In Christendom, why is viewing pornography considered wrong?
Some answers you may have heard:
It hurts relationships!
That is somebody’s daughter/sister!
While these are valid points, they are also mostly subjective, relatively dismissable arguments that ignore the fundamental reality taught by Christianity: people are made in God’s image, and sex was designed for marriage.
Being made in God’s image imbues every person with dignity, a dignity that the porn industry takes from people. Evidence suggests that many pornographic videos are the result of abuse or actually depictions of rape (2020). What this can mean for people is that by viewing porn and feeding the demand for the content, they incentivize this to continue. Not only this, but pornography objectifies people in a way that reduces people and fails to recognize the full person–it elevates what is sensory about another person to the absence of all else.
Christianity certainly values the sensory as good–this is why we are able to praise beauty when we see it. It must be understand, however, in its proper context, which is marital. A fuller picture of this idea is expressed very well in the book The Theology of the Body in One Hour and is this: sex is marital by its very nature. But to understand that truth, we have to understand marriage as being in some sense sacramental: it is a visible sign (or incarnation) of the relationship between Christ and the Church, just as the bread and wine represent (or become) the body and blood of Christ. This connection is probably easiest for Roman Catholics to make, but I think there is biblical warrant for this sacramental-ish language with regard to marriage in other traditions; after all, the Church is described as the bride of Christ.
Trying to understand sex outside the context of marriage is like trying to understand the life of a famous basketball player without knowing anything about basketball: it can be done (after all, the player is a person who has a life outside of the sport), but it will inevitably miss many important details due to the lack of contextual knowledge.
This is the proper context in which sex is to be understood, and outside of this context lies confusion, and, according to Scripture, danger.
As drinking poison is harmful to our physical bodies, sexual impurity is harmful to our souls. It’s actually bad for us as beings. Paul warns the Corinthians, a church rife with sexual immorality, to flee from it:
“Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body” (1 Cor. 6:18 English Standard Version)
I would like to note two things about this verse. First is that we are to flee from this sin, as Joseph fled from Potiphar’s wife. There are probably some applications here that the readers may develop for themselves, but the second thing about this verse is that it puts the sin into its own category: sins against one’s own body.
Sins that harm one’s own soul. Sin that is powerful. We see elsewhere in Scripture (a character in The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert points this out) truths that should make us tremble—that God will give people over to their sin and then to a reprobate mind. A reprobate mind is one of the scariest things. G.K. Chesterton writes about the madman:
“A man cannot think himself out of mental evil; for it is actually the organ of thought that has become diseased, ungovernable, and, as it were, independent. he can only be saved by will or faith.” – (Chesterton, 2020, pp. 16-17)
It is scary to see how powerful sin can become if we let it reside in us.
Scary, that is, were it not for a Savior even more powerful than sin!
“No one has ascended into heaven except he who descended from heaven, the Son of Man. And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life” (John 3:13-15 English Standard Version)
There is a process that begins when a person receives Christ and a communion with the Spirit that is powerful not only to save but to transform.
In contrast contrast the mind darkened by the power of sin, the words of Romans take on new meaning:
“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” (Romans 12:2 English Standard Version, emphasis added)
This transformation is only possible because of a central fact: that when we receive Christ, we become new creatures:
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” (2 Cor. 5:17 English Standard Version)
In a world filled with powerful sin capable of destroying our bodies and darkening our minds, word of a Savior is good news indeed.
Butterfield, R. C. (2012). The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert: An English Professor’s Journey into Christian Faith. Crown & Covenant.
Chesterton, G. K. (2006). Orthodoxy. Hendrickson Publishers, Inc.
Evert, J. (2017). The Theology of the Body in One Hour. Totus Tuus Press.
Christians are called to rejoice and give thanks at all times, and in all situations -and how can we not if indeed the Gospel is true? As Paul says,
“Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” ~1 Thess. 5:16-18
This Thanksgiving, the holiday can merely be a break from routine, a time eating lots of good food with family (not a bad thing!) -but it can also be more. While Christians are called to give thanks always, this day provides an opportunity to intentionally praise God for the ways he has worked during the past year. There are any number of ways this can look -but the following from the Book of Common Prayer has helped me as I’ve contemplated God’s working in the past year, and maybe it will be beneficial to you as well:
Accept, O Lord, our thanks and praise for all that you have done for us. We thank you for the splendor of the whole creation, for the beauty of this world, for the wonder of life, and for the mystery of love.
We thank you for the blessing of family and friends, and for the loving care which surrounds us on every side.
We thank you for setting us at tasks which demand our best efforts, and for leading us to accomplishments which satisfy and delight us.
We thank you also for those disappointments and failures that lead us to acknowledge our dependence on you alone.
Above all, we thank you for your Son Jesus Christ; for the truth of his Word and the example of his life; for his steadfast obedience, by which he overcame temptation; for his dying, through which he overcame death; and for his rising to life again, in which we are raised to the life of your kingdom.
Grant us the gift of your Spirit, that we may know him and make him known; and through him, at all times and in all places, may give thanks to you in all things. Amen.
When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Feed my lambs.” – John 21.15
The Inverse or the opposite? A discussion at an IEEE computer society meeting a few nights ago might seem like an unlikely place to be talking about love, but amid the discussion of a networking concept, the presenter distinguished between the opposite of a thing and the inverse of a thing. “What is the opposite of love? Most people would say it’s hate, but the opposite of both hate and love is apathy.” I didn’t fully follow this distinction, but the thought process started me thinking about synonyms, how we use them, and what they mean.
So, what is the opposite of love, and how is it different (if it is!) from inverse, converse, and contrapositive? Let’s take a look!
What do those words even mean? Time to dust off those logic definitions and find out! Let’s examine a statement and the 3 related statements we can draw from it, and evaluate whether these statements are true.
“If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you.” – John 14.15-17
If you love me, you will keep my commandments.
If you keep my commandments, you will love me.
