful God is, and I know He will uphold you as you faithfully pursue this change in your life. I cannot tell you how excited I am for you, that you are choosing to submit to your parents even in this hard area. Your honesty, joy, and humility is an example to me! As for good music suggestions...I love "His Faithfulness" by Jim Spencer--it's the poetry of Amy Carmichael put to music, and it's an absolute must! Anything from soundforth.com is phenomenal and trustworthy...my favorites from them are Bright Canaan, A Firm Foundation by the Pettits, and Hymns of Grateful Praise by the Herbsters. You can even download many of these from sacredaudio.com Hope that helps! Let me know what you get! (-:
    Thank you so much for your prayers with all these exciting but wild changes! They are much appreciated!

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  10. Lauren and Mikaela-

    I just wanted to let you both know about my jewelry giveaway I have going on right now on my blog. I would love it if you would take a look!

    Thanks!
    -Lydia Jane

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  11. Lauren, your faith and passion are inspiring. What a sad thing to have happen in Iran. I don't know what I would do without music! I have been singing since I was a little girl in Church, and have been playing the piano for 6 months as well as teaching music to children. When I play, anything that is worrying me melts away and my focus turns to the music, the instrument, and the Lord. It is such a wonderful outlet, no matter what I'm feeling.

    This new law just proves God even more (as if He needs more proof!). David prophesied, as you pointed out, that men will tremble in fear when they hear the music of the Lord, and this is exactly what has happened! It is so sad for the people of Iran, but what a joy to be reminded of His unfailing love and faithfulness, and ability to stand by his word! Thankyou for the reminder :)

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  12. One more reason for us to pray for the people of Iran...something I try to do everyday.

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  13. Another excellent piece. Where do you ever find the time to do such wonderful work?

    Stanford

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  14. this issue is not black and white. many in students iran are dancing and enjoying music. this is a unique and beautiful means to struggle and fight against oppression. Let's join them!

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O_LAL2ZMb2E
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DZz_z0foXBI&feature=PlayList&p=A030C859370D2F14&playnext_from=PL&playnext=1&index=27

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  15. Very beautiful post Lauren. Music is an international language, it knows no border nor religion. It's the one official and unifying way for every one on this planet to communicate and express themselves with freely knowing that regardless of the many barriers and hate humans generate for one another, music will still be the easiest to understand and connect with.

    Humans have always used religion to oppress and control one another. "Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people." Karl Marx.

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  16. Great post!!! I will think of that next when I pick up my vionlin to play and thank God I still have the freedom to praise him. Our pastor just spoke on praising God and worshiping Him in song this morning.
    I will definitely be praying for those in Iran.

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  17. I completely agree with you. As a nation we have become complacent with our freedom, and what's worse, with our faith. Because we do not need to fight for simple things such as music or freedom of religion we tend to forget how important and valuable they are.I pray that we never fully forget.

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  18. Passavo di qui e posso dire BEL BLOG!, interessante econ una bella grafica.
    Ciao

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  19. I encourage everyone reading this to take the time to go and read the article that she has taken her exert from. There is nothing in the article that claims that the ban on music is to prevent Christan beliefs. The article stresses that the bans on music and the enforcement of extreme dress codes is to enforce an extreme branch of Muslim teachings that happens to be in control at the moment in Iran. These reach everyone in Iran and this is very unfortunate and my heart goes out to them.

    I agree with Amelia. You are singling out a religion without what appears much knowledge of the faith. I am a Christian but unlike you I do not believe Jesus is God, but the son of God. Jesus was the vessel in which God brought his teaching to earth. My point is that within the Christian faith there are several interpretations, just as there within the Muslim community. You cannot paint them with one brush.

    Another point I would like to make is Christian music is not allowed in schools here either and in a lot of places the teaching of music has taken a back seat to the "No Child Left Behind" act enforced by our own government.


    http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=email_en&sid=apyygrcdERUI

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  20. Lydia--thanks for the heads-up--I'll try to get over there soon! (-:
    Laura--Thank you for your thoughtful comment! Music is indeed a wonderful outlet, and I'm glad my article was a blessing in reminding you of God's faithfulness. May He be ever glorified in our lives!
    Kristen--Indeed! Something we should all be doing!
    Robert Stanford--Thanks so much for your encouragement! I love writing, so it seems more like a luxury than work, and I manage to squeeze that luxury in among everything else! (-;
    Anonymous--Thanks for your comment. You are completely correct that it is not black and white, and I am sure that some in Iran are refusing to be oppressed in this way. We can definitely pray for them and support them. Your clips were very interesting and showed the spirit of the Iranians enjoying music (I would advise readers to watch with discretion), and although they were from a few years ago and it is difficult to tell if they were private or state schools, it was neat to see that spirit! Thanks so much for sharing with us, and thanks for reading!

