To look at a work of art and then to make a judgment as to whether or not it is Christian is presumptuous. It is something we cannot know in any conclusive way. We can know only if it speaks within our own hearts and leads us to living more deeply with Christ our God.
Madeline L’Engle, Walking on Water
This. This right here is something I’ve wanted to say to so many people in my lifetime, but could never muster up words anywhere near as elegant as these.
In highscool Music History there were two words that we used throughout the entire semester; secular and sacred. We learned that what determined whether a piece of music was secular or sacred was it’s purpose and audience. This was when I discovered that Handel’s Messiah, if defined by these standards, is a secular piece. If that’s the case, then why do so many churches treat this as the Christian national anthem?
*sidenote: In case you didn’t know, the original reason for standing for the Hallelujah Chorus is in honor of the King of England, not God. Handel’s Messiah was (and is) an extremely long musical piece, so by the time the Hallelujah Chorus rolled around the king got a cramp in his leg from sitting for so long. So, in order to relieve his pain, he stood to stretch his legs. This was immediately followed by everyone else standing, because when the king stood everyone was supposed to stand.
Actually, now that I think about it the above “side note” perfectly defends my argument. So instead of going back into what I was going to say, let’s continue on with this thought…
Does that mean that when you, a good Christian-American, stand for the Hallelujah Chorus that you’re standing in honor of the King of England? No! You’re standing in honor of God! (technically, you’re standing because of a
silly tradition, but that’s not what this post is about). You have now taken something that was secular and made it something sacred. You have taken a ritual created by another culture, for another group of people and made it an act of worship.
I’ve run into many people in my life who have tried to convince me that the only music I as a Christian should listen to is “Christian” music. These people are very clear that there is no gray area. My usual response to them is asking what they think about instrumental music, or more specifically classical music. Usually that’s when they begin to stutter and find a way to make a gray area. They often back themselves into a corner saying that it depends on the intentions of the author’s heart… but seeing as we can’t possibly know that information…
How can we put a limit on what God can use for his glory? He used a talking donkey for crying out loud, how hard is it for him to use a modern rock song to reach out to people? Stop muffling God’s voice. Stop stifling his power. Start looking for him everywhere.