This is false – without a heart changed and set to love God, outward obedience is insufficient to form love.
“Many will say to me on that day, ‘LORD, LORD, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?” – Matthew 7.22
If you do not love me, you will not keep my commandments.
This is also false—there are lots of moral people who, even without loving Jesus, are capable of keeping Jesus’s commandments. It is possible to honor God with our lips and obey commandments taught by men, while also having a heart that does not love God
And the Lord said:
“Because this people draw near with their mouth
and honor me with their lips,
while their hearts are far from me,
and their fear of me is a commandment taught by men,
therefore, behold, I will again
do wonderful things with this people,
with wonder upon wonder;
and the wisdom of their wise men shall perish,
and the discernment of their discerning men shall be hidden.” – Isaiah 29.13-14
If you do not keep my commandments, you will not love me.
This is almost true—but more accurately stated as—if you do not bear fruit in keeping with repentance, then you do not love me. UPDATE: a more math-minded reader than I pointed out that the contrapositive of a statement is always true, so ignore the previous statement! The correct phrasing of the contrapositive should be: if you will not keep me commandments, then you do not love me. This is true!
Loving God expresses itself in the fruit of good works in believers. Though believers are imperfect, backslide, go through perhaps even seasons of life where they hold on to sin, the fruit of a heart truly in love with Christ is a walk that is increasingly obedient to his commands. In Conclusion
What is the opposite of love? Is it hate, or is it apathy? Since opposite, unlike converse, inverse, and contrapositive, doesn’t have a strict definition in logic, I am left with a dictionary lookup to decide. The definition of opposite is as follows:
1. Placed or located directly across from something else or from each other: opposite sides of a building.
2. Facing the other way; moving or tending away from each other: opposite directions.
3. Being the other of two complementary or mutually exclusive things: the opposite sex; an opposite role to the lead in the play.
As an an adjective, we would say that love and hate are opposite emotions, whereas apathy is the absence of emotion. As a result, to answer the original question in an extremely roundabout way, the opposite of love must be hate, but in the absence of love, there is indifference.
Any grammar Nazi worth his or her salt knows the atrocity of the missing antecedent. The worst of all errors is a sentence that begins with “it” (à la, “It was a dark and stormy night”). What I have realized, though, is that few rules like these are so unarguable that someone hasn’t broken them with success. After all, the opening lines of Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities and Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice have an unforgettable ring: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times” and “It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.”
In fact, this scenario where the great authors break the rules reminds me of the final rule I learned in my photography class a couple years ago. My teacher taught us photography composition rules, such as the rule of thirds and leading lines, but then the list that he referenced ended with the tip that rules are meant to broken. And that is where true talent often shines through. Where some people realize they are Austens, and others discover they aren’t.
Examples of “It” in Action
“It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.” — George Orwell, 1984
“It was a pleasure to burn.” — Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451
“It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.” — Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice
“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way – in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.” — Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities
Why “It” Works
Clarity and precision are paramount when you write to explain, persuade, or inform. However, in literature and poetry, authors can break these rules and intentionally confound readers with unclear subjects. Sometimes a sense of mystery or confusion can be a tool instead of a hindrance. I think this power to create mystery and suspense is part of why a sentence that begins with it can be powerful in artistic writing situations when, in other contexts, the construction would be weak.
In the opening lines quoted above, each author makes a startling claim. If Bradbury had merely said “it was a pleasure to burn wood in the fireplace,” his readers would have responded “duh!” and slipped into boredom within seconds. The same would have been true if Orwell had stopped at “April.” His second clause packs the punch in the opening line from 1984 with its final word. Because clocks don’t strike thirteen. And if clocks are doing this, then something is wrong, and the audience already feels the wrongness with this simple, jarring statement.
Don’t state the obvious if you are going to start a sentence—and especially a book—with it. Make it count. Lure the audience in with a benign “it was…” and then catch them off guard. This sentence construction is likely to fall apart without a startling claim. In fact, I think this explains why “it was a dark and stormy night” is ridiculed, while the opening lines I referenced above are revered. Dark and stormy nights are commonplace. Describing a night in this way does little to set this particular evening apart from any other and fails to capitalize on the power and mystery of it.
Based on the claims above, perhaps a simple formula is possible: Successful sentence beginning with it = “It” + verb + startling claim (humorous, thought-provoking, intriguing, or surprising).
Now, the next time you’re about to pounce on a sentence with a missing antecedent, red pen in hand, remember that it serves a valuable role in writing and even has the power to form some of the most memorable quotes in the history of literature. Further, if you’re feeling creative, try using it to begin a story and see if the formula works for you (please share your sentence in the comments). Perhaps you will be the next Austen, Dickens, Bradbury, or Orwell.
My friend sets the pizza boxes on the table, turns, and makes a general announcement to the expectant partygoers: “There’s pepperoni, Hawaiian for you weirdos, and also cheese pizza. Help yourself. Just give me cash or Venmo me five bucks sometime.”
Well, this is awkward. Like most of my millennial brethren, I no longer regularly carry around those totems known as “cash.” But, up until now, I have also been avoiding digital payment platforms.
Sure, there was that one time I let someone pay me over Facebook, an act I regret, as The Hackers, or more likely Facebook itself, are surely coming for me. Besides that, I’ve mostly conducted my informal transactions via the good old-fashioned bartering system: you bought the chips and guac at Chipotle last time, so I buy the chips and guac at Chipotle this time. Occasionally, for larger purchases, I’ve resorted to an antiquated system, utilized by my great-great-great grandmother, known as “checks.”
But my friend wants concrete payment in the near future, not IOU karma. I could go to the bank later and get cash, but the ATM only dispenses twenties, and sure, maybe I could go inside and they’d give me a five dollar bill, but that would require talking to someone. And so would going to a store and breaking up a twenty there.
Well, the time has come to bite the bullet. I download the Venmo app. I start the sign up. I breeze through those pesky little Terms & Conditions, and get to a screen that insists I enter my phone number. I do so.
