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:
- The Fray
- Alanis Morresette
- Smashing Pumkins
- Matchbox 20
- 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 is the primary contributor to the Parchment and Pen/Credo House Blog. He has been in ministry for nearly twenty years as a pastor, author, speaker, and blogger.
Th.M. Dallas Theological Seminar (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. He can be contacted at [email protected]