Well, the title gives away my lack of passion for Christian music, so I am not going to do an inductive blog. There, I got it out. I don’t like Christian music. In fact, I think Christian music is theologically wrong. It is like saying “I like Christian cooking.” There is no such thing . . . or at least there should not be. I know that some of you are not going to agree with me, and that is cool. Your probably right. This is not that big of a deal. Nevertheless, allow me to express my odd passion here anyway.

Why don’t I like Christian music? That is a good question. I have often asked this of myself. What happens is this. I am driving down the road, listening to talk radio. The Renewing Your Mind broadcast ends, and is replaced by an hour of Christian music. I immediately change the station. I look for other music. Maybe something in the 90’s. The 90’s was a great decade for music. Here is my order of preference:

  • U2
  • Lifehouse
  • Creed
  • The Fray
  • Cranberries
  • Alanis Morresette
  • Smashing Pumkins
  • Switchfoot
  • Matchbox 20
  • Nickleback
  • REM
  • Pearl Jam

Oh, and (cover your ears boys and girls) . . .

  • Just about anything Country

That is my list. In fact, you can check my iPhone and see the same on my favorites list. I know what you are thinking. None of these, other than Switchfoot, are Christian groups. In fact, some have been thought of as anti-Christian. Even U2, Lifehouse, The Fray, and Creed, although they have Christian members, are not Christian bands. I like that. In fact, if they were to change and exist under the title of “Christian rock” I would probably bow my head in sadness and cease to listen to them so much. I would think to myself “They have caved to the pressure of the Christian sub-culture network.

It would take much more than one blog to explain my reasonings for this (especially since I do not completely understand them myself), but let give you some thoughts.

Broadly speaking, I don’t like the Christian mentality that Christians must create Christian sub-cultures in order to be truly Christian. We have a sub-culture for everything. When people come into Church they have to learn a different language, change the way they dress, only read Christian books, start liking the organ, and limit their cinematic entertainment to Fireproof and Facing the Giants. Why? Because we must conform to the sub-culture that says everything outside the Christian sub-culture is evil at worst and dangerous at best.

I especially don’t like a sub-culture in a genera that is a human genera—music. What does this mean? I believe that the Church is to exist as the Church, representing Christ in culture. This does not simply mean that we are out giving the Gospel to every person we see (as important as evangelism is), but representing Christ by being human. We are part of the culture, we are not a sub-culture. If a person feels musically inclined, he or she can honor God with their music, but this does not necessarily mean that every song they sing contains the words “Jesus, “God,” or “saved” anymore than saying that every pancake they cook has to have Jesus on it.

Why is it that when people become Christian in the music business they feel pressured to only sing songs exclusively about Jesus?

Let me just say it. I think that most Christian music is fake. I would much rather hear about people’s real lives, real struggles, and real passions than the shallow stuff that I hear coming out of the Christian music industry. Transparency is the key. I would rather hear someone honestly wrestling with the difficulties of life than listen to those who act like they have all the answers when I know this is not really the case. I would rather hear someone honestly cursing God than hypocritically praising His name. Music is about touching the deepest part of the human soul, grabbing a hold of the passions in a way that no other form of communication can. One Greek philosopher once said, “You can have the government and education, but give me the music and I control the people.” Music is about meeting people where they are. For example, Disarm by Smashing Pumpkins asks more questions than it answers. Cumbersome by Seven Mary Three, while depressing, speaks to real situations where life is overwhelming and sad. Lead On by George Straight tells a short simple story about two people trying to work out their fractured relationship. You Found Me by the Fray is a muffled cry out to God for seeming to be absent when everything was falling apart. This is an essential component in music. It enters your struggles, joys, angers, frustrations and says “This is life.” It should never put on a veneer of a sub-culture, but speak to people where they are. Didn’t David do this in the Psalms? Aren’t the Psalms music? Yet the Psalms are real. Some cry out to God in real anger, some praise his creation. Even the Song of Songs is about real life. It is about sex and it does not need to mention God once to honor him.

I am not saying that music should seek to normalize or glorify sin, but neither should it seek to avoid the real holes that we find ourselves in. Neither am I saying that the music that I have listed above necessarily honors God, but at least it is real. U2 sings real songs. Bono, the Edge, Larry Mullin, and Adam Clayton are all Christians, but they are not a Christian band. Why? Because they want to make an impact in the real world, speaking about real issues with honesty, openness, and transparency. If they were to enter into the “Christian music” genera, they would have to wear the same mask as all the others. They know this and they wisely stay out of the Christian music sub-culture.