“This phone number is already registered in our system.”
Oh. I thought I was a lone holdout in the war against the machines. But no, the truth is much darker. I do have an account – but I had erased its existence from my memory.
Hazy images float through my mind: another age, another me, going on a trip with friends, perhaps, and venmo-ing my share of the hotel fees. Let’s see. What email would I have been using at the time? Probably my old Yahoo account. I don’t have access to it anymore, in fact, I straight-up deleted it after The Hackers got to Yahoo for the 52nd time.
(As a side note, Googling “What’s going on with Yahoo these days” will just get you a bunch of sketchy links to “is yahoo down? real time status updates.” It will not get you news about the state of the company. Google is not your boyfriend; you can’t make conversation with it.)
Anyway, let’s see if I can use my old email to reset the password.
Success! I enter it as my username, and an automated text is sent to my phone number. I reset the password, replacing whatever it was with the super secret mega-safe password that I use far too commonly. For my efforts, I am prepared to be greeted with some sort of Welcome screen.
Instead, a new message appears. “Fancy new device you’ve got there,” it says, somewhat snidely in my mind. But, thank you for noticing, I guess?
The next screen lets me know that they’re going to need to confirm that it’s really me signing in from said new device. “If you select the phone number above, you confirm that you are authorized to use this phone number and agree to receive SMS texts to verify your identity. Carrier fees may apply.” How helpful.
Except, the only option listed “above” that can be selected is not a phone number. It’s an email. My Yahoo email. The one that no longer exists.
(In moment of what I thought was inspiration, I would later go home and dig up my college laptop, hoping against hope that it was the device I originally signed up for Venmo on. For reasons that are lost in the mists of time, it was not said device.)
And so here I sit, unable to access Venmo, that most hallowed of digital banks, all because I had the gall to get a new phone. I suppose I could call Venmo, see what could be done. But no, that presents the same problem as going to the bank: people that I must interact with.
I suppose I should be grateful, as Venmo’s distrust of new electronics probably keeps my information safe from The Hackers. But right now, I just want to pay my friend for pizza and not talk to anyone. Like a truly stereotypical millennial.
Today, Caroline Bennett discusses music periodizations, pedagogy, and more, while highlighting the importance of studying a variety of musicians and musical styles.
Whenever someone tells a story, reads a textbook, writes an essay, or participates in a discussion, this person inevitably employs a set of preconceptions and a view of the world. In a discussion of periodizations in music history, historian James Webster notes that “periodizations serve the needs and desires of those who make and use them…This is so whoever ‘we’ are, and whether we conceive our historical intentions as ‘objective’ or interest-driven.” Webster’s claim also pertains to the current push to diversify the study of music. When historians or teachers decide which composers to talk about they have certain objectives, and the attempt to diversify music history is a direct result of the value that American society currently places on inclusivity and diversity. Although this is not necessarily a wrong approach to music history, musicians should be conscious of why they study certain people or compositions. Musicians can actually achieve greater diversity in their view of the past by not making diversity the ultimate objective. Rather, musicians should strive to study and perform music that was impactful at the time that it was written, that serves an important pedagogical function, or that is timely and appropriate in a modern context. This goal, though daunting, is achievable if historians, teachers, and performers expand their knowledge of music and apply it to their respective disciplines.
Given the immensity of music history, it may appear unfeasible for music historians to talk about music that is not only excellent but also demonstrates diversity. However, this should not be the primary goal of historians. Instead, while conducting research historians should notice any information that is thought-provoking or could potentially connect with other facts. If the name of an unknown composer is mentioned in a document, a historian should consider going off on a tangent and seeing where else the composer is mentioned or what pieces the person wrote. This may lead to exciting connections between the unknown composer and more famous composers, or occasionally result in the discovery of a truly great or influential artist. Additionally, historians have a second task: they should notice the time periods, countries, and societies that did not have many composers of diverse ethnicities or genders. For example, a prevalent reason why there have been fewer and less-well known female and African-American composers in music history up into the 20th century is because they did not have good educational opportunities. Although this makes it harder for historians to include diverse composers in their writings and presentations, it is wise for historians to inform their audiences of these reasons because it gives context to the narrative and highlights the composers who did manage to overcome racial prejudice or social inequality, such as Scott Joplin, Ethel Smyth, William Grant Still, or Germaine Tailleferre.
Supplied with the wealth of resources that music historians share, music teachers can expand their knowledge of their instrument and its repertoire. It is important for teachers to be familiar with an assortment of pieces that not only come from various time periods but also have different purposes, contexts, and styles. This gives teachers an arsenal of works with which to inspire and challenge their students. Although a majority of the pieces that teachers assign their students will be by standard composers such as Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, and Schumann, if teachers are intimately familiar with their instrument’s canon they will have the freedom to choose pieces best suited to their student’s interests and abilities. Likely this will lead to more and more students studying works by Fanny Mendelssohn Hensel, Clara Schumann, and the like. For example, if a piano student expresses interest in learning a blues or jazz song, a teacher might assign “Saint Louis Blues” by African-American composer W.C. Handy. The benefits of this are twofold. Not only will the student likely be more motivated to practice the piece because it is appealing, but it will also present an opportunity for the teacher to introduce the student to a specific segment of music history. Indeed, teachers ought to always seek to incorporate music history into lessons and expect their students to become well acquainted with the story and repertoire of their instrument.
When musicians receive a well-rounded education and are knowledgeable of their instrument and its repertoire, concert programs are more likely to feature unique and lesser-known works. A performer who remembers that she enjoyed studying Amy Beach songs in high school will be more likely search for more good pieces by Beach and include them on concert programs later on in her career. This will in turn introduce audience members to pieces and composers that they may not have been familiar with before and inspire other musicians to study new works. Though not overtly related to diversifying music studies, this process will certainly affect people’s understanding of music history and eventually make a mark on musical canons. The story of how Mendelssohn’s performance of J.S. Bach’s St. Matthew Passion in the mid-19th century helped instigate renewed interest in Bach’s music, though not an example of diversity, certainly demonstrates the power of performing uncommon pieces. Even one concert can prompt more and more people to study music by an unfamiliar composer until that composer becomes an established figure in music history.
