Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Secular music - a guilty pleasure?

I heard it once said on the pulpit that Christians should only listen to Christian music. I'm sorry but I disagree.

Music is one of those essential things that I don't want to live without. Not only is music a source of pleasure but it is also sometimes my spokesperson - creating with sounds and lyrics what my heart wants to say but my lips can't utter.

Music provides a pleasure that few other art forms can match. Music satisfies the entire being: physically through the senses, emotionally through the heart, rationally through the mind and wholly - mind, body and soul. It is a pleasure most people would not do without, whether we would disagree what exactly is good music.

I believe that music is a pleasure that God created to refresh us, to comfort us, to give us strength - to be our companions at times. Music is what I would count as 'legitimate pleasure'. Ravi Zacharias says that "Any pleasure that refreshes you without diminishing you, distracting you, or sidetracking you from the ultimate goal is a legitimate pleasure."

But of course, since the world is imperfect, music can also have a 'dangerous' side. It's somewhat accepted to say in songs what is not socially acceptable in real conversations. A lot of mainstream songs say something about sex, love, family issues and political issues that would not be normally heard in everyday conversations. Songwriters and singers have 'artistic license' and can give really ambiguous metaphors and whatnot for things not openly talked about. This is a freedom when used properly could give the song depth - but when misused, can be used to exploit and distort.

I can see the danger in this - that lyrics (and the music videos that come along with the song) could influence young minds. But I believe that it has less to do with what kind of music you listen to and more to do with what kind of character you have. If parents concentrate more on raising up their children in a way that builds the right kind of values, principles and ultimately character - then their children would have the proper foundation to choose for themselves what kind of music is appropriate and good.

I guess Christian parents, teachers, elders and pastors are afraid that worldly and secular music (and all forms of art and entertainment for that matter) might take away focus, desire and devotion for the Divine. I do admit there is that kind of tendency. But as Phillip Yancey says:

"Natural desire was not the enemy of the supernatural and repressing desire not the solution. Rather, to find the path of joy I needed to connect desire to its other-worldly source."

According to Yancey, we should view our earthly longings, desires and pleasures - things that give us enjoymentt - are clues and 'rumors' of another world. We should see these worldly pleasures not as threats but as glimpses or tastes of God's gifts and what He has in store for us. He made this world and I believe He also intends for us to enjoy it. We should approach good and appropriate secular music not as evil threats but as something that God gave us to enjoy, something that gives something more to hope and desire for.

For me, the enjoyment of music is not only in its message or lyrics but also the meshing of different instruments and sounds together to create something that gives delight to the listener. Often times, when lying in bed as i listen to my player, I would sit up because the drums or guitars would catch my ear and I would have to give it my full attention and appreciation. And that's delight for me - utter beauty and joy. And if secular music could give me that, how much more delight will I get in music that is made for our Lord's ears.

And I do hate to admit it, sometimes mainstream Christian music lacks that. It concentrates so much on the lyrics and sometimes forgets about the sound. I put emphasis on 'mainstream' because there are a lot of Christian artists out there who produce and create really great music that glorifies God and still delights the soul. I guess that's the challenge for Christian artists - to be able to give glory and praise due God through music and at the same time give us a taste, or should I say a whisper, of what music will sound like in heaven.

*sources: Phillip Yancey. Rumors of Another World. and Ravi Zacharias. Cries of the Heart.


Blogger mariel said...

hi lia...

i have read it somewhere that the different genres of music stimulate different emotions and responses in us. yes, i agree, it is not simply the lyrics that touch us, but the instruments' sounds as well.

i would like to add, also, that some Christian music groups tend to use rock music (different genres of rock) to reach out to the listeners. but some genres of rock stimulate aggression in humans, which i doubt is truly the message of Christ.

i feel that gospel music tends to be preachy, that i feel it's mostly from the pulpit. i agree, that Christian music should try to develop the kind of music that brings joy, as what prayers do.

8:49 PM  

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