Watchtower 1983 January 15 pp.7-10 Modern Trends in Music—Can They Sway You?
Modern Trends in Music—Can They Sway You?
NOW what about modern music—rock, punk, funk, rhythm and blues, country and western and all the other diverse trends that proliferate today? Can they, with or without lyrics, influence your way of thinking or undermine your spirituality?
Bill Mullane, former rock musician from New Jersey, U.S.A., explained it this way: "When I was playing bass guitar in a rock group the whole effect was physical. The insistent rampaging beat and the aggressive style just got through to you. As a musician I became a part of it. Then, as I watched the audience respond and get swept along with the same primitive urges, I wanted to affect them more. It's that kind of sound. It grabs you. Of course, at that time I was often under the influence of drugs, even as many in the audience were. So the euphoria grows. You know, it's like casting off all restraint. You can go wild and forget your inhibitions.
"That's why I think the young people go for many of the different sounds coming out these days. They identify with them and their message. Looking back I can see that it reflects the way they feel about the world and modern life. After all, a nuclear threat hangs over mankind. Who knows how long we may live? So they adopt the attitude of 'Live while you can. Get out of life all you can.'"
That comment about identification leads us to the crux of the matter. (Compare 1 Corinthians 15:32.) Should a genuine Christian want to identify with most of the trends in modern music? Recently the Toronto Star, a Canadian newspaper, reported: "Sex and sadism merge in the Tubes [San Francisco rock group] concert." The writer went on to comment: "What is social satire to The Tubes may be just plain sado-masochism, sex in bondage, profanity and perversion to anybody else." What can Christianity have in common with that?
The New York Post carried an article entitled "Satanic World of the Rolling Stones." It was a full-page résumé of that group's involvement in drugs. The Rolling Stones' attitudes on drugs, sex and Satan come through loud and clear in their music. Can you harmonize with such attitudes and still identify with Christ?—2 Corinthians 6:14, 15.
Music and Spiritism
Unfortunately, these are not the only dangers in much modern music that the conscientious Christian must take into account. The apostle Paul urged Christians: "Put on the complete suit of armor from God that you may be able to stand firm against the machinations ["crafty acts," The Kingdom Interlinear Translation of the Greek Scriptures] of the Devil; because we have a wrestling . . . against the world rulers of this darkness, against the wicked spirit forces in the heavenly places." (Ephesians 6:11, 12) We should never take this warning too lightly. Demonic influence is rampant, and what better way is there to dupe people, especially the up-and-coming generation, than through music?
It now turns out that many modern groups are deeply involved in spiritism and occult practices. Others try to promote Oriental religion and philosophy through their music. For example:
Robert Palmer, a jazz critic writing for The New York Times under the heading "Witchery Pervades a Jazz Album," commented about the black jazz group called The Art Ensemble of Chicago, stating: "The Art Ensemble of Chicago's slogan is 'Great Black Music—Ancient to the Future' . . . But there is more than one sort of blackness here. There is . . . the blackness of voodoo spells cast in the dead of night. It isn't exactly a malevolent blackness, but this is not the sort of record one would put on at even the wildest party. . . . It is a phantasmagorical expedition into the heart of darkness." As a disciple of Christ would you want that type of music in your collection?
In view of what Paul said to the Ephesian Christians about wicked spirit forces, would it be reasonable for a modern-day Christian to have records in his personal collection that exalt demonism and spiritism? If he knows that some groups are deeply involved in occult studies and practices, would it be safe to assume that none of that influence would creep through into the lyrics, the beat or even the record-album cover?
For example, one group plays a piece called "Mr. Crowley." Who is Mr. Crowley? A 20th-century satanist and promoter of modern witchcraft! In many cases, one look at the album cover should be enough for a Christian witness of Jehovah to decide whether to buy the record or not, especially when there are portrayals of witchcraft and demonism, or symbols of paganism and the occult.
Former nightclub performer Gordon Grant, who once earned his living playing jazz and then rock in Los Angeles, U.S.A., stated: "All the groups that I was associated with were to some degree into spiritism. The opening gambit when you met someone new was 'What's your sign?' They took astrology seriously and your zodiac sign was important." Do you want to be identified with astrology and other demonic practices?—Deuteronomy 18:10-13.
