There is music that moves you in the right direction. And there is music that moves you in the wrong direction. Some music is more or less neutral, and neutral means you really ain’t going anywhere.
But let me be a little more specific. There is music which clearly draws us closer to God, the source of all Goodness, and this music is very valuable. On the other hand, there is demonically influenced music which is positively harmful.
Who can deny that music has a profound influence on our emotions and feelings? Yet music runs even deeper than that: it influences our values and beliefs and the very person we become.
We have witnessed for ourselves that music has influenced significant segments of society to embrace a lower standard of sexual morality and even the use of mind altering drugs. I know people who joke about not even remembering the 1960s!
The other day my 17 year old nephew, who I still manage to occasionally beat in basketball, told me about the “27 club,” which is a group of musicians who all died at the age of 27, mostly due to drug and alcohol abuse. Members of this club include Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Kurt Cobain and Jim Morrison. Music can take us profoundly in the wrong direction; and it would be a mistake to overlook a demonic influence.
I hear about sincere Christian friends who went to the recent Rolling Stones concert. I wonder if they considered, if only for a moment, whether there was a demonic influence there that they were exposing themselves to? It is never a good thing (however unintentional) to rejoice or take pleasure in evil, or to show any sympathy for the devil. Songs that extol sexual immorality normally have a demonic influence. Do good; avoid evil. When one considers the value of rap music it is interesting to consider how many rappers have been killed in violent acts. I won’t even comment on the relationship between vile language and the demonic. And people are shocked that Pope Francis speaks so frequently about the influence of the devil!
Then there is Christian praise and worship music. Lives have been literally healed and saved by it. This is a paradigm shift worth noting: the shift from secular music to Christian praise and worship music. This paradigm shift is like a revolution in the spiritual life. Suddenly we are changed; the music we listen to is literally drawing us into God. Now we are not only listening to beautiful music – more than that we are engaging in acts of praise and worship that mold us into children of God.
Clearly there is good secular music. In fact, some of the best secular music has a quasi-religious dimension to it. But we must discern between good and evil. And this discernment involves a true assessment of how the music we listen to has helped to shape and influence the person we have become. I maintain that for Christians it is helpful, more and more, to expose ourselves primarily to Christian music.
Music is like a creation. It is a composition: a thought brought to fruition. When God created the world he rested in the complacency that all he had done was GOOD. Can we say that about the music we listen to?
Tom Mulcahy, M.A.
Image: Contemporary Christain (and Catholic) artist, Matt Maher, August 7, 2015, Wichita, Kansas by Xopheriggs. This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license. Naturally, the opinions expressed in this note are exclusively those of Tom Mulcahy and no other person. My daughter tells me Matt is coming to the Detroit area on March 5, 2017 at The Palace of Auburn Hills with other artists.
P.S. I note that some of the contemporary secular music I sometimes hear has an introspective, angst-ridden quality to it (it feels almost like a defeated existentialism). This music seems to me to be in need of Christian hope. Jailhouse Rock is a catchy tune of low value, but when Elvis sings the Gospel hymn, Lead Me, Guide Me, the song has power to lead one safely through the valley of the shadow of death (that type of power is transformative). Since first writing this post, Prince and David Bowie have both died early.
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Good stuff! If there are any fans of the author Peter Kreeft, I can recommend an excellent passage he wrote on why music is so important. He called music “cosmic” and brilliantly explained how it transcends other arts and language when it comes to touching the soul. The passage is from his book “Making Choices,” in about the middle of chapter 9.
JP, Thanks for the recommendation. I’ll check it out. Tom