Music from a Fallen Christian

By Kersley Fitzgerald

When Jennifer Knapp disappeared from the Christian music radar to deal with "personal issues," honestly I thought she was probably pregnant. When she came back and came out, I had to stop and think. We really like her music. Should we continue to listen to it if we know the artist/writer is living in unrepentant sin?

Recently, Vicky Beeching (whom I'd actually never heard of) came out. Gungor has said they don't believe the Bible should be read literally. Sandi Patti admitted to adultery. A member of the Newsboys struggled with alcohol and drugs. Amy Grant got divorced. Dan Haseltine of Jars of Clay supports gay marriage.

Open up the lens a little. "It is Well with my Soul" was written by Horatio Spafford after the loss of all his children to two different tragedies. The song is stirring and inspiring and comforting, but Spafford was an Arminian and didn't believe in eternal hell — even for Satan.

I'm not talking about artists who thought they were Christian and then realized they weren't (Katy Perry). Or even artists (Evanescence, Mumford and Sons) who used "Christianese" but never asked for the label of being a Christian band. I'm talking about groups and singers who voluntarily wore the mantle of Jesus-following role model and a source of sound theology and then strayed from the straight and narrow.

So what do we do when their theology or lifestyle runs counter to the Bible? Should we throw out all their music and condemn them publically? Or continue listening to them as before? I think there are some things to consider before we make that decision.

- Put it into perspective. Do you get your theology from the personal beliefs of a singer or song-writer? Or from careful study and consideration of the Scriptures? And what about music in general? Is it background noise to your drive, or an integral part of your personal time with God? If you rely on music to affirm your beliefs, be more careful what you listen to.

- Consider the lyrics. Despite the personal beliefs or lifestyle of the artist, do the lyrics of their songs reflect the truth? Were the lyrics written before the artist went off the deep end? Or, like "It is Well with my Soul," do the lyrics have nothing to do with the disturbing background information?

- Remember the human state. We are all fallen. We all have wrong beliefs, whether they're in line with Christian orthodoxy or not. Can you show the artist the same grace you show to a friend you disagree with? Can you show them the grace you'd like when you mess up? How about if they've repented and restored their relationship with Christ? Can you forgive them as He did?

- Check your reaction. If "Hold Me Now" makes you remember your own sin and how Jesus' blood covers it, keep listening. If you automatically think, "She's in a relationship with another woman and she hasn't repented," then don't. Considering how you react to the song is a valid way to determine if you should expose yourself to it.

Most importantly, put people in their proper place. Music does affect us, whether we're concentrating on the lyrics or not. But our tendency to idolize music artists is inappropriate. When the music is stirring and the lyrics speak to us, we tend to give the artist too much credit and too much influence over our lives. We can't judge the lyrics properly if we've developed an exaggerated emotional attachment to the singer. But we also can't see them clearly — as sinners saved by grace (or not) — which leads us to judge them too harshly. Give them room to be who they are, with their own struggles and faults and growth issues, and then determine how much you will let their words influence your life.

If you get the idea that choosing to listen to music written and performed by so-called Christians whose lifestyle or theology you disagree with is a personal matter, you're right. As long as the lyrics aren't specifically heretical, it's a Romans 14:5-6 issue. Be convinced in your own mind. And don't forget to pray for those in the spotlight. The entertainment industry is toxic, and these artists pay a high price to give us music. They need God's protection in their lives.

Image Credit: Mary Nikkel Photography; used by permission

TagsChristian-Life  | Controversial-Issues  | Sin-Evil

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Published 10-30-2014