Why Electric Guitar Is Not Evil
(or, Why Some People Need To Get Real)
IntroductionThis was written as I thought about all the times in my life, in churches, I had heard that electric guitar has no place in church. As I thought of this, several things came to my mind, and I'd like to share them here. I have come to the conclusion that some people just need to "get real", or think logically and consider both sides of their beliefs.
The Human Tongue As An ExampleI've heard too often by preachers who, to be honest, seem to be stuck in their own preferences, that electric guitar is an evil instrument, that it is somehow Satan's preferred instrument, that it cannot serve God, etc. Such arguments are so pathetically illogical that I sometimes ask myself why such preachers are tolerated. (Then again, we're all sinners, so I cannot hold this against them.)
In James chapter 3 verse 6 that the tongue "is a fire, a world of iniquity" and that it is "set on fire by hell". Wow. This same part of our body that we use to sing hymns and to preach and encourage each other with? I guess it's impossible to be a preacher then, if our tongues are from hell, right? Wrong. The point James is making is that this is the human nature of the tongue, and that we are to control it. "If anyone does not stumble in word, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle the whole body." However, James also writes that "no man can tame the tongue." So, we can't win? No, obviously we are to control ourselves and what we say. Just because it is impossible to be perfect, in the sense of controlling the tongue, does not mean that we are to give up and never speak again.
We read in First Timothy 3 that a bishop (greek word episkopos, like local pastor or supervisor) should be able to teach, not be quarrelsome, etc. These are two examples of one thing (speech) that are on opposite sides of the spectrum. We should use it to teach others God's ways, and we're also not to be given to arguing. We are to remove sin and the fleshly tendencies from our lives while living the way God intended: to teach others about Him.
So we conclude that the tongue is not necessarily all evil, but can be also used for good. In a sense, it is neutral, and is considered either good or bad based on what we use it for. A common arguement that I give to people who, for example, consider someone to be nothing but evil, is this: consider if Adolf Hitler all the sudden picked up a Bible and read it out loud. Do the words that come out of his mouth remain evil like he was, historically, or do the words, being a direct quote of the Bible, become good? You decide.
InstrumentsI would consider then that instruments are neutral and that our use of them determines what they are. I can use a hammer to injure others, or to build a church. I can use my shoes to run to church or to be "swift to shed innocent blood". I can use my computer to write sermons or to hack a website and deface it. Why should a musical instrument be any different?
In several of the Psalms we see music as an important part of our lives in Christ. They are all basically hymns (and in hebrew, the language they were written in, they have musical elements). We see in Psalm 81, for example, the harp, the lute (similar to a flute), and the trumpet. If these instruments can praise God, cannot also the guitar? We see the same instruments mentioned in Psalm 108. In Psalm 148 we see that even the sun, moon, and stars, will praise God. We see in Psalm 150 that we are to praise God with trumpets, lutes, harps, timbrels, dancing (oh my!), stringed instruments, flutes, loud cymbals, and clashing cymbals. In fact, it ends with "let everything that has breath praise the Lord" (i.e. the breath of life). Funny how there are some things mentioned in Psalms that make almost everyone slightly uncomfortable in some way, to even include dancing. It seems to me that some people like to skip the parts of scripture that they read because to them it is uncomfortable. I do not prefer to dance in church, but we're encouraged to!
So why should electric guitar be any different? How is it evil? It is not. It's how you use it. It's no different than the tongue: I can sing hymns, or "Highway to Hell" by AC/DC. I can play either of those with the same guitar. It's no different than our bodies and our lives: we can live a life pleasing to God, spent serving Him, or destroy it through sin and a reckless life.
EffectsTrue, I will admit that there are several ways to modify the electric guitar and to make it sound certain ways. It's the attitude behind it. There are just as many, if not more, ways to enhance the sound of an electric instrument as there are ways to destroy that sound. Me, I've always preferred a more beautiful sound. Chorus is an effect that enhances the sound of a guitar, and it was the first effect that I fell in love with. It's used a lot by Margaret Becker, for example.
Distortion, yes, distorts the sound of the guitar. Overdrive is a kind of distortion which simulates when you turn an amplifier or stereo up too loud: the volume exceeds what the system is capable of delivering, and so the peaks of the sound are cut off. Distortion itself is a way to dirty up the signal from the guitar.
Delay simulates the resonance of a beautiful guitar by adding the same sounds in a delayed fashion. The timing is adjustable. I can make a guitar sound a lot like a bell choir by using a high-feedback delay.
Compressor, while it sounds bad, can actually be good. It can be used to add sustain (ringing) to the sound, and to even out the volume of the notes played.
Tremolo is an effect that simulates cranking the volume knob up and down rapidly. However, it can be very beautiful as a way to add a sort of shimmery vibrato feel to the sound, or to make the sound sort of seem "under water".
Vibrato can be used as an effect to enhance the sound also. It shifts the tone at a specified rate. Violinists, for example, manually add vibrato to their playing, which makes it sound a lot like the human voice, which naturally has vibrato.
You can see that there are quite a few things that one can do to enhance the sound of an instrument, in this case an electric guitar. Oh, and as a side note, consider that almost any CD of music you listen to is going to have some sort of enhancement done to it, mainly noise cancelling.
ConclusionWhile I have only covered some of the grand falacies in saying that an electric guitar is unsuitable for church music, I would like to point out that we're all human and imperfect. This should be more reason to evaluate things objectively before we let our own desires set our beliefs. More to come on this page. I am one musician who is proud to have dedicated my instruments to God. The ones on my music page are all gifts from God, and as such I only will use them to praise His name. It's normal for musicians to have to learn all kinds of music to increase one's musical skill, but I will never publicly perform anything but what gives praise to God.
All Bible references are New King James Version, copyright Thomas Nelson Publishers.