Good Christians Don’t Listen to…: Why A Blanket Divide on “Secular” Music Doesn’t Work

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Since first hearing their hit single Clocks, I have been an unashamed Coldplay fan. I have all their albums, will barge anyone out the way to watch them on TV and will probably bite your arm off for a Coldplay concert ticket. You could say I’m a fan.

That hasn’t always gone down with everyone. For some, Coldplay make terrible music – to which I respond, “They’re not One Direction” and that usually ends the discussion with both parties that they don’t produce real music.* For others, however, I get that they are ‘secular’ which usually gets me slapped with the label of ‘compromised’, “worldly” and a few others I generally laugh at.

Let’s be clear – not all music that is produced by unbelievers makes for good listening. There’s a distinct reason I don’t listen to secular hiphop – no matter how talented some rappers are. Now I appreciate that for some, this comes into the category of Christian liberty (a claim I would quietly question), but I’m just down with hearing a guy talks about his life as a rich man’s harem fueled by drugs and drinks with the option to end your life if you cross him. In the words of Sweet Brown, “Ain’t nobody got time for dat!”

So how do I make that work and sleep well at night? Here are a couple of thoughts:

1. A helpful text I use in determining what makes the cut for my Spotify playlists is Philippians 4:8:

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.

Some secular music (including Coldplay’s back catalogue) meets those tests – just great music covering themes from life. It may surprise you that even professing Christian music doesn’t (I almost thought to post some of the music I have in mind…but my new peaceful vibe prevailed over my crazy one).

2. Defining ‘secular’ music helps. If it’s music that is not explicitly Christian, then a lot of classical music is written off. Fur Elise is just nice music – it’s not explicitly extolling the worth of our great God, but it’s not No Church in the Wild. Some levels of discrimination and discernment have to apply somewhere. And so, I continue to enjoy Mylo Xyloto without losing any sleep – simply because it is good music, even if it is not explicitly Christ-centred.

*Shout out to any One Direction fans. Jesus loves you and so do I. Just listen to better music ;-)