This article is for those who are concerned about the dangers inherent in any kind of music that promotes violence, hatred, anti-Christian attitudes, Satan worship, etc. It assumes that you are already uncomfortable with it and that you would like to understand it better. It also offers powerful suggestions on what you can do about it to protect or help your own family.
God’s Word speaks powerfully about the musicians who provide this kind of music. It speaks to us who are concerned about it, as well as to those who are fans of harmful music but who have ears to hear the truth. In 2 Timothy 3:1-9, God tells us:
“Mark this: There will be terrible times …. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God ~ having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with them. They are the kind who worm their way into homes and gain control over those who are … swayed by all kinds of evil desires, always learning but never able to acknowledge the truth …. These men oppose the truth ~ men of depraved minds, who, as far as the faith is concerned, are rejected.”
And God offers hope to those who truly seek the truth through the Holy Spirit who is Truth, in the final verse: “But they will not get very far because … their folly will be clear to everyone.”
How dangerous is it, really?
Music has always influenced our society and our values. Since the 1960s, music has been used to promote increasingly harmful ideas. According to Dr. T.L. Tashjian, chairman of psychiatry at Philadelphia’s Mount Sinai Hospital, the lyrics of some rock music has significantly affected the formation of values among children.
This is nothing new. Aristotle was convinced that music could affect a person’s character. Plato believed that music could be an instrument for changing entire societies.
Now combine the power of music with hero-worship. Teenagers today admire musicians as their heroes much more so than they idolize athletes. They believe music is a more important influence than religion and books. Of course it is! They spend so much time listening to it. Young people between 7th and 12th grades spend nearly as much time listening to popular music as they spend in school over 12 years.
The American Medical Association concluded in 1989 that music exerts a greater influence on teenagers than television. Surveys find that more teenagers than adults believe that popular music encourages drug use and premarital sex, and contributes to a “culture of aggression.”
Research at the University of Florida shows that the more negative the message, the more young people listen to and believe that message!
How Does Violent Music Affect Youth?
The trend toward darker, more dangerous lyrics is culminating today in heavy metal and rap music. Dr. William C. Scott, chairman of the American Medical Association Council on Scientific Affairs, has said that this presents “a real threat to the physical health and emotional well-being of especially vulnerable children and adolescents.”
There are at least 13 bands named after the male genitals, 6 after female genitals, 4 after sperm, 8 after abortion and one after a vaginal infection. How can this be anything but unhealthy in the formation of a person’s mind and emotions?
Increased Crime Rates:
What proof do we have that the music is harmful? Look at the statistics. In 1990, the juvenile violent crime arrest rate climbed to 430.6 per 100,000, which is up from 137 per 100,000 in 1965.
Murders committed during the 1980s by kids ages 10 through 17 soared nearly 90%. Consider this: 90% of youths arrested for bias-related or occultic crimes are involved with heavy metal music, particularly the “black metal” bands.
Though the teenage population shrank from the mid-1980s to the mid-1990s, teen arrests for murder jumped nearly 160%. Similar jumps have occurred for aggravated assault (nearly 100%), simple assault (more than 140%), and robbery (nearly 60%).
Since 1960, the teen suicide rate has more than tripled; since 1950, it has increased more than 400%. One out of every 12 high school students tried suicide in 1991, and 27% seriously contemplated it. It’s the second leading cause of death among youth in America. Both the National Education Association and the American Medical Association have pointed to popular music as a significant contributing factor in this crisis.
By the time they leave their teens, about 80% of males and more than 70% of females have had sex. More than 70% of births to teenagers are illegitimate. Three million teens contract a sexually transmitted disease each year. (1993 statistics)
Cultural commentator Michael Medved has stated that today’s music is dominated by “sexual adventurism and the focus on physical pleasure as an end in itself.”
About three million kids between 12 and 17 use marijuana and their use has doubled since 1990. The percentage of kids in that age group using cocaine jumped 167% between 1992 and 1995. Their use of crack (up 108%) and heroin (up 92%) also soared.
There’s also a connection between rap and heavy metal music with drugs and violence. Teenagers who are most likely to become obsessed with the darker music are usually (but not always) socially isolated, have experimented with drugs, and are living with deep-seated rage. They already see themselves as “weird,”so they’re looking for acceptance where weird is good. Violent music seems to offer help, but in turn it increases their violence and isolation from normal society.
Today the trend in heavy metal music is toward more destructive themes. Those who listen to it are getting a much more dismal, darker, bleak outlook on life than those in the last generation. Dr. Paul King, clinical assistant professor of child and adolescent psychiatry at the University of Tennessee, has said, “The message of heavy metal is that there is a higher power in control of the world and that power is violence – often violence presided over by Satan.”
