Friday, June 3, 2011

Are My Musical Tastes Eclectic...Or Wrong?

A couple of weeks ago I read an article written by a very traditional Christian on the subject of music.  I was a little stunned by what I read.  His perspective was that Christians should only listen to "sacred" music- and he didn't mean Free Bird.  His definition of sacred was music written specifically to bring glory to God.  By his standards, such music would always mention Jesus or God by name.  It would most likely have been around a while and stood the test of time, although he did admit there are a few sacred songs being written today.  I can only assume he meant the music of Chris Tomlin and Michael W. Smith (NOT U2 or Toby Mac).  He was also very clear on one other point- secular music has no place in the life of a believer. And he was talking about more than Lady Gaga or Justin Bieber- he meant everything that was not "church approved."   As you can tell by my sarcasm, I disagreed with pretty much everything he wrote.  But I have to admit, it got me to thinking...

If you know me at all or have read this blog for any period of time, then you know how important music is to me.  I think of every song as part of a soundtrack to my life.  My dear friend Ashley Broadhurst is in the midst of a series on her blog called the 50 Day Song Challenge , and every day I can't wait to see what her "soundtrack" of the day will be.  In fact, I am a little disappointed in myself for not thinking of that one first!  You may have seen my CCM Countdown, ranking the 50 Christian albums that most influenced my life and my ministry.  I have said before that I own enough CCM CDs to start my own "Christian Oldies" radio station.  But I also listen to lots of classic rock.  My Ipod is loaded with Jimmy Buffett, Beach Boys, Eagles, Styx, The Cars, ELO, & Queen- right alongside the Rich Mullins, Amy Grant, Toby Mac, PFR, Stellar Kart and dc Talk.  There's even some current stuff my son turned me on to, like Mumford & Sons and My Chemical Romance.  I pulled for Scotty on American Idol.  I think my musical tastes are pretty eclectic, and I have always thought of that as being cool.  But I wonder...

Maybe I'm not eclectic. Maybe I'm just inconsistent in my faith.  Perhaps the music I listen to is an indicator that my life is much more "secular" than it ought to be.  Did the devil want me to play Bohemian Rhapsody at the start of youth trips?  Is it bad that I have taught my son to love Journey?  Even the "christian" music I enjoy isn't all that sacred.  Some of the songs (gasp!) don't even mention Jesus by name.  Is it bad that some mornings I am as inspired by The Robbin Thompson Band (Candyapple Red) as by the David Crowder* Band?  Perhaps I need to narrow the soundtrack of my life...just in case God can't use some of the songs I like to inspire me to seek His glory (I hope you are still feeling the sarcasm...).

You see, secular is not a biblical concept.  There are things that are simply evil.  Musically this includes violent, overly sexual or otherwise offensive lyrics. And all rap music (just kidding-  I memorized the books of the bible from a rap song).  But everything that is not pure evil, God can use. He redeems and uses broken people all the time- why should music be any different?  It's how we use the things He gives us that makes the difference.  Scripture tells us that if we love God, all things can work for His glory.  Want an example?  Try this one- is a cheeseburger "sacred?"  On certain days, when you are enjoying a great time with friends and family and biting into a big burger, a cheeseburger absolutely feels like a gift from God.  Music is like that as well.  Somedays Amazing Grace is the song that moves my soul; other days it is Cheeseburger in Paradise.  The music of Les Miserables tells the story of grace better than anything found in most church hymnals, and they sing all of the verses!  The music of Rich Mullins stirs my soul in a way few can- but one of the few is Dan Fogelberg.  You get my point.  Whether it be Mozart or My Chem, music is meant to move your soul.  And your soul belongs to God. Isn't that what sacred is really all about?

Back in the late 1980s I did a sermon series using songs from artists like U2, Billy Joel, Tom Petty, The Little River Band, Don Henley and Fogelberg as my titles.  I was amazed at the response (people really connected) and at how easily the songs fit with the teachings of Jesus I used in the messages.  You think God can't use "secular" things to stir hearts and win souls?  Then we have a problem.  Any sentence that starts with "God can't" is doomed to be wrong right from the start...  God never intended for us to divide our lives into sections and only let Him in to the parts that have been sanitized.  God wants all of us- broken, battered, joyful or holy.  And the soundtrack to our less than perfect lives will often reflect just that.

Just for fun, anyone want to take guesses at which songs from the artists listed above I used for that message series?  And what are some of the songs that are the soundtrack of your lives?  Comments, please!  And tomorrow, at long last-  the Saturday Shout Outs are back!!!

Because of Jesus,


  1. Anonymous6/03/2011

    Sermon Songs guess: Maybe "Heart of the Matter" for the Don Henley song? Or how about "I Go To Extremes" for Billy Joel? Sounds like a great series in any case! - Chris Cooper

  2. Great job, Chris! You are correct on both guesses, although there were actually 2 Billy Joel songs I used- so there is still one to guess. Thanks for playing along!

  3. Oh goodness, I was a little worried for a second that I needed to go back and completely change my 50 day countdown! Maybe I'll do a second 50 days will all Christian music? Nahhhhh :)

  4. Just be careful how much hip hop and country you include and you'll be fine, Prudence! LOL

  5. Uh oh! I'm in trouble! :-)


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