If music historians are diligent in following tangents in their research and discovering new composers and pieces, and if teachers assign a variety of works to their students and encourage their students’ curiosity about their instrument’s history and repertoire, and if performers constantly present the most innovative, interesting, and compelling works on their instruments, then music history and music canons will naturally become more diverse. Instead of making a conscious effort to change the way people view the past, and in the process imposing current values or agendas, musicians ought to encourage diversity and inclusivity via a different route. They should study and teach and perform the music that is most impactful, most influential, most imaginative, most intriguing. And although this approach demands much from musicians and requires a well-rounded education, the results will be invaluable. Historians, teachers, and performers will have a deeper, richer understanding of music, its history, and the world, and this in turn will make them better able to share music with their audiences.
. James Webster, “Between Enlightenment and Romanticism in Music History: ‘First Viennese Modernism’ and the Delayed Nineteenth Century,” 19th Century Music, vol. 25, nos. 2-3 (2001-02): 110.
. Laura Artesani, “Beyond Clara Schumann: Integrating Women Composers and Performers into General Music Classes,” General Music Today 25, no. 3 (2012): 23. MasterFILE Premier, EBSCOhost (accessed April 10, 2018).
. J. Peter Burkholder, Donald Jay Grout, and Claude V. Palisca, A History of Western Music, Ninth edition (New York: W. W. Norton & Company, Inc., 2014), 461.
Artesani, Laura. “Beyond Clara Schumann: Integrating Women Composers and Performers Into General Music Classes.” General Music Today 25, no. 3 (2012): 23. MasterFILE Premier, EBSCOhost (accessed April 10, 2018).
Burkholder, J. Peter, Donald Jay Grout, and Claude V. Palisca. A History of Western Music. Ninth edition. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, Inc., 2014.
Webster, James. “Between Enlightenment and Romanticism in Music History: ‘First Viennese Modernism’ and the Delayed Nineteenth Century.” 19th Century Music 25, nos. 2-3 (2001-02): 108-126.
The following post is by guest author Caroline Bennett. Normally our musical columnist, she has expanded into U.S. history for today’s essay.
In most towns in the United States of America, preparations for July 4 begin nearly a month in advance. People become extra patriotic, swathing their front porches with bunting, lining the sides of their driveways with mini-American flags, and stockpiling fireworks. Reenactments and parades take place across the country on July 4, and Americans travel to be with family and enjoy hotdogs and pies. Independence Day is one of the most popular holidays celebrated in the United States, marking the day a group of men from thirteen colonies declared independence from Great Britain, creating the foundation for the great nation that Americans know and love today. Considering how important Americans consider Independence Day, however, few realize that July 4, 1776, was not actually as important a day for American freedom as July 2 or even August 2, 1776. Many assume that the fading parchment exhibited in the National Archives in Washington, D.C. was written and signed on July 4, but in reality the process of declaring liberty from Great Britain spanned many years.
In the Course of Human Events
As American colonists became more and more restless under British rule in the 1770s, colonial leaders made the decision to coordinate the actions of the colonies by forming the Continental Congress (Thompson 190). The first Continental Congress convened briefly in the fall of 1774, and delegates from twelve colonies attended (Johnson 148). After the confrontation between colonists and British soldiers at Lexington and Concord, the second Continental Congress met in Philadelphia (Evans 229). A merchant from Massachusetts, John Hancock, presided over the Congress, and all thirteen colonies sent delegates. On July 7, 1775, the congress approved a declaration authorizing the use of force against England (190). Originally, Thomas Jefferson, a young Virginian lawyer, was to pen this declaration, but after his writing proved too inflammatory, John Dickinson, a solicitor from Pennsylvania, wrote a second draft (190). M. Stanton Evans, an American journalist and author, notes in his book The Theme Is Freedom that most American colonists were not eager to declare independence from Great Britain (229). Colonial leaders spent decades writing manifestos and demanding redress, and Dickinson’s declaration assured readers that the Continental Congress was not dissolving the union between the colonies and Great Britain (196).
To many delegates, separation from Great Britain was still an alien concept in 1775. Numerous congressional delegates feared the colonies would fall into chaos if they threw off the structure of British government (Johnson 154). John Adams, a Massachusetts lawyer, dismissed these fears and unofficially led a group of supporters of independence. Adams and his associates debated before Congress over the course of many months, attempting to convince the delegates that a separation from Great Britain was necessary (Evans 231). Indeed, it was nearly a year after Dickinson penned his declaration, in May 1776, that some of the Congressional delegates finally made motions to declare British power null and encourage the colonies to set up governments of their own (231).
Thomas Jefferson returned to Philadelphia on May 14, having been absent since the previous December (Evans 231). He arrived just in time. On June 7, Richard Henry Lee, on behalf of the Virginia Assembly, asked Congress to “adopt a declaration of independence, prepare articles of confederation, and solicit ‘the assistance of foreign powers’” (Rakove 74). John Adams seconded Lee’s motion, and the following day the delegates renewed the debates on independence (McCullough 118). The delegates in support of independence were increasing in number, but still the Congress could not agree to declare the colonies free from Great Britain. On June 10, the delegates opposed to severing ties with Great Britain requested that the final vote be delayed until July 1, so that the Congressional delegates could send for new instructions from their colonies (McCullough 119). Congress agreed to the delay but appointed a committee consisting of Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, Roger Sherman, Robert Livingston, and Thomas Jefferson to draft a declaration of the colonies’ independence in the event that Congress voted in favor of the measure (Johnson 154).
