Should Christians Listen to Secular Music?

There’s only one CD I’ve ever regretted putting in the Goodwill stack: TLC’s CrazySexyCool.

It was my freshman or sophomore year of college – and I know I’m dating in the most obvious way, mid to late 90s, but there was nothing but love when T-Boz and Left Eye started singing.

I blew it up in my high school bedroom, and later in my college dorm. “Don’t Go Chasing Waterfalls” would have kept playing if my pastor hadn’t told us to get rid of all our secular music.

Photo credit: Mikes-Photography @ Pixabay

It was not 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 the innate power to take us into a dark and unholy space, a space occupied by the evil one.

So I got rid of CD after CD of my favorite music until this point.

I had of course not been a connoisseur of Christian music in my childhood, nor in my adolescence. Sure, we went to church almost every Wednesday and Sunday growing up, and we sang the hymns of our American Baptist ancestors, but that wasn’t the music we listened to at home.

I didn’t own any WOW CDs, nor had I memorized every word of every Sandi Patty or Amy Grant song.

Instead, my ears were filled with Simon and Garfunkel and the Beatles, Rolling Stones and Beach Boys. These were the songs of my youth, until I was old enough to have a CD player in my bedroom and discovered other kinds of music that sang to my soul.

And it was this collection of soul music – “soul music”, mind you, that hadn’t reached the top of any list of contemporary Christian hits – that I tossed into a paper bag, marked for Goodwill.

It was this collection of soul music that I always regretted giving away in the first place.

Now, I believe in living simply, as much as possible. My family makes a habit of regularly searching our clothes and books, toys and electronics because there’s no need to keep keeping what we don’t need, what someone else could benefit from the space.

I regret giving away this music because I gave in to legalism.

I thought that’s what I was supposed to do, really, what I had do to be right with God.

But God is a God of divine love and infinite grace. God is a God who challenges us to find Beauty in the most unlikely places, who makes ordinary spaces sacred, who begs us to seek the Divine in poetry and prose, in song and rhyme.

God, as you may have already begun to experience, is not a God who dabbles in black and white theology, but rather invites us to color outside the lines.

Yet, then, always, we call ourselves Beloveds.

So when it comes to answering the question, “Should Christians listen to secular music,” here’s the truth: We don’t have to give away our favorite CD to “get right” with God, because God’s love knows no bounds. We’ve already been set right with God, beginning and end of the story.

In this way, we can listen to music and read books and watch movies and TV shows that reveal not the label “Christian” and find God in them again.

I think about the books I read, because I’m a voracious reader at the end of the day. Of these fiction books, many of my favorites would never make it onto the shelves of a Christian bookstore, but you better believe I talk about Divine themes with my book club and with other writers.

We are freed to read books by authors like Lief Enger and Marilynn Robinson, and find God.

We are invited to read children’s books like A shortcut in time and Harry Potterand find God.

We are welcome to read new releases like ordinary grace and like a house on fire, and really, really, find God.

As writer Heather Morton writes in the article, “Finding God in Fictional Stories”, we risk finding ourselves changed at the end: “We were transported, but we couldn’t stay. When we finally returned to our world, we had been changed. Like a fire on a snowy day, this fictional depiction of human love warmed us God.”

That, of course, is part of the beauty of fiction, which is also part of the beauty we find in music and television too.

Enter, both in grace and in these films, songs and books.

I can’t wait to hear what’s happening on the other side.