Here & now: Dan Morrell
Dan Morrell sings the praises of secular music
Several years ago, the Church pounced on the news that Stormzy (pictured) had released a song, ‘Blinded by Your Grace Pt 2’, talking very openly about his own faith and arguably summing up the Christian message. ‘Lord I’ve been broken, although I’m not worthy, you fix me, I’m blinded by your grace,’ among other lyrics, speak powerfully of the transformative grace of God. Perhaps Christians saw this as an opportunity to say at the end of the song: ‘And you can get to know God by coming to one of our churches’ Stormzy, after all, performed this song to more than 100,000 people at Glastonbury back in 2019, it was too good an opportunity to pass up. Did it work? Did people come flocking to our churches? Not really…
One reason for this might be that Stormzy was hardly the first person to talk about God in the music industry. We often place ‘secular music’ into a completely different camp – and coining the phrase secular music is a prime example of this. We can safely assume that almost all hymnwriters are Christian (although, interestingly, I discovered recently that John Rutter describes himself as ‘an agnostic supporter of the Christian faith’) and we therefore assume that ‘secular music’ songwriters aren’t Christian, or disregard their music as an unhelpful tool for worship. That couldn’t be further from the truth.
Not every song needs to mention God or Jesus. Lots have a more subtle Christian underpinning, and reflect Christian values. So there is a lot Christians can take from so-called ‘secular music’. It can be used for reflection, for worship, or for challenge. Not many Christian songs talk about wrestling with faith or with God, but lots of secular music does. At different times in our lives, we will have probably wrestled ourselves, so why do we not use this music as much as our hymns? Hymns and worship songs often portray a victorious life, free from problems and pain. This has only increased the distance between some parts of the Church and the world…
Dan Morrell works as a media for ministry consultant and is a former United Reformed Church Youth Assembly Moderator
This is an extract from an article published in the April 2021 edition of Reform