Question: What kind of music is more spiritual? Answer: The question is insane. Once I was sitting in the front row of a church where a book release event was about to begin. A poor couple came directly from the streets into the church building walking straight to one matured minister of God who was preparing to start the program, and asked him to pray for them. I was shocked to hear what the minister told the couple who had some religious or superstitious wrist bands on them. He told them to first remove and throw those bands away and come back so that he could pray. What a disaster! How much hate did that minister display? How much in contrast was he to Christ? What he lost was an incredible opportunity to love. What would Jesus have done had He been there in the place of that minister? He would have first hugged and then blessed them. Those bands on their wrists would have been of no issue for Jesus. I was heartbroken watching the guilt on the faces of that couple. It is a classic example of how human beings interfere with the laws of the Kingdom and drive out people from God.
I once watched Shri. S. P. Balasubramanyam (SPB) speaking on TV and how he expressed his dislike for modern day music, the lyrics and the singing. And he was speaking about music in MOVIES. He even once indirectly called music of A. R. Rahman ugly. The point to be noted is that even SPB, the most renowned singer and musician of Bollywood, does not like all modern day music, singing and lyrics in Bollywood. But that was only his personal taste or opinion, not necessarily the universal truth. We all know A. R. Rahman went on to win an Oscar and I do remember many Christians lauding him when he made a wonderful Christian song in one movie called Kadali. We all have likes and dislikes, but can we link all of them to spirituality? There is a new music or new ways of singing or new habits today with us, and they are here to stay. Some may like this change and some may not. But again, it is all about our likes and dislikes. If we don’t like something we have all right to abstain from it. But we don’t have the right to convert every like and dislike of us into a universal law of sanity.
In every generation there is something new evolving. Change is a constant phenomenon, and of course there is always good and bad coming with it. Most of the time it is not the bad that makes us frustrated but the inability to handle the change. It may be called as ‘culture shock’. We are a confused generation caught between the traditional and the modern. A person who is ready to shift rapidly would be in a better position to handle the ‘shock’. It does not mean we have to accept every change, but at least we can be prepared to stay alongside peacefully. Some Christians do not like the modern day music in the church, and they have all right to dislike. SPB who is not a Christian did not like too. The new generation is here trying to find their place. Let us be ready and kind enough to give some space to them. Let them experiment, let them fall, let them learn and let them raise. What we can do is to stay with them shoulder to shoulder, nurture them and with lots of love, patience and compassion guide them. And while doing this we should be constantly aware of the fact that we cannot force upon them our likes or dislikes. If we don’t agree with something or someone, the best way is to talk to them personally and not make a mockery of them publicly. This may not help the cause, and more over there is a danger that we can be seen in the poor light as if we are displaying hate. How can hate come out of us when Love resides inside? We are Christians.
[Does this mean that the young have license to hurt? Not at all. ‘It’s my life’ kind of attitude will take them nowhere. Arrogance is an invitation from the devil to destruction. The young must respond in the similar way they expect the adults to respond, and that is to understand, respect and love. They must understand that the world need not agree with them, and everyone has the right to disagree. When an elder does not agree and criticize the works of the young, the young must respond with the same boldness as they displayed in creation of their works. If you are bold enough to post a bold video on a public domain, be bold enough to accept the censure. In fact by posting the video in the public domain you have already agreed to all terms and conditions that come with it which include the slam you may receive from people. Music is one of the most important tools that connects generations. The young must realize that in order to bridge the human bonding between two generations they must be connected also to the music of their fathers. I have never seen my children singing my own songs in our family prayers. They sing the old hymns, and I enjoy a lot listening to them.]
While change is a constant phenomenon, our likes and dislikes can change as the time progress. Having come from a small Baptist church I spent all my childhood listening to the good old hymns. There were hardly any musical instruments in our church. As I grew up I began to listen to world music, and it was so appealing to me. I always wondered why can’t our Christian music match the standards of the Bollywood or the Hollywood. There was a certain period where I liked only the fast paced, modern and western kind of music. I also produced a couple of music albums based on that ideology and my intent was to bring more excitement into Christian music. But now for some reason I am not totally liking the fast paced western music and slowly I have started again to like the slow paced pure Indian music and singing. Now because of my change in likes and dislikes I cannot call any music to be either good or bad as I have liked all kinds of music at some point of time. Today I love the old hymns more than ever before and I have no problem with someone making fast paced modern music. I have no problem with any style of music as long as the content or the message is not corrupted. A person who thinks that he has always been perfect, and do not have a ‘sinner’ experience cannot understand the heart of a sinner. He will not have any compassion for the sinners, and his judgments will always be cruel. Jesus knew the heart of a sinner, when he sees a sinner He would not instantly react to judge him, but would overflow with compassion in all His judgments.