There is no reason for Christians to create sub-cultures. In fact, this is a concession. God created music. He does not require you to mention His name in every song any more than He requires it in every email or conversation that you have. Real life can honor God without mentioning His name or acting like things are okay. Sometimes they are not okay. I am not against mentioning God at all, but let your music reflect the real world. He should be honored in all things. The same thing can be said about all entertainment. I don’t like the Christian movie industry for the exact same reasons, but that is another blog.

(I  hope you also see that this is really about much more than the value of Christian music.)

Okay, let the roasting begin.

C Michael Patton
C Michael Patton

C. Michael Patton is the primary contributor to the Parchment and Pen/Credo Blog. He has been in ministry for nearly twenty years as a pastor, author, speaker, and blogger. Find him on Patreon Th.M. Dallas Theological Seminary (2001), president of Credo House Ministries and Credo Courses, author of Now that I'm a Christian (Crossway, 2014) Increase My Faith (Credo House, 2011), and The Theology Program (Reclaiming the Mind Ministries, 2001-2006), host of Theology Unplugged, and primary blogger here at Parchment and Pen. But, most importantly, husband to a beautiful wife and father to four awesome children. Michael is available for speaking engagements. Join his Patreon and support his ministry

    129 replies to "Why I Don’t Like Christian Music"

    • CS Brownwell

      Let me be a voice to sound a different chord in this echo chamber. While your point about Christians retreating into an irrelevant sub-culture is valid, you really didn’t support that point with anything. In fact, I think your article to be a mere strawman argument.

      “Let me just say it. I think that most Christian music is fake.” Who is fake? What artists are frauds? Tell us so we can evaluate their lyrics and their lives so we can decide for ourselves. You seem to dislike “Christian” music because they all are frauds. Or do you throw the entire industry out with the bath water?

      Christians have entered the culture to bring it under the Lordship of Jesus Christ. You as a Calvinist ought to understand that. Before you strike out against the Lord’s annointed, you should examine why you reject what is good, what is lovely and what is of a good report. Christians now have an alternative that leads them to worship God. The culture now has the Truth, and a God in which to direct their helpless, hopeless cries. That Gospel message is provided by what you call the Christian sub-culture.

    • CS Brownwell

      I think post 17 by Tony Hicks is revealing. “It is awkward to watch Christian movies or listen to Christian radio because we might have to explain the hope that lies within us.”

      God did not call us to a life of ease or comfort. He called us to be salt and light to a dying world. He HAS called you to “explain the theology of “Left Behind” or “Facing the Giants” to your unsaved friend.”

    • Donnie

      Finally somethin I’m comfortable with (not Soveriegnty, Trinity, or Hermanuetics). No offense but this is silly. Any genre, subgenre, band, song, lyric, melody, chord progression, lead or break, etc. can be good or bad. All of those things are a matter of taste. Most musical genres are dictated by and strained thru the folks who purchase the product. Music is simply a mirrored image of its listeners. If the listener is complex then the music is complex (either musically or lyrically). If the listener is cheesy (fake) then the music is cheesy (fake) also. The goal of a songwriter should be to connect with the listener in a way that effects them. In other words the heart of the song must connect in some way with the emotions of the listener. Some CCM may seem shallow, but this is because most Christians are shallow. Mr Patton, you may do well to remember your own ministry is to change that! CCM does a good job at holding those “cheesy” Christians until someone like you can come along and add some spice to make old cheese into Nachos Bellgrande! The bands you mentioned are lyrically complex but lack complexity musically. Does this reflect your heart? To generalize musical genres as tasteful or shallow is like generalizing pastors or teachers or theology minded ministers. To what ministry are we called, only the complex, well grounded, eager to learn, truth seeker? Or are there those sheppards who are called to guide a flock of mindless sheep to safety from the wolves of the world? I love many kinds of music although I spent some time in some hair metal bar bands in the 80’s and 90’s. Talk about a subculture, I know all about drugs, sex, and rr. I think Michael Sweet might say to work in that genre and stay true to your faith is almost impossible. So let’s not compare apples to oranges. Let’s be real. Change Christians and Christian music will either change or get left behind. Otherwise, if you don’t like what your listening to then the only thing you need to…

    • Donnie

      Oh yeah, I write and perform some of my own “cheesy” CCM now. I write down thoughts that are sometimes very simple and other times very complex. Most of the time it is the simple lyrics that minister to congregations. If you want to get a preacher riled though, the more complex, Christianity critical lyrics do the trick. Throw in some detail about your sinful past and the youth want more. Then say somethin about the rapture and the old people raise their hands. Now I know that “tension” filled, unanswerable questions is what I need to write about. Anyone have money for a bus ticket to Nashville?!?
      To the moderator, he asked for it.

