Thursday, August 25, 2005

Face the music

Face the Music:
Sacred Vs. Secular

A debate is raging between parent and child, friends and even (perhaps especially) within ourselves. It boils down to this: Should Christians listen to music that was written for or by nonbelievers? Should we allow only songs that praise God and ponder His ways to alight on our ears?

Some of the very Scripture verses opponents of secular music use to “prove” their point actually support the converse. In Paul’s letter to the Philippians, he says, “If anything is excellent or praiseworthy, think about such things” (Phil. 4:8, NIV). Nothing about “things done only in God’s name.”

Like it or not, God bestows talent—the ability to create excellence—on unbelievers. One reason He does, I believe, is for the benefit of His saints, so that we can enjoy their handiwork. When we see an excellently crafted painting or hear an excellently crafted song, something inside us recognizes the true Author, and we appreciate it (and Him) all the more.

To the Colossians, Paul wrote, “Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things” (Col. 3:2). Certainly, this mandates discretion. But its topic is godly values, which non-Christians have been known to espouse, which in turn can encourage Christians to pursue these virtues.

When a friend’s marriage was on the skids, I played for him “I'm So Happy I Can't Stop Crying” by Sting. The sheer anguish of the divorced dad in that song made my friend redouble his efforts to keep his union together. Maybe his inspiration should have been Scripture, but I have no doubt God chose to speak to that man through Sting’s song.

Hardest to swallow are the arguments against secular music that center on reasons other than content. What does it matter who wrote it or why if God wants to use it for good in believers’ lives?

I can’t begin to tell you how Felix Mendelssohn’s overture to “A Midsummer Night's Dream” makes my spirit soar; and, yes, it does get me thinking about God’s majesty and how wonderful He is to adorn our lives with such beauty.

George Harrison’s “My Sweet Lord” has turned many believers’ thoughts to Jesus, even though as a Hindu Harrison’s lord is not our Lord. Knowing Harrison’s religion should not demean the power of his lyrics to those who feel closer to Christ when they hear them.

Similarly, New Age music—that is, contemporary, light instrumentals—while perhaps helping to facilitate a meditative mood for Shirley MacLaine types, also does a fine job relaxing believers, and even providing a peaceful milieu for quiet time and prayer.

Content is another matter altogether. Unfortunately, a lot of secular songs condone violence, sex, drugs and other immoral endeavors. Modern love songs seem not to distinguish between romance and sex, or married and unmarried.

This is the kind of music Christians need to avoid, lest the wrong seeds get planted. But some inappropriateness is not reason enough to insulate ourselves from the splendor of all the other music that can edify and inspire, whether or not it was written by or for Christians.One of the most spiritually moving verses I’ve ever heard emanated from a secular country radio station. It’s part of “You Don’t Count the Cost” by Billy Dean:

It happens all around us
Each and every day
Someone's giving all they've got
For someone else's sake
If you ever doubt it,
Just think about the Cross When it comes to love,
You don't count the cost

It’s not going to effect everyone the same way, but it turned my mind heavenward then and does still. I’m glad I was tuned to that station at the time.

What some people don’t like about secular music, particularly rock, is its beat or rhythm. That’s a can of worms best handled with the same litmus test believers should apply to all music—secular or Christian, lyrical or instrumental, rock or classical: How does it make you feel?

Does it inspire you to reflect on God and His values, or does it incite you to think of worldly vices? It’s true that certain gyrating rhythms can connote sexuality, and grating “musical” chaos can agitate depression or aggression.

At what point music crosses the line between inspiration and incitation differs from person to person. So, sure, choose wisely, but feel free to select from all of God’s creation, not just the parts with convenient labels.

-By Bob Liparulo for New Man magazine.


Blogger xfevv said...

I have three comments on this. The first: How can someone say Christians shouldn't listen to secular music one minute and then go and drop $9 bucks at AMC, or spent an evening in front of the square god the next?

Second: Is it ok to listen to music for the sloe purpose of being entertained? Does one allways have to be drawn towards God in all we do? I 100% agree that we should be careful about what we take in and much secular music is full of garbage but there is quite a bit that neither draws me to God nor away from Him it's just entertaining.

Third: J.R.R. Tolkin once said "God has placed eternity in the hearts of man therefore it is impossible for man to create anything without His eternal truth being present." I agree with this as well. Look at anything. Truth of Gods grace and mercy can be seen as well as truth about mans depravity. Either can be used to draw us towards the creator

9:23 AM  
Blogger Keith said...

I am in agreement with you. I used to attend a church that was very against secular music. I like my music hard. It helps me run better. I also like to unwind to heavy music and let out some steam. I listen to a lot of music for the sole purpose of being entertained. Thanks for your comments! Well stated my friend.

2:54 PM  
Blogger friend said...

Good stuff.

4:56 PM  

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