In the Silence of the Mind: September 27th, 2013
Purity in the Media: Part 3.
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“Music is God’s gift to man, the only art of Heaven given to earth, the only art of earth we take to Heaven.”
– Walter Savage Landor
Now, I know my thought for today won’t be a popular one. Anytime a “preacher/teacher” speaks out about questioning our media choices, people feel as though the Spanish Inquisition is happening all over again. For many years Christian leaders have tried to dictate followers’ media choices through coercive means. Though I never experienced such phenomena first hand, I’ve had friends whose churches went on tirades against everything from Harry Potter to even VCR’s themselves (in the 80’s, of course) as tools of the devil. And while I’ve never personally been to a book burning myself, I did go through the token Christian teen experience of burning some of my albums like Limp Bizkit’s Chocolate Starfish and the Hotdog Flavored Water. Christians have a habit of sometimes taking things to the extreme.
But, here’s where I willingly give up popularity for truth: I’m glad I got rid of my “sacred” KoRn and Metallica albums. No, I don’t endorse book burning, censorship of aberrant ideas, or limiting any group or person’s right to free speech within proper set limits. However, I found long ago that I have to have a filter on my media if I want my relationship with God to grow. Just as I mentioned in my first post in this series, I couldn’t have continued to mindlessly croon about how “your god is dead and no one cares…” and claim to be growing in my relationship with God. It just couldn’t have happened.
This is where Philippians 4:8 starts to get personal with our media choices. Imagine this: as a married man I start listening to songs written about my wife that paint her as a harlot, a liar, an imbecile, and (ultimately) a complete burden on society. Now, I claim to love my wife and know that real love includes not just words, but thoughts, actions, emotions, and decisions. If I were constantly listening to music that personally berates my wife or subversively tries to compel me to live life against the very way she has told me she wants us to live… how loving is that?
If I sat in my car (with my wife next to me and my 18-month old son in the back seat) and loudly and proudly sang out, “My wife’s a whore, she’s a worthless slut” (forgive the vulgarity for the sake of making a point) how well do you think my relationship with her is going to flourish and grow? I might not even have teeth after that, even if I explained to her that I just listen to the beat, not the words.
There are countless studies that show that what we consume in the media (and music above all) shapes the very pattern of our thinking. Once a song gets in our head, it takes a self induced massive brain freeze to even have a chance at dislodging it from our minds… and even that may not work. Even when we don’t know the song well or hear it often, if it’s catchy enough, it lodges itself like inception into our mind. But what is that repetitious message proclaiming? And we often listen to music (consciously or in the background) for several hours a day. How much time do you think we spend on average in our Bibles? 15 minutes? That’s 1/96th of our day… what do you think we’re giving time to shape our lives more?
The music we listen to has an effect on your thoughts and to an extent, your personality. Have you ever seen a person who dresses just like the lead singer of a band? Do you remember when every little girl wanted to be Britney or Beyonce? Agree with me or not, but the music that we give ourselves to, because it is often such a big part of our life/heart, helps shape our path. Increasingly in this generation I have found that people define themselves by certain bands, styles of music, or even specific rock/pop stars. Remember, you are not just what you eat. You are what you listen to and you are what you agree with.
We become what we consume. We become what we, as Paul warns in Philippians, dwell on. This isn’t a magic formula. You’re not going to hear just the right combination of one country song followed by two heavy metal songs and suddenly become an arsonist. However, I simply cannot excuse the fact that our minds are shaped by what we put before them joyfully.
The real question is, who do you want to be in love with? It all comes down to this question. Do you want to love God? Then you have to spend time with Him and those things that glorify Him. You have to defend His honor, and actively fight against those things in your life that portray a skewed version of Him, or even actively rage against Him. Music has always been a huge part of my life and I realized long ago that the music I was listening to was outright challenging me to leave my great Love behind. It was mocking him. For every worship song I heard on Sunday morning I was getting a hundred-fold dose of “The god that failed” played on repeat in my mind every other day. The two became warring loves in my heart and I found that God does not long suffer those things that compete for our hearts.
