When “Christ vs. Culture” Met My Music Collection

When I was in high school I smashed all my “secular” music to bits with a sledge hammer on the floor of the garage.

This is probably pretty shocking to a lot of people I know. Indeed, it was an extreme act.

I’ve mentioned before that I essentially had two churches in High School: on Sundays I faithfully attended the Lutheran church where I was baptized at age 9 and on many Wednesdays I went to a charismatic Methodist youth group where my faith took on new dimensions.

To be clear, noone in leadership at either of my churches told me to smash my tapes and CDs.

Rather, there was an undercurrent among some of my peers that suggested we ought to do such things. Fellow Christian students would boast, “I got rid of all my secular music!” I even heard of a friend of a friend who apparently burned up secular tapes and CDs in a bonfire.

Why did we do these things? First of all, we had to rid our lives of those “evil” influences (Garbage in, garbage out!). But also it was to somehow prove how “on fire” we were for God.

I’ve written before about the law–the 10 commandments–and how I have spent some time in my life trying to skirt around the letter of the law to justify doing whatever I pleased.

I’ve also gone to extremes of legalism–using the commandments to really clamp down on myself and others. Purging secular music from my life was part of that clamping down.

If I was going to love Jesus with all my heart, then I should only have music about Jesus in my ears!

You might think, why not just give away or sell the music I didn’t want anymore to someone else who wanted it? But the thing is, the mentality of the time was that this stuff was corrupting people’s minds! So, if I just passed it on to someone else, I was responsible for corrupting them!

So then, why not just throw it away? But again, there was still the risk, if it remained intact, that someone else might pick it up and listen! Only the finality of complete destruction would do.

I considered burning the tapes and CDs I wanted to purge from my life. But living in a suburban neighborhood with pretty tight deed restrictions, I didn’t think a fire would go over too well. Plus, smashing with a sledge-hammer sounded fun.

And it was fun.

And it was a little funny too because CDs are pretty resilient and the hammer often bounced when it hit them. And once the tapes were broken open, the tape inside unraveled across the garage floor like streamers.

But it was sad too because I really liked a lot of that stuff. And most of it was pretty tame stuff. I mean, Wilson Phillips! I still miss that tape.

I want so much to distance myself from those days–from that legalism.

And the more my life-situation has me around fellow Lutherans–who are perfectly happy holding Christ and culture in creative tension–the more I puzzle over what I was thinking!

But lately, thanks to the magic of the Internet, I’ve become acquainted with others who were also dragged into this undercurrent.

In fact, I had been looking for the right time to share about this when a Christian blogger named Addie Zierman announced an opportunity to link up such stories. Her upcoming memoir, “When We Were On Fire,” is about how some of this same kind of stuff affected her.

When We Were On Fire Synchroblog

I haven’t read the book yet (it will be available on October 15), but I do follow her blog, How To Talk Evangelical, and in reading it have felt a lot less crazy for things I said and did back in High School because I wasn’t the only one then.

And I’m not the only one who is looking back on it and trying to reconcile where I am am now with where I was then.

Nowadays, most of the music I listen to is still Christian music. I listen to the Christian music because I want to, not because I feel like I should. And I listen to a few “secular” artists that I enjoy too.

And I hear Wilson Phillips has a new album out…

You can read more stories of others’ “on fire” days over at Addie’s blog.

10 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by desifrau75 on October 12, 2013 at 10:45 pm

    Great post! Variety is the spice of life. 🙂

  2. I love it. My Dad’s went to Christian college for like a semester, but he was OUT when someone told him that he needed to get rid of his extensive record collection if he really wanted to be serious about God. Thanks for sharing part of your story!

  3. this is WONDERFUL. and I did this too. in fact, I sat on the bed on a mission trip to South America and lectured my roommate that she listened to “Hips Don’t Lie” on her mix CD, that it wasn’t righteous.

    And now I dance to it myself, and relish in the freedom that I have…and I wonder if Jesus is dancing too.

  4. I love this! I never smashed my secular music but I know people who did. I think I owe some of that to my parents…as I’ve thought back on Addie’s story and been thinking about my own, I’m realizing how much reason my parents spoke into even that part of my life. So Mariah Carey was allowed to stay=)

  5. Wilson Philips!!! I had totally forgotten about them. I feel fond of that zealous teenager you were, smashing up the resistant CDs!

  6. I did that too, only I just trashed the music. I couldn’t sell it either, for fear of causing another to sin. How dumb was I! I was so naïve and ignorant. I am smarter now but still surrounded by idiots!

  7. When I saw that you participated in Addie’s synchroblog I thought I should invite you to participate in a monthly synchroblog that I am a part of.

    It’s made up of a home-grown group of bloggers who like to write on topics of post-modern faith & life. This group is open to anyone who is interested in participating. We value respectful conversation and dialogue while honoring our differences. We share links & try to learn from each other.

    Some of the people that originally participated in the synchroblog no longer blog and I am trying to reach out to people like you who are currently passionate about blogging in order to keep our monthly synchroblog relevant and vital.

    If you are interested in joining us you can join the facebook group and receive monthly invitations to the synchroblog. Here is that link: https://www.facebook.com/groups/114506961937378/

    And you can find our website (which you can subscribe to if you want to receive an email when we post the monthly theme announcement/invitation) here: http://synchroblog.wordpress.com/2013/11/21/link-list-november-2013-synchroblog/

    (You can see all of the themes that we have covered in the past on our website in order to get an idea of what we do)

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