Professor Carl Rashke, Director of the Institute for Humanities at the University of Denver, observes that heavy metal music “is a true aesthetics of violence. It is a metaphysics. It is the tactic of consecrating violent terror, of divinizing it.”
What Does the Music Teach?
Although metal rock and rap fans often say they listen to the music for its sound and not the lyrics, a study revealed that 90% of them admit to knowing the words; 60% agree with the message of the words.
This is alarming, because many of the songs focus on sex and rape, doom and gloom, death and suicide, blood and violence. The lyrics often contain satanic rituals and actual oaths to Satan. Many others carry strongly implied messages that promote immorality. Some lyrics are outright satanic. Some, though not mentioning Satan, promote sado masochism, murder, suicide, sexual deviance, hatred, bigotry, violence, and occult practices. Still others promote drug and alcohol abuse, prostitution, profanity, homosexuality, promiscuity, rebellion, and other immoral behaviors that have been expressed through music for decades.
Heavy metal music has added violence and the occult to the earlier rock music themes of sex and drugs. “Gangsta rap” glorifies violence, rape, and drugs. Cypress Hill’s “I Wanna Get High” and Tone Loc’s “Mean Green” openly advocate marijuana use. Too Short promotes prostitution and drugs on his Shorty the Pimp album.
“The Social Impact of Music Violence,” Washington, DC, November 6, 1997
Donald F. Roberts, the Thomas More Storke Professor in the Department of Communication at Stanford University, co-author with Professor Peter Christenson, (Department of Communication, Lewis & Clark College) of the book, Its Not Only Rock and Roll: Popular Music in the Lives of Adolescents (Hampton Press, 1997), said:
“There is no question that both heavy metal music and rap do present many disturbing images of violence, sex, and misogyny. Different studies estimate that such content occurs in anywhere from 25% to 70% of metal and rap songs and/or videos depending on the definitions (of sex and violence) used. Clearly, even if we take the lowest estimates, there is enough to be concerned about.
“The lyrics are quite explicit and concrete – and seem to have become more so over the past five or six years. There is argument over whether or not kids understand the lyrics… but there is little problem when it comes to understanding video images. Although it is often difficult to make sense of the narrative or story line in these videos, there is no escaping individual images of violence or sexuality.
“When one combines a sensual image of a woman with explicit words about forcing sex, the meaning of the image is drastically changed. Moreover, in much of this music, women are frequently devalued, treated as little more than sex objects, threatened, and sometimes sexually attacked. Finally, many of the portrayals of how men and women interact are just exactly what I would hope our youth would not learn – indeed, would come to condemn.”
Dr. Frank Palumbo, testifying on behalf of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), an organization of 53,000 primary care pediatricians, pediatric medical subspecialists and pediatric surgical specialists dedicated to the health, safety and well-being of infants, children, adolescents and young adults, said:
“Pediatricians with a specialty in adolescent medicine are keenly aware of how crucial music is to a teen’s identity and how it helps them define important social and subcultural boundaries. One study found that teens listened to music an average of 40 hours per week.
“During the past four decades, rock music lyrics have become increasingly explicit – particularly with reference to drugs, sex, violence and even of greater concern, sexual violence. Heavy metal and rap lyrics have elicited the greatest concern, as they compound the environment in which some adolescents increasingly are confronted with pregnancy, drug use, acquired immunodeficiency syndrome and other sexually transmitted diseases, injuries, homicide and suicide.
“For example, Nine Inch Nails released Big Man with a Gun, with the following lyrics: I am a big man (yes I am) and I have a big gun; got me a big old click and I like to have fun; held against your forehead, I’ll make you suck it, maybe I’ll put a hole in your head; you know, just for the f–k; of it…I’m every inch a man, and I’ll show you somehow; me and my f–king gun; nothing can stop me now; shoot shoot shoot shoot shoot…
“Marilyn Manson has quite the way with a lyric: ‘Who said date rape isn’t kind,’ ‘The housewife I will beat’ and ‘I slit my teenage wrist’ are just a sample from two songs.
What can we do about it?
First of all, we must not over-react to the dangers and give Satan nor the heavy metal music and rap genres more credit than they are due. Not all heavy metal music and rap is violent or demonic in other ways. And Jesus Christ and His love and mercy is infinitely more powerful than all the demons and evil music that ever was or will be. There is good Christian heavy metal and rap music that can be purchased in any Christian gift store. And not all secular heavy metal and rap is demonic.
However, we must also not under-react. If we hope that this is just a passing phase in our children’s lives, and that the music won’t hurt them emotionally or spiritually, we are ignoring our children’s need for our help. A teenager who becomes a fan of “safe” secular heavy metal bands can easily become so attracted to the music that he begins to buy the music of bands who aren’t so safe, especially if that teenager has emotional problems.
