SHOULD CHRISTIANS LISTEN TO SECULAR MUSIC? (4 Things to Consider)
Checking my Facebook account on Saturday morning, I saw a post made by a pastor friend about Christians singing secular songs in my newsfeed. I shared it on my page (see the screenshot a little way down) with a qualification and then decided to give my take on this issue of whether Christians should listen to secular music or not in a more comprehensive manner through this post. (After all, it is from listening to songs that we sing them when we wish to.) In doing this, I am relying on my personal experience and Scripture. Many thanks to Pastor Hero Obasuyi for bringing up this matter. I pray that everyone who reads this will be blessed in Jesus’ name.
Should Christians listen to secular music?
This is a controversial subject and when I was much younger, I avoided those who said we couldn’t. You need to know the times I’m referring to. This was between the late 1970’s to the early 1990’s. Born again Christians then lived more or less a strait-laced sort of life. Many only wore their natural hair (hair treatments were seen as gateways to marine spirits), wearing fashionable clothes was seen as vanity (even brothers who wore jeans and T-shirts were in some circles seen as worldly), the television was called the devil’s box by some, music in church was largely choral with organ accompaniment (to some, electric guitars were straight from hell).
This was during the analogue era when music production was a big deal. To mix anything worth listening to, you probably needed to go abroad and many local gospel acts couldn’t afford that. Besides, because of low acceptance of different musical genres in church, most of gospel music was in the nature of hymn singing. A very popular duo then was Voice of the Cross.
People like me insisted that Christianity didn’t forbid listening to good music. I saw it as part of my education to explore and expose myself to great music, both gospel and secular. My collection was largely foreign as the best music production studios were abroad as I inferred above. I listened to the likes of The Commodores, Al Jarreau, George Benson, Whitney Houston, Michael Jackson, Shalamar, Abba, Bob Marley and the Wailers on the secular side and Andrae Crouch, Amy Grant, The Genesis, Marilyn Baker, Sandi Patty, Carman, The Reverend Al Green and Candi Staton (among others) on the Christian side, although I loved most of Al Green and Candi Staton’s mainstream stuff.
As I grew older, I began to skip secular music. My reason was that it became increasingly difficult to find wholesome stuff on that side, both in their audio and video formats.
In addition, gospel music in Nigeria had come a long way. Presently, the artistes are just as skilled and talented as the secular musicians. (In America, many successful musicians in the mainstream honed their skills in church before moving to the wider world stage. That may not quite be the case here but modern pentecostal churches give voice, instrumental and performance training to their choir members such that when they pick up musical careers, they lack nothing in ability and showmanship.)
Also, gospel music comes in almost every available music genre now, here and elsewhere, including rock, rap and reggae. And application of digital technology in music production has resulted in anyone with the know-how being able to cook high-fidelity music from a tiny studio anywhere on the globe. So right now, I find that my music tastes are satiated by listening mostly to gospel music. But I listen to some secular songs occasionally out of curiosity or if for any reason my attention is seriously drawn to them.
Based on my experience in listening to music from both sides of the divide, I have the following advice for young believers (both youths and new converts) on this matter.
It’s up to you to decide whether to listen to secular music or not but there are things you should consider as you do this:
4 Things to Consider if You Wish to Listen to Secular Music
1. You should be grounded in the Scriptures so you can sift the message of the songs:
Musicians are philosophers. They share their world views, their convictions and perspectives through their songs. As a Christian, everything you take in, music included, should be judged by the word of God. You need to know that word to do so, otherwise you will imbibe some erroneous beliefs through the songs and other stuff you’re exposed to. This is why the Bible asks us not to be conformed to the world but to be transformed by the renewing of our minds so that we can know what pleases God (Romans 12:2).
As an undergraduate, I loved to listen to George Benson sing “The Greatest Love of All” and later to Whitney Houston’s powerful rendering of the song. But as I grew in my knowledge of the Scriptures, I realised the message of the song from the lyrics written by Linda Creed was the antithesis of Christian teaching.
