pentecostal music: through the trope of suffering, immediacy and hope
much of the pentecostal/charismatic experience can be theologically read through their music. as the music has slowly evolved into and under a more generic umbrella of “contemporary worship” i want to suggest a retrieval of its initially intended form. in other words, stripping away the marketing and business aspect of the now contemporary genre, pentecostal worship in its purest form holds a unique insight into the Spirit’s presence in and among its worshippers.
as with many african-american slave songs and spirituals, we witness the very tension between suffering and hope. their longing for escape by means of the “chariot” expresses an immanent hope of their own freedom and possibility sung through a swinging rhythmic pulse of promise. when we think about pentecostal services in a larger context, the music could be read as a confrontation of the worshipper with the immediacy of god’s presence. some may say that the music is incessant, repetitive, loud and simple. granted, it may be. however, perhaps we can interpret the incessant beating of the drums, the repetitive choruses, the loud musical swells, the climactic phrases and the simple refrains and chord structures as the very confrontation of the holy spirit’s expressive and all consuming presence. it does not allow room for critical thought, for an excuse that “it’s too hard” or “i don’t understand.” the beats of the drum lure the worshipper to a rhythm that draws out the beat of one’s soul to clap, to tap, to rock back and forth, to dance, to jump, etc. in other words, the way in which the music is played could be equated to the image of the spirit’s immanent presence as engulfing ones being to the point of “otherness.” in fact, isn’t this exactly what happened to the disciples when the spirit came upon them? there was no rationalizing about what was going to take place, who was going to speak how, or when. rather, the spirit came and all in the room were caught up.