At what point do a song's lyrics make it sinful to listen to?


#1

I love the Beatles, but I find a lot of components of their lyrics to be questionable. I had started a thread on this earlier, which spiraled off topic a bit. Here are some examples of songs with lyrics that make me doubt whether I should be listening to them. Are these legitimate concerns, or is this the product of scrupulosity again?

Rocky Raccoon: About a gunslinger who becomes Christian because of his encounter with Gideon’s Bible (a Protestant Bible).

Strawberry Fields Forever: The lyrics say that “nothing is real” and go on describe this hallucinogenic place called Strawberry Fields. Condoning drugs?

For No One: After breaking up with his girlfriend the singer says that it was a “love that should’ve lasted years”. We shouldn’t anticipate love to merely last for some years and then be finished with it.

Got to Get You Into My Life and While My Guitar Gently Weeps: Paul has stated again and again that Got to Get You Into My Life is about marijuana and George wrote the lyrics for While My Guitar Gently Weeps using the I Ching, an Eastern mystical scripture.

Every Little Thing and Here, There, and Everywhere: Both (along with others) portray a questionable idea of love. “Every little thing she does, she does for me” - shouldn’t it be for God - and “to love her is to need her everywhere”.

These are only a number of instances. I see similar problems in most songs. Is there something to be worried about here or not? What measurement can I use to judge whether a song is okay to listen to or not? At what point does it become grave matter?


#2

I think it’s a bit of both. We always need to be careful with the things of this world, but at the same time, we needn’t be sour-faced Puritans.

Rocky Raccoon: About a gunslinger who becomes Christian because of his encounter with Gideon’s Bible (a Protestant Bible).

The Gideon Bible is usually only the New Testament and Psalms, which we share with the Protestants. My wife still carries one of them when she travels. Besides, moving from irreligious to Christian is still a good step forwards. Finally, Rocky Raccoon is a light-hearted song; we shouldn’t over-analyze it.

Strawberry Fields Forever: The lyrics say that “nothing is real” and go on describe this hallucinogenic place called Strawberry Fields. Condoning drugs?

Yes, some of these songs were written on drugs. However, “nothing is real” (maya) is also an idea borrowed from Eastern religions, such as Hinduism. As long as you’re just listening for the music and not taking the lyrics too seriously, don’t sweat it.

For No One: After breaking up with his girlfriend the singer says that it was a “love that should’ve lasted years”. We shouldn’t anticipate love to merely last for some years and then be finished with it.

I think the song is more of a lament, grieving for a lost love. It happens. The singer is contrasting his ideal (“years” in this case means “long-term”) as opposed to the breakup that is now imminent.

Got to Get You Into My Life and While My Guitar Gently Weeps: Paul has stated again and again that Got to Get You Into My Life is about marijuana and George wrote the lyrics for While My Guitar Gently Weeps using the I Ching, an Eastern mystical scripture.

Ah, those wacky 60s. But the first of those can also be read as a simple love song. Not too sure about the I-Ching, so I’ll pass.

Every Little Thing and Here, There, and Everywhere: Both (along with others) portray a questionable idea of love. “Every little thing she does, she does for me” - shouldn’t it be for God - and “to love her is to need her everywhere”.

Aww, people say things like that when they’re in love. Even upstanding Catholics. Don’t we stay in love with our spouses and miss them when we can’t be together? This is hardly problematic.

These are only a number of instances. I see similar problems in most songs. Is there something to be worried about here or not? What measurement can I use to judge whether a song is okay to listen to or not? At what point does it become grave matter?

If a song openly endorses sinful behaviour (crime, racial violence, drug use, sexual promiscuity) then it’s best left alone.
(Example: “*@#$ Tha Police”, “Erotica”)

If the lyrics are ambiguous, use your discernment.
(Example: a lot of the Beatles’ songs)

If they’re capable of a totally harmless interpretation, knock yourself out.
(Example: Yesterday, Love Me Do, The Long and Winding Road)


#3

I asked a similar question to an old Jesuit priest about 20 years ago when I was going through RCIA. And he told me something like as long as it doesn’t cause you to begin doubting your faith then it’s okay to listen to it. I always thought that was a good answer.


#4

So you´re saying a song can be contrary to Catholic teaching or morals, but still morally permissible to listen to?


#5

When I was younger I used to listen to black sabbath, slayer, and many other bands with lyrics were less than morally acceptable. I did find in the church the position of as long as it doesn’t cause you to be far away from your faith is OK. However I also found a small minority – to be more precise only two priest – that thought that listening to music with lyrics morally wrong should not be done because most people tend to listen to music over and over and in some way you start a cycle of repetition in which a certain sentence of the song vegans to repeat in your brain. This opens a door to fail more easily into sin and as it gets recorded in your subconscious mind in a very sutile way affects your behavior. Back in the day I thought that idea was crazy and as most people have said, it is OK as long as it doesn’t drift you away from the church. Now many many years later, after stopping to listening to that kind of music (for no other reason than getting older) and noticing the change in me before and versus heavy metal I do think there is a lot of truth on what those two priests told me. I don’t think is necessarily sinful but there is an effect oh you when you listen over and over to a song with bad lyrics and most people do not notice. Music has a lot of influence in our behavior more than what we imagine. Now I avoid heavily songs with morally unacceptable lyrics and I am much more selective when it comes to music.


#6

So this would include songs like Maxwell’s Silver Hammer, This Boy (“he’ll regret it someday” - taking away the singer’s girlfriend), and You’re Going to Lose That Girl (“I’ll make a point of taking her away from you”).

How about songs like Rain (“they’d might as well be dead”), Hey Bulldog (“listen to your fears”), and I’m a Loser. There seems to be some slight objectionable content in these too.


#7

As long as you’re not subscribing to that teaching, or it doesn’t cause you to question your faith, I don’t see why not. :slight_smile:

St. Paul had no problems quoting Greek poets, after all, and they believed in Zeus and his merry men.


#8

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