Tuesday, January 27, 2009


For many years I was involved in christian music. First as a performer and songwriter, and then for about seven years as an employee for a christian music distribution company and then a director of distribution and sales for a christian record company.

Many of my favorite artists are specifically christian artists, but I do greatly enjoy music from what many would call "secular" artists also.

Several of my friends feel that listening to any music other than christian music isn't acceptable for a follower of Christ. That is their personal conviction and I am not here to argue against that if this is a decision that they feel compelled to make.

However, I have also observed that nearly every single person I know who feels compelled to listen only to christian music, usually on the grounds that it doesn't honor God and that it contains messages that are contrary to scripture, etc., are also very much interested in watching secular films and secular television shows and reading secular novels - all of which contain just as much unchristian language, violence, sex, innuendo and other secular material as any secular song one might (or might not) be listening to.

Again, I'm not trying to point any fingers here. I'm just pointing out an inconsistency that I haven't yet figured out.

I would certainly not encourage people to go against their personal convictions, or to listen to music that was blasphemous or offensive or hindered their walk with Christ. I guess I'm just confused about why we draw these lines when it comes to music and we don't feel compelled to draw these same lines when it comes to all other forms of entertainment.

Some might suggest that it's because the quality of christian film, television and fiction isn't anywhere near equal to the secular realm, and I would agree with that assessment, however the reason provided as to why one should not listen to secular music usually have little to do with the quality of the christian version and everything to do with the inherent evil-ness of the secular version. In which case, the quality, or the lack of quality, in the christian version isn't very relevant.

Anyone else have a perspective on this phenomenon? I'd be happy to hear it.

This question has always bugged me and most recently, when I mentioned on my Facebook page that I love "Rage Against The Machine", someone commented that they were "demonic" and I wasn't sure what to do with that statement...which is why I guess I felt the need to pose this question to everyone.

Thoughts? Comments? Rebuttals?

I'm all ears...



Mark Main said...

My personal opinion is that you touched on the answer in your post. I think it has everything to do with the quality of the different mediums mentioned.

It's very easy to trade the secular for Christian when we lose no entertainment value (like music). It becomes much harder to make that trade when we come out on the losing side of the equation (movies and TV).

In other words, trading the secular for the Christian sounds all great and noble until it requires us to make a sacrifice.

prayeramedic said...

Hey Keith, there's some great thoughts here. I'm with you 100%. I often find more authentic lyrics in "secular" music than supposedly "sacred" music. I also think it's funny that many supposedly Christian bands such as Switchfoot, Relient K, Underoath, etc. have toured with some HORRIBLE secular bands such as Slipknot. Sounds like a clear proclamation of the Gospel to me... NOT. With the exception of Derek Webb, few Christian artists are saying the raw and real things that need to be said. Secular artists aren't afraid to say it like it is (cf. "Styrofoam Plates" by Death Cab for Cutie). Not to mention that these same folks usually have a DVD collection rivaling Blockbuster with all the latest horror films and romantic comedies with scenes that might as well be pornography. It is a glaring inconsistency. Great thoughts!

Lionel Woods said...


This is sooooo funny. I love Holy Hip Hop, but some of my brothers who would sing about putting down T.I, Pac and Biggie love Dave Chappelle, Friday, Katt Williams, Martin Lawerence and the like. That is a blaring inconsistency. I actually did both at one point in time but have slowly moved into the arena where I can filter out the negative for the good in both music and movies, I just avoid nudity my man, too much top and bottom for me can hurt my defenses against lust.

Jerald said...

Some Christians watch secular TV and movies and read secular books so it's okay for me to listen to secular music. Huh?
There's good and bad in both 'Christian' music etc. and secular music etc., but to make the proposition that it's okay to do one because others are doing it too is. . . . ????
Well...you know. ;)

roger said...

