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“Ask a Priest: Will I Lose My Soul for Listening to AC/DC?”
Q: Last year, I went through a phase were I really opened up and became a better Christian. And it worked! But I let my anxiety take it too far, to the point where I wasn’t living my life. Now, as a result of that, I find it hard to pray, and I’m having trouble finding that even balance between sinning and living a godly life. I want to make the best out of my life while I’m here, and it’s difficult, because one of my biggest anxiety problems is hell. I don’t want to go there. If I swear, will I go to hell for eternity? If I make an inappropriate joke, will I go there for eternity? Also, music is a big concern for me. My favorite band is AC/DC. They’ve inspired me to start learning to play electric guitar. I know their songs are about sex, being a rebel, and even hell sometimes. But you’re not supposed to take them seriously. They’re a band simply here to have a good fun time. But when I listen to songs like “Highway to Hell” and “Hells Bells,” I have my anxiety worries. Will I go to hell for listening to them, even if I don’t let the lyrics get to me? All these questions are building up in me. I need guidance. –T.R.
Answered by Fr. Edward McIlmail, LC
A: It is good that you are trying to be a better Christian. To be a saint is the best way to go through life. That is how you give glory to God and find happiness.
Now, having a healthy fear of hell is good. We are in a spiritual battle, after all, and the stakes are enormous. But you don’t want to focus just on hell.
Christianity is about Christ, who is the full revelation of God. He wants us to be his followers, which means we need to make time for prayer, the sacraments, and acts of charity.
Christianity is about love more than about fear. In that sense it is better to focus on how to bring the love of Jesus to others each day. If you do that, then you are more likely to tame your faults and to put your energies into something positive.
Some practical things could help. Make frequent use of the sacraments. Try to read the Gospel every day. Get to know Christ, your best friend. Consider doing an online retreat occasionally, at RC Spirituality.
Then, ask yourself what God wants you to do with your life. Does he want you to be more respectful of others? More generous? What kind of music would he want you to listen to? Lyrics and hard beats can, after all, have a deep impact on the psyche. Instead of asking yourself if listening to a certain type of music will end up sending you to hell, why not ask yourself how listening to this or that type of music will affect your relationship with God? Will it help you be a wiser, stronger, more merciful person? Will it help your heart stay close to God and get to know him better? That type of reflection could be helpful. After all, to use another comparison, eating potato chips every once in a while won’t ruin your health, but only eating potato chips all the time certainly will.
You might also want to look for a regular confessor or spiritual director who could guide you.
If you focus on these kinds of things, you won’t be overly concerned about hell. Because your energies will be steadily geared toward moving in another direction.