"Christian" music? I object

While I am supportive of the idea of encouraging children to listen to music that does not denigrate their Faith, I do object to the fallacious idea of “Christian music.” Such an idea is too limiting and relegates Christianity within the musical sphere to a little box, and the rest of the world is more than happy to move by this little box with no more than a smirk and a “whatever, I don’t get it.”

Here’s the problem: does so-called Christian music have to be explicitly Christian in a heavy-handed fashion? The best thing about Christianity (especially Catholicism) is it’s ability to find expression in vastly different ways across a broad spectrum of culture. The best that music has to offer from a Christian perspective is music that is permeated implicitly with Christianity. Christianity and God should be muses, but not necessarily the explicit objects of our works. This is not to criticize works that glorify God explicity, I’m just saying that art’s a lot broader than that.

In contrast, “Christian music” as a genre seems to limit itself to “music that mentions Jesus at least 15 times in each song, always with fawning adoration.” I may be grossly exaggerating, but it doesn’t seem like much sometimes.

Here’s some examples of my line of thinking:


(a) I’m listening to “Siamese Dream” by the Smashing Pumpkins right now (not a terribly big fan, but not a terrible band), and I’ve repeatedly heard references to Christian ideas, both explicitly and implicitly. For instance, in “Geek USA,” Corgan talks about “Then I knew we’d been forsaken / expelled from paradise.” It doesn’t seem to be sung in an ironic fashion either, which I would find a little offensive admittedly.

Another example is “Quiet,” where Corgan asks “Jesus are you up there listening / to anyone at all?” Now, I could imagine some people saying “This lyric is meant to sow doubt in people’s hearts,” but what doesn’t really? Life itself sows doubt in peoples’ hearts, and you can’t shield yourself from doubt, only overcome it. Does Corgan help that doubt? Perhaps not, but I argue that the very act of “asking Jesus, because I’m in pain” is an affirmation of Christianity in popular culture.

So, yes, “Siamese Dream” has the f-word in one of the song titles, and I would question my child about such language if I found it in their music, but don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater please.

(b) The Pixies are one of the bands that opened me up to the beauty of the Old Testament and Christianity in general. Why? Because the very “squeaky cleanness” of what I originally thought was Christian kept me away from ever approaching the Faith. The messinness of real Christianity is what finally convinced me to embrace it.

If anybody listens to their albums and interviews with Charles Francis (lead singer / songwriter), the stories of the Old Testement permeate their songs through and through. Listen to “Gouge Away” from their album “Doolittle” and you’ll see what I mean: “Chained to the pillars / a 3-day party / I break the walls / and kill us all / with holy fingers / gouge away / you can gouge away / stay all day / if you want to.” Um, the story of Samson? Unbelievable. And this was played on college radio constantly during the late 80’s and early 90’s. What better way to inject Christianity into the university.


In closing, yeah, Marilyn Manson (creep) is obviously not what I’m talking about here. I’m just asking people to expand their definition of acceptable “Christian music.” Does it have to be explicitly Christian, with sermons before and after each concert, or can it just simply feed from the roots of God?

And yet, there is something to explicitly Christian music if presented the right way, and especially in this age of worthless values in popular culture. I’m thinking of Danielson Familie for instance, which is one of the craziest bands I’ve ever heard in my life. It can be done, but once again, it isn’t the only way. Subtlety is a virtue! :smiley:

This is a Catholic forum, so I doubt I’m the first one to broach this subject. Not as novel as I think? Probably. chuckle

Arguments? Comments? Links? Thanks!

Yours,
Telemachus

I THINK what you are arguing against is the idea sometimes encoutered that one ought not listen to ‘secular’ music, but just Christian music. If that is your point, then welcome to the club! :wink: Yours is a very catholic idea.

If you are arguing that there shouldn’t BE contemporary christian music, then I’m not with you. Fact is that we live in a world hostile to our faith. Sometimes we need to be able to step back and re-immerse ourselves in a form of music/art/poetry that is entirely devoted to glorifying God. Something from the late Rich Mullins or Michael Card fills the ticket nicely.

P.O.D. had some alternative music hits yet they’re a Christian Rock/Alternative band, and their hits were either about God or changing society. “Alive” is about coming to know Christ, but doesn’t explicitly state that fact. If you go to a Christian or Catholic store there are many genres of music with Jesus as their Lord and Savior. Fr. Stan Fortuna is a rapper and his raps are catchy and have a positive message. I like Zoe Girl, Rachel Lampa, Third Day and Tobey Mac, they all are pretty decent. DC Talk, Jars of Clay, Amy Grant, and Michael W. Smith have been played many times on secular radio stations. Zoe Girl has had a least one song on the old show Lizzy McGuire.

Thanks for the posts.

To manualman
Yeah, that’s it in a nutshell I suppose, but I think I’m trying to argue something more. It seems to me like the vast majority of music is Christian a priori, as it is so strongly influenced by Christianity because of the culture from which it stems. Despite the probable lack of faith of the members of these groups that I gave as examples, they couldn’t help but include Christian archetypes in their music. To me this is very comforting, as it shows that Christianity runs a lot deeper than simply “those who go to church” and “those who don’t.” I hope this stays with us.

