The values of society are often expressed in music. Songs tell us a lot about ourselves and what we would like to be. Historians can analyze past cultures by looking at the period's music. When future historians look back on our age, how will they view our society? What will they think of our ideals when they examine our popular songs?
The average teenager listens to rock music several hours a day. They wake up to it, eat to it, study to it, sleep to it. They plug in their earphones and jog to it. What values are they absorbing? Health and nutrition experts tell us, "You are what you eat." This principle also has a spiritual and moral application. Listening to rock music is the equivalent of eating from a garbage can. So much of today's music is ugly, its themes are corrupt; it wallows in vulgarity.
A number of influential women in Washington, along with the National Parent-Teacher Association, focused national attention on this problem last fall. In testimony before a Senate Committee, they pointed out how suggestive, violent, and obscene rock lyrics had become. Susan Baker, the wife of Treasury Secretary James Baker, pointed out that a growing number of songs glorify "rape, sadomasochism, incest, the occult and suicide." She expressed her concern that the increased emphasis on violence and sex in music was simply "a form of child abuse."(1)
A Brief Look Back
Rock 'n' roll has had its critics from the very beginning. "In 1954 outraged parents formed the Crusade for Decent Discs and lobbied radio stations to ban rock's 'jungle' sounds."(2) Elvis' gyrating pelvis shocked television audiences. He began a trend that has grown worse and worse.
The 1950s and early 1960s brought Buddy Holly, Fats Domino, Jerry Lee Lewis and the Beach Boys. The Beatles lead the British invasion in the mid-1960s. By today's standards, they were fairly clean cut when they first appeared on the Ed Sullivan show. Yet, in a few years their mop-tops grew longer and their music began to reflect an experimentation with drugs. By the late 1960s the light-hearted love songs of early rock 'n' roll had given way to songs of rebellion, protest, drugs and sex. "I want to hold your hand" was replaced with "Let's spend the night together."
The 1970s saw the beginnings of punk with its message of anarchy. That mindless drivel called disco flourished for several years, but in time it faded in popularity. By the mid-1980s rock was dominated by such avant-garde stars as Boy George, The Eurythmics, Madonna, Twisted Sister, Prince, ad nauseam. Performers have become increasingly bizarre. Today's music scene is not only characterized by the above mentioned vices, but also by perversion. The Bible says, "Evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived" (2 Tim. 3:13). We see this happening before our very eyes.
The punk movement originated in the white industrial ghettos of England in the early 1970s. Punks try to shock adults by their outlandish dress and crudeness. They often dye their hair several colors and/or cut it into mohawks. They sometimes mutilate themselves by sticking pins through their faces or carving messages on their arms with knives. The punk symbol is an "A" for anarchy, and they have a total disrespect for authority. Their nihilistic message aff irms that social chaos and destruction are inevitable. It is revealing to simply notice the names of certain punk groups: Suicidal Tendencies, Septic Death, Nazi Punks, Sex Gang Children, and Social Destruction.
Heavy Metal Bands
Heavy Metal groups have a militant - almost fascist tone. They wear black, spiked uniforms. Their hair is usually long, but sometimes it is cropped on the top. A sampling of Heavy Metal bands would include Spinal Tap, Judas Priest, KISS, Motley Crue, AC/DC, and Ozzy Osbourne.
Heavy Metal music is filled with hatred of school, parents, society, symbols of authority, and middle class values. Their message is violent and sexist. It emphasizes such sociopathic themes as murder, rape and suicide. Twisted Sister sings, "Your hands are tied, your legs are strapped . . . you're under the blade." (The freakish lead singer of this group, Dee Snider, tried to explain these lyrics before the Senate hearing by saying that this song was about the fear of undergoing major surgery. Somehow I doubt it.) Motley Crue's album "Shout At The Devil" contains the song "Too Young To Fall In Love." The lyrics describe a woman in the crudest terms, and then go on to say "Well now I'm killing you . . . watch your face turning blue."
