Music is one of the most popular and influential forms of entertainment available to us today, and for many people it is consumed almost constantly. It is one of our most constant sources of data, and can have the power to both express and process very strong, intense emotions.
But for all that is good and powerful about music, there is also the potential for grave evil. Many popular artists speak horribly of women, sex, religion, alcohol and drugs, and not only mention, but encourage evil, depraved behavior in their music.
Even for songs that are not violently inappropriate, it is neither uncommon nor unexpected for secular musicians to hold a view of human sexuality, drinking and drugs that is incompatible with the Catholic view. There are two primary reasons that loyal Catholics ought to avoid this music entirely.
First of all, it can gradually affect our ability to judge moral decisions and to view human beings, including ourselves, with the proper dignity. The second reason is that there are alternatives.
For the purposes of this essay, I am going to be treating “secular music” as a term referring to the productions of all musicians who make regular use of lyrics and who do not have Christian faith as a common and recurring theme in their music. Not every song has to be a worship song to make it come from a Christian artist, but they should regularly make songs dealing with themes in their faith walk.
The first reason that Christians ought to avoid secular music is that it, frankly, is dangerous to our minds and souls. Please, hold back your torches for a moment, and allow me to finish. I am not claiming that listening to any song is going to necessarily or immediately cause you to sin (though some might), but rather that consistently listening to something antithetical to the Catholic faith is going to slowly alter your way of thinking.
Many (though not all) secular artists freely speak of their treatment of sex, drugs, alcohol and violence in a way that is directly contrary to Catholic teaching. Why would any Christian willingly expose themselves to that?
Ultimately our end in this life is not entertainment, nor is it comfort. It’s salvation, and we should be seeking the highest level of holiness we can attain.
Christ says in the Bible to “be perfect, just as your heavenly father is perfect.” Obviously that’s not fully possible in this life. But shouldn’t we take action towards perfection in small matters so that we become more capable of such choices in larger matters?
Entertainment is one such small matter. Constantly absorbing such content can’t not affect you, at least a little bit.
To put it in a different way, we often find that we speak and think like the people around us speak and think. Why would we bring speech or ideas into our lives that is even slightly against our beliefs when it is just for entertainment purposes?
We are choosing music for ourselves, and when we choose music that is contrary to our beliefs we are intentionally and slowly sabotaging our own attempts at perfection. Even relatively benign songs and artists rarely have absolutely nothing objectionable, and those rare examples often take far too much effort to find, not to mention that we rarely stay only with the “clean” songs an artist or genre creates.
The other reason to avoid secular music is that, frankly, we have other options. A person who doesn’t listen to secular pop is not left without any music at all, they just have to make a decision to avoid specific artists. Thanks to a Christian music industry that is constantly seeking to stay up-to-date with the rest of the music world, it is possible to listen to a massive variety of genres and artists that explicitly create music to glorify God and draw the listeners closer to him.
This isn’t a choice between gospel music or pop. It’s a choice between pop music that talks about sex and alcohol or pop music that talks about fighting sin and pursuing Christ.
If we are going to be serious about our pursuit of a life of Christian virtue, we should direct all our actions towards that goal. Choosing music that goes against our beliefs is failing do that, and should always be avoided.