Music: Sound vs. Substance

Dear Community,

I’m a new convert to Catholicism–my Meet ‘n’ Greet post can be found on page 9 of the thread of the same name if you’re really interested–and I was wondering about the overall opinion on non-Christian music. Specifically, I was wondering how individuals felt about the argument over the sound of a music (for example, you enjoy deep bass, strong vocals, soft acoustics, crooners, etc. based solely on the sounds that are created) versus the substance of the verse (for example, you enjoy the sound of a song but disagree with the lyrics.) As an example, Rob Zombie (I know your left eyebrow has already begun its ascent–patience) is a personal favorite artist of mine. I’m going to see him live for the second time next month, and I’m really looking forward to it.

Now, while Rob Zombie’s lyrics are not explicitly Satanic (in fact , they have little to do with religion of any sort), they’re certainly far from the Word of God. However, his style is irresistible–he’s got one of the best stage shows around, and the sounds he produces are right up my alley–and I’m more than used to being surrounded by anti-Christian sentiment. Almost all the people I hang around with–closest friends included–are either uncomfortable talking about religion or expressly anti-religious. I am the token “Catholic friend” that many people have, and despite their nudging over the many years we’ve spent together, I’ve ended up on the winning side of the wide majority of arguments (even moreso now that I’m studying apologetics). I think it would be a bit overly proud to describe myself as “unshakable in faith,” but I’m certainly not in danger of converting over a trifle.

Now, keeping in mind the following:

-I am one hundred percent sober one hundred percent of the time, as I have always been
-I am a devout Christian and rigid anti-Satanist
-I am a normal American teenager–I like my rock music turned up to eleven
-I don’t follow everything I see blindly–even my Christian faith was throughly researched before being accepted

Is still proper to attend such concerts, support such artists, and make such music part of regular life as a Catholic? Is it a matter of sentiment? Does the answer vary from person to person?

Perhaps most importantly of all, does listening to rock music and deeply researching my religion in order to defend it make me weaker in faith than one who abstains from the aforementioned compositions, yet whose studies in and contributions to their congregation and community (especially in defense of their faith, including lack of knowledge in order to provide proper rebuttals to nonbelievers) are minimal to nonexistent?

As an endnote, I would like to add that this is the first thread I have started. While I see that there is an option to add a poll, I hold strong in the belief that polls restrict the option to elaborate on opinion. I would appreciate that my philosophy be respected, and that no opinion be provided without a sufficient defense in its favor.


Hi, I love your post. I see myself in it - like thirty years ago. :slight_smile: I think you can appreciate the musicality - the technicality - of music that you don’t necessarily appreciate the lyrics of .

You’ll find that it’s worse as you age. :smiley: I love hard rock. I hate some of the lyrics, but I have learned that if the overall intent of the song is in keeping with my outlook on life, I am okay. It is almost a challenge I give myself to practice tolerance: am I going to deny myself the enjoyment of this really great band because their lyrics aren’t clean enough for me? Can I enjoy their music and celebrate it anyway, even though it is representative of the failures and sins in humanity? I try to, if I really love the music! Music and film have been very important in my life, and have enriched it repeatedly. If I had denied myself all non-Christian music and film, good heavens but I would have cheated myself of a lot of wonderful experiences. In a way, I guess I believe that all music that is very moving - even hard rock - is from God. As are all forms of beauty, music and art that moves us or teaches us in a manifestation of God on earth. That’s what I believe. Haven’t you heard God in a beautiful melody?

I cannot expect every singer/songwriter to fall in line with my morals, but I can decide whether or not I respect his/her overall messages. For that reason, I don’t listen to rap. I don’t respect it. Even when there are no four-letter words, which is rare, I find that I don’t like the “look at me I’m so cool” attitude of it as a genre. I find that kind of cockiness very offensive and blatantly anti-Christian. If it’s “all about me” it ain’t about Christ.

It’s a hard dance to do - as you are saying - when you want to enjoy your youth, and your life, and the opportunities for entertainment around you, but so much is not Christian. I don’t think you have to give it all up. I think that as you grow as a person and mature as a Christian over time, those things will simply be less attractive to you, and you will walk away without much of a second thought. But until that time, you can choose to enjoy music and entertainment that is not in perfect line with your thinking. Just as you have said, you hold on to who you are, and that is all that matters.

BTW, I have always had friends that were not Christian, until recently. At this point in my life, I am tired of defending myself. I want to have the comfort of like souls around me. People who are anti-Christian just seemed more and more self-driven and childish to me. I want friends I can respect, not just have fun with. Hopefully, you and I will find friends who are BOTH to us, right? :wink:

It depends for me. The overall sound, beat and rhythm of the song is important, but I’m the kind who has a music video in my head to a song, usually a self-made one, to a book or program or story I’ve read… So the lyrics count there too.