Right of the People
Thomas Jefferson was the youngest member of the committee and had spent the least amount of time in Congress. Nevertheless, the committee nominated him to write the first draft of the Declaration of Independence. Whatever the reasons of the committee, Jefferson’s appointment was fortuitous. His rhetorical eloquence is powerful and serves as a testament to his education and extensive reading. Nevertheless, total credit for the Declaration of Independence should not go to Jefferson alone. He was a part of a committee and wrote what his associates agreed upon. The Declaration of Independence was to be a corporate statement, after all, and it essentially summed up all the debates that had taken place in Congress over the past two years (Evans 232-233). David McCullough, a historian and lecturer, records in John Adams that Jefferson later wrote
Neither aiming at originality of principle or sentiment, nor yet copied from any particular and previous writing, [the Declaration of Independence] was intended to be an expression of the American mind, and to give to that expression the proper tone and spirit called for by the occasion. (121)
Because the Declaration
represented the opinions of many different men, colonies, and beliefs, it was
naturally influenced by a variety of sources. The colonial leaders certainly
found inspiration in the writings of philosopher John Locke, particularly in
the concepts from his Second Treatise of Government
(Rakove 78). Locke’s belief that people should throw off the authority of
their king or government after suffering repeated violations of their rights reflected
the influence of his heritage in the English common law, however. The English
common law was grounded in the idea that political authority came ultimately
from the people, and that kings and other magistrates were their agents (Evans
With centuries of history backing him, Jefferson wrote out the list of abuses charged against George III. Many people have speculated why the Declaration was addressed only to the king instead of the British Parliament. M. Stanton Evans points out that American colonists had never pledged allegiance to Parliament, only to the king of England, and therefore the Continental Congress only needed to address its sovereign (234). The reason for writing a declaration was simple: to let George III and the entire world know why the thirteen colonies could in good conscience throw off British rule and establish their own government. Excluding the introduction and conclusion, the Declaration of Independence is a summary of George III’s violations of authority. The king had obstructed justice and rule of law, made it difficult for legislative bodies to meet, kept standing armies in the colonies during times of peace, held mock trials for his guilty subordinates, deprived many colonists of trial by jury—the list goes on and on (Thompson 204-205). These were not violations made only by George III, however; he had been king but sixteen years. The colonists were charging George III and his predecessors with failure in their duty to justly use the power their people had given them.
Once Jefferson finished
writing his draft, he and the committee revised it. Impressed by Jefferson’s
conciseness and clarity of thought, Franklin, Adams, Sherman, and Livingston
made mostly minor changes (McCullough 121-122). The concepts the declaration presented
were powerful and undeniable, and the committee did not alter them. Most of the
changes made the document easier to read. For instance, the committee altered
the wording of the famous second paragraph, replacing Jefferson’s phrase “we
hold these truths to be sacred and undeniable” with the simpler “we hold these
truths to be self-evident” (121). The committee finished revising the draft of
the Declaration of Independence after a few days, and by June 28, 1776, Jefferson
and his associates were ready to present their Declaration of Independence to
Congress (Rakove 74).
To Throw Off Such Government
The second Continental Congress reconvened on July 1, and the debates on Richard Henry Lee’s resolution to declare independence continued. John Dickinson said that severing ties with England was premature, but acknowledged that his was an unpopular opinion. Dickinson knew that in opposing independence, he was ruining his career, but he believed that “thinking as I do on the subject of debate, silence would be guilt” (McCullough 126). After Dickinson delivered his moving speech, Adams stood and “wished now as never in his life…that he had the fits of the ancient orators of Greece and Rome, for he was certain none of them ever had before him a question of greater importance” (126). Following Adams’ speech, other delegates took the floor, including John Witherspoon from New Jersey and Joseph Hewes from North Carolina. A preliminary vote followed the speeches. Pennsylvania, South Carolina, and Delaware voted against declaring independence, and the New York delegates abstained from the vote because they lacked instructions from their legislature (128). Though nine colonies favored independence, Adams and his associates hoped for a show of solidarity, and thus the final vote was postponed until the next day in hopes of more colonies changing their votes.
On July 2, 1776, the two
chairs reserved for the Pennsylvania delegates were empty. Delegates John
Dickinson and Robert Morris could not in good conscience vote in favor of
independence, but they also knew how important it was for Congress to speak
with one voice, so they absented themselves from the proceedings (McCullough
129). When the final vote was taken, New York once again abstained from the
vote, but South Carolina and Delaware changed sides. The colonies’ decision to
declare independence was unanimous, at least in the sense that no colony stood
opposed (129). Adams joyously wrote to his wife later that evening,
The second day of July 1776 will be the most memorable epocha in the history of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival…It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires and illuminations from one end of this continent to the other from this time forward forever more. (McCullough 130)
Free and Independent States
Now that the Congress was agreed to declare the colonies free of British rule, the delegates began revising and approving the Declaration of Independence that Jefferson and the committee had written. Once again, many of the changes were minor, largely focused on making the writing less verbose and toning down some of Jefferson’s language. All in all, the Congress made more than eighty changes to Jefferson’s draft (McCullough 134). In the end, the concluding line of the declaration read, “And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor” (Thompson 207).
The final sentence of the Declaration of Independence reveals the feelings of the Congressional delegates. Casting accusations at the king of England and declaring the thirteen colonies free of British control was no laughing matter, and the Congress knew full well it might face disbandment or punishment for treason (Armor). Nevertheless, twelve of the colonies ratified the Declaration of Independence on Thursday, July 4, 1776. The New York delegates initially abstained from the vote, but their legislature later approved the declaration, ultimately making the vote for the Declaration of Independence unanimous among the colonies (Armor). On July 5, printers began making copies of the momentous document, and the Congressional delegates sent copies to friends and to their legislatures. On July 8, the Declaration of Independence was read publicly in the State House Yard in Philadelphia, and the Liberty Bell was rung (Johnson 156).
