In my opinion no other band creates atmosphere like Sigur Ros, if you don’t know the name you’ve probably heard them on an advert or wildlife documentary without realising it. Recently I have found myself singing out in tongues when listening to the Icelandic post-rock group, so I want to know if this is “okay”? Am I allowed to worship God whilst listening to non-worship music? With Sigur Ros it helps that I don’t speak Icelandic myself, it means I can’t get caught up in singing whatever the lead singer, Jonsi, is singing. He also sometimes sings in a made up language that he uses to write songs called ‘Hopelandic’ which doesn’t mean anything at all, so it is very easy to get lost in the music and the atmosphere of it all and not to think about what the song means.
When I started singing in tongues to Sigur Ros I was taken aback and was a bit unsure if I should be reacting to the music in that way. Music has a way of interacting with our spirit that demands a response, whether it’s gagging at the latest pop noise that comes on, singing at the top of your lungs to your favourite tune or feeling uncomfortable listening to music that has a spiritually dark feeling. So I think it’s right that I felt something towards it and clearly my spirit was moved to singing in a new language, but as I did a raft of questions went through my mind:
By singing out in tongues am I’m signing up to whatever this guy is saying or feeling?
Does the intention or world view of the composer have any bearing on how I can respond to their music?
Can the instrumental sound of a guitar or piano be un-Godly? (It certainly can when my sister is playing them!)
What do you think? Add your thoughts by commenting below.
I don’t think I can answer these questions fully but here are some thoughts. I know that God loves music, and it’s a good job as we have been singing to him for a long time. I know he created people to be creative and write music, both worship and non-worship, and he is pleased when we use those skills for his glory. I know that our whole lives should be worship to him and that he loves beauty, and there is definitely beauty in music. I’m sure that whatever I was singing out was bringing glory to God.
I have heard some people say good music reflects back to you what you bring to it, meaning you can find your own meaning in a really good piece of music, but I’m not sure that this is the whole story. I think I would find it hard to worship God to a background of Megadeath or Slayer however loud I sang Psalm 23, though there is probably someone out there that does it!
There is music that is made specifically to be pleasing to God and music that specifically is made not to please God and there is some music in the middle that both God and we can appreciate for its beauty and creativity. So can I worship God to Sigur Ros? Well I would say that I did on that car journey, it was a background melody for me to bring my praise to him. On reflection I reckon we can worship God to Sigur Ros or other ‘not-necessarily-worship’ bands, as long as it is the Holy Spirit leading us into worship. This comes with some caveats…
It is important to know what it is we are listening to, something I am not always good at, because music has a spiritual side to it and what we sing does get into us. I also wouldn’t recommend entirely replacing our regular worship songs with Sigur Ros, because we must feed our spirits with solid theological food too (through sound worship songs). But perhaps it’s time use an instrumental song, like Sigur Ros, for a time of reflection in a small group, and see how it goes.