Stuff Christian Culture Likes

Stuff Christian Culture Likes

#87 Getting rid of their secular music

There comes a time in every young evangelical’s life when he must roll up his sleeves, raise the black flag, and commence destroying his secular music.

As a young evangelical you arrive at the decision to get rid of your secular music because you feel “convicted.” You have read many articles about whether or not Christians can listen to secular music and the overwhelming consensus is that non-Christian music is not inherently bad, but that even good things like music can be used for bad purposes. This rings true within you somewhere. The secular music you like doesn’t talk just about happy things like Christian music does. Secular music speaks to your pain and longings. Because of this you fear that this music made by people who don’t claim to be Christians is causing you to sin.


Once the conviction about your music is in place the next order of business is deciding how to dispose of it. After deleting your unclean iTunes you have to deal with your CDs and vinyl. Burning them is the classic dramatic method, but Mike Warnke said the fire will turn blue and scream if devil music is being burned and the idea of that is too creepy to risk it actually happening. You could smash it or just throw it away, but if there is a place that will buy back CDs and you are a poor college student then you will skulk to the CD store to sell them while telling yourself that you’re not enabling anyone, if someone wants to get that devil music they will find a way so you might as well get some money for it. The guy in the CD store will say “How come you’re selling all this back? This is some good shit.” You will blink back tears and once you’re in the parking lot you will break down. You will refrain from talking about this with anyone so that the ritual will remain sacred and not a means to impress people with your sacrifice, but you are heartbroken. Certain secular lyrics could describe it so well, but you fight to keep them out of your mind. Thinking about them would defeat the purpose of selling your music in the first place.


In 83% of cases, the secular music parted with will be bought back by the evangelical. The risk of repurchasing their secular music is highest among evangelicals who do not like country music or easy-listening, because these genres are mostly considered by Christian culture to be acceptable. An evangelical can listen to these types of music with minimal wounding to her conscience. The highest rates of repurchasing occur within the first six years after purging, with a majority of them identified in the first two years. Treating a secular music penchant with Hillsong United and Carman is associated with the highest rates of secular music repurchasing.

**This post originally aired on June 30, 2009, and warrented reposting since I accidentally heard a Newsboys song yesterday.

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posted October 20, 2010 at 1:19 pm

Oh god. I once got rid of a bunch on “secular” vinyl – Beatles, Rolling Stones, Rush, The Who. Yes, I am that old, and I still regret it. Of course it is easy to get it again, which I have, along with maybe 20,000 other secular albums, but still, I feel stupid for having done so.
Whenever I listen to any “Christian” music I am mostly appalled by how syrupy and cheesy it is. I mean, most of it is just awful. Give me Radiohead or Wilco or Arcade Fire any day over any popular Christian music. Of course, as a Christian I do thank God for Radiohead, Wilco and Arcade Fire.
Before Christians throw out their secular albums they should begin first with their Christian albums. Of course, the bonfire of Christian music is less likely to produce the screams of demons as they try to escape.

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posted October 20, 2010 at 1:45 pm

I went through this. I went full circle, ended up listening to a lot of David Crowder then finally went back to Radiohead, Muse, Black Keys, and Killers. Unfortunately, I think with most CCM music sounding redundant, they will start to get more and more secular until no one buys their music. Years from now we’ll be back to square on the cycle.

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posted October 20, 2010 at 1:56 pm

Surely you can’t deny the goodness of old skool Newsboys, DC Talk, and Skillet! It’s right up there with my As I Lay Dying, Evanescence, The Who, and AC/DC. Though I’m not sure if I’d rather have Jesus Freak or Back in Black…tough choice.

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Stephen Charles

posted October 20, 2010 at 2:28 pm

Country music is from the devil. The only time I tolerate its carnal evil is when there are peanut shells under my feet, beers on the table and a slab of red meat in front of me (with a side order of extra blue cheese and loaded baked potato) that a girl named “Meagan” in a black tee shirt and jeans just brought.
Easy listening and Muzak, however, are just slightly left of heaven, but in a secular way.

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posted October 20, 2010 at 2:38 pm

i love the last paragraph–for some reasons there are entire genres that totally get a pass from the Christian-music-police. Also, don’t you find it odd that the “bad” music is by and large always *contemporary*? Music of generations past seems to get a pass too–for ex., jazz is perfectly acceptable even though it was looked on with great moral suspicion *in its day.*

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posted October 20, 2010 at 3:53 pm

I was nineteen and had just been to “Bill Gothard’s Institute in Basic Youth Conflicts.” He was convinced, or at least tried to convince us that if it even had a beat it was of the devil. In other words if it made your pants want to get up and dance it was evil. I had a quite a few eight track tapes (I know, I’m ancient)and some vinyl, which was mostly southern rock. I guess all that whisky and sweaty southern love was just wrong. I couldn’t do the burning thing; it seemed overly dramatic. I threw ’em in a dumpster. It was about a year later that I started feeling really stupid and started listening to real music again. I find most CCM to be vapid and gross.