The Declaration of Independence was not yet complete, however. A copy of the declaration was “elegantly engrossed on a single, giant sheet of parchment by Timothy Matlack, assistant to the secretary of Congress” (McCullough 137). On Friday, August 2, most of the Congressional delegates convened to sign the Declaration of Independence. Once more, there was no fuss or ceremony, and the delegates simply stepped forward and fixed their signatures. John Hancock, as president of the Congress, made his signature in the middle of the document, using large, flowing strokes. A number of other important delegates were noticeably absent—Richard Henry Lee, George Wythe, Oliver Wolcott, Elbridge Gerry. They signed later. A new member of Congress from New Hampshire, Matthew Thornton, fixed his signature in November 1776, and Thomas McKean of Delaware signed in January 1777 (138). Approving the declaration had been seditious enough. Now the delegates were writing their names on it—undoubtedly a treasonous act. As a result, the signing of the document remained a secret for some time (Armor).
The legal process of
severing ties with Great Britain was concluded after the signing of the
Declaration of Independence, but seven years would pass, and thousands of men
would die, before the thirteen United States of America were truly independent.
Nevertheless, Americans began celebrating their liberty and freedom just one year
after the second Continental Congress ratified the Declaration of Independence.
On July 4, 1778, a few local celebrations took place (Armor). After the
surrender of Cornwallis at Yorktown, Americans began more extensive
celebrations. Despite Adams’ conviction that July 2 would be commemorated, July
4 inexplicably became the day that Americans chose to celebrate their
independence. In 1873, Pennsylvania became the first state to officially recognize
July 4 as Independence Day (Armor). Other states followed suit soon after, and
eventually Independence Day became a federal holiday in the United States of
For most Americans, the Fourth of July is a holiday that takes place in the heat of summer, involves fireworks and parades, and celebrates American independence. Many believe that the Declaration of Independence was signed on July 4, 1776, a day that ushered in celebrations and the ringing of the Liberty Bell. Declaring independence was not that simple, however. The truth is that numerous colonial leaders left their families and homes for months on end, argued with one another for years about the right course of action, and struggled with their personal doubts and fears. The Congressional delegates put their lives on the line by voting for independence, voting to approve the Declaration of Independence, and affixing their signatures to the same document. The delegates knew that what they were doing would go down in history, but they did not know whether they would be remembered as defeated traitors or as victorious American patriots. The delegates would probably not care what day Americans have chosen to celebrate independence. The second Continental Congress did not meet in Philadelphia in order to be remembered, but in order to give future generations of Americans a government that prized life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
Armor, John. “‘Independence’ Day, Past and Present.” World & I 11.7 (1996): 72. History Reference Center. Web. 26 June 2016.
Evans, M. Stanton. The Theme Is Freedom. Washington, D.C.: Regnery Publishing, Inc., 1994. Print.
Johnson, Paul. A History of the American People. New York, NY: Perennial-HarperCollins, 1997. Print.
McCullough, David. John Adams. New York, NY: Simon and Schuster, 2001. Print.
Rakove, Jack N., and States United. The Annotated U.S. Constitution and Declaration Of Independence. Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press, 2009. eBook Collection (EBSCOhost). Web. 26 June 2016.
Thompson, Bruce, ed. The Revolutionary Period: 1750-1783. Farmington Hills, MI: Greenhaven Press, 2003. Print.
We are excited to welcome back our guest author Caroline Bennett! Read on to enjoy her latest music-related contribution.
Music historian James Webster posits that, “One cannot think about, still less investigate, the ceaseless, infinitely complex flow of historical events without segmenting them into time spans.” Webster was speaking of the Classical-Romantic divide in music, but structure in any discipline allows people to understand concepts for themselves. Perhaps more importantly, it enables them to share this knowledge and communicate with others more easily. Thus, dividing music history into distinct periods is logical. The separation between with Classical and Romantic musical eras continues to be useful because it allows people to easily communicate with others by providing the structure and context necessary to better appreciate and interpret music.
Musicians can compartmentalize music history in many ways, and when appropriate they can use different methods of periodization. Ultimately, however, music history should be organized in a way that is easy for others to grasp. Although Webster is dissatisfied with the standard division between the “Classical” and “Romantic” eras, suggesting that historians label the late 18th through early 19th centuries as “First Viennese Modernism,” there are significant advantages to adhering to the traditional periods. Music historians do share their findings amongst themselves, but also with other musicians or students who are not as familiar with historical details. Thus it is important that the historical narrative be divided in such a way that related composers, musical works, and concepts are grouped together. The divisions should not be so minute, however, that they become difficult to understand or distinguish. Webster notes that periodization is like a story’s plot because both create a narrative. This is a useful way to think about how intricate the divisions in music history should generally be. In a standard plot, the more layers and partitions there are, the less focused the intention of the story becomes and the harder it is for the reader to understand and appreciate the story as a whole. Novels with complex layers, numerous descriptions, and a multitude of characters are often worthwhile, but only inviting and accessible to a select audience. Choosing a simpler periodization may seem inadequate, but Webster acknowledges that “even if the understanding of historical phenomena that periods offer is always partial and self-interested, the only alternative is—no understanding at all.” Music historians, when writing for themselves or for a very specific audience, should create as detailed a structure as they wish. Nevertheless, because music history is usually meant to be shared with a diverse audience, its divisions and layers should be more straightforward.
