The Christianese Demonization of Secular Music & Media

Photo from Theron Humphrey at This Wild Idea

erelah-tabbris asked a question:

Do you like secular tv shows and movies? do you find this keeps us off the path of Jesus/condemns us?

Hey dear friend, to be very truthful, I’m a huge fan of TV shows and movies. My favorite TV show of all time is 24, and I currently watch Person of Interest and The Walking Dead.  I’m secretly a noir film buff and I love the old 1940s-50s black and white detective films, particularly with Humphrey Bogart. As an Asian-Easterner, these sort of Western tales are hugely fascinating, with their strong feminine characters and self-deprecating anti-heroes.  I’ve read nearly all of Raymond Chandler’s work. I’m also a sucker for Michael Crichton and Stephen King. Oh, and Marvel and DC (why not both?).

I try not to think of entertainment as “secular” versus “Christian,” because this “sacred/secular” divide unnecessarily stirs up a self-righteous superiority, as if art can only be art when “I say so.” There’s no special medal for skipping The DaVinci Code. It also excludes a wide variety of creative expression, which gets a little bit too much like an authoritarian tyranny to me.

Art in itself has a connective tissue which speaks to us on a personal and universal level. Some art does this better than others, but most art does speak to us. I wouldn’t wipe out an entire genre just because it wasn’t totally “safe” or “pure.” In fact, some art or music or movies that claim to be about Jesus are actually rather terrible, and are so distracting that they only remind me how weird the Christian art industry really is. But then I have a spiritual experience watching the forsaken love of The Phantom of the Opera or the heroism of Harry Potter, and these point me to Jesus better than Left Behind or Kirk Cameron.

Certainly there’s art that’s degrading and regressive. While every voice can be freely expressed, it doesn’t mean it should all be freely received. Some of it must be outright rejected. But nearly every form of art can be redeemed, if not in whole, then in pieces.

It’s up to us, individually, with wisdom and discernment, to redeem the connective tissue. In the end, it’s all about our motives with these things. Am I watching this to vicariously fulfill my objectification and anger? Or am I watching this out of the appreciation of storytelling and aesthetic beauty? For the most part, I think we can tell the difference, and so we can decide accordingly.

It’s a Romans 14 issue, so if something does cause me to stumble, then I will absolutely skip it, no matter how much I get called a prude. It also depends on our season of life, whether we’re trying to quit a certain habit or free our minds of an old pattern. Each of us must be wise to decide what we filter and what we intake. So please don’t let anyone embarrass you if you choose to stay away from certain things, but please don’t shame others for what they watch, either.

— J.S.

16 thoughts on “The Christianese Demonization of Secular Music & Media

    1. I think a lot of us blame the Puritans, when our conception of them has actually been very skewed (even backwards). I do recall that the hyper-conservatism of the 80s did push a religious agenda on culture & media. It could also just be that “religiosity” is always looking at what to limit instead of enjoy.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. It made me think. For a while, expression through art had been part of the church for a long time before the reformation ended it…sad (: But I’m glad Christians are getting back into the entertainment scene and they’re making some difference in hollywood (as Christ calls us to be salt & light in a dark world). But it’s so hard for them to blend in… maybe next to impossible.


    1. Totally agreed. One of the myths of the “Dark Ages” (if there ever was such a thing) is that the church repressed art, which is completely upside-down.
      I finished watching Daredevil recently, which wrestles with some heavy themes about good versus evil, God vs. Satan, ideal vs. reality. The main character is Catholic, and one of the good guys is a priest. I was surprised to see that none of this was belittled or made a caricature; it was taken seriously, as if Christian theologians were really debating, with truthful implications. I loved the honesty and hoping for more nuanced takes on faith in the arts again.


  2. Well put! I’ve always wonded why there is a divide. I’m definitely not a prude, but follow Jesus at the same time and do watch and listen to “secular” things. I believe that is the freedom we have in Christ. Thank goodness!


    1. Yes, we are freed for freedom (Galatians 5:1a). Of course, I don’t see that as a license for whatever-ology, but I don’t think most Christians see it that way, either. I’m reminded of G.K. Chesterton:
      “And the more I considered Christianity, the more I found that while it had established a rule and order, the chief aim of that order was to give room for good things to run wild.”


  3. Thanks for these words.
    I have to admit I was often quite judgmental about peoples’ music preferences for years. I have always loved Christian, and have quite a collection. When I became a Christian at 14, I had a collection of secular music, and I recorded over all my secular tapes with Christian music instead. And yes, I took pride in it.
    Then I met my wife. She likes a few Christian songs here and there, but all her favourites are still secular. And I had to learn not to judge that, I had to learn that it’s okay. What I learned was the her music speaks to her and helps her cope sometimes, the way mine does to me.
    I also had to learn that music is just that – music. God created it. It’s all about how it’s being expressed.
    I am learning more and more that the divide really just shouldn’t be there.


    1. Hey Owen, thank you for sharing so honestly. During college when I first became a Christian, I went through a phase of “only Christian music.” It was both a personal choice and slightly out of a Christianese guilt, but I also don’t regret it for a second. The only thing I do regret is that, as you said, I began to judge others for their musical choices, and that’s when I knew it was becoming more of a burden.
      Today I really quite love both, and I’m glad to hear Christian-type music that isn’t exactly in one binary category or another (Switchfoot, Lecrae, Mumford & Son, etc.).


  4. I particular like this essay,…It really made some important points that I think a lot of people feel but don’t but don’t really put to words very well like you did,…awesomeness


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