Christian music and different genres.

Hi all.

Now this topic is one that is near and dear to my heart. The idea behind this post is to ask the question of what music we are justified in listening to. There is a lot of different music out there. Lots of stuff that is good God glorifying music and lots of stuff that is quite blasphemous. The question is where do we draw the line in what we listen to and what we put in our heads. The question also asks the question of whether God can be glorified in any and all genres of music or if there is just some music that glorifies God.

My personal perspective is that it’s rather easy to draw the line in the sand in terms of what is good to listen to and what is not. The main thing here for me is what are the lyrics. Do the lyrics glorify Christ or do they not? That makes the question a lot more black and white to me. Of course there are still lyrics that we might not know if they were made to glorify God or not. Then there are even worship songs that might represent very poor or even damaging theology in the lyrics. I know there are movements in some more conservative circles that think Jesus Culture music is off limits. I would guess these same people would largely think certain genres of music are also off limits as well. But for me it all boils down to the lyrics. I listen to some pretty heavy and extreme music in terms of genre but I really try and forcus on listening to Christian music over other stuff. For me this is a big deal as the kind of music I am often drawn to tends to be of a more extreme nature. And a lot of this kind of extreme music can be pretty anti-Christian or almost like demonic music. That makes it clear to me that I like the genres but I don’t like the messages that this kind of music often includes. That is why I have limited myself to pretty much just listening to Christian music - because I can still listen to stuff I like genre wise, but I will know the lyrics glorify Christ so I don’t have to worry about feeling guilty listening to this type of music.

I actually run a YouTube channel that is largely a Music Review channel and most of what I review is Christian music that is extreme in nature. I have a little following and it’s for this reason that I want to make sure there is no ambiguity over what I am listening to and recommending so I pretty much only review Christian music.

Anyways, what are your thoughts on music? Where do you draw the line as far as what is acceptable to listen to or not? Do you agree with me that the lyrics are the best test for whether you should listen to it or not? If not, could you provide your reasoning?

Thanks for reading!

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Hey @Jesse_Means_God_Exists! I love your question. Personally I’m with you; lyrics mean everything. I love such a variety of music from classical to some heavy metal, from pop to blues, and crazy Hispanic rap. I love a fun beat and orchestras I find fascinating. I do avoid anything that sounds like someone is trying to bring down an evil spirit with their strange sounds, if you know what I mean. Those sound so creepy. I know there are many opinions on how sound effects the brain and why we shouldn’t listen to some of that heavy stuff out there, but for me some of that music is just so fun and doesn’t make me feel sinful or anything, but just like dancing around with my kids as we clean the kitchen and listen to something kind of fun or crazy. As long as the words don’t carry any negative messages I’m comfortable with my choices. Of course Christian music is the most wholesome and uplifting and we love listening to that as well. I once heard Ravi say that he believes Christians should be involved in all types of art, and he was referring to music as well. You reach so many different people that way that may just love a certain type of music. In the end too, we should listen to the Spirit and follow His lead. This is all just my opinion without any scripture references or scientific data on music and the brain. I feel I have a pretty solid relationship with Christ and bring that into my music choices. :blush:

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A good question when it comes to music. Music has changed during my lifetime and it has been changing for decades. The arts as a whole has changed, and sadly it has changed because our worldview has changed. Our musical culture is growing into something that is becoming more bazaar. Take for example Hip Hop, or Rap with its vulgarity, misogynist, racist expressions, is considered normal. Political correctness does not play a part in this arena, and they are never challenged or called out on it. Musicians like Snoop Dog, Travis Scott, and others are not rebuked. Take for example art in general, we accept things in art as normal when once we would have protested and considered it as abnormal. Scatological art, for example, deals with human waste and fluids. This type of art is now seen in great museums and galleries all over Europe. Take for example music from the 40s’ and 50’s when you listen to the lyrics carefully it reflects their worldviews and their cultural values. The music and lyrics of that time period were solid up until the 1960s when songwriting was considered a great art guild. Most songwriters who lived in NYC were specialist and it was a great industry. Things began to change in the 1960s and that guild disappeared when singers began to write their own songs. Musicians of the past had good basic writing skills, on how to use subtle chord manipulation and instrument counterpoint to make their music go far. I believe that music is a great gift and we can harness it if we put time into it and making it pleasing to the audience. We can do a lot if we recover the art of being a good musician and songwriter. You don’t have to limit yourself to a certain style, there is nothing wrong in listening to classical music or jazz or bluegrass. Whatever music you like, you can infiltrate it and make it your own. God has called us all to engage in the culture and we can have a great impact in the arts, sciences, education and all things. With Jesus with us and going before us, we can make a difference in all disciplines. Psalm 32:8

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Hi @Jesse_Means_God_Exists,

Very interesting question! I agree whatever is acceptable or not really does lie in the lyrics rather than the acoustics / melody. I think your view comes mostly form a particularly western view (do correct me if am wrong) but there is a whole other wide world out here.

