Christian Berdahl is a Christian musician who runs a ministry out in California called Shepherd’s Call. Among his offerings: a twelve-hour lecture series called “Distraction Dilemma” that explains how modern Contemporary Christian Music has been corrupted by that wiliest of the devil’s schemes: syncopation. You, as a faithful follower of true Christian rhythms, are surely already familiar with the pagan roots of syncopation that can give Satan a foothold in the life of even the sturdiest believer.
But just in case, let’s hear Berdahl explain syncopation’s pagan roots and tell us why singing “Je-SUS loves ME” instead of “JE-sus LOVES me” is runaway minecart ride to the seventh circle of eternal torment.
Wow. WOW. “Syncopation, by all the cult experts around the world agree, syncopation is the source of cult power in pagan worship services,” Berdahl says. The host Dr. Willard Regester seems a little, let’s say, skeptical (“…really.”) but it’s hard to argue with Berdahl’s logic, especially since it’s hard to understand Berdahl’s logic.
“We’re going ‘This is great, this is wonderful.’ What it actually does — just like it does to ancient voodoo worshippers and modern day voodoo worshippers in their religious services — is it short circuits the frontal moral lobe. It gets them to a place where they can become possessed. It’s called the place of the crossroads between the physical and the spiritual and now in the church we have this thing going on and we call it the moving of the Holy Spirit. That’s pretty profound thinking!”
OK, in all seriousness now: never a great sign when you have to punctuate your own monologue with a pat on the back about how profound it was, but be that as it may. Also not a great sign when you can’t make your point without dipping into the long history of (literally) demonizing elements of African history and Black culture, as Berdahl does here. He’s hardly the first to leverage xenophobia to make a supposedly “profound” point, but that trick never gets less ugly.
Berdahl also references the “frontal moral lobe” which isn’t a term you’re likely to find in any medical textbook. He likely meant the “frontal temporal lobe” which, to be fair, is the part of the brain involved in moral decision making. Research has not, however, turned up any evidence that syncopation “short circuits” this part of the brain (and it’s been studied!). But hey, never let facts get in the way of a compelling narrative. As Berdahl himself says, it’s important to “leave your thinking intact.”
Tyler Huckabee is RELEVANT's executive editor. He lives in Nashville with his wife, dog and Twitter account.