Friday, February 20, 2009

What's in God's iPod?

I'm not going to lie. I used to read those Christian music recommendation guides. For those who have no idea what I'm talking about, many Christian bookstores carry these free music guides that are supposed to help you get into Christian music. On one side of the page there was a list of popular secular artists, and then on the other side were the "Christian versions." For example, if you're a James Taylor fan, then according to the guide you would like Chris Rice and Steven Curtis Chapman. Sometimes I found some pretty good bands, like mewithoutYou, Starflyer 59, and Underoath.* Some, on the other hand, were complete duds.**

I used to feel really guilty about listening to secular music. Shortly after my conversion I started going to my then-girlfriend's church, a conservative church that frequently spoke in tongues.*** I would go to their Wednesday night Bible with a different band t-shirt each week: Pink Floyd, Bad Brains, Smashing Pumpkins, etc. No one said I couldn't wear those shirts (except, of course, for Sundays), but a couple of members would say things, "Let's help you get rid of those old CDs and give you some new ones."

I've yet to read anywhere in the Bible that says Christians are only supposed to listen to Michael W. Smith. Most Christian-music-only advocates love to quote Philippians 4:8: "Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things." But to me, that quote doesn't specifically say only listen to gospel. Scripture says to focus on whatever is true, noble, right, pure, etc.

There are some things that I conscientiously don't listen to. I refuse to listen to any music that glorifies violence, sexism, homophobia, racism, or materialism.***** Profanity doesn't bother me, although saying the f-word in every other line does make one sound ignorant.

But for the most part, I'm open to anything that conveys truth and beauty. That's what great art is supposed to do, right? Art is a mirror reflecting how we relate to this life and each other. So whether it's Pink Floyd or DC Talk, it doesn't matter to me. What matters most is that the music is real.

*Pretty much anything on the Tooth and Nail label
**For example, The Huntingtons tried way too hard to be like the Ramones
***I'll get more into this later.
****Which means I don't listen to any gangsta rap. I don't care how well those guys can flow.


  1. I was just telling someone about these guides! They didn't believe something so nerdy could possibly exist. They also wanted to know what the Christian equivalent of Slayer was...

  2. I think the Christian equivalent is Living Sacrifice, which is actually a pretty good band!

  3. I find that my Christian music enjoyment is much more varied than my secular. Though I agree that it's not necessary to ONLY listen to Christian music. There are a lot of great artists that don't label themselves under the "Christian Music" heading and don't swear and kill and talk about sex.

    One of my favorite Christian artists is TobyMac, and I like him because he raps but does it in a non-horrific way.