I am African, my country has 42 different tribal groups and their melodies and style of music is traditionally vastly different not even including the western influence that most young African people now associate with and this is for both christian and non christian music. So not only are the styles different but the languages are different too and so I cannot say this one is “good” and the other is “bad”.
I generally tend to really only listen to music I can understand and therefore do not really enjoy rap or heavy rock not for any other reason but because I can never quite make out what they’re really saying. If I do hear a tune somewhere that sticks in my head I do generally go and see if I can find the lyrics (translated or otherwise).

I can listen to a bit of pop and R&B even when it’s not a “christian song” so long as I can understand the lyrics. I do not therefore think there is anything wrong with other genres but am of the opinion that it is important to understand what we are singing or dancing along to.

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Like others, I don’t draw the line at genres or artists or anything. I also draw it at the lyric level. I probably listen to some stuff that other Christians would cringe at, but I take music as art, and art is an expression of the human condition, which I think it’s important Christians confront in all its gory detail.

But there is a line. I can give some specific examples of where I draw it:

Hozier: His melodies are absolutely fantastic, but that song “Take Me to Church” is positively heretical. He is worshipping another human being, and not just that, but sexually. I cannot stand the words to that song. They make me curl over with disgust. But if I heard his song de-lyricized as elevator music or something, I would be totally into it.

Lizzo: Most Christians would cringe at this, but she is a really hilarious, sassy woman. I relate to her as a strong, independent woman. But some of her songs are way too sexualized for me (“Water Me”). I mean she gets graphic. I deleted those from my ipod and left only the “clean” ones. She, too, has a song called “Worship Me” that I can’t stand. It just goes too far. But “Truth Hurts” and “Phone” (< riot) don’t bother me, even though the level of attitude (and profanity) in the first one would probably turn off most pious Christians (I just find it funny, and honestly, any woman after a bad break-up can totally relate to the feelings she expresses in that song). I also really like the song “Good as Hell”, even though it is superficially offensive; I just take that as a colloquial saying, not an implication that she’s saying Hell is good. (I mean really, that’s not at all what she means, and I’m more focused on meaning.)

Sam Smith: Very well known gay man who sings almost nothing but love songs. I know he’s singing to other men. I still listen to him, because he makes beautiful music and I don’t think that listening to a gay man sing is in any way a show of approval of the homosexual act. It’s an appreciation of the gifts God gave him.

Mumford & Sons: These guys are secular—not a one of them is religious, SFAIK—but man do they have STRONG Catholic themes in their music. (They’re Irish.) And they don’t contort them like Hozier (also Irish, but with a definite blasphemous bent). Listen to the song “Awake My Soul” and see if that didn’t come out of some kind of (probably repressed) spiritual/religious place in those guys. And one of the best things about Mumford & Sons, IMO, is that they don’t sugar-coat religion. They’re real about it. They’ve taken what’s meaningful in it to them and allowed it to infuse their music in a very natural way. Some of it is kind of dark—they’re clearly struggling with the idea of an omnipotent, all-loving God coexisting with pain and suffering in the world—but that’s really meaningful to me, because we all struggle with that. And compared to how CCM treats these themes, Mumford & Sons are just much more… real. I find most CCM terribly artless and lacking in imagination and eloquence. It’s largely the same tortured metaphors and hackneyed rhymes repeated again and again. It’s all “approved”, “sanitized”, “family-friendly” Christianity. I prefer Mumford & Sons’ authentic struggle with Christian themes to that.

The Lumineers: Here are some lines from a song I really like.

Forget what Father Brennan said
We were not born in sin
Leave a note on your bed
Let your mother know you’re safe…

If the sun don’t shine on me today
If the subways flood and bridges break
Jesus Christ can’t save me tonight.

Well obviously that’s not true. But it’s a song about young, careless, kinda’ reckless love (that WILL worry that girl’s mother!), so when I’m belting this out in the car, I change the lyrics to “Jesus Christ CAN save me tonight.”

In short, I listen to my conscience. I don’t “ban” any music from my repertoire because of who someone is or what they’re associated with. I think that exposure to those non-Christian worlds is important for Christians to know the world they’re living in, to understand the experiences of other humans who are not saved and who give voice to their suffering in their music. I can even relate to that suffering. I, too, struggle with my Christian faith, with the world, with other people. But there is a line. I just draw it where my conscience tells me to.

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