Dividing the Classical
and Romantic eras allows teachers and students to better distinguish the
predominant characteristics of music in those time periods. Although concepts
carried over from the Classical era to the Romantic, in general the thematic
material, harmonic structure, and messages of the music were different. For
example, Mozart wrote in 1781 that music must “give pleasure and never offend
the ear” else it would not be music. Many
composers in the 1700s used music to simply represent concepts and emotions,
not to actually provoke the audience’s feelings. In his opera Orfeo ed Euridice, Gluck wrote Orfeo’s
lament in C major and if it were not for the libretto the aria would not sound
sad at all. The orchestral accompaniment is rather energetic and the vocal
melody could easily pass as a love song. Although composers did begin to add
more and more feeling into their music over the course of the 18th
century, audiences still found Beethoven’s Symphony No. 3 in E-flat Major,
written in 1803, rather overwhelming in its magnitude and confusing in its
modulations and overall structure. The first movement’s development was
significantly longer than the exposition and the coda nearly equaled the length
of the exposition. Furthermore, the first movement modulated abruptly to unexpected
keys and certain passages had distinctly dissonant harmonies. Values in music
continued to change after the premiere of the Symphony No. 3, however. By the
time music critic E.T.A. Hoffman analyzed Beethoven’s instrumental music in
1813, many audiences were beginning to appreciate music that made them feel uncomfortable.
For example, Hoffman was very pleased that Beethoven’s music could “destroy” a
listener and stir up a sense of “endless longing.”
This transition from Mozart’s view to Hoffman’s was gradual, so putting Mozart
squarely in the “Classical” era or composers after Beethoven in the “Romantic”
era is somewhat messy. Nevertheless, as long as teachers and students bear in
mind that historical events are actually a progression, it is safe to simply label
segments of the 18th and 19th centuries as “Classical” or
When composers like
Chopin, Liszt, Schumann, Mendelssohn, and Wagner are grouped together, people
can easily make connections between the pieces, and musicians have an innate
concept of how to approach the music. For example, some of Mozart’s
compositions show the direct influence of Haydn, including his Symphony No. 36
in C Major, which audiences can more easily discern when they already expect
Mozart and Haydn to be similar. Romantic composers are connected by a number of
commonalities, but especially by the influence that philosophers such as
Immanuel Kant had on music, art, and culture. In contrast to the philosophers
of the 17th and early 18th centuries, who promoted the
use of reason, philosophers like Kant argued for a more subjective approach.
This ultimately influenced Romantic composers like Wagner. Not only did Wagner
write more for his own purposes and pleasure, but he also sought to make his
music excite the emotions of audience members. In Tristan und Isolde Wagner did not pander to the music critics or
write what was popular; instead he used the harmonies and melodies that he
personally believed to be the most effective in expressing the desired emotions.
Because he wished to show that the characters were full of longing, Wagner
frequently delayed the resolution to the tonic and incorporated unusual chromaticism.
This effectively creates a sense of unease and longing in the actual listener.
Because musicians are aware the Romantic composers typically sought to express
emotions in music and kindle the same emotions in audience members, these
artists can approach Romantic pieces understanding that they must use dynamics,
rubato, and the like to create the composers’ desired effect.
argument for a more precise periodization of music history in the 18th
and 19th centuries has a place in analyses, the accepted
Classical-Romantic divide is still relevant today. No periodization is perfect,
but because divisions in history are inevitable music historians should aim to
choose a periodization structure that shares knowledge the most
effectively. The simple distinction
between the Classical and Romantic era is easy for audiences to grasp—whether
they are musicians or not—because of the contextual information that it
instantly provides. This means that people can more easily make connections
between composers, compositions, and historical events. Consequently, audiences
will have a richer understanding and appreciation of music.
Hoffman, E.T.A. “Beethoven’s Instrumental Music.” In Source Readings in Music History, edited
by Leo Treitler and W. Oliver Strunk, 1193-98. New York: W. W. Norton &
Mozart, Wolfgang Amadeus. “Letters to His Father.” In Source Readings in Music History, edited by Leo Treitler and W. Oliver Strunk, 965-70. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 1998.
Webster, James. “Between Enlightenment and Romanticism
in Music History: ‘First Viennese Modernism’ and the Delayed Nineteenth Century.” 19th
Century Music, vol. 25, nos. 2-3 (2001-02): 108-126.
1. James Webster, “Between
Enlightenment and Romanticism in Music History: ‘First Viennese Modernism’ and the Delayed Nineteenth Century,” 19th Century Music, vol. 25, nos. 2-3
Dover Beach has served many purposes. According to a BBC News Magazine article, this natural fortification once repulsed Julius Caesar, once welcomed returning royalty, once received foreign dignitaries, and now stands as a symbol of England (Winterman). In “Dover Beach” by Matthew Arnold, two people view the famous strand at night, and the speaker of the poem contemplates the beauty of the view and the thoughts about the world, faith, and love which the scene brings to his mind. “Dover Beach” suggests that love for another is all that people can possess because the world is futile and faith is inconstant. The poem’s figurative language, diction, and speaker combine to support this theme.
To begin with, Arnold demonstrates the futility of the world when he utilizes figurative language to contrast the first and final stanzas. The first stanza is full of assonance, consonance, and alliteration which paint a mysterious, dark, calm, and beautiful scene. This scene represents the “land of dreams” which seems to lie before the speaker and the audience (30-31). The short i sounds of words like “glimmering” (5) and “window” (6) create a quiet mood which the repeated s sounds of “is” (2), “cliffs” (4), and “cease” (12) heighten. In contrast to this lovely scene, the speaker thrusts upon the audience the reality of the world in the final stanza. Like the first stanza, the last one contains assonance, consonance, and alliteration, but the repeated vowels and consonants in this stanza create ugly sounds. For example, the recurring p and t sounds of “help for pain” (34), “plain” (35), “swept” (36), “let” (29), and “certitude” (34) produce a contemptuous tone, for the speaker seems to be spitting out the words. The repetition of “nor” in the middle of the last stanza pounds into the reader the truth about everything the world cannot provide (33-34). Arnold further emphasizes this point by using alliteration to connect “neither” (33) and “nor” (33-34). Finally, the onomatopoeia of “clash” (37) and harsh words such as “darkling plain” (35), “confused alarms” (36), and “ignorant armies” (37) evoke a picture of chaotic danger which starkly contrasts the calm beauty of the first stanza. This contrast reveals how futile the world is by showing how the world’s promises compare to reality.
