Conservative teen activist Kyle Kashuv sparked an internet firestorm Friday morning when he tweeted, “Unpopular opinion: Music is a waste of time.”
Unpopular opinion: Music is a waste of time.
— Kyle Kashuv (@KyleKashuv) March 8, 2019
Beyond being “unpopular,” this belief is completely contrary to human nature.
On a basic level, many would agree that music is an art form which boasts intrinsic value and worth. Music has the power to unite, challenge, compel, excite, uplift and even convict. As billions across the globe and across generations would testify, music holds the power to tap into the wide range of human emotion. It can heal, it can bind up the brokenhearted and it can point us to a higher power greater than the throng of our daily troubles.
With this in mind, it is no wonder that Kashuv caused quite the stir by calling music “a waste of time.” After freely conceding that his is an “unpopular opinion,” Kashuv later qualified, “Music is enjoyable don’t get me wrong. But your time is much better spent listening to a podcast.”
Well, in some ways I agree with him. There is some music that appears to be a colossal waste of time and energy. For example, I don’t care much for rapper Cardi B. Salacious lyrics, monotone singing and synthesized beats don’t really do it for me, personally. In addition, I’d argue that this music (if you can properly call it that), along with other tracks that contain a lot of violent, explicit and overtly sexual overtones, only provokes the listener to engage in unhealthy or damaging behavior. Perhaps it’s only saving grace is that it may function as somewhat of an outlet through which one can vent negative energy.
Mumford and Sons’ keyboard player, Ben Lovett, put it brilliantly when speaking with former Radio 1 DJ Zane Lowe before the 2013 BRIT awards.
“There’s so much music about just going out, going to a club, meeting a girl and going back home,” he explained. “I think it would be good if people just listened to more music about everything else that happens on a day-to-day basis between the hours of 9 a.m. and 10 p.m.”
So, as someone who does, I admit, appreciate a well-produced podcast, I would have to respectfully disagree with Kashuv on this one. In short, music is awesome. And here’s why.
Aside from the proven therapeutic benefits of music with regards to the improvement of mood, the release of endorphins, the alleviation of stress and the heightening of productivity, I believe it can be a transformative element of our human experience.
An April 2014 study conducted by the Gerontological Society of America found that “listening to religious music is associated with a decrease in anxiety about death and increases in life satisfaction, self-esteem, and sense of control over their lives. In particular, listening to gospel music is associated with a decrease in anxiety about death and an increase in sense of control.”
Indeed, music allows us to express thoughts and feelings when words fail us.
“Humans have emotions and sentiments, tastes which need to be nourished and cultivated just as much as our intellectual faculties,” classical and jazz pianist Spencer Kashmanian told Faithwire. “We have rich interior lives full of thoughts and judgments about the world around us that, at best, can only be partially expressed by language. This is where music and the other arts come in, giving form and shape to those things that can’t be reduced to propositions and encyclopedia entries and yet are integral to who we are.”
Kashmanian pointed out that music, like other art forms, is uniquely human — a practice that allows us to partake in the creative nature of God.
“If a human being is just a complex computer, whose primary purpose lies in processing and synthesizing data like a glorified calculator, then sure—music is a waste of time, along with poetry, painting, and all of the other arts, or, for that matter, keeping cats and dogs as pets, and cooking dishes that are not only tasty but beautiful,” he noted.
But Christians believe that as God’s image-bearers, music can connect us with Him in a profound and incomparable way.
Music connects us to God
Psalm 22:3 alludes to the fact that God actually “inhabits” the praises of His people. By engaging in music that honors and exalts Him, we have the opportunity to draw closer to him than mere words would otherwise allow.
There is also a clear biblical defense of the power of musical worship. The Scriptures abound with verses that point to the power and importance of music in our worship.
Psalm 91:5 declares, “Come, let us sing for joy to the LORD; let us shout aloud to the Rock of our salvation.” Ephesians 5:19 implores believers to “sing and make music from your heart to the Lord,” and Psalm 105:2 urges us to “tell of all his [God’s] wonderful acts.”
Through sung worship, we really can enter the throne room of heaven and come face-to-face with the Lord. As we lift up a song of praise, He dwells with us and wonderful things can happen. Worship connects us to God and connects God to us.
A healing balm in times of suffering
When pastor Rick Warren lost his son to suicide in 2013, he and his wife Kay were plunged into a pit of grief deeper than most of us will ever be able to imagine. As a public figure and the author of the bestselling book, “The Purpose Driven Life,” Warren was bombarded with over 25,000 cards and letters, containing tender words of condolence, well-wishes and prayers.
However, despite the immense outpouring of love and support, Warren said that the most significant moments of spiritual healing actually came when he sat in a room on his own and simply listened to music. I these moments, he said, God felt near and his grief was momentarily lifted.
“When the soul hears music, it drops its best guard,” reads a quote commonly attributed to the Greek philosopher Socrates.
Indeed, when we attempt to numb our emotions and bury our pain, music can exercise this sort of effect upon our hearts, causing us to confront the truth — our innermost hopes, fears and disappointments — and compel us to, with hope, lay them all before God.
Far from being a waste of time, music is a wonderful joy and an incomparable gift to mankind that should be deeply treasured.