Back again with another post on Defining Christian Music!

Check out my previous posts to get up-to-date, but basically I’ve decided that I don’t like the term “Christian Music.”  There are a lot of things that bother me about it, but my main reason for not liking it is that it implies the music is not only by Christians (which I’m fine with) but also exclusively for Christians (which I’m not fine with).  So, I don’t like the term as it is, and this post is about what to do about it.

I know it’s sort of dumb to be deciding I don’t want to use the term “Christian Music” anymore right in the midst of Christian Music Superbowl I, but, like I said, I don’t like it but I need to figure out what to do about that.

As I see it, we have 2 options with the term “Christian Music,” but please give your thoughts in the comments:

1) Get a Whole New Term
I was thinking that maybe we need a new term to replace “Christian Music,” or maybe multiple new terms.  One option would be to throw out “Christian Music” as a genre and replace it with “Christian Worship Music” (for bands like David Crowder Band, Delirious?, etc.) and “Christian Life Music” (for bands like Thousand Foot Krutch, Relient K, etc.).

This really doesn’t solve anything at this point, other than divide up CCM into two camps (worship and life), and leave anybody outside CCM (Sufjan Stevens, mewithoutYou, Danielson, etc.) in the same predicament they are currently in – where they’re rejected by “Christian Music” (for not making music exclusively for Christians) so people assume they’re not even made up of Christians.

The terms “Christian Worship” and “Christian Life” still imply that the music is made for Christians and not for everyone.  Is there even a term that would work to say, “We’re making music as Christians, with a Christian worldview, but our music is not just for Christians exclusively”?

You could call it “Music by Christians” but then you don’t have the problem that people think it’s only for Christians but that they think it’s by Christians for converting non-Christians.  If you thought a certain genre of music was made by Muslims for your conversion, would you listen to it?  I might, but just out of morbid curiosity.  I think most people would be turned off though.

2) Stop Using Any Term
I’m leaning toward this option.  It seems rather arbitrary to create an entire genre based exclusively on whether the people are Christians or not (or, rather, are marketed toward Christians).  There is no “Buddhist Music” category at Best Buy, no “Atheist Music” shelf at Barnes and Noble.

So, why a “Christian Music” genre even at all?  Marketing.  People can make a lot of money off of telling Christians what’s safe for them and what’s not.  Just label it right, we think it’s good for us, and we buy it without a second thought.  You can make a lot of money off of “Christian Music,” but I don’t think you’d make as much off “Atheist Music,” “Muslim Music,” or “Zoroastrian Music.”

Certain terms designating faith music make sense to me.  “Gospel Music” makes sense.  It means you’re getting a certain style of music, a certain sound.  “New Age Music” makes sense.  You’re getting Yanni.  I don’t know if it has anything to do with the New Age Movement anymore, but I know what I’ll be hearing if someone pops in an album of New Age Music.  It’s got a distinct sound.

Come to think of it “Christian Contemporary Music” sort of makes sense to me as a genre with a distinct sound.  I’m sure you all have found yourself in an unfamiliar city, cruising through radio stations, and all of a sudden you hear something and think, “Oh, here’s the Christian station.”  CCM does have a particular sound.  The problem with CCM, though, is that people equate its sound with any music that Christians are allowed to listen to or make.  They think that if it doesn’t sound like CCM, it’s not Christians doing it.  And, despite my harshness toward CCM, it really isn’t as cohesive in its sound as Gospel or New Age Music.  You’ve got rap, pop, rock, r & b, acoustic… all within CCM.

So, “Christian Music” just doesn’t make sense as a genre, because it’s not cohesive like blues, jazz, folk, classic rock, neo-classical, etc.

If we throw the term out, then what do we do?  Judge each artist, each album, each song as it comes to us.  Use our heads and spirits to think it through instead of just reading a label.  Rather than say, “Hey, this is Christian Music.  This is good for me,” say, “Wow, God is really encouraging and comforting me with this song.  This is good for me.”

I’m not totally happy with just deleting the term.  I still want to know the spiritual beliefs of everyone I listen to.  I’ve got a little OCD with that.  And worship bands like David Crowder Band, Chris Tomlin, Robbie Seay Band, Delirious?, etc. would probably not be able to survive without the term.

Maybe the solution is to create a “Christian Worship” genre, and all that would be in it is worship music, which is usually by Christians and principally for Christians.  I guess Phillips, Craig, and Dean would have to be kicked out as heretics, but I’m not complaining.

Anyway, share your thoughts on the topic.  What should we do with the term “Christian Music?”