I was recently involved in a discussion on a fun blog about whether or not it is possible and okay to listen to someone’s music without your opinion of it being tainted by the artist who wrote it. It’s an interesting question, and brought up much good discussion. For instance, there are some artists today that we, as believers, clearly wouldn’t support. Yet, several classical composers were no better in their personal life, but we don’t revolt at their work. How do you draw the line? Where do you draw the line? Is there even a line?
It’s a good question. My first thought was that a lot of it is a matter of conscience. Paul talked about this in regards to eating food sacrificed to idols. If you feel like it’s wrong to eat meat sacrificed to idols, but you eat it anyway, then regardless of whether or not it’s in the rule book, to you, that is sin (1Cor 8:7-11). I believe that in the same way, if you know the author/composer of a song is not right with God, and that fact makes you feel funny about their music, it’s sin to you if you continue to purchase and listen to it. Rules aside, if it offends your conscience, be done.
And by “conscience”, I don’t only mean whether or not you feel the sting of conviction as you’re standing in the checkout line (although it certainly includes that). The problem with conscience is that we can tune it out if we try hard enough. Armed with the right arguments and enough busyness to keep ourselves occupied, we can drown out that little voice if we don’t want to hear it. By “conscience”, I mean talking to the Holy Spirit with an open heart. Ask Him — often — what He thinks of your music selection. Be willing to listen. And if He says something goes, it goes.
However, as I was writing this response on the aforementioned comment thread, I was reminded of something else the Apostle Paul said. “All things are lawful… not all things are helpful” (1Cor 6:12, 10:23). Can you get away with listening to something that’s in the gray area? Sure. Is it helpful to your heart to do so? Probably not. I actually feel confident enough to say certainly not.
If you are listening to a “borderline” artist — someone whose music is cool but whose life is not — you have some fluffy fun entertainment at best, and a drain on your inner man at worst. What do you have to lose? So what if I can’t keep up with the latest top 40 charts? So what if I never get to experience so-and-so’s really amazing sound and cutting-edge rhythms? Will my life be tangibly worse off? …No, not really.
But what if I pursue those things, telling myself, “Well, it’s just harmless music. Who cares who wrote it?” and it proves to be not quite so harmless after all? Then I have lost. Especially considering that music is much more powerful than we give it credit for (which is another post entirely), I would much rather needlessly miss out on the latest greatest musician than accidentally let that same musician cost me something in my inner man.
Thus enters the title of this post. Ditch first, ask questions later. For real. I’ve had a couple of rounds of purging in my DVD collection, and I can testify from experience. If you don’t get rid of that thing as soon as you feel that uncomfortable nudge (or punch in the face) of conviction, you will talk youself out of it. “Well, it only has that one scene in it.” “Well, there’s just that one line in the one verse.” “Well, nobody’s perfect; what’s the big deal if I like this person’s music?” “I can just skip those pages in the middle where it gets sketchy.” The more you rationalize, the less responsive you will be to the leading of the Spirit. That’s just the truth.
I’m going to say this pretty strongly: if you feel the Holy Spirit might be leading you to get rid of something, but you’re not sure, GET RID OF IT. It’s totally not worth the gamble. I have not regretted anything I’ve thrown away, ever. I’ve had the occasional nostalgia about it, going, “Aww, but I liked that movie.” I’ve had moments of wanting to see it/read it/hear it again, just one more time. But I don’t sleep any worse at night for not having it. Sometimes I sleep better.
Movies, books, music, and any other avenue of entertainment, are always something we can live without. You lived without it before it came out, and you can live without it after it’s been released. Even if throwing it away is not always necessary, if you do it in sincerity of heart in the pursuit of 100% obedience, it is never damaging. Don’t sweat it. Just get rid of it. We have far more pleasurable ways to invest our time anyway.