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Monday, 7 October 2013

Secular Music - to listen or not to listen

{Drawn by David Richardson}
At the being of this year in this post, I stated that I dislike secular music. This lead to a commenter asking why this was and me doing a lot of thinking, and then trying to explain my reasons as best as I could. Ever since then the subject of music has been at the back of my mind. What do I really think? Should I listen to secular music? Why? Why not? Every now and again a new realisation would come to me and force me to reconsider those questions again. So where do I stand now? That's what this post is all about - my opinions on listening to secular music.

In the summary of my answer to that question a reader posed, I said this:

"So the bottom line is (to me at least) to read, watch and listen to what will build us up, not tear us down. We should always seek to have our ‘entertainment life’ under God’s direction. If we are always seeking to follow Him in this area, it’s less likely that we will watch, listen to or read things that are harmful or distracting. Also (to quote my good friend Annie), “I know most of the time when I’m doing something wrong, and that’s where I’ve got to draw the line.” "

I still stand by this view. To put it another way, my basic thoughts are this:

If I know a song will distract me from God or pollute my thoughts I avoid it. For me, those songs are a big percentage of all secular music I hear. However, I know that for many Christians, a lot of those songs will have no negative effects on them. If that is the case for someone, they should feel free to listen to those songs. Personally, however, I have to avoid them. 

 For example, I have to steer clear almost every romantic song ever written - in fact, even if it's written by a Christian! Why? Because after hearing them I too often fall into I.W.R.L.S. - I Want Romantic Love Syndrome. :P I am tempted to think romantic thoughts or pine after romantic love, instead of finding fullness in God.

 However, there are a few exceptions to this 'rule' for me. One is "Smile" by Uncle Kracker. It's a love song through-and-through, but is so upbeat and funny that it just makes me smile, and nothing else, most of the time.

Two other exceptions are "Counting Stars" by One Republic and "Riptide" by Vance Joy. These are two songs that under normal circumstances I would most definitely shun - the lyrics are not great at all, and just a warning, don't go looking at the music videos! However, these songs are very strongly connected in my mind with one of my most beautiful memories, which also involves the lyrics of these songs re-written. So I can actually listen comfortably to these two songs because my mind is completely washing over the lyrics and focusing on both my sweet memory and the 'alternate' words.

 One point I really want to stress is that individuals may have different "pollutant resistance" levels. Mine is quite low. Other people I know, however, can listen to songs that I never could without being negatively affected. In turn, some of their friends can listen to songs that they couldn't. I therefore have no right to judge either my friend's music choices or their friend's music choices. Where appropriate, I can encourage them to make wise decisions and avoid any songs that have negative affects on them, or warn them that I think listening to such-and-such a song is a bad idea, but I can't lay a blanket rule that no Christian should listen to secular music or certain secular songs. Individuals can make up their own minds on what is or isn't harmful to them, as long as they continually submit to God in regards to what touches their ears. 

That is my opinion. Feel free to voice yours.

Cassie xoxoxo

P.S. Same principals apply to books and movies. Personally, my pollutant resistance level is higher for movies, and significantly higher for books.


  1. Cassie, I absolutely LOVE this post. You've made some excellent points that I do share, and I have something else to bring to the table. Some songs with love as the theme written by artists, secular or not, I like to turn around in my head. The song "All of Me" by Angus of Julia Stone is a good example. While the lyrics are spoken from one lover to another, they could easily be referring to my desire for God. Another song "Never Let Me Go" by Florence and the Machine, again meant for a lover, could be seen as the inundation of grace we have from Christ. Not only are these songs beautiful and soothing (the very purpose of music itself), they can be heard from your own interpretation.


    Brilliant post my friend, yet again your thoughtfulness inspires me.
    Keep Shining,

    Annie x

  2. Great thoughts Annie! Personally I find it hard to put my own interpretation on things and make it stay there, but if it works for others that's absolutely fantastic!

    Cassie xoxoxo

  3. Hi Cassie!
    I haven't commented before but I've visited quite a few times. I like your blog - great job!! :)

    I just wanted to discuss what you said about 'pollutant resistance levels'. I agree that some people have to be more careful in their choices than other people, especially if they had weakness in that particular area, just like someone who had an alcohol addiction might have to avoid just walking past a bar that might not have any affect at all on somebody else.

    However, I don't think it is possible to listen (or read) anything and not be affected. Everything that goes into your brain is going to affect you in some way, whether you are aware of it or not. You said that, "I can't lay a blanket rule that no Christian should listen to...certain secular songs." But I do think that there are definitely songs and lyrics that no Christian should be listening to. :) Even if they think it doesn't affect them, why are they listening to those types of songs in the first place?

    I think listening to music with lyrics that glorify sin is a bit like somebody continually hanging around a bar even if they never taste the alcohol. Even if they say it doesn't affect them, it gets them accustomed to the sight and smell - how long do you think it will be before they slip? And why are they hanging around that place anyway?

    However, even if a friend of mine is listening to awful music, it isn't going to do any good marching up to her and telling her her music is bad, because it isn't the music that is the problem - it's her heart. Once our heart is right toward God and we thirst for His holiness, we won't have a desire for that type of music any more.

    Even secular music that seems like it teaches us life lessons mostly contains at least some worldly philosophies and thinking. Even if we are aware of this, listening to it develops a habit of tolerating the evil to enjoy some good, and eventually the 'small evil' becomes normal and we'll be comfortable with more and more evil.

    It's like Sarah Mally said :) - the question is not "How close can I get to the world and still be holy and pure," but "How close can I get to Jesus and how much can I radiate His holiness?"

    And yes, same thing for movies and books. :)

    Just my two cents! What do you think?

  4. Hey Esther Grace! Thanks for commenting! Just letting you know that I've read your comment and am thinking about it. I don't want to comment just yet, before turning it over in my mind for a while, but I will comment soon. Thanks again!

    Cassie xoxoxo

  5. Hello again Esther Grace! I've been thinking about your comment, and am back again to post my reply...

    Correct me if I'm wrong, but would I be write in thinking that your comment boils down to these three points?
    1) Music influences everybody, and if they keep hanging around 'bad' music, how long till they slip?
    2) They goal should be how close we can get to God, so why should Christians hanging around 'bad' music anyway?
    3) It comes back to the heart. Once we get the above goal in our hearts, we won't want to listen to 'bad' music any more.

    I must say that these points are valid arguments. There are many ways to approach the question of what music Christians should/shouldn't listen to, and your points are one of many good ways.

    I especially like the third point, about it coming back to the heart. I think that really is at the core of this whole subject. Along with that, the main point I’d like to make is that, as Joshua Harris says, purity is path, a direction, not a formula. If someone is genuinely seeking the path of purity and righteousness, he or she will think about how the music he or she listens too lines up with that path. The ‘formula’ (what they actually become convicted about and how that plays out in their life) may differ from Christian to Christian, but I think that as long as they are genuinely seeking to keep their entertainment life under God, they can’t stray too far.

    So your thoughts are good. I reckon people should take your points into account when thinking about this stuff. Good on you for thinking about this and sharing it here!

    Cassie xoxoxo


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