“Train up a child in the way he should go, And when he is old he will not depart from it.” – Proverbs 22:6
Muscle memory or motor memory is often used to describe something repeated so often that it becomes second nature. Muscle memory comes to mind when we think of tasks like riding a bicycle. Any time something is said to be revisited without practice, it is compared to riding a bicycle. You never forget how to ride a bicycle.
Experts in any field train themselves so that responding is second nature when a need arises. Failure to prepare can and does lead to disastrous consequences, as was the case of Officer Kim Potter of Brooklyn Center, Minnesota. During a traffic stop in April of 2021, Officer Potter encountered a combative Daunte Wright. In an attempt to restrain the assailant, Officer Potter reached for her taser and with a rehearsed warning of “taser, taser” fired on Wright. The only problem is that Officer Potter had poor muscle memory and drew her service pistol instead of her taser, shooting Wright once in the chest and killing him. Officer Potter’s poor muscle memory saw her convicted of manslaughter.
Recently, themes from my childhood have re-emerged that elicit conscious reminders of the repetition that girds my subconscious. I was raised in the Southern Baptist Church during its heyday. Cultural Christianity was popular, and there was little, if any, pushback from the American Society against Christianity in its midst. Contemporary Christian music saw commercial and mainstream success. Christian bookstores occupied space in strip malls around the country. Fraternal organizations like the Promise Keepers arose to unite Christian men to be better fathers and husbands.
My wife inadvertently reminded me of this time when introducing my children to DC Talk this Summer. DC Talk was the flagbearer of Christian music groups throughout the 1990s, and their most commercially successful album, Jesus Freak, was the soundtrack to my high school years. For musical quality, production, and lyrical content, it is still as relevant today as it was during its release in 1995. Despite more than twenty-five years of passing, I could still recite the lyrics as if time had not passed.
Hearing the album evoked memories and emotions as music often does. One of the emotions evoked by hearing a soundtrack from my past was mourning people lost, both living and dead. Mourning the dead is a given, but mourning the living reflects the state of society and friends falling away from their faith.
I frequently write about a rapidly changing world hostile to people and ideas of faith, perfectly demonstrated in the Christian music industry. Many artists who once penned and crooned the soundtrack of my youth later stepped back into obscurity as they unsuccessfully wrestled with age-old questions of Christianity. One such artist is Kevin Max, a founding member of DC Talk, who adopted new age and humanist ideas on Christ to align his beliefs with shifting societal mores.
Many within the Christian music industry have noticed this trend of noteworthy Christians falling away from the faith. In 2019, John Cooper, the frontman of the Christian rock band Skillet addressed his peers in a social media post. In this post, Cooper derides formerly Christian stalwarts falling victim to the new age infiltration of Christianity based on changing cultural ideas of topics such as human sexuality, gender, or race. Rather than deferring to how our Christian worldview shapes our ideas on culture, they allow a degenerate and fluid culture to impart its ideas on our faith. They are not so versed in their faith that it withstood scrutiny from a flaccid culture.
This week the iTunes Christian music charts saw its first #1 song in downloads by an individual claiming to be the first drag queen Christian music artist. The artist, Flamy Grant, is a parody of early Christian music artist Amy Grant, and former Christian music artists like Derek Webb and the band Plumb boosted his album sales. Any criticism of this infiltration of Christian music is not a commentary on whether or not a drag performer can espouse Christian beliefs. Still, it is a commentary on Christianity that places value on cultural relevance versus objective truth. Drag performance is adorned in modern cultural debates on gender and sexuality that contrast with scriptural Truth.
A friend recently shared the Brotherly Love Podcast with me featuring the Lawrence Brothers of 90s television fame. In this particular episode, they discussed their bedtime routines with their children. The eldest brother recounted that he makes it a point to pray every night with his children to instill good habits and perspectives on life. Another brother correctly noted that the world would get your children addicted to something, so as long as this is the case, you should train your child in such a way that they get addicted to the right things.
Just as Christians of notoriety have not escaped the pull of worldly influence, how much more so have Christians of lesser cultural import fallen? Individuals who shared my life experiences and soundtrack, too, have fallen away from the faith. I am reminded that I shared the same training in the faith that carries me through today. In times of question or doubt, it is spiritual muscle memory that gets us through.