Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Blessed Are the Noisy?

This week, I read of how Rwandan police are cracking down on noisy churches and confiscating instruments from eleven congregations around the country in recent days. Apparently, these actions were in line with new laws on noise pollution. Like churches in many countries, it is not uncommon for churches in Rwanda to crank up the volume during their service, thereby disturbing the neighbours. The same restrictions have also been imposed on local mosques and night clubs.

A number of years ago, I was in Nicaragua for a pastor's seminar where I was the main speaker. Following one service, a couple of pastors took me aside and wanted to share with me concerning the "persecution" they were facing in their town. It seems that those who lived near the church had complained about the volume of the music during their worship services early on Sunday mornings and in the evenings when the neighbourhood children were trying to sleep. Authorities had informed the church that they needed to turn down their volume or face fines. This, the pastors claimed, was persecution.

With tongue in cheek, I suggested to them that there was a relatively easy way to deal with this problem. Would they like to know, I asked, how to end this persecution. Yes, they said. They were anxious to find out that the solution was. "Turn down your volume!" was all I said.

In the years since, I have heard of similar cases of "persecution" throughout Latin America, South Asia, and Africa. It seems to be a rather common problem actually. To which, I really would like an answer to the questions: "Why is it that we seem to believe that it is a good witness to our neighbours to annoy them by deliberately broadcasting our services over outside loudspeakers or turning up the volumes of our internal sound systems to ear shattering decibels? Do we honestly think that they will feel compelled to rush over and hear the good news after we have woken up their babies to the sound of electric guitars, drums and keyboards?" Yes, we have a story to tell to the nations, but we don’t need to do it all at once with a cataclysmic auditory bombardment!

In some of these services that I have attended, I have actually had to leave the building for a few minutes during the singing in order to avoid getting a migraine headache and have jokingly suggested at times to certain congregations that it is a good thing that they believe in healing because they must have their hands full in healing those with hearing loss.

Jesus said that we are to be as wise as serpents and as innocent as doves in our dealings with a hostile world. The practice of making a joyful sonic blast is neither wise nor innocent.

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