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  21. Soft Courage—Thanks for your compliment; I’m so glad you enjoyed the post! I would like to address the rest of your comment, however. Humans are flawed, yes, and they have oppressed and hated and persecuted fellow human beings for years. However, I do not vilify religion as you do, nor do I deify music as you do. Yes, music is an international language, a means of communication and expression, but as Iran evidenced—it is not above barriers of hate that humans may generate, and it cannot provide ultimate fulfillment, as evidenced by the sad state of many celebrity musicians. As for religion, I’ll be more specific and discuss Christianity and say that although every Christian that has ever lived has been flawed and has made mistakes, Christianity is not a means of oppression. Hosea Ballou wrote, “A religion that requires persecution to sustain it is of the devil’s propagation.” The definition of religion in Article 16 of Virginia’s 1776 Constitution declares: “That Religion, or the duty which we owe our Creator, and the manner of discharging it, can be directed only by reason and conviction, not by force or violence; and, therefore, all men are equally entitled to the free exercise of religion, according to the dictates of conscience; and that it is the mutual duty of all to practice Christian forbearance, love, and charity towards each other.” Christianity in no way uses oppression to control others although other religions may. Therefore, oppression is not inextricably paired with true religion, but it is closely related with false relgion, for oppression in order to enforce a religion is the first sign of its falsehood. The Bible does not in any way advocate oppression to perpetuate belief in Christ—that belief will come on an individual basis through the grace of God. Instead, Matthew 5:38-39 says, “"You have heard that it was said, 'An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.' But I tell you not to resist an evil person. But whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also.” One last thing about your Karl Marx quote. I am in no way a lover of Marx and am sure that with a Google search you could come up with a billion quotes by him against religion. However, that particular one is widely misunderstood. The Weekly People (official organ, Socialist Labor Party), January 31, 1959 says: “When the essay in question was written opium was used in Europe almost exclusively for relieving pain…Marx was using the word ‘opium’ in this sense and not in the sense that religion is a stupefier deliberately administered to the people by agents of the ruling class.”

    Lynnae--Yes, I will definitely think of that as well when I play or when I teach! Sounds like a great sermon you had! (-:
    Peanut Butter Pie--Amen! May we never forget, and may we be the generation to break the trend of complacency!
    Esploratore--I love your Italian comment although I can't fully understand it! Ciao!

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  22. Hard to understand how someone could attack music.

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  23. You know everything that we see and hear goes directly to our soul. This is really what the Iranian government is fearing. For even if they do not completely understand what they are playing/listening too it still has an affect on their soul. This is also what we as Christians need to be very careful of.

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  25. nice blog. i became a christian a couple of years ago but nv made it a point to learn any hill song or hymn. your entry touched my heart. i need to start somewhere and pay more attention.

    i think the banning of music will backfire.

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  27. If You Died Today, Are You 100% Sure You Would Go To Heaven When You Die or the Rapture Comes?

    1. You Are A Sinner.
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    through Jesus Christ our Lord. Romans 6:23

    "And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the
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    3. Jesus Shed His Precious Blood on the Cross and Died To Pay For Your Sins.
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    Luke 1:77 To give knowledge of salvation unto his people by the remission of their sins,
    Hebrews 9:22 And almost all things are by the law purged with blood; and without shedding of blood is no remission.

    4. Salvation Is Not Of Our Works. It Is Through Jesus Christ.
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  28. Dear “Hey stop that”—I encourage everyone to read the article as well—why else would I link to it at the end of my article? I have nothing to hide, and I never claimed that the article said the ban on music was to prevent Christian beliefs. I said—“ I am incensed at this breach of freedom, but not flabbergasted…Because to me, you see, music is one of the best ways of bringing glory to my beautiful Lord, one of the best ways of worshipping Him. Bloomberg Businessweek doubtless thinks that Iran is simply being intolerant of an art form, but Iran and I and—I hope—you, too know better.
    “The use of musical instruments is against the principles of our value system.i” A tidal wave of renewed enforcement of Islam’s moral teachings is sweeping Iran, so it should really come as no surprise that they are attacking music, unless you have always viewed music as just a means of pleasure.”
    Therefore, you see that I acknowledged that Bloomberg would not agree with me, and I also acknowledged that this new ban stems from enforcement of Islamic teachings. My take was on just why these Iranian leaders are so afraid of having their children exposed to music! My answer to this quandary was that God gave music power, and He created it to glorify Him.
    I agree with your point that Christian music is not allowed in our schools *anymore*, but classical music can still glorify God. Sadly, you are correct that even this is being ousted, and that was the point of my article—to make sure we fight for our freedoms and do not become complacent or else they will be taken away from us as well!
    I am sorry you feel that I misrepresent Islam, but I have yet to hear of a legitimate error in my post. I am also saddened that you do not believe Jesus is God. This is the entire foundation of the Christian faith, and the Bible declares that Jesus is God. Romans 9:5 says, “Of whom are the fathers and from whom, according to the flesh, Christ came, who is over all, the eternally blessed God. Amen.” Acts 16:31 clearly states that in order to become a Christian, you must believe that Jesus is God: “So they said, ‘Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household.’” Jesus is the Son of God, but He is equal with God in the Trinity, and I would challenge you to look Jesus up in your concordance and read through your Bible of all the numerous places where over and over Jesus is declared to be God. Without belief in Christ as God, all other faith and good works are useless, and Christ as God is what differentiates Christianity from other false religions. I pray that you will truly come to know the Lord Jesus Christ as your Lord, Savior, and God.

    Sheedia--So true! We need to be so careful of what goes into our ears and minds!
    Wise Take, Jet, AJ, WJ--Thanks so much for your great comments! They were very encouraging to read!
    Ashley--Amen! Thanks for sharing!

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  29. I think that some of people need to realize some things:

    1. The verses of the Quran are written in a poetic style. (poetry and music are like the same in a way)

    2. There were some instances in which Prophet Muhammad allowed music. (Some scholars argue that the only kind of music that Muslims may listen to is the kind that is soft, and not crazy and loud like screamo)

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