Six Weeks Without Secular Music (#SWWSM): The Idea

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Anyone who would dispute the idea that music is a powerful thing hasn’t listened to enough of it. With a given song, we may be reminded of any variety of events, people or both. You’re instantly transported back to a scenario where that song was playing. Most likely what you remember isn’t vague or cloudy, but instead crystal clear.

Music is undoubtedly a powerful tool — for good as well as for evil. In fact, one could argue that music, perhaps more than any other single entity outside of the news media?, shapes our perspectives on the world around us and our relationships.

We debate for days about whether Christians should listen to (or how much they should listen to) secular (non-Christian music). But that’s unproductive and not nearly as interesting as another thought I had a few weeks ago when I wondered what life without secular music would look like. (Honestly, there’s not that much incredible music out now anyhow.) So I’ve decided to try a little experiment. For six weeks, beginning Sunday, October 3, I will not listen to any secular music.

Why? Simple — to see what, if anything, in my life, changes. Will my attitudes or my perspectives change? Will I be more optimistic or depressed? Will my values and outlook on life change? While I am expecting some kind of change, I’m not sure exactly what it will be. However, trust that I will not skew the results — it defeats the purpose of the experiment and serves me with no benefit.

How am I defining what is secular versus what is not? For me, the delineation is fairly clear: secular is music whose lyrics do not, in any way, glorify or bring attention to God or a personal relationship with Him. It’s not as much about the music — the beat, the melody, etc — as it is about the lyrics. Thus, classical and jazz music that has no words is, for me and this experiment, acceptable.

In the normal course of life, we hear plenty of ambient music which we, generally speaking, cannot control. For instance, we go into a store and they have secular music playing, or perhaps we’re walking down the street and we hear music from a passing car. In these instances, all of which are unavoidable, I’m not going to walk out or put in earplugs just so I don’t hear the music. Not only would that become complicated and burdensome, it’s unnecessary. (I will, however, make it a point not to linger in these places.) My goal is to avoid secular music that I listen to recreationally — whether in the car, at home, while walking to class or running. In other words, when I can choose, there will be no secular music.

Right now, I would say that out of the music I listen to recreationally, about 80 percent is secular, with 20 percent being Christian. I bring attention to this in order to show that this will constitute a drastic change in my musical choices. I don’t think the “study” would be as effective if the percentages were reversed. However, my girlfriend, who listens to 30 percent secular and 70 percent Christian, will also be participating in this experiment with me, for contrast. I will, on occasion, have her write a bit about what she experiences during this time as well.

I’ll be blogging each week (perhaps more than once during the week) in order to track my progress and as an opportunity for me to share any revelations with you. If you’d like to participate with me (which I would love), I’d like this blog to be a place where we can interact and for you to share your experiences since I’m sure they’ll be different from my own.

For those of you who tweet (if you don’t already, you should), I’ll also be tweeting about my experiment on Twitter and using the hashtag #SWWSM when talking about it. Feel free to join in on that conversation, as well.

What do you think of this idea? Will anything change? Do you think I’ll lie about the results? Will you be participating with me?

[Written by Stuart McDonald for Elev8.com. For more from Stuart, check out his personal blogfollow him on Twitter, and connect with him on Facebook.]

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