I don’t mind a BIT of swearing, and suggestive content, but there’s a very clear line on what I enjoy listening to. No rap sex, no hip hop girls in de club, I don’t like it. I like dramatic songs, like Citizen Soldier, or a real energetic song, like Ignition, or a fanciful one like Fireflies. All perfectly clean, but not somehting you’d find in the Christian Section

Welcome to CAF, smithsyndicate! :wave:

I think you’ll find a variety of opinions here at CAF. It may shock you, but there are many Catholics here who also like to rock out, even to (gasp! :eek:) secular music.

If you’re interested in apologetics and rock music, I think you will probably enjoy this article by apologist Jimmy Akin:

Bad Music

I am a big fan of hard rock / heavy metal. I have been since second grade. Most of the stuff I listen to is pretty obscure (Dream Theater, Sonata Arctica, Nightwish, Blind Guardian, etc., etc…Rob Zombie’s a little too mainstream for my tastes :p). I’ve been to a dozen or so concerts over the years as well, though I haven’t been to one since I’ve gotten married and had kids.

I think the most important thing is to know yourself. I know people who, upon their conversion, felt it necessary to purge their CD collection of whole genres of music because listening to that stuff took them back to that time in their life when they were not striving for holiness (to put it delicately). They needed to do that, and I completely understand and respect that. Rock/metal holds no such negative associations for me. I simply enjoy it.

Personally, I don’t feel the need for each and every artist to which I listen to conform 100% to my worldview. I do greatly enjoy Christian metal when it’s done well. Theocracy is a great band for that (try listening to the awesome Laying the Demon to Rest). But not every band I listen to is like that. Some are quite critical of Christianity. That has never led me to question my faith. If anything, it bolsters my faith as I see how weak their arguments are against Christianity. :slight_smile: It also makes me want to pray for them as I see what life is like without recourse to the Lord. I guess I also find it interesting just to see how other people think and why they believe what they do. If you don’t understand where people are coming from, how can you evangelize them effectively? The rock/metal world needs people to be leaven for them.

I should say, though, that I do avoid the stuff that appears a bit “evil”. I just can’t enjoy black metal / death metal / etc. I can handle criticism of Christianity, especially as it most often comes from what they perceive as hypocrisy amongst Christians. However, I cannot tolerate open blasphemy. It just turns me off in a big way. I have known a handful of Christian/Catholic guys who do like those darker types of music. I’m not sure exactly how they align that with their faith. :shrug: I suppose the best way to sum up my philosophy in this regard is: I don’t mind people being critical of God or Christians (because it often stems from misunderstanding and pains they have endured in their lives), but I have a problem with people glorifying evil (or the evil one).

I have spent a lot of time thinking about this over the years. When I first moved from a lukewarm faith to a more lively one, I worked through all these hard questions. We shouldn’t be afraid of truth, nor of God’s will for our lives. If God wants us to chuck our music collection for love of Him, we should be ready to do that. After much thought and prayer, I came to the conclusion that He wasn’t calling me to do that. But He does call some people to do that. Don’t be afraid to take time to pray about it and see what He may be calling you to do.

In addition to taking stock of how an individual song/artist effects you, I think it’s also important to look at the cumulative effect. I always listened to this type of music, but I never really hung out with the metal “crowd.” I am always the token “metalhead” (along with my brother) in any group of Catholic people. :slight_smile: If my circle of friends was different, that could have changed how the music effected me.

Sorry for being a bit lengthy. I like to talk about music (and about myself, apparently :o).

I’d like to point out real fast that you guys are great–this is why I joined this forum in the first place. People who know what they’re talking about.

Edit: Theocracy rocks my face off; “Laying the Demon to Rest” is a new favorite.

Happy to oblige! :tiphat:

Great link Joe! Thanks for posting.

smithsyndicate - I think you got some pretty good answers (and make sure you read Jimmy Akin’s blog linked above).

I’ll give you a practical example. I really enjoy Van Halen. Now there is some very questionable material in there. When I was younger, I justified it a bit saying it was great music, just bad lyrics. Or I’d spin the lyrics meaning a bit. When it was all said and done though, now I turn off those songs. {Running with the devil}

There are other songs out there that have GREAT beats that get me going but I turn them off IMMEDIATELY because they attack our Lord or our faith. {Man in the box}

But there are other songs where the lyrics are secondary to the music. As long as they don’t specifically attack my Lord or faith, eh. {Margaritaville}

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