There’s only one CD I ever regret putting in the Goodwill pile: TLC’s CrazySexyCool.
It was my freshman or sophomore year of college – and I know that I’m dating myself in a most obvious, mid-to late-nineties sort of way, but there was nothing but love when T-Boz and Left Eye began to sing.
I blasted it in my high school bedroom, and later in my college dorm room. “Don’t Go Chasing Waterfalls” would have continued to play had my pastor not told us to get rid of all of our secular music.
It wasn’t healthy, we were told, at least not for those of us who considered ourselves serious Christians. It didn’t point us to God; instead, this music held innate power to bring us into a dark, most unholy space, a space occupied by the evil one.
So, I got rid of CD after CD of my favorite music up until that point.
I hadn’t, of course, been a connoisseur of Christian music in my childhood, nor in my adolescence. Sure, we went to church most every Wednesday and Sunday growing up, and we sang the hymns of our American Baptist ancestors, but this was not the music we listened to at home.
I didn’t own any W.O.W. CDs, nor did I have memorized every word to every Sandi Patty or Amy Grant song.
Instead, my ears were filled with Simon and Garfunkel and The Beatles, with The Rolling Stones and The Beach Boys. These were the songs of my youth, until I was old enough to have a CD player in my room and discovered additional kinds of music that sang to my soul.
And it was that collection of soul-music – “soul-music,” mind you, that had not made it to the top of any Contemporary Christian hit list – that I tossed in a paper bag, marked for Goodwill.
It was that collection of soul-music that I ever regret giving away in the first place.
Now, I believe in living simply, as much as possible. My family makes it a regular habit to go through our clothes and our books, our toys and our electronics on a regular basis, because there is not need to continue to hold onto that which we don’t need, that which someone else might benefit from instead.
I regret giving away this music because I gave into legalism.
I thought it was what I was supposed to do, really, what I had to do to be right with God.
But God is a God of divine love and infinite grace. God is a God who dares us find Beauty in the most unlikely of places, who makes ordinary spaces sacred, who begs us seek the Divine in poetry and prose, in song and in rhyme.
God, as you may have already begun to experience, is not a God who dabbles in black and white theology, but instead, invites us color outside of the lines.
Still, then, always, we are called Beloved.
So, when it comes to answering the question, “Should Christians listen to secular music,” here’s the truth: We don’t need to give away our favorite CD in order to “get right” with God, for God’s love knows no bounds. We have already been made right with God, start and end of story.
In that way, we can listen to music and read books and watch movies and television shows that bare not the label “Christian” and find God in them still.
I think about the books I read, for I am a voracious reader at the end of the day. Of these fictional books, many of my favorites would never grace the shelves of a Christian bookstore, but you’d better believe I’m talking about themes of the Divine with my book club and with other writers.
We are freed up to read books by authors like Lief Enger and Marilynn Robinson, and find God.
As writer Heather Morton writes in the article, “Finding God in Fictional Stories,” we just might find ourselves changed at the end of it all: “We were transported, but we could not remain. When at last we returned to our world, we had been changed. Like a fire on a snowy day, this fictional portrayal of human love warmed us to God.”
This, of course, is part of the beauty of fiction, which is also part of the beauty we find in music and television too.
Enter in, both to grace and to these movies and songs and books.
I can’t wait to hear what happens on the other side.