Secular vs. Christian Music
I would preface this article by saying, when I mention Christian music; I am including all styles of music. It is not the style of music that makes it inherently “Christian”; it is the message, and the intent of that message. Instrumental music can be interpreted much less strictly. In the case of instrumental music, I believe it is the intent and spirit of the composer and/or musician that gives the music the ability to glorify God.
It should also be said that this article is intended for people who are born-again Christians, who try to follow Jesus Christ.
As a Christian, in order to strive toward the “abundant life” and spiritual growth, I made a decision many years ago to only listen to Christian music (intentionally). This may seem strange or unusual to some of you, but here are my reasons:
1. Music was created to give honor, worship and praise to God.
King David of Israel was one of the most prolific songwriters of his day and was considered to be a great man of God (after he got past the whole Bathsheba incident). He also wrote most of the book of Psalms, one of which is my favorite (Psalm 100) where it reads:
“Make a joyful noise unto the LORD, all ye lands. Serve the LORD with gladness: come before his presence with singing. Know ye that the LORD he is God: it is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture. Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be Thankful unto him, and bless his name. For the LORD is good; his mercy is everlasting; and his truth endureth to all generations.”
There are many other scriptures extolling the virtues of using music and singing to glorify God, but for the sake of brevity, I’ll only mention one more:
In his letter to the church in Ephesus, the Apostle Paul wrote:
“Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord; Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Ephesians 5:19-20)
In his first letter to the Church in Corinth, Paul also wrote:
Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God. (1st Corinthians 10:31)
I believe this scripture applies to music as well as everything else in our life. After all, it says “Whatsoever you do, do all to the glory of God”.
2. Listening to Christian music helps me to stay in touch with God, and gives me peace and hope in a cynical, negative world.
It is my nature is to be pessimistic and focus on the negativity of my environment. Therefore, I believe filling my mind with positive messages helps me to resist the inclination toward cynicism (I also limit my exposure to most news media).
I have found that most secular lyrics are not written to glorify God, and tend to lean toward the humanistic negative messages perpetuated by our society. And since music has a powerful ability to seep into our subconscious mind, I want to avoid that as much as possible.
A good example of this phenomenon is the fact that when I hear a secular song from 20, 30 or even 40 years ago, my mind immediately recalls the lyrics and transports me (mentally) back to a time in the past that I associate with that particular song. Sometimes that is good, but most of the time, I don’t want to remember my past in that context.
Just to clarify, I am not saying that all secular music is bad, and all “Christian” music is good. There exceptions in both cases. However, in my humble opinion the majority of secular music contains messages that are antithetical to the message of the Gospel.
Therefore, my question is: Why would I want to expose my mind to lyrics that are not edifying to me spiritually. I will concede that there are some secular artists that perform songs with positive messages in them, but I would have to “wade” through the many that don’t, to find the few that do. I equate this to “dumpster diving”. Sure I may find something usable, or even beneficial while rummaging through a dumpster, but I will also be exposed to a lot of nasty or even dangerous other items in the garbage heap. And when I finally leave the dumpster, I will almost assuredly have remnants and stains from the trash in the bin with which I made contact.
3. There is such a variety of good Christian music, I don’t have the time or need to listen to secular music.
Growing up in the 60s and 70s, Christian music was generally relegated to the Church setting. Contemporary Christian music began to become more prevalent in the mid 70s with such musical pioneers as Larry Norman, Keith Green, Phil Keaggy, Randy Stonehill, Nancy Honeytree, Evie Tornquist, etc.
However, today the airwaves are replete with many choices and styles of Gospel music. Every style of music you can find in the secular market can be found in the Christian music industry. In the Springfield, Missouri area alone, there are at least 5 radio stations that play Christian music (Southern Gospel, light contemporary, pop, hip-hop, rap & rock styles).
I challenge anyone to give me an example of a style (with the possible exception of Death Metal) that is not represented in the Christian music realm.
As I like to tell people: “I listen to many styles of music, but the lyrics are where I draw the line of demarcation.”
I encourage other Christians to examine their music and see if it has a positive message, and glorifies the one who gives us the ability to sing; the creator and sustainer of the universe.