It has been suggested to me that some Christians believe that rock music is inherently immoral, and as a result they believe that Christians would do well to avoid the entire genre.

For example, several older Christians have told me that statements about the immorality of rock were more common back in the 60s and 70s. Apparently, American evangelist Bob Larson was against rock music, and that he was lampooned for these view by Larry Norman, a musician who wrote rock music with a gospel theme. If this perspective is widespread, are there denominations that are opposed to rock music? Is there a cross-denominational movement that objects to rock music on the grounds that the genre is in some way unholy?

I met someone in my previous church who held this view, but I was never able to get a straight answer from her as to why. Was this just a personal perspective, or is this a widespread perspective amongst Christians?

If there is an anti-rock music movement amongst Christians, where did it originate? What is the basis for the belief? Are there particular Bible verses or doctrinal stances that underpin the anti-rock stance?

In answering the question, note that I'm not interested in debating whether or not rock music is actually immoral. I just want to know if / why groups of Christians believe it to be so.


If there is an anti-rock music movement amongst Christians, where did it originate? What is the basis for the belief? Are there particular Bible verses or doctrinal stances that underpin the anti-rock stance?

There is no organized "movement" as such. However, local Christian leaders may periodically condemn the music and urge their followers to some sort of action or demonstration. This sort of public activity has decreased since the 1970s.

The basis for it was primarily focused on the reaction of youth to popular music of the 1960s. The parents of these youth were mostly WWII veterans and their cohorts (age wise). They had been significantly homogenized by their war influenced experiences and sought to live the new suburban life as one similar in many ways to the military and civilian orderliness that they experienced. Their expectations were such as to think that their children would follow in their orderly footsteps.

When Christians of this time saw the reaction their children had to the music heard on radio programs and on record albums, they often equated rebellious behavior as caused by the music. The story of the Pied Piper and the recent image of invading armies provided a mental framework for many to view the phenomena as some sort of attack to which a response must be made.

I once heard Graham Edge of the Moody Blues (not a Christian as far as I know) reflect on the history of the group. He remarked that as a musical group they made a philosophic decision to change the direction of their music away from what he called "genital" music (music that resonated with that part of the anatomy) to "cerebral" music (music that resonated with a higher portion of the anatomy). He cited Simon and Garfunkle as examples of cerebral music.

The ability of music to have a physiological effect is fairly well known. (Music hath charms to sooth the savage breast). However, the causative aspect of corruption may have been overstated by concerned parents of the time.

What music resonates with is what the Bible calls "the flesh". If one considers the monolithic child rearing practices of the 1950s such as indulging children. For example, over-dosing them with sugar, almost unlimited toys, and almost non-stop entertainment with TV. One can see a pattern of fleshly indulgence of which "rock music" could be seen as a natural progression.

Often Christianity was defined as a system of rules to follow. Many people thought Christianity was the default condition of not sinning. Since rock music was often seen associated with fleshly responses, it was classified by many as a "sin" and put on the don't do list.

In addition to the resonance characteristic of rock music there were the embedded messages;

"live for today" "love me all night long" "go where you want to go, do what you want to do" "love the one you're with"

It is easy to see how Christian parents would view this as corruptive.

The genre of "Christian rock" might be seen as starting as an alternative to the sleazy words of traditional rock music. However, there is a legitimate concern if this alternative is really helpful or just another way to indulge the flesh.

However, most Christians failed to take advantage of the Biblical way of dealing with problems of the flesh;

Galatians 5:16 This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh.

Many Christians opted instead for banning the offending material. However, this often just led to a delayed effect. While Christians are called to purity, they are not called to isolation.

1 Corinthians 5:9-10 I wrote unto you in an epistle not to company with fornicators: Yet not altogether with the fornicators of this world, or with the covetous, or extortioners, or with idolaters; for then must ye needs go out of the world.

Christian parents who see corruptive influences in rock music have much to support their concerns. However, raising children to walk in the Spirit is the best way to deal with the corrupting influences in the world. In this way the corruptive elements of rock become inconsequential.

  • 1
    This is exactly the kind of answer I was looking for when I wrote the question. The only improvement would be a few citations to support your historical observations, but even without them, this is a really great answer.
    – Kramii
    Nov 13 '14 at 9:33

After reading several of the comments, it appears that many are taking the original question, "Is rock music sinful / immoral" and rewriting it in their heads as "If I listen to rock music, does that make me a rank sinner?"

As Paul put it...

I Corinthians 6:11-13 And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God. All things are lawful unto me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any. Meats for the belly, and the belly for meats: but God shall destroy both it and them. Now the body is not for fornication, but for the Lord; and the Lord for the body.

Is it expedient to listen to a song that contains lyrics about traveling down the Highway to Hell? As one commenter noted, this song may be theologically accurate, but the lyrics are that "I'm on the highway to hell". No thanks. That's not expedient for me to sing along to.

Jesus admonished us to remember Lot's wife, who was so in love with the things of the world (Sodom) that, as fire fell from heaven, she had to turn back around to get one last look.

LUKE 17:32 Remember Lot's wife. Whosoever shall seek to save his life shall lose it; and whosoever shall lose his life shall preserve it.

GENESIS 19:24 Then the LORD rained upon Sodom and upon Gomorrah brimstone and fire from the LORD out of heaven; And he overthrew those cities, and all the plain, and all the inhabitants of the cities, and that which grew upon the ground. But his wife looked back from behind him, and she became a pillar of salt.

As Paul said, "but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God." Sanctification brings separation.

I believe true sanctification produces a difference between what you used to be, and what you are today in Christ. The difference between what you used to do, and what you do now, should be so obvious that anyone can see it, and you become a living testimony to all men.

I Corinthians 3:1-2 Do we begin again to commend ourselves? or need we, as some others, epistles of commendation to you, or letters of commendation from you? Ye are our epistle written in our hearts, known and read of all men:

Summary: To say that listening to rock music makes you a sinner is legalism. On the other hand, make sure you are washed, sanctified, and set apart, and aren't turning back like Lot's wife.


Because a lot of rock songs (not all of them, of course, and not just rock by any means) have a message that's contrary to the teachings of the Gospel in one way or another, and people understand the power that music can have to influence people's actions.

  • 3
    This doesn't explain the inconsistency mentioned by the OP in comments about the bias between rock and other genres which I could argue espouse worse teachings. Would you say that's just an ignorance issue or is there some specific root here somewhere?
    – Caleb
    Sep 1 '11 at 22:33

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