So now is the time I unleash my
full tamed-down attack on music and television shows that aren’t good for people. If a song or program has a negative influence on people, then it is not worth listening to – in fact, it is bad to listen to. There are two issues here, the former being the main one: 1) The influence the music we listen to and TV we watch have on us. 2) Specifically regarding Christian music, what attitudes, values, and ‘spirit’ people perceive in music – is it a light to the world?
1) The way music and TV influence us
Music and TV. Next time you listen or watch some, try and figure out what effect it has on your mind. Let’s consider music today. Turn on the radio and your ears will soon be filled with talk of sex, anger, rebellion, confusion, and general poor thinking. How can it not affect us? Surely it already has!
I believe we tend to become like the people we associate with, and I think a similar thing applies to what we watch and what we listen to. So, if a person was screaming their lungs out angrily right beside you, then you’d recognise the mood of anger in their voice, and surely you’d be affected in some way. Likewise, if someone keeps talking about how attractive some girl is, or how much they hate something, or generally speaking with some attitude, I think we pick some of that up – even without meaning to. You pick up the attitudes of those who are around you – the people you spend time with. Why would it be any different if those people are in the TV or stereo rather than standing beside you?
As far as music goes, I think most people can figure out whether the words of a song a health or unhealthy to listen to, but I think the ‘attitude’ of a song is reflected not only in the words, but in the music itself. This, I think, is the point where there is confusion and controversy. I think music connects with our emotions. We are influenced not just by the words of the music but by its ‘sound’ – its spirit – whether we admit it or not.
As an example, it is no secret that I don’t like ‘heavy’ music. The reason is simple; it doesn’t make me feel any better, in fact I think it has a bad influence on me. Sure, heavy music is aggressive and driven and purposeful and heart-felt and it ‘sounds cool’ – but what do you feel like once you’ve listened to it? I think heavy music is ‘cool’ and I totally understand how people can like it, but I choose not to like it because I find it doesn’t have a good influence on me.
Most of the time, ‘heavy music’ is accompanied by screamed or yelled vocals… The words are only part of what the song conveys to the listener, which is the sum of the words themselves AND the music. I do not believe screamed vocals simply ‘sound cool’ - for such vocals are far from conveying anything like peace, love, hope, or goodness. I suggest that people think it’s cool because it’s angry and opinionated, strong-willed and unwilling to be silenced. People think it’s cool to be shouting out your point at the top of your lungs and breaking the mould and bucking the trend and being different. People think it’s cool to not go with the flow and not accept what everyone else is telling you. Our parents called this rebellion. As Christians, we are called to be not just different and bread the mould, but to be different in a noticeably Godly way. Just because something’s common, it doesn’t change what it is. Just because we’re used to something, it doesn’t make it good for us.
It comes down to this: why do we listen to the music we choose to? The answer, whatever it is, is surely more than mere entertainment. I think we want the music to influence our thoughts and emotions in a certain way – maybe sometimes it is to make us feel more justified about our attitudes, maybe sometimes it’s to change our attitude. Now sure, you can say – ‘it doesn’t have a bad influence on me – it just how the artist was feeling. They have a right to express their feelings.’ But that’s not my point, my question lies in why we choose to listen to those particular things. Why do we like the music we do?
I don’t think it is good listen to music that sounds angry, or rebellious, or arrogant, or perverse, or self-righteous, or mocking. It might be cool, but it might be harmful. Personally, some music makes me have thoughts that are a little more arrogant, a little more angry, a little more rebellious and outspoken, a little less Godly, a little bit more self-righteous or a little bit more like my opinions are more valuable that everyone else’s. Music influences me to think in a way that is reflected in the song – not just the words, but the whole attitude encompassed by the words and the music.
It’s a fact that people like a song mostly because of its ‘sound’ and not by the actual words of the song (and yes, this has been studied by lots of radio companies – guess why all the music on a certain station sounds the same…). So, I suggest that because a large part of why we like certain music is the ‘sound’ of the music, we associate ourselves with that ‘sound’ – and it influences us. Some music influences us in a Godly way, some is the opposite. We should recognise which is which.
Now popular television programs are there to ‘entertain’ us. But apart from wasting our time, television fills our minds with ideals to compare our lives with and things we wish we had. We see a home renovation program and we start to think ‘my house could be better too’. We become engrossed in the dramas that unfold, and we begin to accept such drama as ‘normal’. Pop stars and celebrities are idolised – and we begin to idolise them also. There are emotional battles on screen and after a while, we cease to recognise unhealthy ways to relate to people because we start to imitate what we see. We may not DO the bad things we see, but we begin to accept them. We may not be like the people we see on TV, but we start to accept them anyway. And because we accept them, we accept their behaviour and attitude.