It would also be an under-reaction to assume that demonic heavy metal music is the sole cause of our teenagers’ problems. Take a look at the lyrics from the secular band Sacred Reich, in the song Who’s to Blame. It’s written first from the angle of the parent who condemns the music because he notices that it’s destroying his son Jonny. Jonny’s behavior has deteriorated to the point of getting kicked out of school, and the parent discovers Jonny has hung himself ~ and he blames the music. Then the song goes on to say:
Now it’s time for parents to open ears and listen
maybe it’s too late to see what you’ve been missing
music is no cause of death it’s you that suffocates
if you had opened your eyes and ears you’d see just who’s to blame
Who’s to be responsible for a life that’s gone off track
who’s the one who must be there to see it gets put back
where were you to hear the cries of a person in need
were you there to see the signs or were you too busy
The song makes a good and valid point!
In defense of violent music it adds, “music is no cause of death” in order to shift ALL blame to the parents. But just as it is wrong for these musicians to shift all blame away from themselves, so also it is wrong for us parents to shift all blame away from ourselves.
It is a well-known fact that even with the best of parents, there are still kids who make bad choices that lead them into harmful and sinful lifestyles. However, it’s also important to be honest with ourselves, to take a good look at how much in need of healing and spiritual growth we still are, to examine our consciences with the help of the Holy Spirit who is all Truth, and to acknowledge the times and ways that we as parents have failed our children. We need to ask for forgiveness from God who loves us all the time no matter what we’ve done, as well as from our children. And we need to make every effort to seek healing, to become happier, healthier individuals, and to live the way Jesus tells us to live in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5, 6 and 7).
The Sermon can be summed up in one phrase: Love everyone fully and unconditionally. How much love are you actually communicating ~ by word AND by deed ~ to your children? One way we give them love is by giving them our time and attention. Have you been more in love with possessions (the new car, the bigger house, the fancier electronic gadgets, the latest computer technology) than with your children? If the answer is something like: “We have to have a second income in this family so we can afford all these things,” then the answer is: “Yes, I love possessions more than I love my children!” Being materially poor is much, much preferable than losing a child to the harmful messages in heavy metal and rap music. What else do you love more than your children ~ what else steals your time and attention away from the children who need you?
Another way we give them love is by paying attention to the warning signs of emotional unhealthiness and DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT! This “doing” might include taking them to a good Christian counselor who understands the issues involved with heavy metal and rap music. It might include consistently enforcing the household rules through appropriate punishment ~ which should always, always, always be followed up by time and attention for giving gentle, caring love. It might include, as a last resort only, the “tough love” of separating the child from the family until both receive counseling or some other means of change.
And equally important is the gift of love through much sacrifice of prayer. The teenager might never know you are praying or understand why this makes a difference, but no method of communicating love will work if it is not centered in Jesus Christ who IS love.
Looking at the verses just prior to the scripture quoted at the beginning of this article, God tells us, “The Lord’s servant must not quarrel; instead, he must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. Those who oppose him he must gently instruct, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth, and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will” (2 Tim. 2:24-26 NIV). Arguing, debating, or getting into any sort of word-war with those who are fans of violent music will not communicate love to them. We must rely on God’s ways of loving our children.
Below is a list of suggestions on what to do.
1. Communicate more effectively:
If your child or friend listens to any artists who promote evil, before confronting him or her, find out what the lyrics say. Then you can be specific in describing why you believe the music is a harmful influence. Speak not in a condemning way, but in a tone that expresses genuine concern for his or her welfare. And do not speak at all until you have privately covered the conversation in prayer. Then stop when it begins to become an argument.
2. This is not a “phase”:
Many parents wait out this “phase” in their child’s development. Unfortunately, the immorality that the teen learns from this music might stay, perhaps for the rest of his or her life. Occult interests that are encouraged by this music are not a “phase” either. The occult is a powerful addiction, and the influence of satanic “fun” leads to demonization, increasing violence and lifetime problems, possibly even criminal activity, suicide and deviant sexuality.
3. Pursue professional counseling:
A consuming interest in this kind of music must not be ignored. Professional counseling is recommended to heal the inner turmoil associated with heavy metal music obsession. The whole family could benefit from counseling, because if one child is dealing with rage or low self esteem, others are affected, too.
4. Seek God’s powerful help:
Never underestimate the power of prayer. God is even more concerned about the heavy metal fan’s problems than are you. And God is certainly more powerful than the music’s influence. Give Him the opportunity to intervene and then trust His plans and timing.
5. Bring God’s influence to the whole family:
The best cure is prevention. Get the whole family involved in Christian activities, especially those that help you find God’s love and power. Introduce Christian heavy metal music if necessary, or any Christian rock music. Grow in your own relationship with Jesus, and thus your influence can become stronger than heavy metal’s!
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Commentary portions © 1993 by Terry Modica
Good News Ministries