In Good Company

When Job's three friends...heard about all the troubles that had come upon him, they set out from their homes and met together by agreement to go and sympathize with him and comfort him. When they saw him from a distance...they sat on the ground with him for seven days and seven nights. No one said a word to him, because they saw how great his suffering was. Job 2:11-13
I like to call this my bad day song. Whenever I'm feeling particularly angry or frustrated at the world (I think big), this is my go-to. Most people have something like this. It could be a song, or a TV show, or for many a glass of wine. Something to mellow you out when it just feels like life is against you.

Now if you listen to that song, it's far from chill. And apart from being a cheap Neurosis knockoff, it doesn't sound much different from those bad days we desperately want to escape. That's intentional. It would be nice if I could play a song and flip the switch on how I feel. But people aren't robots. And if I listened to a happy song while I was mad, it would seem like how I was really feeling didn't matter.

Recently I've been writing in defense of heavy metal. And so far I've established that it isn't evil or a matter of edification. So, if it isn't innately negative or a cause of negativity to others (applied with discretion, of course), is there anything positive about it?

photo credit: pcgn7 via photopin cc
Christians care about this because we often hear Philippians 4:8 used as a holiness checklist: you know, things that are true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, or praiseworthy. Maybe metal is like corn. It's not bad for you. But it isn't all that good for you either. And based on the preceding criterion, it would seem hard to justify eating corn or listening to heavy metal. Either way, it just feels less than human to think like this.

You don't need a Bible degree to conclude that human beings have a rational side and an emotional side. And throughout the centuries, philosophers and theologians have battled over which is to take precedence and govern our lives. It should be obvious who came out the victor in western society. 

However, I'm not convinced that humanity was ever intended to pick sides. As much as we have the ability to reason, we have a whole gamut of emotions--none of which are ever condemned in Scripture. Read the prophets if you don't believe me. Feelings have a purpose: they drive us to action. So refusing to do anything about them is neither honest nor healthy. If they can't be acted on, then they need to be dealt with.

This is why I listen to heavy metal. Metal is visceral and lachrymose, and I've dealt with too much of both in my life. We all have. I listen to metal because I identify with it. The emotion conveyed in the music empathizes with my soul, and provides company for my grief. It often surprises people when I tell them this, but I feel better after listening to it.

It doesn't matter what the artist is promoting. Grief doesn't consider the morality of its company; it asks only that the company be there. So no, there is no positive reason to listen to heavy metal, any more than there is for the recent shooting of 6-month-old Jonylah Watkins. When gangs start killing babies, I'd rather listen to Soilwork than Selah. Because anything less would feel like trying to walk into church with a big smile on my face after losing a good friend in a car accident. And unfortunately, I speak from experience.


  1. Very interesting read. I can send along another article that looks at why people like "everything... except metal music" from a sociological perspective. I can send it along if you like.


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