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posted October 20, 2010 at 4:03 pm

The risk of repurchasing their secular music is highest among evangelicals who do not like country music or easy-listening, because these genres are mostly considered by Christian culture to be acceptable.
This line is brilliant, or at least it seems to be to me, because try as I might, I was never able to enjoy Christian music. To the point where I pretty much stopped listening to music, but now I listen to lots of cool stuff.
I smashed my CD’s and vinyls, and burned the liners. But I couldn’t have done that without a faithful friend to pitch the first one into the fire, it was just too painful. What a dumb spectacle I made of myself to my family.

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Clearly Crazy Mike

posted October 20, 2010 at 5:24 pm

“Licensed to Ill.” Queen’s “News of the World.” These are two of the tapes and LP’s I burned in a Weber grill when I was 15. Yes, I would like a do-over on that.

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posted October 20, 2010 at 5:42 pm

I once got it in my head that my music collection was possibly the reason I was discontent with “my walk”. I had been told that God wasn’t letting me be happy because I listened to secular music.
So, I turned the radio station one day, to the local christian radio station, listened to about three songs, and decided to never ever subject myself to that kind of horrible noise ever again. Christian music caused me to sin in ways secular music never could.
That being said, I soon realized that if I had indeed thrown out secular music, I would have had to throw out secular movies, books and video games too, else that would be one nasty double standard. And I just can not live without star wars, harry potter and graphic bloody, video games!

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posted October 20, 2010 at 6:56 pm

seriously i have been reading this blog and its comments for a little over a month and i have to say as lame as it is that i pick now to respond i will. i would not deem myself immune from the subject of this particular post, but i have no real regrets from either my “sacrifice” or subsequent repurchase of said items. i always felt like it was a test of worth vs. cost, was i willing to give up something i loved [trust me its love] to show that my faith in Christ was much more valuable; to get deep [for my teenage mind anyway] into the ideal of “to die is gain, to live is Christ”. its something i am constantly aware of in choices i make from movies to politics to music to church bodies-a filter of sorts. and as for the lack of quality of “christian” music [i hate that term] yeah a lot of it is crap, but is there a different story in secular music, i mean really [look at a billboard top 200 chart]. i would say throughout history you have keith green, rich mullins, [early] petra, steve taylor, mewithoutYOU, chevelle, over the rhine, john mark mcmillan, denison marrs, project 86, extol, the choir, pierce pettis, cool hand luke, bleach; i could go on but the point is that while there is legitimately true tripe out there, there is true art as well, and the same intellect that found radiohead, the pixies, and grizzly bear should not be so lazy in looking to find music that feeds ones spirit as well. i mean for crying out loud if one aligns himself with the basic tenants of Christendom-one would definitely have something “awesome” [in its proper usage] to sing about and to drive said art.
my two cents.

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posted October 20, 2010 at 11:45 pm

I remember my christian culture sister giving up secular music for lent. Enough said. Fans of Stephy should listen to David Bazan and Manchester Orchestra. Both lead men are pastors’ kids. Their songs are the musical equivalent to this blog.

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stephanie drury

posted October 21, 2010 at 12:51 am

Bazan was my Bible study leader once upon a time.

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posted October 21, 2010 at 1:24 am

As a kid, I was baffled that my music was inappropriate but my mom’s country was OK. She told me it was the lyrics, when I defended those it was the beat, when I pointed out Christian rock, it was the lifestyle and when I pointed out that country stars were just as sinful I was told to shut up.

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posted October 21, 2010 at 1:40 am

I didn’t go through this, but my sister, who was attending a very strict Baptist church, went through it and chucked all her Beatles and N*SYNC music and memorabilia. I was like “NOOOOOOO LANCE BASS!!” Nowadays I would have reacted the reverse, but I was 11 then and I could not fathom her throwing away our one and only N*SYNC album.
Either way it made absolutely no sense since we’d grown up listening to oldies radio stations with my dad in the car.

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posted October 21, 2010 at 4:19 am

I went through it-and my heart goes out to my CD’s that I burned in the church parkinglot in a trash can. Green Day’s Dookie, Aerosmith, The Doors so much good music it makes my tummy sick. To add to it? Yeah, we sang “Empty Me” in mocking as the flames grew higher.
But I do think the heart was right-maybe not the right approach but the intentions were there.
And yep-I did buy back quite a bit of it, although it helped purge my CD collection from getting too stale I guess. I started listening to a better variety afterwards so maybe it was Gods way of saying to listen to better music. :)~

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waking up

posted October 21, 2010 at 6:06 am

this article is an interesting read no doubt.

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posted October 21, 2010 at 8:09 am

So should we listen to classical music? It is after all secular.