Music and Immorality
The apostle Paul gave more straight counsel in his letter to the Ephesians that applies equally today and in the realm of music. He exhorted: "Let fornication and uncleanness of every sort or greediness [including sexual greediness] not even be mentioned among you, just as it befits holy people; neither shameful conduct . . . nor obscene jesting."—Ephesians 5:3-5.
You parents and young people: Have you checked the lyrics of some of the discs that are on sale—or that are perhaps already in your home? Maybe you think the music is catchy, or perhaps it has a beat that you like. At first you do not worry about the words and soon you find yourself humming the melody. Even some skating rinks are featuring this type of music. Would it be proper for Jehovah's Witnesses to be skating around, joining in with the music? 'But where is the danger in this?' you might ask.
In their music, popular groups are putting across fornication and drugs as a way of life. Yes, their music conveys their life-style. "I wanna see what you're like in bed" and "She's hot, she's sexy," are lyrics from one recent album. One famous singer expresses his point of view right on the album cover, in saying: "I can't see anything wrong with sex between consenting anybodies. . . . I don't believe in overly moralistic philosophies." What possible meeting of the minds can there be between true Christians and the attitudes manifested in such lyrics and philosophy? Should Christ's followers be identifying with this 'alienated thinking'?—Ephesians 4:18; compare Genesis 39:7-12.
Music and the Older Generation
It is easy for the older generation to think that all of this applies only to the younger people and their music. But what about the song hits of 20 and 30 years ago that nostalgics still enjoy? "Big Spender" portrayed a prostitute trying to "hook" a client. "Fever" was a thinly disguised description of intense sexual desire. "Never on Sunday" was also a prostitute's song. How many at that time enjoyed such melodies, without giving thought to their connections?
We could continue to give examples that show the subtlety of Satan's crafty schemes in getting us to entertain, through music, debased thoughts and philosophies that we would normally reject immediately. What does this illustrate? That all of us, young and old, need to take a serious look at the kind of music we have been enjoying. Without even realizing it we may have been identifying ourselves with this world's "low sink of debauchery."—1 Peter 4:4.
There is food for thought here for every Christian—whether an elder in a congregation, a parent, a young person or a child. Limitations of space prevent us from presenting all the available evidence regarding the degrading effects of some "serious" and modern music idioms. But every conscientious Christian would do well to examine his tastes in music and also whatever record collection he may have, and act in harmony with sound Scriptural reasoning.
What Can a Christian Do?
When Paul preached in Ephesus his ministry was so successful that many practicers of the occult accepted Christianity and took action to safeguard their future spirituality. The record says: "Indeed, quite a number of those who practiced magical arts brought their [spiritistic] books together and burned them up before everybody. And they calculated together the prices of them and found them worth fifty thousand pieces of silver. Thus in a mighty way the word of Jehovah kept growing and prevailing."—Acts 19:18-20.
Will Jehovah's Word keep growing and prevailing in your case? If it is necessary, will you take action so that you can be considered a worthy member of Jehovah's "holy people"? (Ephesians 5:3) Recently, when this issue was placed squarely before one large group of full-time servants of Jehovah, several trash cans full of albums were turned in and destroyed simply because of their immoral content, demonic tendency or advocacy of this world's degraded life-style. The important factor was not their value in monetary terms but their possible detrimental effect on spiritual values.
Some may feel that we should be more specific about certain modern groups or types of music. However, the apostle Paul says: "Solid food belongs to mature people, to those who through use have their perceptive powers trained to distinguish both right and wrong." (Hebrews 5:14) The mature Christian, by exercising his Bible-trained conscience, should have no difficulty in discerning which types of music are acceptable. Jehovah's Witnesses do not require a talmudic list of prohibitions to guide their conduct or an "Index" of forbidden music. Let each one use discernment as he seeks to please his heavenly Father in all things, including his choice of music.—Ephesians 5:18-20; Philippians 1:9-11.
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Do your records advocate spiritism, drugs or immorality?