    • Donnie

      …change is the channel! Oh yeah, I write and perform some of my own “cheesy” CCM now. I write down thoughts that are sometimes very simple and other times very complex. Most of the time it is the simple lyrics that minister to congregations. If you want to get a preacher riled though, the more complex, Christianity critical lyrics do the trick. Throw in some detail about your sinful past and the youth want more. Then say somethin about the rapture and the old people raise their hands. Now I know that “tension” filled, unanswerable questions is what I need to write about. Anyone have money for a bus ticket to Nashville?!?
      To the moderator, he asked for it.

    • Alex Jordan


      I personally found your comments interesting and contributive in that it seemed you were grappling to find what it is about certain music that really blesses you and others. I think you were onto something when you mentioned that God may be wanting our individuality to come out (which I would call originality).

      Also I think it’s important to realize that people listen to music differently and are affected by different parts of it. I personally am probably affected most by the music, than by the lyrics of songs. Not that I don’t consider the lyrics important, but the music hits me first and most strongly.

      So I find if I am listening to melodies or music I don’t find very interesting or exciting, I am also not as inclined to listen to the words of those songs. I believe this is why I don’t necessarily get blessed by some Christian music, despite the fact that the words may be trying to bless.

      Also, perhaps it is possible for me to listen to some music that is secular (appreciating its musical creativity) without succumbing to the false messages of some of its lyrics.

      However I feel that the music in itself-apart from lyrics–carries a certain message. For example to me much metal music conveys extreme anger and even rebellion, even apart from any lyrics. I find it hard to believe that certain forms of music that sound very angry and ugly (again apart from their lyrics) can be listened to without it affecting the person listening.

      I do believe we have liberty in what we can listen to, because in our individual make-up and level of Christian maturity, one person can listen to certain music and not be sinning while another can listen to the same music and for that person listening to it would be causing them to sin. Yet when the Bible says “whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable”, etc and counsels us to focus on such, I think this applies not only to the lyrics, but also to the music. Some is beautiful and…

    • Alex Jordan

      (cont from above) some is not. Of course there is a certain level of subjectivity that comes into these opinions about music, that derives from our own unique life experiences. Still I also think that objectively speaking, some music is more beautiful than other music– but perhaps God is the only One who can objectively discern what is truly beautiful, being uniquely holy and without sin?

    • Mark

      PH 4:8 Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.

      I agree with the last post that PH 4:8 should be our guide. I don’t think most Christians would agree with your characterization: “When people come into Church they have to learn a different language, change the way they dress, only read Christian books, start liking the organ, and limit their cinematic entertainment to Fireproof and Facing the Giants. Why? Because we must conform to the sub-culture that says everything outside the Christian sub-culture is evil at worst and dangerous at best.”

      Anyone that believes this is acting like a “dumb sheep” and not using thier free will to make choices. Having said that- our choices should be in line with PH 4:8 and most (90+%) of the culture (music, books, movies, TV) does not line up with PH 4:8. Thus, an alternative is necessary.

      I’d say there is alot in country music that is okay. But in movies- it is usually the movies that are closer to PH 4:8 that are panned by the critics (like The Last Song- Life As We Know It- Secretariat- to name a few recent ones).

    • Nick

      This article is based on a faulty basis, that all artists within the confines of a musical genre are the same. It commits the exact same sin of labeling for an entire musical subculture–of judging–based upon the record label an artist is on, and not on the individual quality of their work.

      I have a diverse collection–both Christian and not, both praise and worship and CCM, and folk, alternative (what does this even mean?–if alternative becomes the most popular, wouldn’t that make it mainstream?), and many other genres. When I do listen to Christian music (a substantial amount), I find the great majority are from artists that aren’t necessarily associated with Christian radio–a medium whose focus is solely on a demographic (thirtysomething soccer moms) which I do not fit in. Big deal. Welcome to new media. Welcome to iTunes, Pandora, the plethora of music fan sites, and an online-roster of artists who play the annual Cornerstone Festival. Artists with integrity, artistry, poetry, skill, and are subsequently dirt poor for it.

      Articles such as this are useless in today’s digital climate.

    • Jim Jacobson

      I get ya, but you seem a bit cynical. I think there are a lot of great musicians in the Christian music industry who are both talented and authentic. I like to support those individuals. Have you ever heard of the Lost Dogs for example?
      http://www.thelostdogs.com or other rock groups like Sanctus Real, Remedy Drive, and many more. It’s music that glorifies Jesus and encourages young people. What’s not to like about that?
      My $.02

    • cowboydisciple

      Hodge, please don’t throw Bob and Larry under the bus! I learned everything I know about theology from Veggie Tales!

