Coldplay, rock music and Christians

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Last November the band Coldplay performed twice in Perth, Western Australia. According to the mass media 120,000 people attended two concerts by what it called “the iconic British rock band”. I’ve heard that a number of ‘our’ Christian youth also attended. Subsequently, concerns about this were expressed at a consistory meeting and led to an elder writing the following in the pastoral column of a church bulletin: [i]

“… Consistory was dismayed to learn that a number of our members attended a concert by Coldplay a couple of weeks back. Parents, if the name is foreign to you, it is very likely that your children will be able to tell you about Coldplay and their music.

Well aware of the allurement of this rock band, the elder wanted to alert readers to the fact that such attendance was incompatible with what God requires:

“… as children of God, having been brought from darkness into the light, we have to ask ourselves if it is fitting that we entertain ourselves with their music and that of others who through their sound and lyrics promote darkness rather than light. The answer is not so hard. It is rather our own heart which is hard, for we don’t like to let go of our will, our pleasures, our aspirations in order to do God’s will. Yet by failing to submit ourselves to God we hollow out our faith and even put our very salvation at risk: ‘Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body that you should obey its lusts. And do not present your members as instruments of unrighteousness to sin’ … ‘For the wages of sin is death’ (Rom 6:12,13,23).

The writer referred to a sermon on Psalm 110, held the previous Sunday, about the Messiah’s reign. In that sermon Rev. C. Bouwman had referred to how we, as God’s children, are caught up in the battle for the establishing of Christ’s kingdom.

His reign will be established through His total defeat of the Forces of Darkness … and we have been enlisted in this war to fight in Christ’s army. The reality of the present spiritual warfare can seem very remote to us, yet this does not make it any less real. Ostrich behaviour will put our eternal wellbeing at risk. ‘Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.’ (1 Pet 5:8).

Rock. Bing image

Having myself been a young lad at the time rock music first pulsated and reverberated through the airwaves in the mid-1950s and early-1960s, I remember its attraction for the youth. It was the time when Elvis Presley ‘reigned’ as king of rock; an era that has subsequently been referred to as the “sexual revolution”; a time when rock and roll, a euphemism by black Americans for sex, [ii] captivated millions of youth.

I’ve heard it said that the lyrics and antics of Coldplay, however, are not overtly sexual. Some people have argued that it’s part of the wider repertoire of music that we have the “Christian freedom” to enjoy. But believe me, some of Coldplay’s lyrics are disgusting—with crude expletives, sexual inuendo and promotion of LGBT. I’m not going to reference them here because I don’t want to encourage some readers to stain their minds by looking at them. If you are of a mind to, you can research their music yourself.

It wasn’t only Coldplay performing. The Perth Coldplay ‘rock concert’ began with some other ‘artists’, including Amy Shark, some of whose lyrics contain confronting expletives. Why then would we, temples of the Holy Spirit, spend big bucks to attend such concerts and offend God by allowing such evil to be sown into our minds and souls?

Perhaps some of our Christian young folk who attended were persuaded by religious-sounding terms and soothed their consciences that the songs were okay. Indeed, while some people have pointed to lead singer and producer Chris Martin’s interest in Eastern spirituality as a possible influence on his lyrics, there are Christians who actually think that Chris Martin is producing Christian music. Now some of the lyrics, such as “Fix You” and “Viva La Vida” are sufficiently ambiguous to allow one, with some imagination, to read Christian themes into them. But don’t be deceived. Chris Martin is far from being Christian.

When asked about his religion he’s usually evasive but has admitted to being ‘alltheistic’: “Because no one can explain to you where a rose bush or Jaffa Cakes really come from.” He is further quoted as saying, “God is just a nice word to sing. But it isn’t any specific god. It’s more … alltheistic.” [iii] In other words, Chris Martin is “someone who believes in a god in a general sense as defined by various religions, rather than the Christian monotheistic view.” [iv] This is contrary to what we confess in our creeds and confessions. [v] It cannot be, therefore, that his music is, as some claim, Christian music. Indeed, in an interview with Rolling Stone in 2016 he said, “I don’t know what I believe. I have a lot of respect for people who have faith, but I just don’t know. It’s a big question.” [vi] Elsewhere he said in an interview that “he has great respect for all religions and that he enjoys learning about different faiths. He also stated that he doesn’t think any one religion is better than the other, and that all religions have the same purpose of bringing people together.” [vii] This is plain unbelief and an offense to God who has revealed Himself in His Word. Christ Martin’s outlook is a far cry from the glorious gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.

