overcoming average(?)

because it’s something the world just needs less of

thoughts on christian music

with 7 comments

What makes “Christian music” Christian music? It’s not the notes played or the beat you hear. This is the only genre of popular music today that’s defined by the lyrical content. Why is that? Why do we as Christians (generally speaking of course) demand that our music be especially set aside for our enjoyment only? There’s no real reason that a non-Christian would seek out music that only talks about Jesus unless they were specifically looking for music that talks about Jesus. I think that making music specifically christian in nature would alienate those not already in the club. I’m not talking about music written for the specific purpose of congregational worship. I mean the music you’ll hear if you turn on the local church friendly radio station.

So what do you do if you are a Christian who loves creating music but writes about people’s stories whether they experienced God in that moment or not? What happens when you lose hope? Should that not be talked about? Sometimes it doesn’t feel like God is there, and sometimes things happen to you that are out of your power to help. Are we only supposed to write about the aftermath, the moral of the story? Judging from the current atmosphere, that’s what it looks like. This doesn’t make sense to me at all, because that doesn’t sound like the Christian lifestyle we’ve been called to live. Even if your are “eternally minded,” that doesn’t disqualify you from having to experience this life, warts and all. As Christians, Jesus said we would experience hard times. We’re not called to ignore them, but to learn from them. Why wouldn’t a Christian artist want to use that experience as a story to tell through the gift of music? It’s not like we don’t already know the happy resution to the story: God wins. If there are no troubled times or evil to overcome, then there’s no such thing as salvation or redemption, and in between those two points is the search for God’s freedom and healing. We as Christians need to be encouraging to the process of spiritual growth, not the whitewashing of art to appease those who would ignore the world we live in.

So, why do I suddenly want to write such a tirade? Someone in the Chrisitian music world had a problem with some lyrics in a very powerful song that my friend had written and subsequently asked my friend to change them. The reason was because the lyrics as they are reflect the pain of the moment, and had no actual mention of God, Jesus, or the Bible. My friend was told that the changes should be made so that more of the Christian music listeners would more easily connect and mentioned several times about inserting God’s name into the song. This irked me quite a bit. Definitely for the reasons already stated, but for another big one too. I beleive that throwing God’s name in a song (the old “change ‘baby’ to ‘Jesus’ in any pop song” joke) is in a way using God’s name in vain. All art is an act of creation, which is in itself an imitation of the Creator. God made no compromise when he created the universe and everything in it, including you and I. Is it not then sinful if we compromise in our imitation of our Lord? This is a fallen world and we can’t always see God. Not that He wasn’t there, but that while living through the moment overwhelming evil was the only presence sensed. If a piece of art is simply about the hurt when evil occurred and the scar it may have left, isn’t it a compromise of integrity in telling the story of that moment and thrusting the name of God into it? I believe that God’s name would be cheapened in that case. And what would the true purpose be of slapping the name of Jesus into art other than to be able to sell it to Christians?

I’ve written about four different endings to this, and I haven’t been able to write a satisfactory one. I think it may be because I haven’t really come to any sort of conclusion in my mind about this. I guess I could just say that I believe God wants us to us tell our stories, and that we shouldn’t hide our stories under the guise of safety. Tell yours, and do it without compromise.

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Written by matt

September 7, 2009 at 10:04 pm

7 Responses

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  1. hey matt… right there with you bro! I could probably dedicate an entire website to why Christian music is wack and sucks *** but I’m not doing that… yet. My hope is that I can be a part of the “solution and not the problem.” For starters, Christians need to stop being so territorial with their stuff. We’re trying to BRAND everything and it kills the movement and dilutes the real message. To make matters worse, the artistry suffers and what we have is a load of crap! Let’s continue to go after what we feel called to musically and pray that God uses it despite our own musical and spiritual shortcomings. Ultimately, all truth is God’s truth and my music belongs to God… let’s keep it real! way to get me goin and great thoughts!

    DK

    September 7, 2009 at 10:35 pm

  2. Wow, you go boy. I agree with you and there seems to me to be nothing worse than an artist that is labeled “christian” apologizing for a song that does not mention God. A while ago, I heard an interview with Paramore and the lead singer discounted Misery Business (their best song in my opinion)when speaking to a “Christian” interviewer but when they were on KROQ, The Kevin and Bean show she was unapologetic for the song and beat the drum of “this was where I was at and it was real so I wrote about it”. I don’t get it. I say write what you feel either way. I can’t imagine adding God to a song to please anyone. I am quite sure God would not be pleased to be an afterthought or a mere addition for comfort purposes.

    You are awesome and true and real and that is part of what makes you amazing…your wife, of course is the other part.

    Lori Zimbardi

    September 7, 2009 at 10:57 pm

  3. Sing and write the songs that come to you. Your LIFE is the testimony of Christ in you and your songs cannot help but reflect that. HE will take care of the rest ;*)

    Kathie

    September 8, 2009 at 4:55 am

  4. I think my most pivotal musical transformation was when I moved rather quickly from dc Talk and Newsboys to Elliot Smith. I always thought it a very clear reminder of the surface level that Christian music often treads.

    I like your observation that is the only type of music that is defined by its lyricism.

    I think the most teeth-grinding aspect of the whole thing for me was and is that there were those lists that offered you choices of Christian bands if you liked _____ secular band. I always disliked this as it showed very blatantly that Christian music wasn’t even trying to be original. It may have been a misguided attempt to “redeem” the music in some way but it seemed more like copycat, uncreative record peddling to Christian kids (which I think we can conclude is contrary to God, Creator Supreme).

    Not to mention I think Christian music still will never recover any credibility in my mind for allowing a song like the W’s “You are the devil and the devil is bad” to become popular. ever.

    TW

    September 8, 2009 at 6:56 am

  5. First of all, that story about your friend’s song just makes me sick.

    Great post, my man. You and I have talked about this several times, so you know I stand firmly with you on this one… the crazy thing is, look at Psalms, the best example we have of early “worship songs” and David (or whomever) constantly talks about the “real” issues of their time and struggle, so why can’t we do the same thing? Even more ridiculous is when Christian radio will take a song like U2’s “Beautiful Day” or Los Lonely Boy’s “How Far is Heaven?” and only play them when they have been re-done by a more “Christian” band… drives me INSANE. Heaven forbid we ENCOURAGE a more secular band to write songs about their faith by exposing a Christian audience to their music.

    I gained so much respect for King’s X (for example) when I found out they were believers and that they STRUGGLED the same way I did, that ultimately it drew me CLOSER to God because I found a band that I could worship to– before I really even understood what “worship” was– without feeling like I was a phony. Or how I feel about Sufjan, now. How sad that there are so many people who will never hear the beauty of his Seven Swans album because it will never be played on a Christian station.

    So the other question is, can you worship while listening to “non-Christian” music? I certianly do. There are many songs that connect me directly to God that were not written or recorded by anyone in the “industry” and yet they bring me right to the same place that my favorite DCB and United songs do.

    Tom

    September 8, 2009 at 8:59 am

  6. I agree with this. I approve this message!

    J Rocka

    September 8, 2009 at 10:03 am

  7. I totally agree. I’ll add to it by saying this, I really do not understand why it isn’t just music by Christians. The only explanation I can think of is tied to Church History and the ideas of exclusion, speaking, of course, primarily of Medieval Christian Theology. I also agree that I feel closer to God listening to certain “secular” albums by Christians.

    Rose

    September 8, 2009 at 4:47 pm


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