We would all agree that everyone is created in God's image. Sometimes that image has been distorted to the point where The Creator is almost unrecognizable but He is still there. Because we have been created in God's image, we ALL have elements of His character. So, the things we create will also have elements of His character. In short, there is some truth in music no matter the spiritual state of the person who wrote it.

For example, Trent Reznor has written some disturbing lyrics with the band Nine Inch Nails. But he also wrote the song Hurt which when viewed in light of our relationship to Jesus takes on a much deeper truth ("I will make you hurt." said with despair not as a threat).

That being said, I would not recommend that everyone rush out and buy all the Nine Inch Nails CDs you can find. Music is very influential. It opens a door to our soul. I can be on top of the world and with one listen of Pink Floyd's The Wall be ready to off myself.

And maybe that is the answer. Music is a very powerful expression of art. It influences my mood and attitude more than any other form of art. It draws me in and molds me, so as a musician I realize that I must be careful because the songs I write might do the same thing to someone else.

acousticsam said...

I would argue that it's difficult to automatically filter out the "good" and the "bad" in any art form, including music. How can you tell if a song aligns with your view of Christianity if you don't listen to it?

An example: the song "Where is the love?" by the Black Eyed Peas. I like it, I like it a lot. Every time I listen to the song it makes me stop and think about how I can express genuine love in my everyday life. But most of their other songs are garden-variety hip-hop that you'd hear in a club and does nothing to enrich my walk with Christ.

We need to be able to approach unfamiliar music with an open heart, and try to see the godliness in it.

A song's message and intent is far more important than the number of "Jesuses-per-minute".

PS: The book "Body Piercing Saved My Life" by Andrew Beaujon is an amazing look into the world of Christian music... from the point of view of an agnostic journalist.

Starr said...

I agree with you Keith and with Roger.

Everything in life influences us in some or other way. If it be movies, tv, music or people. In the end what is important is if it is a positive or negative influence. Music and movies influence us very easily and that is why "secular" music can be both negative or positive. When it comes to bands like Rage Against The Machine, who I also like, its tricky because their message might be appealing and positive but the means that they use to convey it is not nessecarily always right. The issue of swearing come into play and how that affects people, if it is right or not and so forth. Rage Against The Machine speaks truth in the end and if true is what you are after then is it bad? I personally don't really listen to their music much anymore due to my opion on swearing.

So talking about music, you guys and girls are welcome to download and listen to my latest album, for free. It's instrumental but still carries a message. I hope to be a positive influencse in peoples lifes. Let me know what you think at http://thexstructure.com/

http://www.archive.org/details/DaysOfNight (click on "Whole Directory" on the left to download)



Anonymous said...

A subject dear to my heart!
"Christian music"? People are christian, music is not. When a follower of Jesus plays a piece on her cello or saxophone, the music she plays is as honouring to our God as that song with lyrics explicitly talking about or to God. The sacred/secular dichotomy in the arts is false. When a sculptor who happens to follow Christ, makes a sculpture, is it a "Christian sculpture"?

tommyab said...

american christians you are so confused !!

i imagine Jesus with a whip and overturning tables in a "christian" music store !

this industry is only and nothing else than a shame and a scandal to the cross...

those christians musicians, i do not doubt that most of them are really christians, but they are "doing something for God" God has never asked them to do.

as the middle-age christian who built the catholic cathedral to "do something" for God

as the Crusaders who spent their live doing war over the muslims, "doing something" for God

as the inquisitors who "did something" for God, killing true disciples of God

secular vs christian is a distinction that does not exist...
it is a post-constantine mistake.

it is a belief that a christian society even exist

when being christian in a civilization becomes so easy up to the point that a christian music industry can exist, there is something wrong...

christian music is confortable for christians. it gives to them the illusion of being part of something cool. "WE too can do good music... we are so cool"

it can also protect us from bad influences, and isolates us from the culture around us,... we can spend our entire life living on a cloud unaware of what is happening around us...

i used to listen to christian music