Music is Beautiful

photo credit: Prabhu B Doss via photopin cc
Music is one of those things that tends to unite and divide people at the same time. As a teenager I loved Rap music. My brother loved Rock. Arguments abounded. "Rap is way better than Rock!" I would say. He would disagree. And on and on it went. In my mind Rap musicians were smooth and Rock stars were dirty. Rap artists had "swag" and style. They got their hair done, wore nice clothes, and acted like intelligent human beings. Rockers, on the other hand, had wild hair, wore jeans with holes all over them, and acted like animals as they banged their heads to dizzying guitar solos. I was convinced, Rap was way better.
Then something strange happened. I was introduced to the band Linkin Park. They were a hybrid of Rock and Rap and I was in love. Over time I began listening to more Rock and before I knew it I was a total Rock fan listening to groups like Staind, Nickleback, and System of a Down (my personal favorite). But that wasn't the strange part. The strange part was that over time I came to despise Rap music. My arguments were different now. I no longer saw smooth, stylish musicians when I looked at Rappers. Instead, I saw a bunch of fools who couldn't sing a song unless it was about drugs, money, and loose women. Rock musicians sang about life. They sang about pain and struggles. They were deep and philosophical. Rappers were clowns. I was convinced, Rock was way better.
After my conversion I put away the worldly music and began listening to Contemporary Christian Music. Years later, after being exposed to some anti-CCM sentiments I became convinced that CCM was bad. Hymns was were it was at. They were way better - holier. CCM was nothing more than an attempt at being worldly while being Christian. But Hymns were better. They were more spiritual, sacred, and reverent. Rap was garbage. Rock was garbage. CCM was slightly better garbage but nevertheless garbage. I was convinced, Hymns were way better.
Anyone notice a trend here? In case you missed it allow me to elaborate. When I was in Rap culture, my culture was superior to Rock and Pop. When I defected over to Rock culture my new found culture was now superior to my old culture. When I was converted I switched over to CCM but shortly after became convinced by the conservative religious culture that Hymns were better. In short, I always approached the way I viewed music and its value from my own cultural perspective. The message was simple. I was a narcissist. I was an elitist. No matter what culture I identified with it was superior to all other cultures. This "superiority complex" didn't go away when I became a Christian. It remained. And there I was, a born again Christian acting the same way I had acted when I was a carnal man - cynical and arrogant. "My music is better than yours" translated into nothing more than "my culture is better than yours." 
So how do I approach music now? That's a complex question because my approach is still evolving, however I will say this, while I listen primarily to Christian music - I no longer view any musical style as superior or inferior to another.  At no point in sacred recorded history has an Angel come from heaven to teach us the "music of heaven. Every musical style is, therefore, cultural." [1] To suggest that traditional hymns, most of which rely heavily on European folk, are the most sacred is no different than me arguing with my brother over how Rap was "way better" than Rock. Instead, I see all musical styles as cultural expressions having a valid role to play in the human experience. Elevator music is great in the elevator but may not be during worship. Likewise worship music is good during worship but not while I am lifting weights. Does that mean I should never listen to music that doesn't suit a worship setting? No. All it means is that some styles are better suited for certain activities. That doesn't make them inferior or evil, just different. So while I wouldn't listen to Toby Mac while I am praying (I prefer Fernando Ortega during those moments), he sure would help during a 10 mile run.[2]

It is also important to remember that "[t]he instruments used to worship God in the O[ld] T[estament] are also used to worship Nebuchadnezzar’s statue in Daniel. The concept of a Hymn is of pagan origin. The organ was created for theatrical purposes, not worship."[3] And one of the sources of early Christian tunes was secular folk songs.[4] Likewise, today's Christian music uses instruments used to worship idols, can be traced to pagan origin, has elements originally intended for theatrics, and finds its source in the secular sphere. So what does all of this mean? It means music is beautiful. Whether it suits my culture or not. Whether it suits my taste buds or not. Whether I understand it or not. I am convinced, music is, in all its diverse cultural forms, breathtakingly beautiful.

Further Reading:

Thoughts on Modern Worship Music...

Was Ellen White Against Contemporary Christian Music?

What is Worship?

Is Rhythm Wrong For Christian Music?

The Christian and Rock Music

Music for Contemporary Christians: What, Where, and When?


[1]  Torres, Marcos. Thoughts on Modern Worship Music... [a blog post]

[2] Does this mean anything goes? No. I don't believe it does. There are certain styles of music I stay away from because they make me angry, depressed, or anxious. But deciding what styles to stay away from is more of a personal journey. I have heard presentations on the "evils" of  4x4 time signature and syncopated beats/rhythms and quite frankly find them to be a colossal waste of time. Those who are convicted in that way have my blessing but I remain skeptical of such presentations. However, when it comes to lyrical content the Bible draws a clear line in Philippians 4:8,  
Finally, brothers and sisters, 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.
With this verse in mind I suggest that, due to its lyrical content, the vast majority of secular music is unsuitable for followers of Jesus.

[3] Torres, Marcos. Thoughts on Modern Worship Music... [a blog post].

[4] Reynolds, William J and Milburn Price. A Survey of Christian Hymnody, p. 28
Music is Beautiful Music is Beautiful Reviewed by Pastor Marcos on October 28, 2013 Rating: 5

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