Many of these groups are also connected with Satanism. The name of the rock group KISS supposedly means "Kings In Satan's Service." A word that is chanted at Heavy Metal concerts in "NATAS," which is "SATAN" spelled backwards. Recently, a man named Richard Ramariz was arrested in California. He was charged with being "The Night Stalker," a serial killer who committed a number of extremely brutal murders. There was evidence of devil worship at several of these crime scenes. Ramariz was wrapped up in the music of AC/DC, a Heavy Metal band that emphasizes Satanic themes.
An important point needs to be made here. A group may not promote Satan worship in so many words, but they are still "of the Devil" if their message is evil. Just because you don't listen to Heavy Metal does not mean everything is O.K.! Many performers in the mainstream of rock, such as Sheila E., Prince, Madonna, emphasize vulgarity and/or suggestiveness. They are promoting the cause of Satan!
Recent Efforts At Dealing With The Problem
Last spring, prompted by the excess of modern rock musc and videos, a number of well-connected Washington wives formed the Parents Music Resource Center (PMRC). They tried to convince the record industry to adopt a rating system for record albums, similar to the one used for movies. This proposal was rejected, but a compromise was worked out.
"24 American record companies, representing 80 percent of the record and tape business, have now agreed to issue a warning label on future offending albums."(3) From now on, a label saying "Parental Guidance: Explicit Lyrics" will be placed on albums that are considered explicit.
This is a small step, yet many people in the record industry shouted "censorship!" Danny Goldberg, president of a small record company in NY, described the Senate hearing as "Musical McCarthyism."(4) He said, "This is absolutely a move toward censorship. A lunatic fringe is trying to subvert one of the most wonderful aspects of our culture."(5) Angus Young, a member of the band AC/DC, said, "People who want to strangle other people's rights are possessed by one of the worst devils around - the Satan in their souls which is called intolerance."(6) Frank Zappa, an eccentric performer "who's own material often deals explicity with sexual matters," criticized record labeling as "the equivalent of treating dandruff with decapitation."(7) These quotations are laughably absurd! How typical. Evil men often try to portray righteousness in a bad light. Isaiah said, "Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil" (Isa. 5:20, NASV). Finally, it should come as no surprise that the American Civil Liberties Union opposed the move as a violation of First Amendment rights.
Mrs. Susan Baker called such charges "outrageous." She countered that they were simply saying that "we have rights as parents to protect our children."(8) What about the question of censorship and freedom of speech? The First Amendment has been used long enough as a shield for those who would promote immorality and perversion. I agree with Charles Colson's approach: "It may be unpopular to say this nowadays, but the First Amendment is not a blank check. As Justice Holmes wrote, the right of free speech does not extend to shouting 'FireV in a crowded theater. Nor, I submit, does it extend to unrestricted license for the rock industry to pump sewage into the minds of young people."(9)
We Must Be Selective About What We Listen To
How do you decide what music to listen to? Simply ask yourself a few questions: Does this song go against what I believe as a Christian? Does it glorify sin? Does it leave me feeling dirty and depressed? Would I be embarrased if other Christians knew I listened to this music? Would the Lord approve of me listening to this music? The Bible says that "As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he" (Prov. 23:7). We cannot live on a diet of musical filth and be spiritually strong. No one is saying that all popular music is wrong. Some of it is entertaining and uplifting. However, we need to be very selective. In music, as in everything else, we should choose that which is good and wholesome. "Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there by any praise, think on these things" (Phil. 4:8).
1. Jay Cocks, "Rock Is A Four-Letter Word," Time, 30 September 1985, pp. 70-71.
2. Frances Kelly, "Rock's War of Words," Macleans, 14 October 1985, p. 95.
4. Eric Levin, "Lay Off Of Them Blue Suede Shoes," People, 4 November 1985, pp. 42-45.
5. Fred Bruning, "The Devilish Soul of Rock 'n' Roll," Macleans, 21 October 1985, p. 13.
6. Levin, op.cit.
7. Kelly, op.cit.
8. Kelsey Menehan, "Parents Group Wants Labels on Explicit Rock Records," Christianity Today, 22 November 1985, pp. 68-69.
9. Charles Colson, "Is Art Above Ethics?," Christianity Today, 21 February, 1986, p. 64.
Guardian of Truth XXX: 7, pp. 195-196, 215