Absolutely they should. I suspect some of you, to that answer, may be thinking or saying out loud right now: “Isn’t that obvious?” Well, one would think. However, if you, like I, grew up in the Christian fundamentalist/evangelical world of the 70s and 80s, then it wasn’t so obvious an answer to that question.
Sadly, for the kids who grew up in those decades (and others—but I’m focusing on my own time-frame) they were told quite often they shouldn’t listen to secular music. This was especially true if that music was rock-and-roll, hard rock/metal, and even some elements of rhythm and blues/pop/disco.
This was a time when we were told about the “devil’s” music. We were told urban myths about tribes in Africa, when hearing the drum beats of Western rock-and-roll, supposedly told missionaries from America that those beats and time signatures were used in their culture to summon demons. Sure. Right. Or, let’s just out ourselves as racists who use to call rock-and-roll “race” music. It was always right there, under the surface: “This is black music and it’s infecting the white race, especially among our youth!”
I missed much of that underlying message when I was young. What I mostly picked up on was the fear bound up in the reaction. It seemed more like the fear of freedom, the movement of the body, and the way certain types of music could make us feel.
Much of that has changed now. Just look at the takeover of evangelical worship services by the very music that was demonized in many of those traditions, only decades ago. It would appear the “devil’s music” has won the day. Of course, that would only be true if there were such a thing as the devil’s “music,” but there isn’t.
Christians believe that God created the material/physical world and that humans were created in God’s very image. Such would communicate the obvious: God is creative/artistic. God is an artist, a poet, a musician, a writer, even perhaps an actor (see Luke 24:28). God is the artist. All human creative acts spring from our being made in God’s image. Music is vibration and vibration is built into creation. It all springs from God. Why would a Christian give any part of creation back to the devil or attribute parts of creation as being owned by the devil?
Can creative acts/works including music be used for ugly or non-loving purposes? Of course, but that doesn’t make it the “devil’s music.” It simply reveals the heart and mind of the individual creator. Any good gift can be used for bad purposes. That doesn’t reflect upon the gift but upon the one using it.
There is no such thing as “secular” music. There is only music. There is music of many types and genres, with many types of instruments used, and representing many types of themes and interests. It is still just music. Subjectively, there is bad and good music. There is music considered time-less and classic. There is music considered trite and forgettable. It is still just music.
Christians should be open to all types of music (and all creative endeavors), especially those considered the very best examples of whatever the genre/type may be. We should strive to avail ourselves of, and to promote, those examples of music/musicians (regardless the genre) that are widely recognized for their excellence and skill. Why? Because all such works are a tribute to our being made in God’s image, the ultimate artist and creator.
Such works also need to be appreciated for their sake alone and the creator/musician/singer as well for using their gifts in a positive way—a way that adds to, or complements, an already beautiful world.
To claim that Christians shouldn’t listen to “secular” music would be like claiming that Christians shouldn’t appreciate or smell the flowers grown by non-Christians. Or, that Christians shouldn’t own or appreciate a painting created by a non-Christian. There are no “secular” flowers or paintings. There are only flowers and there are only paintings.
Simply having the word “God” or “Jesus” or “Spirit” in a song doesn’t make it good or even a religious or Christian song. It is still just a song about something, in this case “God.” And the music it might be put to isn’t “Christian” or “religious.” Again, there is no such thing.
There are genres of music like classical, gospel, jazz, rock-and-roll, blues, country, bluegrass, and many others. Musically, none of those are specifically “Christian” or “religious.” Even the category of gospel or contemporary Christian only speak to their content and audience—the music conveying the content to that audience is still just music—the arrangement of sounds/vibrations. The music itself transcends the content and audience and belongs to everyone.
Christians believe that all truth is God’s truth, regardless of where it comes from. The best music, the best works of art, of creative works in general, always communicate or channel some deeper truth. Why would any Christian discount or not avail themselves of one of those channels of possible truth?
The answer is: They shouldn’t. So, yes, Christians should listen to all types of music, even if the content isn’t specifically religious/Christian, and enjoy such as God’s good gift.
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