But it’s not only the lyrics to which we must object; it’s also the style itself. Rock music is associated with revolution and was a deliberate break away from the beauty and harmony of classical music. In a series of articles published in 2018, Rev. C. Vermeulen traced the history of rock music and showed how the early rock song “Roll over Beethoven” gives expression to this deliberate rejection of earlier forms of classical music. Beethoven, symbolising classical music, was to ‘roll over’ and make way for sensuous, pulsating, sexy music of rock, with its roots in primitive African music.

Admittedly, not all classical music is overtly Christian music either. Yet many of us enjoy listening to it because the style is harmonious, balanced, sweet and adheres to the principles of beauty. Consequently even fine classical music that was not intended to be to God’s glory can be listened to and appreciated as music through which we can glorify God. Rev. C. Vermeulen explained how, as a result of the Reformation, there was a renewed focus on the beauty with which God created everything. People celebrated his beauty in art and architecture, and hence it was reflected also in Baroque and other classical music.

People understood that there is rich beauty to be discovered in finding the rules God put in creation and working with them to ever higher levels. There was an appreciation for the past, as well as a striving to further develop musical techniques to God’s glory. The world view came out in the music as well as the words. We can think of the peace this music showed in content and form, the way different elements come together to produce beautiful harmonies…” [viii]

Rock music, on the other hand, is a deliberate break with the past, a conscious break with the fruits of the Reformation. Says Rev. Vermeulen:

By its practitioners, rock is seen not as a laudable development of music, but a replacement of and rebellion against the past. Furthermore, the form of the music fits with licentious permissiveness, in fact, the world celebrates the close connection between the beat of rock music and sexual immorality.

Rockers point out the great power of the rhythmic drumming to bring out the primitive in man, to connect to something deep inside him (and Christians know from LD 2 what the natural inclination of man’s heart is).

The one thing that keeps coming up is the close connection between the form of music and the new (immoral) way of life it ushered in. The world sees this as a strong connection, and as Christians we need to sit up and take serious note of that.[ix]

Rev. C Stam, in his published sermon on LD 52 (Living in the Joy of the Faith) warns,

“… if we ask God not to lead us into temptation, we should also then not bring us into temptation. It is, of course, ridiculous to pray this petition and then to go out to places of worldly temptation, like bars, dances, theatres, and to go about with those who do not wish to serve the Lord! If you let your mind be dominated by worldly media and your ears filled with diabolical rock music, it will be quite ineffective to pray this petition.”

So let’s warn our young folks against rock music. We’ve been so wonderfully redeemed from slavery to sin and the passions of the flesh through the inexpressively rich work of our Saviour Jesus Christ. Why on earth then would we want to risk being ensnared by Satan’s sinful allurements again? As we confess in relation to the 7th commandment (LD 41):

Since we, body and soul, are temples of the Holy Spirit, it is God’s will that we keep ourselves pure and holy. Therefore he forbids all unchaste acts, gestures, words, thoughts, desires, and whatever may entice us to unchastity.

Are we not “a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, [God’s] own special people”? Have we not been called “out of darkness into His marvellous light” in order to proclaim His praises? Did Peter, by God’s Spirit, not beg us to “abstain from fleshly lusts that war against the soul”? [x] Let’s not grieve the Holy Spirit and endanger our souls by attending, listening to, or promoting to others, Coldplay or other rock music that, whether blatantly or surreptitiously, lures us back into the ‘fleshly lusts’ and darkness from which we have been so wonderfully set free.

 

[i] District Church Bulletin (Perth metro, Bunbury & Busselton),10 December 2023. 
[ii] https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/rock_and_roll#Etymology 
[iii] https://www.distractify.com/p/chris-martin-religion 
[iv] Https://www.christiantoday.com/article/god.is.everywhere.and.everyone.says.coldplays.chris.martin/137470.htm 
[v] Think of the Nicene Creed, “We believe in one God…”; and the Athanasian Creed, “…we worship one God…”. Consider also the Belgic Confession, Art. 1: “We all believe with the heart and confess with the mouth that there is only one God…” 
[vi] https://christianeducatorsacademy.com/is-chris-martin-a-christian-the-surprising-truth-revealed/ 
[vii] Ibid 
[viii] Rev. C Vermeulen, “World View – Rock and Roll – Part 2” in Una Sancta, 3 November 2018, pp. 563/4 
[ix] Rev. C Vermeulen, “World View – Rock and Roll – Part 4” in Una Sancta, 15 December 2018, pp. 654/5 
[x] 1 Peter 2:9-11