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posted October 21, 2010 at 8:25 am

@ elfdream: Much of classical music is in fact religious–look at all the works written by orchestral composers from the Baroque to now that are overtly religious/spiritual. Bach, for example, was employed largely to write religious music, besides all the other stuff he wrote, including the organ works that one can hear in some churches every Sunday.
Captcha: muturan research. Is this something from Star Trek? Research on some new species discovered by the Enterprise?

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posted October 21, 2010 at 10:43 am

I agree with Steve. The overwhelming majority of classical music up until the 18th century or so is religious in origin and inspiration. Even composers like Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven all wrote masses and oratorios on Biblical themes, as well as music that wasn’t particularly religious. Only in the late 19th century do you start to get composers who didn’t consider themselves to have any religion, and even then it’s hard to think of many who were out-and-out atheists – I was going to suggest Debussy, but even he wrote music for a mystery play. According to wikipedia, Bartok, Busoni, Grainger, Janacek, Rimsky-Korsakov, Shostakovich, Richard Strauss and Varese were all atheists. So there, if you like, is a list to avoid, although you’d be missing out on some fantastic music. (I suspect Stravinsky was an atheist too, because although he wrote religious music he was hellaciously opportunistic and tended go where the money was.)

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posted October 21, 2010 at 10:44 am

(I was wrong. Stravinsky was devout Russian Orthodox, or so he claimed, anyway.)

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Flah the Heretic Methodist

posted October 21, 2010 at 11:04 am

This is one of those things that works on a teenager or young adult’s emotions, but when you view it as an adult it just seems kind of silly. I hope I can spare my child the manipulative nature of this kind of experience.

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Appalachian Prof

posted October 21, 2010 at 12:23 pm

I once got rid of a flamenco guitar vinyl record because I got all over-scrupulous about liking it “too much.” I thought that it could become an “obstacle” in my “walk with the Lord.” I remember telling a friend about this. She looked at me as if I were growing horns out of my head.
Yup, pretty dumb.
captcha: pregain Elasticity

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Samuel B.

posted October 21, 2010 at 8:48 pm

Christians forget that everyone is made in God’s image. Therefore, qualities such as creativity are given to everybody albeit obscured by sin. Secular music is usually more creative than Christian music and the emotions of the songs are likely to be more real. Whereas Christian music usually has the prosaic-happiness feel to it. There is a place for both Christian and secular music. And some secular music is too polluted with sex and language to be very wholesome but definitely not all.

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posted October 21, 2010 at 10:20 pm

This phenomenon may be the only thing that saves the secular music industry in this age of file-sharing. Christian culture is the only set of folks honest enough to pay for music and the only ones dumb enough to pay for the same music multiple times. What the recording industry needs is a PR campaign to encourage Christians to burn/throw out ALL of their secular music annually, perhaps at the start of Lent. Then go on a shopping binge to restock. Honestly there’s no reason we couldn’t get the Muslims in on this as well. They could do it for Ramadan. It would be perfect for Rosh Hashanah and their whole bit of repentence. Nothing sells product like guilt.

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posted October 21, 2010 at 11:59 pm

@ Appalachian prof.: me 2! (2nd the part about horns n stuff.)

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George, American

posted October 22, 2010 at 11:50 am

This phenomenon made it very easy to find free or affordable music when I was in high school. Just another way of “Doing Things and Avoiding Relationships©”
Captcha: not progruns

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Rich Kennedy

posted October 25, 2010 at 6:02 pm

Full disclosure. I’ve had a hard time taking much “christian” music seriously for 40 years. Nevertheless, I have felt this “conviction” as well. I dare say that so much “secular” music is not that good either. One can throw it away, burn it, or sell it back and 90% will not be missed. One hopes that when one comes to senses, that better choices can be made for purchase. Music is music. Enjoy it. Never feel guilty. Never.

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Tony D.

posted October 26, 2010 at 1:13 pm

Wait, Rimsky-Korsakov was an atheist? Wow, we sing his setting of the “Our Father” in my church…and it’s a good one, too!

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posted October 31, 2010 at 12:12 am

I have always been fascinated by this phenomena, but my husband (who did it, late highschool) always winces when I bring it up, so I never really get to talk to the one person closest to me who did it.
It doesn’t seem to be an externally pressured thing — I’ve not heard accounts of parents or youthgroup leaders specifically pushing kids to give up “secular music” . . . but I was surprised how many of my college contemporaries had done it. (Not expecting to go to conservative Christian college, I confess to being suddenly thrust deep into the evangelical subculture, with which I was only partially familiar).

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posted December 2, 2010 at 12:58 am

Wow. A large amount of people actually do this?? Just thinking about it hurts, as does thinking about CCM which makes me ears hurt.

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Your Name

posted April 29, 2011 at 12:57 am

Oh my gosh, the whole “secualr” music deal.. like we were expected to burn all our CDs or something..

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