I once read the story of Larry Norman who was the pioneer of Christian rock music. Norman did not like the slow numbers that were sung in his church, and he always felt like sitting in a funeral service. His church kicked him out as his music was found to be ‘sinful’. Thankfully, he started his own Christian rock band and began touring whole of America having concerts among the young, especially the hippies. He released more than 100 albums, and more than that thousands of young people, mostly the hippies believed in Jesus through his ministry which is still continuing strongly in the US. The song ‘why should the devil have all the good music’ tells us all about his passion for music and God. Norman’s church did not like his music, it was ‘shocking’ for them and in order to show their dissent they labeled it as ‘sinful’. For many years playing the instrument accordion was banned in many churches in Europe because it is widely played in the pubs! Another example of human law making!
Jesus lived and moved among the sinners; they were His best friends. He ate and drank with them and loved them so much. But at the same time He remained sinless. This is the meaning of being ‘separated’. It is not that Jesus liked everything about them, He was only more tolerant and full of compassion. Those sinners must have been full of faults, Jesus must have been very uncomfortable with their ‘bad’ language and the ugly smell of alcohol, he must have not liked their music or singing, he must not have liked their habits or certain practices in everyday life, but still He chose to be with them as one of them, not as a ‘separated’ one. If Jesus had to criticize or condemn them, then He should condemn every move of these people. But it was not His intention to condemn, His intention was to LOVE and SAVE. If He had condemned their every move He would have failed in His mission to win those people. Jesus was not interested in changing their lifestyle or remove some of their habits but He was interested in them. He was interested in telling them the most important thing, how they could be saved. He was completely focused to His mission, that is: TO SEEK AND TO SAVE THE LOST. He never deviated. On the other hand, we today are the most deviated generation of Christians.
We claim to be separated people, and of course there is no lie in it. As believers we are spiritually not of this world anymore. However it does not mean we go and live in the bushes with a special dress code. No. We must continue to live among the people, among those that have a different lifestyle, among those that have a different music, among those that have different habits, respecting their likes and dislikes, and at the same time remain true to what we believe. And of course we have the responsibility to correct some people, especially our Christian brethren, if they are going horribly wrong spiritually. But again we can do that as long as our definition of spirituality is completely based on the word of God and not on our own interpretation. And our style of correction can only be through expression of love.
It has become so fashionable now-a-days among many Christians to come out with their own theories that are mostly senseless and not vital to our relationship with God. Is watching movies a sin? Can a pastor wear jeans? Can believers dance in the church? Is rock music acceptable? And the list goes on. A pagan would answer these questions by saying “how important are these in your spiritual journey?”. If you don’t like dancing you don’t have to dance, and if you don’t like to even watch people dancing you don’t have to be there. An athlete running a race would reach nowhere if he starts to look at the crowd and wonder how badly they were dressed or how ugly they were singing! I love Peter so much, and if Jesus had a ‘hero’, it must be Peter. Before talking about Peter sinking, I like to highlight that he actually walked on water. But he walked on water as long as he was focusing on Jesus. The moment he started to worry about ‘how badly people were dressed’ or ‘how ugly that music was’, he started to sink. As a believer all we should do is to focus on Jesus, His teachings, His commands, and most importantly His loving kindness and tolerance. We must follow in His footsteps and tell people who He is with no ‘personal agenda’ and in everything else we must show compassion.
When someone is preaching wrong gospel we must condemn it in strong words, no compromise here, but even in this connection we have no right to show hatred against the ‘person’. Because if we do so God will treat us on par with that false preacher. Most of the time our attempts to remove certain things away from people are purely based on our personal agenda built upon the principles of ‘likes and dislikes’, God is probably not interested in them. We must not fail to show love when there is an opportunity to do so. We need to be more tolerant in certain ‘not so alarming’ issues and take everyone along with us. Our aim should not be to tell people what they must not have or what they must remove. Our aim should be to tell them what they must possess. And finally, if you want to see transformation in a person, let your love hurt him and not your words or deeds. “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head. Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good”. Romans 12:20-21