WHAT DOES ROCK MUSIC AS A GENRE OF CONTEMPORARY CULTURE HAVE IN COMMON WITH ORTHODOXY?
© From presentation by Alexander, Archbishop of Kostroma and Murom,
…Some of the new projects deserve a mention from this podium. Charitable Christmas concert “Rock to Heaven” with participation of Russian rock stars which was organized by St. Petersburg Youth Affairs Board started a lively discussion in mass media. Discussions can still be heard. We look forward to release of a movie which covers this event and which will explain a lot. However, there is a need to make statements on a number of issues even now.
What does rock music as a genre of contemporary culture have in common with Orthodoxy? If one is to treat music as an expression of an Orthodox Christian’s spiritual life, then certainly there is nothing in common. One can’t pray while this music sounds. One can only protest to the sound of this music. Rock is protest. But one can protest against different issues and in a different manner. From the point of view of Orthodox asceticism, protest is a manifestation of the passion of anger. However, according to the Orthodox ascetic fathers, anger can be targeted against different issues. If it’s against a neighbor it’s a sin, but if it’s against one’s own drawbacks and imperfections, then it’s an indisputable good. In the West in the 1960-ies rock musicians protested against secularization of Christian civilization. Satisfied, self-complacent, comfortable existence was presented to teenagers as some likeness of Christian ideal. Rejection of this ideology of comfort was what caused a number of leaders of rock groups to turn to non- and anti-Christian dark religiousness, even to open satanism.
In the USSR rock music was conceived in a different way. It was protest against absolute ideological power of the totalitarian system. Under [Communist] Party and Komsomol dictatorship rock musicians were friends. It is no coincidence that the famous Leningrad Rock-Club united such people as Viktor Tsoj and Boris Grebenshchikov, Konstantin Kinchev and Mike Naumenko. After perestroika each went their own way. Some accepted reality. But here’s Konstantin Kinchev’s point of view expressed in his interview to “Sretenije” [Purification] magazine: "Present system is scarier than the one we had, because from one captivity we fell into another. America won the war of ideologies and continues to foist upon us its way of life, its system of interactions between people." So what kind of life style and system of interactions between people does Konstantin Kinchev preach? Those who are familiar with lyrics written by him in the last several years know it well: Kinchev speaks of the Orthodoxy’s spiritual values.
I understand that an Orthodox educator, especially if he’s not young anymore, who found himself at a rock concert, will immediately become indignant.
But if he patiently waits until the end of the show, he can address the young who were baptized into the Church, but whose life style is utterly pagan, for example, with such words: "My friends! It is obvious to me that you especially love your motherland. Because when I was in that hall, much to my surprise and joy I heard you all together as a choir screaming out lyrics of a song by Konstantin Kinchev which you liked: ''From ages of ages my fair Rus’ borders on God...". This God whom you, not knowing, honor, I preach to you."
As pastors and as missionaries we have no right to indifferently pass by astonishing examples of conversion of youth idols into Orthodoxy. We need to use their authority in the cause of Christian mission. And we can only welcome that some of them try to place their art in the service of the Church. Can we help them in this? And if yes, how? Where lies the acceptable level for our participation in events similar to the above rock concert? This is a question for further discussion. Hopefully, discussions on this subject will be open and benevolent.
To conclude, I’d like to quote the words of the Most Holy Patriarch which were said in the Church Sobor [Council] Hall of the most important temple in Russia: "Today for the second time we present the "Found generation"award to the zealots of the Orthodox youth movement. It is remarkable that active search for new forms of Orthodox missionary work among the youth is conducted in different dioceses. More and more often one can hear a brave and persuading voice of an Orthodox shepherd at large youth events. We became convinced that the word of the Church, an inspired Christian sermon, if it is structured sensibly, presented with live and understandable words, has a place even at a concert hall or at the beginning of a sports competition".
It doesn’t matter how much we criticize the young for their modern hobbies and passions, which may be incomprehensible to us, how much we bemoan moral vices spreading among the youth, we understand that the youth of Russia is our only hope.
The moral face of society of the future depends on how deeply the young hearts are filled with the ideals of good today. We do not have other young people, and the one we have should not be divided into "churched" and "secular", "exemplary students" and "freaks", "rock fans" and "popular music fans". All of youth is our common concern."
chair of Youth Affairs Department of the Synod, at the Orthodox Youth Conference of the South Federal District
© Moscow Patriarchate Magazine. 2004, № 1, pp. 35-37
© Translation from Russian by Prosector; 2004.