Religion and Electronic Dance Music

In recent Youtube videos Cornwell and I have discussed various topics relating to religion. Today, we were talking on the telephone about the many parallels between Christian church services and club nights.

It strikes me that the similarities are compelling. They don’t make sense from a religious viewpoint, of course – the idea that clubs, in which people meet, dance, shout, take mind-altering substances and cop off with each other are similar to churches would be offensive to many believers.

But believers are wrong, and the parallels between church and nightclub definitely make sense from a humanist, anthropological or otherwise scientific persepective:

  • Individuals assemble weekly in a group with a shared subculture
  • They execute movements and listen to sounds which they have trained themselves to know and love, which change the way they feel about the world, and which mark them out as a discrete social group
  • Clubbers like to do each other in the toilets, while the Catholic church has struggled deflect or talk down dozens of allegations of sexual abuse by its clergy of members of the congregation.

Viewed from this comparative viewpoint, it’s not qualitatively what happens that separates churches from nightclubs – it’s more a question of how much these things happen, the order in which they take place and where in the layouts of the venues (pews = dancefloor, pulpit = DJ booth, organ = sound system, vestry = toilet cubicle).

It crossed our minds that Christian raves and Christian dance music must either already exist, or be about to happen, so we did a cursory Google search and lo, it came to pass:

And here is a “trance remix” of a song published by Hillsong, the australian pentecostal megachurch:

Several thoughts cross my mind in relation to these videos.

First among them, of course, is the observation: “Oh, for fuck’s sake.”

But putting that to one side, do you notice how the Christian rave is at first glance similar to a secular rave, but, looking more closely, is subtlely yet obviously inferior in all regards? This is another reason for christians to be hesitant to accept fully rave culture into their religious practices – raves provide a possible portal through which churches might lose members, since they are like church services, but louder, longer, brighter, more honest, and with better sacrament.

Imagine turning up at a church, where believers are repeatedly told that flaccid, psychoactively inert flour wafers and weak, vinegar-like communion wine will cause them to become one with their God, and handing out a load of magic mushrooms. “Fuck, there’s no distinction between self and the world outside my body, and my mind is an expression of the natural workings of  the whole universe. There is no life, no death, either everything-including-me or nothing is god, and both amount to the same thing!” That would challenge the world-view of at least a few parishioners, I imagine.

Update 12 July 2009

There can be only one reason I didn’t include the following video in this post, the reason being that it makes all my points perfectly in 3 minutes, thus removing the point of me having made my post in the first place.

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10 Comments to Religion and Electronic Dance Music

1 July 2009

‘i thought the idea was crazy, i mean who would go to a christian rave…?’

well, virtually nobody by the look of it.

4 July 2009

Reminds me of Hank Hill’s deathless verdict on Christian rock: these people aren’t making Christianity better, they’re just making rock music worse.

There was a sort of rave Christian church in Sheffield in the early nineties, led by the implausibly named Reverend Chris Brain. It turned culty and collapsed amid allegations that Brain’s “healing” of some of his more damaged female parishioners had crossed the line into, er, full penetrative sex.

Mr Braidy
12 July 2009

To be fair, there are some ugly, badly dressed people wobbling around in a small group about half way through the video – it’s only slightly less well attended than some disastrous breaks nights I attended in Brixton a few years ago, researching a forthcoming post about “Breakbeat: the weakest genre.”

Thanks for posting sir, it means a lot.

Kind regards

Mr Braidy
Technician, Museum of Techno

Mr Braidy
12 July 2009

See, once that funky electronic bassline kicks in, shit is going to get messy.

Thanks for posting sir – fascinating stuff indeed, including the Sheffield connection… Sheffield’s one of the UK’s nervecentres of electronic music, I wonder exactly how rave the 9 O’Clock Service got, in musical terms?

15 July 2009

Christian dance music – It sounds absurd to most. I’ve heard plenty of attempts. Admittedly, most are substandard and unable to compete with the quality of sound heard from secular producers. BUT, If one were to make truly quality Christian dance music, what an enormous number of listeners they may ecru, seeing that it’s obviously something Christians want to hear. It’s just that not many have delivered material that can come close to what the secular world offers. In the words of Jesus, “the harvest is plenty, but the laborers are few.” …Though few, they exist. Andy hunter is one, scope his myspace. I’m another. Scope mine.

Sebastian Sanders
24 May 2010

In reality, no single religion could guarantee us a place in Heaven. In the end, what matters is how we a treat other people.-::

Alyssa Thompson
28 July 2010

actually it doesn’t matter what Religion you may have, as long as you treat the other person right.~’,

31 August 2010

Mid 90s in Sheffield – god squad raves.. but inevitably it all went very wrong…'Clock_Service

Ryan Green
14 September 2010

it doesn’t matter what religion you have, just do good and avoid evil~*”

12 December 2013

I do agree that there is a spiritual feeling watching a few DJs live, but not sure how a sermon would go well with dance music. Glad no other rave churches haven’t popped up in the recent boom of dance music in the US.

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