I’ve been talking a lot about books recently. About stories, worldviews, characters, and authors. It’s time to shift gears a little bit. Understanding what we’re reading is very important because we generally don’t read things passively. We’re engaged, taking in what is happening and paying close attention to the characters and the story. A dangerous book is dangerous exactly because it has our attention. There are other forms of media, however, that are dangerous in exactly the opposite way: because we’re soaking it in without even thinking about it.
I listen to music a lot. I listen to it when I write, when I do homework, when I’m at work, and when I’m cleaning my apartment. My music library has over 3,000 songs and stretches across the genres of rock, metal, pop, country, dubstep, electronic, a capella, rap, and singer/songwriter. I like music. But it’s dangerous.
It’s dangerous exactly because we don’t really pay attention to what we’re listening to. We may even know the lyrics and be able to sing along, but we don’t really register what the lyrics are talking about. When people say “but I don’t pay attention to the words,” I don’t doubt the sincerity or even the honesty in that statement. As a matter of fact, it’s this same approach to music that often plagues our worship services, making it difficult for us to keep our minds in the proper place even while singing hymns such as “Here I Am to Worship” and “Hosanna.” Just because we don’t pay attention, however, doesn’t mean that it doesn’t affect us.
The effects of music lyrics on the brain is not simply a matter of opinion, it’s been proven, at the very least in relation to violence (http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2003/05/030505084039.htm). If it’s true for violence, why wouldn’t it be true for objectification of women? For a flippant attitude toward Christianity? For profanity? For materialism?
I’m not enough of a crank to believe that Christians are trying to put negative influences in their lives. I am enough of a crank, however, to believe that sometimes Christians do (contrary to what they should do) recognize the danger and convince themselves that it won’t affect them.
“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.” – Philippians 4:8
There is not a single piece of media on God’s green Earth that is neutral. Everything affects us, whether positively or negatively. Different things affect us to different degrees, but everything has an effect on us. With music, it can often be subtle. The lyrics are seldom subtle, but it’s in the background, we’re passive participants.
So if we want to be following the principle of Philippians 4:8, we need to KNOW. We need to know what we’re putting into our heads. Ignorance is no excuse; we must be aware and evaluate everything. Otherwise, we may find our minds slipping farther and farther into depravity, not knowing how it got there, and then we will be without excuse.