We need good music.
We need Palestrina and Bach and Mozart and Beethoven and Mendelssohn and so many others. We need good Renaissance and Baroque and Classical and Romantic music. We need good cantatas and passions and chorales and chorale preludes. We need our modern church composers, for what would I do Sunday after Sunday without my trusty Hymn Prelude Library? We need beautiful, classical, and sacred music that uplifts the soul and draws us to heaven, or refreshes the spirit, or teaches our children what truth, beauty, and goodness sound like.
But just as much as all of that, we need good modern secular pop music.
What music are you listening to daily?
I’m sure that most of the people reading this article know and appreciate the music of Johann Sebastian Bach. I’m sure that most devout, musical Christians in the pew (or on the bench) Sunday after Sunday could tell you their top five favorite hymns and name at least one hymn that is appropriate for most Sundays of the Church Year without giving a moment’s thought to it. Certainly pastors, seminarians, deaconesses, church musicians, Lutheran teachers, administrators, and faithful lay leaders could name dozens of hymns rich in theology and even write a CPH blog post reflecting on these hymns. And all these people must be continually fed with this rich banquet of music.
But consider the people you encounter every day—what music are they listening to? What music are you listening to day-to-day? Maybe you are constantly listening to hymns and classical music; but I can tell you that, personally, I am very often listening to modern secular pop music. I believe the same is true for many of my friends and acquaintances. I recently wrote an article asking about the music stuck in your head. I think we can easily say that sacred and classical music is good for us to consume and have stuck in our heads, but for how many of us is that always the truth?
People listen to pop
In reality, most Americans, most Christians even, are listening to modern pop music (“pop” here referring to any sort of popular music—standard pop, rap, hip hop, R&B, etc.) It is what we are naturally drawn to. But what is our pop music, generally speaking? It is immoral, it is crass, it is crude, it is repetitive, it is simple, it is depressing, it is nihilistic, it is dishonest, or it is simply unenjoyable. Despite these things, or perhaps because of these things, this music is permeating, indeed creating, our culture.
Yes, we need good and excellent sacred music and we need to continue to teach people about the great composers. But the truth is, we especially need good secular pop music. Why? Because that is what people listen to. It is our culture, and we should take it back from those who would turn it into something full of despair and immorality. Good secular music means that it is not necessarily music and lyrics explicitly discussing the Gospel, but it is music that talks about life experiences through a Christian lens and without arrogance and ultimate despair. Christians creating good secular music means that we can enjoy listening to a favorite genre of fun music with the refreshing knowledge that the lyrics we are hearing are good and true and hopeful. It is important to note that good and true and hopeful lyrics do not mean blithely and naively happy lyrics, but rather robust and true lyrics with a knowledge of our ultimate hope.
When God gave the Ten Commandments, He did not do it to arbitrarily declare some laws to make life more inconvenient for us humans. Instead, the Ten Commandments are God’s loving law to tell us what is good. If we all followed them perfectly, our lives would be amazing. We would be a world of God-fearing people who did not lie, steal, cheat, divorce, murder, hurt, harm, or suffer with comparison.
Of course, we do not follow them perfectly; however, we Christians hold the key to true joy. We know what makes a good life. Generally, our lives are enviable: we have a strong and united community, faithful spouses, loving children, a purpose for our lives, a confidence in our future, and a hope after death. So why not sing about it to the world? Why not craft songs that make the faith attractive even without explicitly mentioning it? I am not talking here about contemporary Christian music but about full-fledged secular pop music. This is what many people, even Christians, listen to daily. We need music that is good, that is fun, that is appealing, yet music that is refreshing and truthful.
Do not let the sinful world take the culture away from us. We have true hope, true joy, true goodness, true beauty, true truth. Why not share it with the world?
If you're looking for a good place to start, consider the Lutheran Service Book: Guitar Chord Edition to begin creating acoustic versions of your favorite hymns.