Whilst music has always had some part to play in the lives of people and their communities, there has never been a period in history where exposure to music has been greater than at present. In ancient times, music was only heard on special occasions when skilled players, instruments and audience were brought together in one place. Those moments were rare and treasured. However, today music is everywhere—in the home, the car, the shopping centre, the workplace. Advances in technology have allowed individuals to take the music of their choice anywhere at any time. As a result of this increased exposure, the effects music has on human development and behaviour will be more pronounced in our society than in any other.

Many people today feel that “rock music” is another of the passing fads in music taste that appeal to some people (particularly the young) but not to others. In the previous article (see page 114), evidence was advanced to show that it is possible for certain types of music to have a physically damaging effect upon the mind and body. Much of what is called rock music has been shown to fit into this category. But there is another dimension to modern rock music apart from the physical effects of its beat and volume.

Degrading Lyrics

 The ideas, attitudes and sentiments conveyed by the lyrics of many rock music songs are degrading Sometimes, the real meaning of the words is masked in symbolic language, but many are openly explicit and corrupt . Over the past twenty to thirty years there have been some constant themes which have been common in rock lyrics, namely, rebellion against authority, unrestrained sexual freedom and drug use. In more recent times these have been supplemented by themes of violence, escapism, satanism and glorification of the occult. The words of most rock songs totally reject Biblical standards, beliefs and values (cp Eph 4:29–32; 5:1–3; 1 Cor 6:9,10,18,19; 1 Thess 4:7; Prov 3:31,32; Rom 13:13,14). It is sometimes argued that some songs have apparently harmless words, but as one music writer perceptively puts it, “the lowest common denominator which determines the precise nature of any musical work is the mental and emotional state of the composer and/or performer. It is the essence of this state that enters into us, tending to mould and shape our consciousness into conformity with itself”.1 Rock music is all the more powerful as an influence on behaviour and attitudes because the music and the lyrics complement each other— both generating the message of self-gratification and freedom from restraint. Do we really want our own or our children’s thinking to be shaped by this kind of music?

Conflicting Messages

 A report in the Journal of the American Medical Association stated, “During adolescence, teenagers are expected to develop standards of behaviour and reconcile them with their perceptions of adult standards. In this context, music, a powerful medium in the lives of adolescents, offers conflicting values. The explicit sexual and violent lyrics of some forms of music clash with the themes of abstinence and rational behaviour promoted by adult society… Physicians should be aware of the role of music in the lives of adolescents and use music preferences as clues to the emotional and mental health of adolescents”.2 Prominent American educationalist, Professor William Kilpatrick wrote, “Rock confirms their [young people’s] right to have and express strong, sensual emotions. The message is, ‘Your feelings are sacred, and nothing is set above them’. At the beginning of adolescence the discovery of one’s feelings seems like a profound discovery. This is the part of the self that adults ‘just don’t understand’. But rock music does understand, and what’s more, it sanctions these feelings… One of the things that rock and the rock industry do best is to take normal adolescent frustration and rebellion and heat it up to the boiling point. A lot of this hatred is directed toward parents—the people who usually stand in the way of self-gratification”.3

For many young people in the Western World particularly, rock music is more than just music. They live for it. As sociologist Professor Allan Bloom notes, “It is their passion; nothing else excites them as it does; they cannot take seriously anything alien to music”.4 For some it has virtually become an addiction. And little wonder, as the American Medical Association reported that the “average teenager listens to 10 500 hours of rock between 7th Grade and 12th Grade—more time than he spends in school”.5 This huge exposure to music of this type with its ungodly lyrics will inevitably have a detrimental effect upon the perceptions, attitudes and behaviour of its listeners. So profound is this effect that Bloom believes that in America “music now plays the decisive role in the formation of a young person’s character”.6 This is a frightening realisation.

The Power of Rock Music Misused

 The power of rock music to change attitudes and behaviour is not only recognised by doctors, sociologists and educators. The rock music industry and even the “rock stars” themselves are well aware of it. More than that, they actively exploit it. For example, one performer said: “Our music is intended to broaden the generation gap, to alienate children from their parents… ”.7 Another, “I wanted to rebel against anything and everything, and it happened that I was able to do it by playing rock and roll in a band”.8 And yet another, “We never set out to be anybody’s role model. But since we have become that, we are trying to give our fans something to believe in. On our second album, we told them to ‘Shout at the Devil’—it’s about standing up to authority, whether it’s your parents, your teacher or your boss. That’s pretty good advice, I think”.9

“Parents need to realise that there is a culture war in progress. Rock and its representatives have known this for a long time; it’s part of the reason they have been on the winning side. They have made no attempt to conceal their hostility toward parents and the values parents think are important”.10 This war is not very evenly matched as the Rock Music industry is very big business, bigger than the movie industry or the combined television industry. Not only so, but most of its advertising is aimed at our youth (from ages 8 to 25 years) when they are grappling with issues such as relationships, the role of authority, independence and changing emotions.

But is All Rock Music Bad?

