I’ve been taking a trip down memory lane listening to music that I listened to from the mid 90s to early 00s. Mostly the songs that were released during that time frame, from bands like Staind, Flaw, Linkin Park, Rage Against the Machine, Stereomudd, Systematic, Saliva, Puddle of Mud, and Godsmack, of which most of these bands are no longer playing, or virtually irrelevant, just rehashing the same stuff without being as good as their first albums. And these are far from my favorite bands, and I can’t praise all of their songs lyrically or musically.
Somehow, I landed on Metallica, listening to some of the songs off Death Magnetic, and I thought, how does this new CD sound compared to their pre-Black album days. It seems like they were trying go back to their pre-Black album days on a lot of the songs, so I listened to the song “One” to hear the differences. And I seem to think the Death Magnetic album is as good or better for them playing that style of Metallica music, but man, “One” is one amazing song. I’m not sure exactly why, but it was always my favorite Metallica song, I think because of its progression from starting with melodic picking of single notes with a long running lead solo over it all until finally exploding into a fierce rhythm of power chords that actually fit the story of the song! And maybe that’s it, I like that the song has a story to it and it makes me think a little, or a lot depending on the mood I’m in at the time.
And thinking of this song now, for me, mostly it just brings me back to a high school Sunday school class. Our church had a student intern who was with us for just one year as he was preparing to be a Director of Christian Education (essentially a youth pastor in the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod). One of his classes had us go through and write the lyrics to our favorite non-Christian song. Not being one to usually sing to songs outside of church settings or memorize lyrics since I’m usually listening to the music and prefer it most when there is no singing but just axe-slaying being done, I could only come up with the lyrics to this one Metallica song, though it wasn’t my favorite song at the time. So I wrote down, what I could remember of it:
All that I see
I cannot live
I cannot die
Trapped in myself
Body, my holding cell
Taken my sight
Taken my speech
Taken my hearing
Taken my arms
Taken my legs
Taken my soul
Leaving me with a life in hell!
Oh please God help me.
We then had to go around the room, taking turns reading our lyrics. After everyone read their lyrics, the intern leader would ask why we listen to it and proceed to tell us all the reasons what we are listening to is not God pleasing and we shouldn’t listen to it. He then told us of a bunch of Christian bands we should listen to instead and explained that after none of us could produce a “good” song to listen to that wasn’t Christian we should only listen to Christian songs.
For my song, he had no clue what the song was about in its full lyrical story. He wanted to know why it would be at all God pleasing to hear a song about a guy who has lost everything and is living in hell. I told him how it was a song that magnified the horrors of war and that it should make us think twice before rushing for bloodshed, and it should make us think of those who have suffered tragically in war. I told him that it was a song about a guy who lost all his limbs, hearing, sight, and speech from a landmine explosion in war. I explained that it made me think more about what it means to have life, and it makes me thankful for what I do have from God and that at any moment it could be taken from me if God wills it. And I added, that the guy in the song recognizes that he needs help, and that the only person who can help him is God! So what’s so wrong with that? He didn’t like my explanation of why I would listen to the song… but I forget what he said in reply. I just remember that the song was still rejected as completely inappropriate for a Christian to listen to.
What do you think? Should Christians only listen to Christian music? Is it evil to listen to the music that I have been listening to this week?
I think there are some guiding principles one should take when listening to music like this, and mostly, it’s read Romans 14. If it’s unclean for you, don’t make it unclean for everyone else. And it it’s clean for you, but not for another brother or sister in Christ, then don’t subject them to the music, don’t flaunt it in front of them. Maybe some would argue that I’m doing that with this post – what do you think?
As for the song “One”, I think what I draw from the song is good. It makes me think of others who are suffering, physically, emotionally, and through isolation, and I think of how Jesus is the only one who can help them, help them in the way that they need, just as he was able to help the Samaritan woman at the well in John 4. And how does Jesus reach them today? Through his church, through his Word and through the sacraments. Not sure how a guy who can’t hear, see, talk, or move will get God’s grace through those means, but I trust that God is not bound by any means!