Television blurs the distinction between helpful and harmful thoughts – and it puts ideas into our heads whether we like it or not. You can’t convince me that romantic chick flicks don’t put thoughts in girls heads – just like you can’t make me think sex scenes in movies don’t put thoughts in guys heads. You can say they don’t affect you when you see them, but you know they do. The more we see, the more we accept the thoughts. The more we accept it, the less we recognise them for what they are – selfishness, lust, negative comparison, dissatisfaction… the list goes on. It is no wonder that so many people are struggling to find enjoyment in life these days, because the path to truly enjoying life is to live and think in good ways. The media has introduced bad ideas dressed as acceptable ones and made the path difficult to see.
I don’t watch TV, and I don’t listen to the radio. I don’t miss them, and I am a much happier person because of it. Instead, I base my attitudes and thoughts on the reliable principles given by God, and as I live according to them I find them to be true. What comes out in your life is the result of what comes out of your mind, and what comes out of your mind is the result of what you feed into it. So, I listen to music that only stirs me toward good things, like love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, self-control, contentment, happiness, and Godliness; and I encourage others to do the same.
2) ‘Christian hardcore’ music – how is it seen by the world? Is it a Godly light?
If music affects us in its entirety; and not just because of the words themselves, then what should we think about music that imitates non-Christian music in ‘sound’, and differs only in what the words say? This is probably not just limited to ‘Christian hardcore’ music – it applies to a range of genres, but it serves as an example.
I think music is noticeably different if it has a noticeably different influence on the listener. Of course, Christian words will be different to non-Christian words with swearing every 5 seconds and general bad taste – but what about the ‘sound’ of the music. It strikes me as strange that Christian bands are trying to imitate the musical ‘sound’/mood of non-Christian bands. I think the ‘sound’ of the music reflects the attitudes that go along with that ‘sound’ – and so I view these Christian bands as trying to present Christian messages with non-Christian attitude.
Surely that seems a bit strange? Surely the attitudes of Christians should be distinct from non-Christians – there should be a difference, and it should be apparent that our lives and our attitudes and thoughts are different. What’s different about ‘Christian hardcore’ compared to ‘non-Christian hardcore’? Some would say the words and motivation of the music are different so that makes the music ‘good and Christian’. I say that words are only part of it – and the musical style and ‘sound’ portrays the same ‘spirit’ regardless of what the words are. I don’t really think the motivation (or intended meaning) of a song can have any influence on the listener if it is far from obvious.
Now I guess ‘Christian hardcore’ music, for instance, can act as a channel to communicate Godly messages to non-Christians who like that sort of music. But what does this sort of music convey to people who don’t like that sort of music? There’s a big difference between someone not liking a style of music and someone actually finding it offensive. I don’t mind some heavy music, I think it does sound cool, but I find it offensive because of the attitude I think it’s conveying to me. Now, I’m sure Christian bands don’t want to convey bad attitudes – but what good are their intentions if that’s not what someone perceives they are conveying?
So there are two sub-issues here: 1) Christian hardcore music as a means of communicating Godly words to non-Christians who like hardcore music. 2) How people who don’t like the style perceive it.
The first issue I think is quite possibly a good thing. The second issue I am not so sure about. I don’t think it’s very Christian to offend people – and I don’t think it paints a good picture of Christians if they are offensive. Furthermore, if the ‘sound’ of Christian hardcore music contains a spirit that has some bad attitudes in it – and let me leave you in no doubt that I think it does – then what does that leave other people like me thinking? I’m sure not everyone’s like me, but maybe some are.
Maybe Christian hardcore is a good means of reaching non-Christians – but I seriously question why Christians should like it… not that they DO like it – but that they should.
I think music was made to praise God and rejuvenate and refresh the spirit toward Godly thoughts. And somehow, I just can’t see Jesus screaming into a microphone into a wall of sound – so loud people get hearing damage and can’t really hear what he’s saying anyway. I don’t think Jesus needed to butter up His message with music to make people listen to it – and I don’t think He would have. This is a challenging thought for me as a songwriter and musician. I don’t think He would have hung around very long trying to persuade people who reject Him and what He said, and instead gone to the sick and the needy and the people who wanted to hear and talk to Him.
But then, I guess this is not the 1st century, and we’re not Jesus.