God cares about the content of what we consume. This is why David wrote, “I will not look with approval on anything that is vile. I hate what faithless people do, I will have no part of it” (Psalm 101:3, NIV). This is also why great thinkers have posited since the dawn of time that the eyes and ears are gateways to the soul (which there is Biblical support for, as well). Music that is hyper-sexual, violent, vulgar… music that trashes God’s name, His character, His reputation… music that is actively on the offensive against God… these things simply have to go. They have set themselves against the greatest Love of our lives, and our love for Him should cause us to revile such things.
— “Since sex sells, I guess the next logical step was for them to turn around and sell sex.” – The Cross Movement —
This isn’t a blanket outcry against anything that is “secular” and blanket approval of all that is “Christian.” That would be overly simplistic. It’s about honoring God as our great Love and protecting that relationship. It’s about fighting for a pure heart. Some of the music out there (even some that is labeled as “Christian”) is simply as unhealthy to our relationship with God as an affair is to a marriage.
Some music is even outright set on destroying our relationship with God. John Lennon of the Beatles famously wrote some of his music with Christians in mind with the expressed purpose of getting them to give assent to beliefs that contradict Christianity.That’s right, he admitted to attempted Inception (see the video series embedded below) in interviews. Though there’s certainly a healthy dose of skepticism needed when anyone claims that “every musician is out to get you to worship the devil,” there is Godly wisdom to be found in having a filter to protect your mind and spirit anyway. Just as I wouldn’t let someone who was actively trying to seduce my wife spend the night at our house, neither will I let music that wants to dethrone my King take residence in my heart.
As I mentioned, Christians often take things to the extreme, but sometimes that’s not a bad thing. Christ called us to a radical devotion. Sometimes getting rid of unhealthy media choices is more than just “burning books,” sometimes it is legitimate conviction from the same Christ who called us to take up our cross and follow Him daily. I mean, what if this old video series is even half right? Would it change the way you view your “favorite” band/song?
I hope that in this post I have made some sense. I don’t want to come across as condemning or spiteful or try to play the role of the Holy Spirit in anyone’s life. But this is something that effects our purity and our relationship with God. I hope you see that what you listen to affects the way you think, how you act and how deep your relationship with God can be. But like Pillar once asked, “Where do we go from here?” I’d like to tell you the rest of my music story. You remember now that I was jammin’ in my car to NIN with my buddies and like Saul on the road to Damascus, God got a hold of me and asked me what I was doing. You know what happened next? I threw all of my music away, became a monk and was immediately taken into heaven like the prophet Elijah…ok, maybe not.
It took me a few months of feeling God’s conviction to fully let go of the music that did not measure up to God’s standards and the hold it had on my heart. It was a process. And, to be honest, I relapsed for a while a few years back, even knowing what I’ve written above. God had to convict my heart again as I started letting some of my “old flames” back into my music collection and started pretending I could ignore it when they spoke death over me or challenged my relationship with God. It was a process… a path. But, just as I’ve been laboring on above, I realized that my process/path was either leading me closer to God or further away. In a world at war, there is no neutral territory. I set in my heart that I wanted to be in love with Christ above all else.
Sure, I’ve probably missed a few catchy jams along the way. I’ve probably been too extreme at times and not enough at others, but I would later come to find (even through sites like this one) that there is just simply too much good music out there that easily passes the PERT PLAN filter and more than satiates my need for musical brutality to waste my time on music that openly (or not so openly) attacks the greatest Love of my life. After all, it’s not just about “mindless entertainment” that I “don’t really listen to the words anyway,” it’s about who I want to be in love with, and how the songs would impact that path. Because, in the end, we really do wrestle with principalities in the spiritual realm and live in a world at war. Music really can become a weapon. And in such a world, I’d rather stand with Demon Hunter and “storm the gates of hell” than be entertained to death by whatever happens to be popular at the moment.
“I’d be lying if I said I didn’t think I was a role model to kids…because whether you like it or not, if a kid is buying your CD, he’s looking up to you.”
Marshall Mathers/ Eminem
Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. 1 Peter 5:8
I have at least one more story I want to share with you all about my own journey with the media, but since Pastor’s appreciation month is coming up (October), I want to take the next two weeks coving a little different topic. So, check back next week for In the Silence of the Mind: Here’s How… to Destroy Your Pastor, Their Sanity, and Even Their Will to Live and the following week for its follow-up Here’s How… to “Double Honor” your Pastor. In the mean time, take a moment to use the comments section to vent, share, agree, disagree, and ponder.