Standing Still Part II: The Meaning

By Timothy R Butler | Posted at 1:33 AM

Well, after I posted my last post it occurred to me that there was a good message I could draw out of my head being stuck “Standing Still.” It all goes back to a discussion that I (along with several others) was having with Joseph Fell on Jake's site.

The argument that Joseph was making was basically that Eminem's “issues” were out weighed by the positives of his pulling-himself-up-by-the-bootstraps-and-making-it story. The oft used idea that music (or TV or whatever else) doesn't impact us beyond the simple value of enjoying listening to it also came up.

Afterall, once you turn the music off, it's gone, right? Well, maybe for some, I won't speak for everyone, but personally have never found that. When I listen to music, it stays with me (my last post demonstrates that). If hearing a song inadvertently can stick with you, and often I think you'll catch someone humming along with the radio and continuing once it is off, perhaps even subconsciously, then just think how much it sticks with you if you purposely listen to it.

Now, before I go any further, if I happen to have any Jewel fans that read my blog, don't fear, I'm not comparing Jewel with Eminem. As far as I know, Jewel Kilcher has never released an album that requires a “Parental Advisory” sticker. That's not my point.

Simply, we are what we listen to (at least to an extent). I personally find that Jewel's music puts me in somewhat of a melancholy mood and that's exactly the mood that having Standing Still stuck in my head gave me. If I listen to Michael W. Smith's Worship for awhile, I might instead find my mood is more upbeat and prone to be thankful to God for things. Before I realized this and began to take music seriously, I would occasionally listen to less tasteful music, such as Alanis Morissette and it would put me in a more aggressive and angry frame of mind without a doubt.

Perhaps all of this is because music is something that requires both the left (analytical) and right (creative) sides of our brain to process it fully. It has the opportunity to reach deeper than just plain text. We also generally listen to it over and over again.

If this is the case with a song, it should be no surprise that it has an impact on us. And once you accept that it does, do you really want that impact to come from music that goes against the very nature of Christianity… like Eminem for instance?

I know I don't.

Tags: Faith

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5 comments posted so far.

RE: Standing Still Part II: The Meaning

Is it wrong to feel angry, though? I find sometimes listening to angry music helps me deal with my (legitimate) angry emotions. I certainly wouldn’t want to listen to angry music all the time. But, that does not preclude me from ever listening to it.

For my next point, I will use the album “Jubilee” by Grant Lee Buffalo as an example. If you haven’t heard the album, that’s okay. I’ll describe the pertinent stuff for you. At first, it sounds like any other album about a guy who wants to get with a girl, gets upset that she doesn’t want to get with him, and deals with his anger and frustration.

But, by the time I listened clear through the album a few times, I noticed there was more to the story than just a guy wanting a girl. The album was about the struggle of a man looking for significance and substance in his life, not finding it in women, fast cars, or drugs, and wondering if maybe there wasn’t something more. It’s an amazing album that deals with very real issues of humanity.

I’m not a big fan of gratuitous profanity. I don’t typically listen to music I would be embarrassed by my mother knowing about. I made that mistake once. (I was 12 yrs old, listening to AC/DC, and my Mom came in my room and asked if I could rewind to that “Big Balls” song because she thought it was cute.)

But, there is some very real stuff going on in music that is very rough and crude. It’s the stories of people. We all suffer the same ultimate struggle in life & it amazes me how that one struggle can be found in pretty much any genre of music.

Posted by kevin - Jul 16, 2003 | 2:48 AM- Location:

RE: Standing Still Part II: The Meaning

A few years back, I was at a conference of sorts. It was as much a cover for marketing a product as for information, as most conferences tend to be. This one was at a monster church and was devoted to the discussion of music as worship. Indeed, the main point that came from all of it was that music is worship. Thus, what we sing about we glorify.

That they were using this as a sales pitch for their recorded worship albums doesn’t destroy the thesis. Yes, the sales pitch included a lot of gunk about backward masking, etc. What stuck with me was the worship angle — all music is de facto worship.

I’ve since concluded that such is not the case 100% of the time. Little brainless ditties celebrate little more than whimsy; I can’t call that worship. I rather think more music is like every other art form: it’s trying to add beauty to the humdrum of human existence. There is indeed a great deal of music that glorifies something, leads us to worship something, but some of it is just catharsis. And some of it is just whimsy.

Who’s to say Our God does not speak even in whimsy? That’s a whole ‘nother issue.

Posted by Ed Hurst - Jul 16, 2003 | 11:17 AM- Location: Rural Southeast Texas

Standing Still Part II: The Meaning

I like what you said “If this is the case with a song, it should be no surprise that it has an impact on us. And once you accept that it does, do you really want that impact to come from music that goes against the very nature of Christianity… like Eminem for instance?” because I do believe some music does go against the principles of Christianity. What I constantly hear about Eminem, in his defense, are things like “great lyrics! He’s a lyrical genious! His work is great social commentary! modern poet!” I say “so?”, none of that make it good. None of that makes it glorifying to God (and I know that isn’t his intent), none of it makes it edifying to anyone (except maybe for Hailey who is constantly being told through song how much her dad loves her, while in the next verse he is commenting on something “social” and probably not using nice words either!)

I posted on Eminem’s music here once.

I also saw a study recently that talked about how the music a person listens to reflects their personality. If that is the case, I would think that listening to Eminem would not a be a good reflection for any Christian, since we should reflect Christ.

Here is a snippet of an article about the study:

“Alternative, heavy metal and rock music are in the Intense and Rebellious group and individuals preferring this type of music are inclined to be curious, risk-takers, physically active and intelligent. Listeners of Upbeat and Conventional music, which includes country, religious and pop music, are generally outgoing and cheerful, enjoy helping others, see themselves as physically attractive and hold conservative views.”

Good post Tim!

Posted by Susan L. Prince - Jul 16, 2003 | 11:30 AM- Location: Humboldt, TN

RE: Standing Still Part II: The Meaning

Are we allowed to have conversations with non-christians about non-christian stuff? Is it okay to sit and talk about baseball with our neighbor? Or can we listen as he tells us about his struggles with marriage and fidelity? Or maybe he’s lost his job and he’s torqued at the world and wants to yell and scream. Wouldn’t we be willing to listen?

Posted by kevin - Jul 16, 2003 | 4:37 PM- Location:

RE: Standing Still Part II: The Meaning

Kevin: I see nothing wrong with anger, but I do take issues with unrighteous anger. Alanis Morissette does not exhibit, in my opinion, anything except evil hate-filled anger in her songs (most, at least). Double ditto for Eminem. I would have no problem going up to Eminem and talking with him if he wanted to talk, for example, but I’m not purposely going to listen to his music. The difference is that in one case I’m helping the person, in the other the benefit is only potentially for me… and there is no benefit for me in that music.

Ed: That’s really interesting and thought provoking!

Susan: Thanks for the kind comments. Your post on the subject is good too. That survey is intriguing… I know I’d rather be in the latter group. :-)

Kevin: I see subjecting oneself to ungodly music and talking to non-Christians is quite different. For that matter, I’d also note that I recently wrote supporting secular music that doesn’t go against Christianity, you may recall that post. I think purposely subjecting oneself to hate-filled lyrics for entertainment is another kettle of fish.

Posted by Timothy R. Butler - Jul 18, 2003 | 1:57 AM- Location: MO

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