In our day, few matters divide generations more readily than music. Each age group has its own musical preferences which the others don’t get, and often can’t appreciate. For Christians, this problem is even more pronounced. The Christian’s submission to Scripture leads inevitably to ethical questions surrounding various elements of modern culture, especially music. This is complicated by the tendency of some Christians to denigrate certain music styles as intrinsically evil.
When it comes to parenting, and dealing with teenagers in particular, it would be easy to ignore the issue of music altogether. Many Christian parents just suffer with whatever music choices their children make, even if they offer an occasional frown. Not a few parents take the opposite approach, and operate like the musical police. This can raise barriers between parent and child, fostering bitterness and resentment. For most of us, we’re not exactly sure how to handle the thorny topic of music.
This is why I was intrigued by the title of a new book from Kregel Publications by Todd Stocker (with notes from his son Nathan): Infinite Playlists: How to Have Conversations [Not Conflict] with Your Kids About Music. The title gets right to the point, and when you open the front cover Stoker wastes no time in confronting the issue head on. In fact, the book is only a short 89 pages, but for many parents and teens today, a shorter book may have a better chance at being picked up and read. Whatever the case, even in these few short pages the book more than adequately covers the problem at hand.
Todd Stocker starts out by describing his love for music and how his Christian faith made him reevaluate his musical choices. His son Nathan’s affinity for hard rock brought him to the place where he had to start working through what music he’d allow his children to tune in to. The book moves on to describe music as a gift from God, but a gift that has been distorted by fallen man. There is a spiritual battle going on over music, and recognizing music’s ability to capture our souls with wonder should help us approach the topic soberly. Make no mistake, however, Stoker is not about a kill joy approach to music. “God never intended Christians to live cloistered.” (pg. 25)
Stocker goes on to trace the emotional, physical and spiritual impact of music, often quoting secular experts and personal experiences to add flavor. He explores various musical genres, and the question of Christian vs. secular music. He understands that the attitude and ethos created by the song conveys some meaning, but ultimately the lyrics make the predominant difference. Yet “God is not in one thing and not in the other”, and so even secular music can be redeemed for His purposes.
The meat of the book comes in his discussion of the working guidelines he’s come up with for his family. They are:
- What do the lyrics say?
- What picture does the song paint?
- What is the mood or feel of the song?
- Will the song cause others to stumble?
- Who is the artist or group?
Stocker is careful to convey that a firm, hard line is not easy to achieve. He prefers to discuss these questions with his son Nathan, and together agree on the verdict. Ultimately he has parental veto power, however. Including the children in the decision both empowers them and teaches them how to exercise discernment for themselves.
Stocker finishes the book by encouraging Christians everywhere to take the copyright laws seriously when it comes to music.
Some additional helpful features of the book include the chapter recaps, notes by 13 year old Nathan Stocker sharing his perspective on music at various points in the book, and a chapter exercise for working through the five guidelines and applying them with an actual song. The book also includes some helpful resources in the end-notes.
Before I close this review, I would want to encourage parents to pick up this book and use it as a tool in developing their own approach to how to parent their children when it comes to the arena of music. Stocker’s exhortation is worth quoting here at some length:
God has placed great importance and responsibility on your parental position within the family. Therefore, it is not OK to allow your children to listen to lyrics that could poison their souls. Think of it this way: you would never allow your children to drink gasoline even if it was their choice to do so. Neither should you let your children drink music that could cripple them forever. (pg. 58)
I can’t recommend this book more. It could perhaps have included a bit more material, but that’s the only complaint I’d have. It reads very easy, and manages to tackle a difficult topic with grace. It is immensely helpful, and definitely worth picking up at Amazon.com, or direct from Kregel Publications.
Disclaimer: This book was provided by Kregel Publications for review, as part of the Library Thing Early Reviewers program. I was under no obligation to offer a favorable review.