Paul Heinz

Original Fiction, Music and Essays

A Reader Fears for my Soul

Once in a while I receive a written comment about a blog I’ve written, usually a funny or complimentary note and sometimes an interesting insight. Last month my inbox included the following all-caps comment from a woman who read my 2016 blog entry, When Music Meant Going to Hell.

Amanda writes:

YOU BETTER PAY HEED MY FRIEND... GOD IS COMING BACK FOR HIS BRIDE AND IF YOUR SITTING IN A ROOM ALLOWING THE DEVIL TO ENTERTAIN YOU WELL THATS JUST WHERE YOU'LL BE WHEN HE COMES AN GOES... IF YOU KNOW IS SATANIC WHY KEEP LISTENING... WHY KEEP PARTICIPATING... WALK AWAY... DO U THINK YOU'LL BE LISTENING TO THAT IN HEAVEN WITH GOD NO... DAY BY DAY YOU BECOME A BETTER PERSON AN CHRISTIAN ONE LESS SIN TODAY FOR A BETTER TOMORROW

Now, I don’t know Amanda, so I don’t want to poke fun at her for her poor grammar, her use of all-caps or her typos, and even though I chuckled at Amanda’s self-righteousness, after thinking it over for a while I came to conclude that she and I aren’t as far apart in our thinking as one might suspect.

In my original essay I discussed the subliminal message craze of the early 80s and how much of my childhood was spent worrying about the buried meanings and messages in the music I was listening to. I stayed away from bands that overtly referenced Satan and the like, but I was being told that bands like Led Zeppelin, Supertramp (seriously? SUPERTAMP?), The Eagles and Pink Floyd were going to send me to hell, all for some silly lyric taken out of context or an album photo that included a hidden figure on the balcony of a hotel. 

The whole discussion devolved quickly into a case of sanctimonious finger-pointing, almost gleefully, like the wonderful Christian leaders of the Middle Ages who burned people at the stake for daring to print bibles in languages other than Latin (despite the original books having been written in Hebrew and Greek – funny), or the accusatory claims of the fine citizens of Salem, Massachusetts in 1692. It seems that throughout history people have claimed to know what God wants or doesn’t want, and oddly enough those wants keep changing over time.

But Amanda has a point. We really shouldn’t immerse ourselves in pursuits that we find morally repugnant. I don’t watch horror films because I don’t revel in the suffering of others (even if the suffering is an act) and don’t want those images imprinted in my mind. (Think watching violence doesn’t matter? Think again.) Similarly, I wouldn’t want to spend any time reading white supremacist propaganda except only to better defend against it, and I don’t listen to music that glorifies violence or demonizes race or religion. Some professions may require an immersion into sordid waters, like an author writing about ethnic cleansing or an investigator attempting to solve a human trafficking case. But for those of us who aren’t actively working in these types of pursuits, I really do believe we’re better off avoiding the underbelly of humanity for the most part.

So Amanda, I agree with you that I shouldn’t be listening to music that overtly contradicts my values. But here’s the thing: I don’t want you or anyone else deciding for me what those values are and what constitutes a violation of those values. I’m quite capable of deciding for myself where the boundaries are. 

Keep on doing your thing, Amanda, and I’ll keep on doing mine. Something tells me we’ll both be okay. I’ll just be taking my journey using lower-case letters.

Copyright, 2015, Paul Heinz, All Right Reserved