Thursday, March 31, 2005

Christian Music: Irrelevant


There are many who have been going to church since birth. I, however, didn't begin to grow and attend church until I was a freshman in high school. It was in the church youth group where I was first exposed to Christian music. Over time I found that I could only listen to a few Christian artists, but the majority of Christian music was just too cheesy and out of touch with the world in which I lived. Today very little has changed in the world of Christian music. I still find that 99% of Christian music is irrelevant to the struggles and suffering we experience here on Earth. So why is Christian music so irrelevant in the 21st century? Why can't Christian music critique or lament about the struggles of everyday life?
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First, Christian music has to be perfect. Some years ago there was a popular Christian artist named Michael English. He was topping the Christian charts and nominated for lots of Dove awards. But his career suddenly came to an end when it was discovered he had committed adultery. What is it with this notion that if you don't live a "perfect" life, then you can't perform Christian music. What if Michael W. Smith smoked or chewed tabacco or even used foul language in times of frustration? What if Casting Crowns went to the casinos for a birthday party? What if Third Day had a couple of glasses of alochol at dinner? Their album sales would plumet to nothing. They would be cast out of the Christian music business forever. Christian music can finally be relevant when it admits it's just as sinful as the rest of us.
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Two, Christian music is about money. If you listen to Christian artists on the radio or at concerts, then you often hear them say that they are performing for God and not the money. Bull! The Christian music business is a milion dollar business. If this is their only job, then it is all about the money. At least secular artists admit they're in it to make money. If we could only have more Christian artists like Rich Mullins who gave all his earnings away, but artists like Mullins are so rare in Christian music today. Though Christian artists don't earn as much as secular artists, it is still more money than most of us will ever see. Glory may go to God, but the checks go to them.
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Third, We live in an imperfect world. There's war, aids, cancer, and terrorism filling the world with suffering. Christian music pretends as if everything is all sunshine and roses. Yes it is ok to sing about the mansion over the hilltop, but we can't ignore the starving single mother here on Earth. We may feast on milk and honey one day, but there are some who need bread and water here and now. Christian music needs to be addressing these issues and stop pretending that everything is ok. If you think you can relevant by ignoring the plight of those around you, then you are kidding yourself.
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There are some Christian artists worth listening to. Audio Adreniline(old stuff), Third Day (old stuff), Cademon's Call, and Sara Groves. But for a band that is profoundly Christian and relevant I would suggest of course, U2. A band that critiques and loves at the same time. A band that sings of hope and yet despair too. My hope is that more Christian artists would follow U2's lead because U2 is a band that is real. U2 is a band that is relevant.
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CJE
Coming Tomorrow: Spiritual Adultery

11 comments:

Lanita 4:51 PM  

Interesting blog, Chris! I appreciate the organized way in which you present your ideas. I'd like to see your picture larger! At first I thought I'd reached someone else's blog.
Keep up the good work!

Chris Ewing 3:56 AM  

thanks so much. feedback and comments are always welcome. please keep visiting

J-Wild 2:26 PM  

Chris, way to bring it. Pop-Music and Pop-Theology don't mix well! I would also put Switchfoot into that "relevant" catagory. "We want more than this world has to offer. We want more than the wars of our fathers. Everything inside screams for second life. We were meant to live for so much more." Those are some good lyrics!

With regard to U2 I would agree, although I wouldn't call them a Christian band. I would call them a "Kingdom of God" band. Definately more dramatic, but their words and actions do more to promote the Kingdom of God than what one would normally suspect from superstars and normal people for that matter.

The gift to sing about love, life, and wonder as well as despair, tragedy, and indifference without turning anyone off is....well a gift. I can't wait to see them LIVE, LIVE, LIVE in May.

M. Joseph 10:02 AM  

Actually, more Christian artists than not are living below their desired means financially in order to be a part of the Christian music scene. I've done literally hundreds of interviews over the past 8 years, and the common perception of Christian musicians is far from the truth on the financial side of things.

They take a lot of abuse, but I've spent a lot of time with a lot of artists in private moments -- non-interviews and off the record -- and I've been happily surprised time after time. They all have insecurities as the rest of us do, and many of them don't want to have to be on stage, in the lights, and popular in Christian circles in order to accomplish their ministry -- but they do it despite those requirements.

Christian musicians aren't perfect, but the thing is that nearly every single artist I've spent time with would happily tell you that -- they'd yell it from the rooftops if they could -- because they feel unworthy to do what they do.

Almost all of them hate what the CCM world has become, but there are necessarily evils in the subculture right now that still don't negate the good that God is accomplishing through their efforts.

All I would say in closing is that anyone who chooses to put down a Christian artist really needs to do their homework. Many of these artists have become good friends of mine, and I know their true hearts. Not everyone has the opportunity to really get to know someone in the industry as well as I have, but that doesn't mean that one should bypass the homework end of things and just proceed to putting down something they perceive to be true.

I understand your comments are honest and are meant to set people back on the right track. but, some of these artists are on the right track, but are perceived to be otherwise. Their music may not always be original -- some of it definitely is -- but God is definitely using them to reach people who do appreciate that kind of music. Those listeners shouldn't be put down for their tastes either.

Perhaps some of these indie artists will be more of your cup of tea.

Ten Independent Artists You Should Know (Spring 2005)
The latest in our semi-annual series, highlighting examples of Christians making great music without the aid of a major record label.
by Russ Breimeier
http://ChristianityToday.com/music/reviews/2005/tenindieartists2005.html

HabitualDamnation 6:12 AM  

i enjoyed readin this very much and i agree with you mostly. however i would just put it down to non-compatibility of pop with religious sentiments. in soul and country for example, they fit in fine, though not many artistes stick to gospel music only in their discography.

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