A teenager approached me recently at church to ask about music. Is there some music that’s bad to listen to? That’s a question I’m glad he’s asking because most don’t seem to care. I told him that music isn’t the issue–it’s the lyrics. Music itself is just an art form–neither good nor bad. We all have musical preferences. What we have to be cautious of is lyrics that promote evil & ungodliness. Those kinds of thoughts shouldn’t be things we purposely fill our minds with (Phil. 4:8). Garbage in equals garbage out, right?!
When I was a teenager I owned a number of record albums. Most were fairly innocuous. But there were some bands whose lyrics were, shall we say, unsavory–with profanity, sexual immorality, & even some satanic themes. But by today’s standards they were quite tame. Still, there came a point of conviction where I realized that I no longer would subject myself to such things. Though this would mean disposing of albums that I really loved, I took those vinyls outside to toss like Frisbees.
For some, that may seem like a sacrifice. But in reality, it was an important turning point in putting Jesus above my love for rock (well, now it’s “classic” rock). But fortunately, at about the same time I became aware of “Christian” rock music. As I was about to turn 17 years old (with metal braces on my teeth, no less), I had just taken my first job as a radio disc jockey at a brand-new Christian music station. I thought I would be playing some mildly contemporary music.
But one day as I was all alone running the radio station (can you believe they let a high school Junior do that?!), I ventured into the manager’s office to find a couple of newly-mailed albums. One was by Paul McCartney’s former drummer, Joe English. The other was by a cool-looking band called DeGarmo & Key. When I listened to them I was blown away by how good they were. My “sacrifice” of good music wouldn’t be such a sacrifice after all! I soon became quite the connoisseur & collector of Christian rock.
The station manager gave me a Saturday night call-in request show. He probably thought nobody really listened to their tame lame playlists on Saturday nights. But he gave me complete freedom to play whatever got requested. So…I rigged the requests by having friends call in to request the hardest-rocking songs there were! And the show kind of took off with a “fan base” that began requesting lots of Christian rock. My guess is that it was the only station in all of Indiana that played that kind of music. I was probably the first in the state to play U2 on the air (their album “October” had Christian-influenced lyrics).
But I was surprised when I started getting some “hate” calls too. Some would complain that I was playing the devil’s music. I would gently but firmly insist that no music belongs to the devil–music is of God. In fact, one of the very first Christian rock songs from about 50 years ago was called: “Why Should the Devil Have All the Good Music?” He doesn’t. But he does have great influence in the music business.
40 years ago I was giving mini-seminars to teenagers on how to be discerning in what they listen to. MTV was a new influence making it even worse in many cases with visuals. I urged avoiding a lot of secular music because of its corrupting messages. The teens would often protest that they could still listen to the music without being impacted by the words. But not only is that naive (after all, those accumulated messages do have an effect, or else advertisers wouldn’t waste their money using music to sell products), it’s an attempt at justifying what ought to be shunned. Music is a powerful medium for communication–that’s why even though I often can’t remember something said 10 minutes ago, I still remember words sung decades ago.
Though vinyl records are rare (despite a resurgence), finding decent, clean songs is even rarer. Lyrics are unbelievably explicit & raunchy. You may not be able to play “album Frisbee,” but you may need to clean out your downloaded playlists. Broadcast radio still has regulated content (you’ll still hear some stuff bleeped out), but streaming radio & videos have no such restrictions. So the need is even greater for Christians to be discerning & reject the world’s promotion of profanity, sexuality, & satanism as “entertainment.”
I love music & listen all day while I’m working. You don’t have to listen to Christian music, even though it’s a good idea. I listen to a lot of styles, but still mostly good old classic rock from my youth. Listen to whatever style of music you like–but turn off what’s foul & filthy. Let’s honor God with holiness by protecting our (& especially our children’s) ears, minds & hearts as much as we can.
What do you think? Am I right on this?