 What about rock music used in educational productions or rock music with scriptural words? Can’t energy of rock somehow be channeled towards virtuous ends? Kilpatrick answers, “This hope, it seems to me, arises from a basic misunderstanding about the nature of rock. Though the lyrics are important, they are secondary. The music is its own message. No matter what the words might say, the music speaks the language of self-gratification. Rock can’t be made respectable. It doesn’t want to be respectable. A respectable rock is a contradiction in terms. While it is possible to set a hymn or a song about undying love to the beat of rock, it cannot be done convincingly. The music will simply subvert the words”.13

Who Is in Charge of our Children’s Moral Education?

 This Kilpatrick laments: “In our own society, we seem to have managed to create an attachment to all the wrong things. Parents and teachers have, by default, allowed the entertainment industry to create these attachments. Rock music, says Bloom, inclines children away from self control and sublimation. It doesn’t channel emotions, it pumps them up. Instead of a passionate attachment to all that is good, noble and just, youth develop passionate attachments to their own needs, wants and feelings, and to people like Mick Jagger and Michael Jackson”. 11 He continues, “What we currently have is censorship by omission. Either parents don’t know about or don’t have a taste for alternative forms of music because they themselves were raised on rock; or they do know but are afraid to exercise their parental rights for fear that their children’s allegiance has already been captured, and to stand up to the music would only widen the rift. The result [of the influence of rock] is nothing less than parents’ loss of control over their children’s moral education at a time when no one else is seriously concerned with it”.12

Discern the Issue

 As a community we have perhaps been slow to recognise the pivotal role rock music has played in moral and social decline in society. If educators and sociologists can clearly see the moral dangers facing our children, what of us? As parents and grandparents in the Truth, the development of our children’s moral faculties and conscience should be a very high priority. If it is so, are we aware of what our children are listening to? It is time we recognised the real nature of the issue and dealt decisively with it. Remember, as parents we can rest confident that “they that be with us are more than they that be with them”.

What Can Parents (or Young People) Do?

 1 Recognise the issue for what it is

 The moral well-being of our children is at stake. This is not overly dramatic scaremongering. Consider the decline in morality over the past twenty years, lack of restraint, disrespect for authority, the increased drug use and abuse. During this moral societal decline, the rock music industry has grown into a multi-trillion dollar industry. Is this coincidental? Examine the words of some of the latest rock songs to convince yourself that this is no “paper tiger”!

2 Remove the influence of rock music from our homes/lives

 Don’t just put CD’s and tapes in a cupboard—destroy them. It will require courage and conviction. Jesus said, “If thine eye offend thee, pluck it out”. Remember that in Ephesus “many… which used curious arts brought their books together and burned them” (Acts 19:19). Don’t allow the influence of this immoral world to remain in your home.

3 Pray for Help

 Seek the Father’s guidance and help. Seek His Word daily, more earnestly than before to keep our minds pure and our lives unspotted from the world. Help our children to appreciate the value of God’s ways and His principles especially in the midst of an evil and degenerate society. Help our children and young people to look beyond the immediate gratification of self to the lasting promises of God.

4 Replace rock music with something better

 This will take some time, patience and persistence. It is a path that has been successfully trodden by others. It is possible to enjoy “good” music. Expose your children to good music—the earlier the better. See The Lampstand April/May issue page 118 and this issue page 176.

Conclusion

 The rock music industry is a reflection of our society. It is so very lucrative because it has millions of supporters who willingly pay for its “goods”. We ought not need the warnings of educators and sociologists to highlight the dangers in this phenomenon of the latter days. Our basic Bible understanding should teach us to shun its enticements.

The Apostle Paul exhorts us thus :“Wherefore, seeing we also are compassed about by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith… ” (Heb 12:1,2). Among our “weights” or hindrances may well be the music we choose to listen to. If it could hinder our development of Godliness, leave it behind in the race for life. The Apostle gives us guidance to make our decisions : “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 or if there be any praise, think on these things” (Phil 4:8).

References

 1 Tame, D The Secret Power of Music Destiny Books, 1984 p152

2 Brown, E F and Hendee, W. “Adolescents and their Music: Insights into the Health of Adolescents” Journal of AMA, Sept 22/29, 1989, p1659

3 Kilpatrick, W. Why Johnny Can’t Tell Right From Wrong, Touchstone, 1993 p178

4 Bloom, A. The Closing of the American Mind Simon & Schuster, 1987 p68

5 Cited in Kilpatrick, W. Why Johnny Can’t Tell Right From Wrong p181

6 Cited in Kilpatrick, W. Why Johnny Can’t Tell Right From Wrong p173

7 Paul Kanter, cited in Ankerberg, J & Weldon, J The Facts on Rock Music, Harvest House, 1992 p33

8 Jon of Bon Jovi cited in Ankerberg & Weldon, ibid, p33

9 Nikki Sixx cited in Ankerberg & Weldon, ibid, p33

10 Kilpatrick, W. ibid, p183

11 Kilpatrick, W. ibid, p175

12 Bloom, A. ibid, p72

13 Kilpatrick, W. ibid, p182