I’m back with another post on Defining Christian Music. I’m starting to get overloaded / bored with the whole idea, but I still have a few articles I want to put up for discussion, including this one.
Whether you like the term or hate it, you’ve gotta admit that “Christian Music” is a loaded term. It carries a lot of baggage. It’s sort of like, back in the day, when you’d say “jazz music” and it meant loose morals, drinking, smoking, and sex before marriage. The term “Christian Music” has it’s own set of stereotypes that go along with it that are, honestly, damaging to the musicians.
Since I didn’t have as much time to actually research my thoughts as I had hoped, here are, in a very raw form, my thoughts on some of the sometimes-true sterotypes that go along with the term:
1) “Christian Music” artists and songs are hypocritical.
In polls, people almost always list TV evangelists as one of their most-hated professions they come in contact with. Why? I’m sure there are plenty of reasons, but one is undoubtedly the hypocrisy. When you’ve got high-profile Christian leaders preaching against sin, slamming homosexuals, and condemning divorce, yet they’re being caught in homosexual relationships (here for one example), they’re divorcing without much sign of remorse (here), and they’re doing hard drugs (here), you’ve got hypocrisy. The list of hypocritical acts by high-profile Christians goes on and on. And that’s the high-profile ones that make it into the news. What about your small church pastors living double lives? What about your average church-goer who doesn’t live what he preaches?
There are a lot of good Christians out there, in low-profile and high-profile places, but the terms “Christian” and “Christian Music” do carry a lot of bad baggage as a result of our bad behavior. I think the world can often hear “Christian” and think “hypocritical.” And it’s nobody’s fault but ours.
2) “Christian Music” is lame.
The term “Christian Music” conveys, to a lot of people, that the music is lame. It’s not up to par with secular music. This has been true at times but is a pretty single-sided stereotype. Before I was a Christian, my dad would play Christian radio all the time. I was bombarded with Michael W. Smith, Steven Curtis Chapman, Amy Grant, Phillips, Craig, and Dean, and loads of other musicians I would call “lame” musically. I know Michael W. Smith is a genius when it comes to music and he’s an amazing man of God from all I hear. I’m sure the others are similarly dedicated to God (except for those heretics Phillips, Craig, and Dean. Burn ’em! Boycott their music! jk). Back to the story. Thus bombarded with lame music, I decided that all Christian music was lame and that any God who liked that kind of music would obviously not like me and must be a pretty lame God himself. This is very untrue, but the music conveyed this to me, however inadvertantly. A lot of artists are aware of the baggage of the “Christian Music” term and don’t want to be instantly pigeon-holed into the “lame” corner.
3) “Christian Music” alienates the audience by creating a “me vs. you” mentality.
I’ve heard this one thrown out there a lot, and while I don’t know how true it is, I understand what people are saying. “Christian Music” creates a gap between the artist and the listener. Often, it’s one party (the musician) trying to help, save, convert, teach, heal, exhort, or change another (the listener). Sometimes this is great. Sometimes you need that. But sometimes it creates unnecessary conflict and divisions. Are the musicians really that much different from the listeners? No, we’re all people, regardless of whatever message you may have to give. People can have an almost instinctual reaction against anything “preachy,” anything that creates a “me vs. you, giver vs. receiver” atmosphere. I think a lot of this requires changing in us, where we don’t approach people as the opponent, or somebody to win over, but as a brother to come alongside and share a common story with.
Besides creating this strange division between musician and listener, the term “Christian Music” also implies that it is only for Christians or those hoping to become Christians, alienating many of the people that “Christian Music” really wants to help. Most people who are not Christians will not go to a “Christian Music” show, unless they think they’re Christians (which is the way it was with me).
4) “Christian Music” is fake.
I thought this before starting to serve God. I know my friends have thought it. Heck, I still think it. We assume that anybody within “Christian Music” is fake. Songs seem forced. Melodies lack passion. Lyrics lack conviction. The whole scene seems over-marketed, over-produced, and fake, in a lot of ways, like bands are created to say the party line and use the right phrases in order to gain an audience and make money for their record labels. I’d keep on ranting, but read this article here for more on the topic.
5) “Christian Music” is Christian.
One of the biggest problems with the term “Christian Music” is that music, by it’s nature can neither be saved or damned, Christian or non-Christian, Believer or unbeliever. Music is music, created by God to be used and enjoyed. What we do with that music can be done in either a Christian manner or a non-Christian manner, but music itself can not be born again and therefore can not be “Christian Music.” It’s as ridiculous as saying I bought a “Christian Car” the other day. Cars can’t be Christians – only people can.
So there’s a few of my rants on the current problems with the term “Christian Music” as I see them. I’m sure there are a zillion more out there, so please share your feedback.
Also, Colossians Three Sixteen, curiously enough, has done a couple articles recently on the topic. Read them here and here. He does a better job at researching and buiding a case than I do, but I think I rant better. 🙂