Recently on one of the ‘lists’ I subscribe to online a fellow subscriber forwarded yet another email (this one from one of her personal friends) on the evils of secular music, and the blessings of Christian music. Though I admit that the heart behind her message was good, to draw such a line in the sand is nothing short of legalism.
You see, there is really no Christian/Secular distinction – at least I have yet to see a valid way for one to make such a distinction. For one, there is no Scriptural definition by which one can define music as ‘Christian’. A song can’t be ‘saved’, just because it’s written by a Christian doesn’t mean it’s content is necessarily Biblical, just because the content of a song is Biblical doesn’t mean it was necessarily written and/or performed by a Christian – the list goes on & on & on. Honestly, over the years I have known a good number of CCM musicians – and I know people who know a lot more than I do. Some of the ones who sing the most blatantly Jesus-centered middle-of-the-road ‘dear God please don’t offend a single soul‘ bland CCM, that mention Jesus every other line, and clone melodies and styles of music that were popular no more recently than 20 years ago, are – when not on stage – the most cursing, partying, and absolutely un-Jesus-like people you could ever meet. Likewise, some who don’t sing about Jesus WHATSOEVER (I have one in mind who’s released about 15 c.d.’s yet have never mentioned Jesus once in the lyrics, and has no openly Biblical themes), and rock so loud they’d scare your older siblings, let alone you grandma, are humble, Bible-believing, family men/women who are faithful believers in Christ.
So tell me, WHAT is a ‘Christian song’? Does Bach’s classical work count, particularly the stuff with no lyrics?
The only valid dinstinction I can think of is between music written explicitly for the Glory of the Biblical God, and that written for the Glory of another. Yet, with the former, sometimes an individual intent may be to glorify the Biblical God, but their theology is so askew that the results is actually the worship of a false God (since the song sings to Jesus, but not a Jesus that is actually written about in the Bible), and when considering the latter, which may have been intended to glorify someone other than God, such songs still glorify God in some sense as all creative acts point back to the creator. In fact, even something written explicitly to glorify God may not work to uplift my spirits and draw me closer to him, so in that case, it may be best that I avoid it.
What it really comes down to is “What do I personally feel edified by?“, which is an almost entirely subjective question, about which there are few very clear rules. Yeah, you PROBABLY shouldn’t listen to music with excessive cursing (though – to be honest – I have very rarely heard very powerful songs written by Christians, and about Biblical themes that have contained language some might find offensive, in order to drive home their point), and you PROBABLY shouldn’t listen to too much music written by people who’s overt intent is to undermine your faith through music. Other than that, I think the decision is yours…
What this means for me personally, as someone who deeply loves music, is that I need to stay in touch with my thoughts and emotions. If I’ve had a rough day at work, and am tempted to be angry with God, I will likely need to ‘conform my mind’ by listening to explicitly God-glorifying corporate worship music, even though I may not want to. However, if it’s a wonderful summer day, and all is well, I may just as easily worship God in my heart & mind while listening to some non-believers rockin’ out in French (okay, so I’m thinking particularly of Stereolab’s excellent song “Metronomic Underground”, which has accompanied me during many a wonderful Summer day). There may be days that I need to mourn a loss, and I put on Vigilantes of Love’s Resplendent, but I need to remember not to stay there, for there is also a time to rejoice!
So, that’s it folks – there is no ‘Christian music’. Likewise, there is no ‘Secular music’. That said, be careful of what you take in, because music is powerful, and has the power to change your mind and move your heart. I suggest you make of point of evaluating where you mind and heart go when listening to music, and choose to listen to what moves you towards Christ.