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Is listening to secular music a sin?

The parental advisory sticker that warns parents of lyrical content
The parental advisory sticker that warns parents of lyrical content
photo by Lamont Gates

Amongst many conservative Christian groups is the belief that certain forms of entertainment that does not acknowledge God is therefore against Him and even sinful in nature. Christians of this particular persuasion often take aim at the medium of music, secular music in general, calling it a tool of the devil himself and questions the legitimacy of any Christian caught listening to it; but are these arguments biblically legitimate themselves?

The idea that the devil had an attachment to a medium also had its roots in the 18th century. At one point, a musical interval known as the 'Tritone' consisting of musical notes that make a dissonant and somewhat ominous sound was called 'The Devil in music.' Later, exaggerated stories formulated which claimed the Catholic Church banned these notes and punished anyone who used them.

In reality, these notes were heard as being too dissonant and were simply avoided. For musical reasons, the tritone went unused but the rejection of entire songs based on the belief that they radiated evil qualities, seemed to explode in the 20th century to which, the 21st century still has a remainder of these enemies to secular music. Not surprisingly, clergy themselves have led the way.

Pastor John Hagee, who is no stranger to religious controversy, rehashed the sediments of many Christians in the 1950s and the 1960s who believed that the genre of Rock and Roll was the devil's music. Hagee in a sermon is quoted as saying,

I've had parents explain to me, 'Well, I let my teenager listen to Rock music because that's all he'll listen to.' Let me tell you something, the lyrics to real Rock music is nothing more than satanic cyanide. Get it out of your house, throw it out and burn it. It has no place, in the house of the righteous."

Many Christians have also taken it as far as to agree with the notion that the devil at one point was a musical director in Heaven, and since his fall from grace, he has had control over all secular music that has ever been played, recorded and released. Followers of this notion have even tried to quote biblical passages that warn other Christians of the dangers of listening to such music.

From their point of view, the only acceptable type of music that should be adored by Christians universally is Gospel or simply Christian music. The idea that this type of music alone is pleasing to God and spiritually beneficial to the Christian listener however is smacked with what's known as a Catch-22. The devil being a heavenly music director and a biblical view of the situation at hand poses a dilemma for such rigid views as well.

The production of Christian music on the surface paints the picture of a musical group whose focus is on God. By this, it is understood why certain Christians see it as the only type of music all Christians should be listening to. However, as the story of the Christian Rock group 'As I Lay Dying' goes, this picture isn't the true image of many Christian Gospel singers at all.

Former lead singer of this Christian band, Tim Lambesis admitted in an interview that not only had he converted to being an Atheist, but that he also lied to his Christian audience as well concerning his conversion for monetary reasons. When directly asked if he was lying by the Alternative Press, he said,

Yes...I was afraid it would affect As I Lay Dying sales, which would affect my overall income. I was trying to put out the fire by saying the easiest thing, “I’m not a satanist!” Truthfully, I was an atheist. The “strategy” I had at the time was cowardly."

Lambesis also went on to reveal that many Christian bands that he toured with, weren't really Christian either.

We toured with more “Christian bands” who actually aren’t Christians than bands that are. In 12 years of touring with As I Lay Dying, I would say maybe one in 10 Christian bands we toured with were actually Christian bands."

With that in mind, how much spiritual nourishing were the Christians listening to these false Christians actually receiving? As far as scripture is concerned, the passages that these strict minded Christians quote never actually talk against music itself, rather against the real sins of the world. In fact, the book of Ezekiel probably gives the reader the clearest example of how God views secular music.

In Ezekiel 33:32, God is speaking to the prophet Ezekiel concerning what he is compared to in the face of the Judeans that were exiled with him. The passage reads,

And lo, you are to them as a love song of one that has a beautiful voice, and can play well on an instrument; so they hear your words, but they do them not."

The Hebrew word here for the word love is 'Agaveem.' This is the plural of the singular noun 'Agav' which doesn't just simply mean love, but sensual love as in, to make love with someone. In essence, God is comparing His prophet to a love making song and said the people listen to it, but doesn't do it.

If God sees secular music as such, then perhaps the sin isn't listening to the music, but actually acting on a sin. It is fully understandable as to why Christians don't condone lyrics of a violent nature, but all secular music isn't padded with such explicit impact, even though the more conservative Christians would cast all secular music in the same bag.

Even still, there would be a difference in simply listening to such a song and actually promoting and putting into practice its violent words. As for the devil being a music director in Heaven, there seems to be a confusion between the devil and Apollo of Greek Mythology who was known as the god of music. The scriptures make it clear that music was invented by humans.

Genesis 4 spoke about a man named Lamekh who married two women and had children with them. One of the children named Yooval was said to be the father of all grasping a harp and reed pipes. This would mean Yooval created the first earthly music note, with no mention of the devil coaching him. However, it is always easier to blame the old serpent for everything.

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