Black Majority Churches and the Meaning of 'Secular Music'

May 17, 2020

What do you mean by Secular?


‘Secular’ comes from the Latin ‘saeculum' meaning, a period of time (an age or era). This is partly where we get the prayerful phrase, “world without end” or “forever and ever”. Later, it would often refer to the ‘world out there’ separate from the church. In time, the term also came to mean living a life that was without God. The Church was separated from the state and religion became a private matter. Priests and pastors did the sacred spiritual work while ‘ordinary folks’ carried out secular work.⁣

This worldview arose out of a reaction to Darwinism and criticism of the validity of the Bible as the final authority on all things. During this period the church began to lose a lot of its cultural influence. This led to a church stance of condemning culture and viewing the secular as dangerous and distinct from a holy life. This attitude was rigorously applied to certain forms of fashion, entertainment and leisure activities, including secular music. ⁣

Historically, many black Christian leaders and preachers have been vocal about the distinction between the holy and profane. So it has been problematic for musicians and singers with a gospel music background, who hold to Christian beliefs, to operate in a secular musical environment - especially within popular music. Music without a Christian theme has been seen as (at best) music devoid of God or at worst, the music of Satan.⁣

The birth of the Pentecostalism took place within three years of a thesis put forward by the sociologist Max Weber. Weber popularised the term ‘secularisation’. Secularisation theory proposes that the modernisation of society would mean a decline in the levels of spirituality across the West. This hasn’t happened in the way secular theorists thought. Statistics show that many people in the West remain open to the spiritual (although they are not necessarily religious).⁣

For most people, the word secular has come to mean ‘without God’. Is it true that any music that doesn’t directly mention God is not fit for Christian engagement? Definitely not. Just because something does not explicitly state Christian truth - does not mean that the fingerprint of God cannot be experienced in it.

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Black Majority Churches and the Meaning of 'Secular Music'

May 17, 2020

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About Black Music History

Matthew Williams MA, PGCE, LLB is a PhD research student at the University of Bristol. He began this initiative in February 2017 in order to aid his studies. It has since blossomed with an online following on Instagram of over 15,000 followers. He continues to document on social media when he is not studying or working.


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