Monday, April 24, 2006

Worshiping God to Secular Tunes: How Hoobastank Takes Me to the Throne

I've been told there's some great worship music on secular radio stations. And up until recently, I never understood that.

Let me explain: Some Christians can worship God while listening to a secular tune. In other words, a song that isn't written and performed by a Christian group. A song without any lyrics about God, Jesus, or the Holy Spirit. Or even words like "cross," "Bible," or "savior." Whoa, Nelly!

As I mentioned, I previous believed this was quite impossible.

MercyMe, Steven Curtis Chapman, Avalon, Rebecca St. James. They can all take me to the throne.

But a mainstream artist? A Top 40, non-Christian artist? Never.

Or so I thought.

I first heard about this concept when I was a young lass of about 15. Jim, a volunteer youth leader at my church, said he loved to worship to a Heart song, "Alone." Jim said it was like God's love song, expressing how God longs for us to have a singular relationship with him. As a teenager, I found this incredibly goofy. I listened to "Alone" and didn't hear any of that.

Through the years, I heard other people mention their love of secular "worship" songs. Then a few years ago, I walked into a church and recognized a familiar tune being played by the worship team:

However far away ... I will always love you ...

Huh? They were playing a secular song?!?

However long I stay ... I will always love you ...

During worship time! In a Sunday service!

Whatever words I say ... I will always love you. I will always love you.

It was The Cure's "Lovesong." People were raising their hands and lifting their voices in full praise-and-worship mode. And while the song didn't rouse any deep emotional response in my heart, I started to get it. I saw how people were connecting God's love with this secular song--and turning it into a worship song.

Jump forward a few months. Hoobastank's song "The Reason" was playing on the radio every five minutes. The first few times I heard the song, I had no idea what they were singing about. You know what I mean--when a song comes on your car radio that you absolutely love, and you sing along regardless of whether you know the real lyrics. It's like a really bad jazz scat: "Mm bah ahn um dah love ya ... ohh wee doo da I dooo ... wah wah doo nah nah LOVE YA!"

I enjoyed the song so much, I decided to look up the lyrics on the Internet. It almost knocked the breath out of me:

I've found a reason for me

To change who I used to be
A reason to start over new
And the reason is you

At that moment, Hoobastank took me to the throne in a way I'd never before experienced. I understood completely what Jim had been talking about with his Heart song, why the people in that church had raised their hands to "Lovesong."

"The Reason," a secular love song, was pouring out words I wanted to say to God.

Tears slid down my cheeks as I sang each line softly, with every word directed up to God. "The Reason" is about letting down the person you love most, hurting them horribly. Yet they give you another chance, and you're ready to change because you love them so much. It was my life experience to a T.

So I don't make fun of people anymore when they say they're worshiping to a secular song. At least, I try not to. I sometimes think about Jim crooning to "Alone" in his pitchy, crackling voice, and it makes me grin. It's a funny--and beautiful--picture in my mind.

To ponder:
1) Is there a secular song that speaks deeply to you about your relationship with God? Why does it move you?

2) Have you ever dismissed someone else's spiritual experience as silly or odd? Why do you think you dismissed it (e.g. you didn't understand, didn't think it was an experience you'd want or could have personally)?

3) What are some of your favorite activities (e.g. surfing the Internet, talking on the phone, journaling, hiking, listening to music)? These may be great ways for you to spend time with God.

For example, if you enjoy talking on the phone, make a "prayer appointment" with a friend, and pray for each other over the line. If you like using your computer, look for online devotions that interest you. Here are some sites to check out:

For women:

For men:

For families:

For teens:


Brooke said...

I laughed out loud when I saw the reference to us doing Lovesong by the Cure. Yea, I'm the guilty party for bringing that "worldly" song into church. I'm probably going to hell for that! Ha, ha!

But you know, I didn't really give it much thought. I don't usually think of music in terms of sacred or secular. What makes a song, "Christian?" Is it because the person who wrote it is Christian? Is it because it mentions God or Jesus? Is it because it contains explicit Christian theology? And how about thsi? Is there such a thing as a Christian building? A Christian business?

When I hear a song, or look at a piece of art, or read a piece of liturature, I don't tend to peg it as "Christian" or "Secular." Instead I tend to be drawn, or not, to the truth, or lack thereof, of the piece. I judge the artistry and aesthetic value. Whatever possesses real truth and beauty belongs to God.

On another note, some churches do "secular" songs just to be hip, or cute. That is silly and I think it comes off as corny and kind of stupid. What's even worse is when we take secular songs and "Chrisianize" them. Yes, I know that Charles Wesley did that in his day. But somehow that just doesn't work for me now. It just seems really silly to me. Even though we may do an occassional, gasp, "secular" song, there is no real need to do so. The Church has a wealth of centuries worth of material that contains both truth and beauty. Christians ought to be on the forefront of creating such pieces, not just for our own Christian circles, but to bless the world!

Anonymous said...

I felt the same way the first time I really listened to the words of "Reason." I even checked my car radio dial to verify what station I was listening to.

BTW, H, Christian Reader has change it's name to Today's Christian. (They wanted to be more like the super cool TCW!)


Holly said...

Hi Raelynn! Thanks for catching my boo boo, and for posting your thoughts. Now I know I'm in good company about the song--will think of you next time I hear it.

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

if you're lost you can look and you will find me...time after time
if you fall i will catch you
i will be waiting
time after time
cyndi lauper
this always brought my mind to how faithful God is to us..over and over again.
a x

Megan H said...

Great blog. We've talked about this with our youth group several times. Grenade by Bruno Mars talks about the depth of God's love for us, so much that he was willing to die for us. There are other like The Only One by Hot Chelle Rae and I've been trying to convince a girl in our church to sing Usher's Without You. Finding Christ in culture is essential in reaching youth today.