MUSIC FOR CHRISTIANS
I guess I can look at music from a few angles, being an avid listener as well as a student and performer of music. My earliest musical memory is listening to our neighbour playing her piano, and subsequently pestering my mother and father until they allowed me to take piano lessons. My mother was a gifted pianist and both her and my father had fine singing voices. There was always music of some genre playing in our house as I recall, classical, jazz, Hawaiian, gospel, or live entertainment with mum pushing out a rollicking tune on the ivories.
Later on, when a bit older, there’d be Bob Dylan singing his nasal protest songs throughout the house courtesy of my eldest brother using dad’s record player, when dad was out as I recall. I’m sure Bob and a few other performers loosened some mortar around our brickwork. “Loud is best” was my brother’s motto.
I loved singing in our church on Sundays. The hymns were full of grandeur, espousing truths through their words. They were well known and easy to sing, and with the organ on one side of the building being played by my piano teacher, and the piano on the other side shaking the stage, together with the gathered young and old, the volume was at times incredible. But I could always hear my mother’s strong and tuneful voice cutting through above the others. I was proud of her voice.
Years passed, and I became more interested in and obsessed with music, as were most of my peers. It seems that about from 13 years of age till the early twenties, most young people are wanting to listen to music and find heroes to worship, and spend a lot of money doing so, doubtless all encouraged strongly by the record companies who see a multi billion dollar piggy bank ready for the raiding.
I began to listen to rock’n’roll, jazz, country, heavy rock and whatever else was going around at the time. Having learnt music though, I think I listened to music more out of appreciation of the artistry and ability of the performers rather than as an adoration of the persona of the performers, as many of my friends did. With hindsight, this was probably a good thing, as many of the “stars” were sadly drug taking, self absorbed, egotistical, immoral losers at life, and some even killed themselves or died under questionable circumstances. Some of my friends though were so infatuated by the projected image of these performers that sadly they copied their idol’s lifestyles, and their own lives suffered as a result.
Having said all that, do I believe that a Christian should only listen to Christian songs? No, I don’t. Life would be devoid of a lot of pleasure that God meant us to have if that were the case I think. Could a painter be expected to spend a lifetime painting “The Last Supper” and nothing else? How boring would a house be with nothing but religious paintings hanging in it? Probably wouldn’t get too many visitors either. God is the author of such a vast amount of astounding beauty and awesome experiences, that the subjects we can paint, or the topics we can write a song about are endless. A tune about two people meeting and falling in love can be wonderful. It’s a natural thing to write about. An Australian bush ballad telling of cockatoos, flooding rains or the desert blooming can be filled with wonder and inspiration without mentioning a bible verse. It’s about God’s creation anyway.
I love jazz music. Listening to the imagination of a jazz artist finding its way via their fingers or lips to the instrument they’re playing and releasing itself as a sound and a mood is one of life’s highlights for me. I love a painting that transports me to a time and place where serenity and warmth engulfs my spirit. Is it wrong to give a child a box of coloured pencils and a blank piece of paper? No. It’s natural for the child to want to express itself and natural for the onlooker to appreciate their efforts. Just as I would find eternity sitting on a cloud playing nothing but hymns on a harp a questionable ambition, I would also find listening to hymns exclusively, an overall erosion of life’s rich experience.
BUT, if you’re going to write a song about the greatness of God, at least do it with integrity and from the heart, and don’t compromise it with elements of music written by and for those who partake of and / or promote promiscuity, rebellion, pride, substance abuse, selfishness, self harm, violence or even suicide. God HATES hypocrisy and compromise, especially in His name. Such Christian music will be revolting to Him. I truly believe that Christian music that is pleasing to God and in any way at all effective at exposing God’s truth to non Christians, can ONLY come from a person who themselves have had their lives transformed by the Holy Spirit and whose life change bears witness to that transformation having taken place. I can no longer listen to our local Gospel music station. The music is, in the main, repetitive, boring, and lacking in imagination and beauty. The rhythms are all alike. It is supposed to about the Creator, the Saviour, but it is mostly, somehow lifeless, like a wax dummy, it appears to be the real thing, but there’s a life force missing from inside. The words are sometimes from the Bible, but it doesn’t seem to help. The songs remind me of those prayers that certain religions repeat over and over ad-nauseam. They lack Spirit. They lack anointing. Christian music mainly born of a desire to sell records or achieve recognition is a stench in God’s nostrils, and I can almost smell it through the radio speaker.
Whilst as I have said, I believe there is a mountain of secular music that is not only acceptable to listen to, but also a pleasure to listen to, there is also a dark corner in which can be found music that is simply anti-social, anti-family, violent, depressing, filthy, depraved and damaging to one’s spiritual and mental well being. I sometimes used to excuse such music because in it were patches of genuine musical talent and even genius, BUT I WAS WRONG. If you drop an ice cream in the sand at the beach, no matter how hard you try to eat around that sand, it’s impossible not to get a few bits stuck in your teeth. This principle applies to the above sort of music. It often falls under the genre of metal music, heavy metal, hip-hop, rap, country rock and even Christian metal. The underlying destructive messages and lifestyle promotions from a lot of this stuff will eventually latch onto your psyche, take root in your heart, blur right from wrong, lead into addictions, obsessions, isolation, depression and possibly even self mutilation and suicide. If you have any such music, DESTROY IT! Despite its sometimes alluring manner, it is a serious health hazard to your mind and soul, just like smoking can appear to be enjoyable and harmless, until you die from it.
Beauty is all around us. Encouragement is always there. Pleasure without harm is in endless supply. Musical diversity of a decent, happy, uplifting, entertaining and healthy variety is readily available from many sources. Make such music a part of your life. Look for these songs. Enjoy their joy.
HAPPY LISTENING !!!