Within the central section of the poem, the speaker continues to demonstrate the futility of the world while also discussing the inconstancy of faith. One powerful way in which the speaker covers these themes is by his use of diction. “Faith” in this poem denotes the general concept of belief, not just religion, for Arnold wrote the poem during the 19th century, which was a time of growing skepticism. The word “sea” needs careful analysis because it is rather ambiguous, and looking into its denotation and connotation gives insight into the poem. One common denotation of “sea” is a body of saltwater. Because of this denotation, the comparison of the ebb and flow of the Aegean to the ebb and flow of human misery becomes even more powerful, for the salty seawater can symbolize human tears (15-20). The sea thus becomes a symbol of human misery and reminds the audience that the world cannot provide joy or happiness. While “sea” has multiple denotations and connotations, its most important connotation comes from the poem itself. After the speaker metaphorically compares the sea to faith, the sea becomes intertwined with the concept of faith, and the natural ebb and flow of the tide represents how the speaker perceives faith to be inconstant.
speaker’s views of the pointlessness of the world and the unreliability of
faith come from his own observations, the speaker’s motivation for rejecting
these and calling the audience to “be true” derives from the nature of the
speaker (29). The speaker of the poem is
a person who is looking from a window at Dover Beach with his or her love. Although the poem does not explicitly state
whether the speaker is a man or a woman, the tone seems to be that of a
man. The speaker is well-educated, for
he mentions Sophocles’ thoughts on the ebb and flow of the Aegean Sea. Additionally, the speaker appears to be older
or more experienced than his love, for he speaks in an authoritative and instructive
manner, saying “Come to the window” (6) and “Listen!” (9). In the first stanzas, the speaker seems to be
a very thoughtful person who contemplates the meaning of life and the world and
appreciates the beauty of the sea. In
the final stanza, the speaker suddenly becomes passionate and exhorts his love
that they “be true / To one another” (29-30).
As the speaker lists what the world cannot give him, he seems enraged,
for his words become a tirade against the world and its deceptive promises of happiness.
Throughout “Dover Beach,” Matthew Arnold uses figurative language, diction, and the character of the speaker to discuss the world’s futility, faith’s inconstancy, and love’s importance. The poem indicates that only love is reliable. However, though the world cannot satisfy human desire and often disappoints dreams, this should not lead people to reject the world as a lie. Neither should people judge the reliability of faith on the number of people who have it; just because the number of humans who have belief changes does not mean that faith itself is inconstant. Most importantly, if the speaker and his love base their world on each other, then they will have to trust each other to be true. If faith is inconstant as the poem suggests, then how can love—which relies on faith—be reliable? Only when the speaker regains his faith will he be able to enjoy love and “be true” to the woman he loves (29). Only when the speaker realizes there is more to the world than his love will he be able to answer his own call “Ah, love, let us be true / To one another!” (29-30).
(Note: This is an essay I wrote for a freshman composition class several years ago, with a few minor modifications. Also, here is a link to “Dover Beach” in case you want to read the poem yourself.)
We all know that scene in the movie or TV show. Some great change has come, or is about to come, to the protagonist’s world. The music, which can be either diegetic or non-diegetic (there’s your two million-dollar words for the day), slowly swells. Before you know it, our protagonist is contemplating their life while wandering around an empty house, or while staring off into the distance as neon lights go by, or while listening to the waves crash on the shore, or while watching the sun and wind flicker through green leaves. If it’s a popular enough movie or show, whatever song is used to convey said desired emotional atmosphere might even enjoy a slight spike in traffic on Spotify.
Then, of course, there are those times when we, the audience, just happen to be sitting in our car and gazing at the raindrops tracing their way down the windows. A sad song will come on, and we will take the opportunity to pretend that we are in one of those introspective film scenes. Or at least, I will freely admit that I have done so.
I will also confess these moments are not always, shall we say, “organically produced.”
The most obvious statement I hope to make today: Music calls forth emotion; music has power. Sometimes, more than once or twice, I’ve sought some sense of catharsis by playing the right song at the right time. It does not always work, as life is not a movie (fine, there’s a second obvious statement). Manufacturing drama doesn’t always go according to plan.
There are times that I’ve done it successfully. After a Year of Very Big Decisions, I sat at the top of a mountain, looked out across the miles, and very intentionally listened to Cat Stevens’ “The Wind” as the real wind whistled around me. I felt all the better for it. And I did some gazing and reflection again the next year, after a Year of Strange Changes, to Gillian Welch’s “Winter’s Come and Gone.” Again, the year after that, after an Eventful Year and It’s Not Even Half Over, I listened to “Should Have Known Better” by Sufjan Stevens, and felt, well, something like peace.
But these are the times when the stars align just so. My “headspace” was clear, so to speak. Very few, if any, people were around. The sun wasn’t overly hot. Other times, I’ll try to reenact the pensiveness one sees on television, only to be pulled away by a rogue mosquito – literally, the song had just reached its crescendo, and I was forced to divert my attention to slap at a bug. Or my own thoughts will betray me – eggs, that’s what I forgot to buy, I don’t really need them this week though, I’ll just have to remember to put them on my list when I get back, also peanut butter.
I wonder why I, and anyone else, might do this contrived musing to certain chosen tunes. I said earlier that it was for catharsis, and it is, to a certain extent. But also, if I’m honest, it’s because I want my life to be like a movie. I want to start the song, which is just a few minutes long, and, when it is over, I want my brooding to be done and the next plot point to arrive. I also want to be the director of my own movie. I choose the song, I choose the set, and I control the feeling.
I think this is mostly harmless, if a bit silly of me. And I mustn’t forget that some of the best moments of music-induced emotion, of that catharsis, have come through the power of shuffle. Something quite random, from my perspective, at least, chose to play “The Night We Met,” by Lord Huron, just at that time, and it turned out to be just what I needed to hear.