“Everybody’s searching for a hero
People need someone to look up to
I never found anyone who fulfilled my needs
A lonely place to be
And so I learned to depend on me
‘I decided long ago
Never to walk in anyone’s shadow
If I fail, if I succeed
At least I’ll live as I believe
“Because the greatest
Love of all is happening to me
I’ve found the greatest
Love of all inside of me
Learning to love yourself
It is the greatest love of all”
We cannot be disillusioned and say we’ve found no hero to inspire us when we have the Lord Jesus as our perfect example. As Christians, we should be “Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith” (Hebrews 12:2), and not to fallible human beings. Furthermore, the Bible does not teach that self-love is the greatest love. Rather, it teaches that love of God is. That is followed by love of others before ourselves. And we will be alright. Bringing up our children with any other notion is laying a precarious foundation for their lives.
“37. Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. 38. This is the first and great commandment. 39. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. 40. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” – (Matthew 22:37-40)
“3. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. 4. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” – (Philippians 2:3-4 ESV)
2. Understand that the ears and eyes are gateways to the soul, so the nature and mood of the song you listen to can invade your life:
The songs you listen to and their videos that you watch stay with you long after the music ceases to play. They form part of your thoughts, language and possibly actions. One can become depressed after exposure to melancholic songs. One can feel aroused after listening to/watching the videos of sensual songs. If you’re not careful, something dishonouring to God or harmful to you might result from repeated exposure to such songs.
Bottomline is that creativity is a spiritual thing. Who is the muse behind the music you’re listening to? We can invite dangerous spirits into our lives unwittingly when we listen to all manner of music and suffer demonic oppression because many popular artistes are alleged to be in covenant with negative powers to ensure their success. The scary thing is that a musician friend of mine once claimed that some gospel singers desperate for fame are going down the same treacherous path. You can google “Dark Pacts: Strange Tales of Real Deals With the Devil” by Brent Swancer and gospel singer Skid Ikemefuna’s claim that “Many popular young Nigerian musicians have sold their souls to Satan” if you want more info on this.
(Related: Wealth and Fame – Poem)
3. You may send the wrong message to others, especially young believers:
Young believers who are not properly rooted in the Lord may be emboldened to listen to what you do and be harmed thereby. Weigh the dangers in that regard against your desire to enjoy such music. In the Bible, when Apostle Paul discussed such a situation with regard to the eating of meat sacrificed to idols, this was his stance:
“8. But meat commendeth us not to God: for neither, if we eat, are we the better; neither, if we eat not, are we the worse. 9. But take heed lest by any means this liberty of yours become a stumblingblock to them that are weak. 10. For if any man see thee which hast knowledge sit at meat in the idol’s temple, shall not the conscience of him which is weak be emboldened to eat those things which are offered to idols; 11. And through thy knowledge shall the weak brother perish, for whom Christ died? 12. But when ye sin so against the brethren, and wound their weak conscience, ye sin against Christ. 13. Wherefore, if meat make my brother to offend, I will eat no flesh while the world standeth, lest I make my brother to offend.” – 1 Corinthians 8:8-13
4. You may discredit your witness if you are not careful about the secular music you listen to:
Some secular music you listen to can call your Christianity to question and weaken your witness before the world. As I said earlier, there’s a lot of unwholesome stuff out there and some of it is so popular. As you sing along to songs that are vulgar, misogynistic, violent, idolise money, etc., and celebrate those who release them, you bring yourself down from the pedestal on which your salvation has placed you and those who are aware of this lose their respect for you because they fail to see that distinction that should exist between you as saved and they as unsaved.
(Related: Child of God, Your Language On Social Media Matters)
I remember when I used to sing along with Midnight Star about wetting my whistle until a friend jokingly pointed out I had no whistle to wet. I had been oblivious of the sexual innuendo the band attached to the expression. You can imagine my embarrassment! Now picture me trying to preach to anyone who had heard me singing such a song. They would just dismiss me! Unless they, like me, did not catch the allusion the song made.
In sum, I feel that if you so desire, for purposes of entertainment, education and familiarisation with pop culture, you may listen to secular songs What you learn may come in handy when you want to minister to unbelievers. It may provide relatable themes to discuss with them and establish some rapport. But keep your guard up bearing in mind the points above and any other warnings the Lord may drop in your heart.
In other words, as I said earlier, whether or not you as a believer listen to secular music is up to you. But as with everything you do, ask God for guidance as the Lord Jesus taught us to pray: “And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” (Matthew 6:13).
You are richly blessed in Jesus’ name.
The scriptures in this post are from the King James Version of the Holy Bible except wnere otherwise stated.
I would love to also hear your views on this. Do you listen to secular music? Why do you listen or fail to do so?
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