    • Carole Turner

      Great post. I agree with you on the disliking of Christian Music, I disagree about Creed, I don’t like them at all. The 90’s were a great decade for music, Counting Crows! I got blasted one time for saying most Christian artist weren’t any more Christian then most secular artist.

      Rock on.

    • […] finally an article written by Michael Patton on why  “dislikes” Christian music, and prefers listening to […]

    • […] Michael Patton on Reclaiming the Mind just posted another great topic with regards to Christian Music. This prompted me to publish this post that I had been sitting on for a while. You can read Michael’s post here. […]

    • Teresa

      Our music should simply reflect a creator the way that creation reflects a creator.

      Some secular music brings glory to God more than Christian music… in a way there’s freedom for secular musicians, christian or non-christian, to resist a subculture and instead explore creativity and develop their talents without pressure. I see most CCM the same way as most mainstream artists… predetermined by record A&R reps and defined by charts.

      I get distracted by the hipsterness of most contemporary christian worship music, and can’t ignore the obvious indie-rock influence.

    • Mat

      I dont know I like Christian music bob marleys great !

    • […] in WHY I DON’T LIKE CHRISTIAN MUSIC, Michael Patton takes the question right out of my mouth, “Why is it that when people become […]

    • Daniel

      C Michael Patton,

      Ah, I have found something we can agree on. Sorry I called you a liar on another post. Maybe that’s a little harsh. Your intentions are well-meaning, I’ll give you credit for that.

      Any way, no, Switchfoot is not a Christian band. You implied in your article that they were. We definitely have different taste in music but I like the fact that you don’t listen to Christian music. I was raised in a Christian family that forced Christian music down my throat!

      No Iron Maiden, no Helloween, no Gamma Ray, no Blind Guardian?!? What?!? I personally prefer black metal, death metal, power metal, speed metal, traditional metal, and folk metal. I like what you said here: “I would rather hear someone honestly cursing God than hypocritically praising His name”.

      I do think there are actually a few good Christian bands like Forst Like Ashes and Extol but the really good Christian bands I listen do NOT mention God in every other lyric and one of the bands actually recruited the drummer from the blakc metal band Mayhem to perform on one of their albums! Mayhem has been a band associated with Satanism, Church burnings, murder, cannibalism, and suicide.

      I like how you said most of Christian music is fake and that you would rather hear someone curse your god filled with passion as opposed to someone hypocritically praise your god. The black metal music industry seems to be something that you would prefer over Christian music.

    • Savannah

      I very much disagree with this… You are thinking of typical “Christians” …they are not all that way. The reason why us Christians like Christian music is because it helps us praise and connect to our great god. All Christian musicians have experienced many amazing miracles and they want to express their love or Jesus and share it with the world. And the different genres we have now days for Christian music is to reach out to everyone because everyone has a different style of music they like. The whole idea of modern Christian music is fantastic in my opinion.

    • Ron Christensen

      I was interested in this article until I saw the “list”… if Led Zeppelin isn’t number one on the list, the article is ridiculous…. lol

    • BiteMe

      This ‘i don’t like christian music because it’s a christian sub-culture’ is starting to sound like, well… a christian sub-culture.

    • Mike Walker

      Its not just in music. The great Christian novels like The Brothers Karamazov and Les Miserables are not “Christian Novels,” they are simply Great Novels that contain Christian Truth. C.S.Lewis, G.K. Chesterton, Dorothy L. Sayers and Malcolm Muggeridge were published by secular publishing houses and related to Christians and non Christians alike. Tolstoy, another Christian author, understood that Christians are beggars like everyone else, they have just found bread and want all the other beggars to have a full stomach. Why do we have to have an Us/Them mentality. We are “them,” we have just received grace. One of the few Christian songs I actually like is “Hard to Get.” by Rich Mullins, it is genuine and real and reflects the conflict of understanding Christ in a fallen world unjust world. Thank you for your article.

    • Luna

      Thank you!

    • Richard Wagner

      I love this.. I myself, am Christian. I even sing on Sundays in a choir. We sing black gospel music. This is a community. I would not label it a “subculture.” However, I sing in church, and listen to it in my home and car.

      My antidote. At one time I was employed in a food pantry. My job was to wait on clients at the front desk, interview folks, etc. My manager was a devout “Christian”. She set the radio to a “Christian” radio station. She set the volume up LOUD. I would turn the volume down so that I could hear the clients speak. She would complain, and direct me to turn it up. She wanted everyone who came in and needed food, would be blessed. ( even if they were not Christian? Maybe they were hungry atheist, or Muslims who were in need? ) It was like an indoctrination. If you want free food, you need to be “saved”

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