And, no, I’m not against explicitly Christian music, but I worry sometimes that we may be giving up popular culture to easily by allowing ourselves to be pigeon-holed. Then again, there’s some pretty big guns against any alternative. Like you said, the world is pretty hostile to the faith.

To gmarie21
Indeed! Not saying it can’t be done, just wanted to bring up what I was thinking about.

Okay, object. I guess your objection will change the entire music industry. (For the rest of us… YAAAWWWWWN).

In other words, this has been something that has been debated to death, both in print and in radio. But it will still be done, because it sells records.

Look at it this way: CCM magazine, formerly known as “Christian Contemporary Music”… just changed its name to CCM Magazine… that is, “Christ Community Music”. This is to open the doors to artists carried on secular labels, but who otherwise espouse (or can espouse) a Christian worldview. U2, The Fray, Switchfoot, etc etc.

Which, if you think about it, rules this thread null and void.

Nick

BTW… do you object to Catholic Contemporary Music?

Hee hee, that’s why I put the disclaimer at the very end. I figured it had probably been done to death already, although I think I put a unique spin on the idea personally. :smiley:

I must say that I like the idea of bringing some of these popular artists into the fold, so to speak, so that they can start properly “coming out” (ha!) as Christians without having to completely lose their mainstream appeal. Courageous has nothing to do with it, but I’ll watch with interest.

First of all, I don’t really “object.” That was just to get things riled up! Second, what exactly IS “Catholic Contemporary Music?” I wouldn’t mind checking it out.

Look up Spirit Juice spiritjuicestudios.com/ for starters for Catholic Contemporary Music

Telemachus,

The christian themes in secular music are often a two edged sword. Yes, they indicate a vetigial influence of christian philosophy and worldview in our culture, but those references are often subtly warped into something that only superficially resembles a christian theme while the deeper meaning has been suborned.

Sometimes its nice to know your musicians and their hearts well enough that you can let your guard down and enjoy.

Christian music has lost a lot of its stigma in past years (they’re even advertised on secular cable stations), even though they haven’t garnered the same respect as a secular counterpart… which is also moot in today’s musical climate, since sales of albums have plummetted due to digital distribution, and radio stations seem forever mired in pathetic survey groups that forcefeed a handful of overplayed songs on an unsuspecting public…

what exactly IS “Catholic Contemporary Music?” I wouldn’t mind checking it out.

If there was a Catholic Contemporary radio station, then perhaps you wouldn’t need to know. But Christian radio won’t touch a Catholic-based song with a three-point-sixteen-foot pole, (and in all fairness, they will do the same for a Presbyterian-based song, an African-Methodist-Episcopal based song, a Calvinist based song… only the Mere Christianity will do). Secondly, the Catholic radio stations… rare as they are… are predominantly talk (they used to have a half-hour program, “Catholic Jukebox”, but that has been temporarily suspended). EWTN has occassional music shows (saw "I Thirst with Tatiana over Holy Week, I thought it was very good)… but none of this holds a candle to 24/7 airplay that is absolutely essential for gaining a foothold of respectability.

Not to be self-promotory, but www.topcatholicsongs.com is an attempt to draw attention to Contempoary and Traditional recordings as befitting a specific liturgical theme (even tho the songs themselves make no judgment as to whether they are befitting for a liturgy). You ought to check it out.

Nick

Good point about the “vestigial”-ism of some of these references, and I agree that such influences might be warped into something that is not really Christian in nature.

Well, I’ll check out some of these recommendations.

point taken but if I have to listen to twenty songs full of profanity, advocating violence against women, or full of suicidal or narcissistic stream of consciousness ramblings of overpaid druggies with guitars, punctuated by salacious ranting DJs and commercials while waiting to hear one song that may have a not-too-objectionable content, no thanks, I will just stick to the Christian station until such time as a Catholic station becomes available.

I don’t listen – at all, I think – to CCM (the music, not the bicycle). I’ve found the stuff I have heard sounds remarkably close to bad versions of the post-VaticanII hymns.

I listen to some modern stuff, but I haven’t really liked much past 1985. I kind of got into music in the late 70s (disco!!) and out by the mid-80s (before it got really bad) – so I sort of identify with the actual New Wave (I still have my skinny red leather tie).

There are some secular songs that can be adapted to a Christian mindset. Off the top of my head, Kansas’ “Dust in the Wind” is a great theme for Ash Wednesday.

I did like Sister Act’s take on “I Will Follow Him.” :slight_smile:

I also like Neil Diamond’s “Brother Love’s Travellin’ Salvation Show”…it actually reminds me of MLK. I like the voiceover part:

Brothers, I said Brothers,
Now you got yourself two good hands;
And when your brother is troubled
You got to reach out your one hand for him
’Cause that’s what it’s there for.
And when your heart is troubled
You got to reach out your other hand
Reach it out to the Man up there
’Cause that’s what He’s there for.

Pretty good sum-up of Christianity there.

There are fantastic artists out there who fall under the label “Christian music” which is not a bad thing to be but I think it is silly that they have to be labeled at all. I love music by the Newsboys, tree63, relient k…I could go on and on. There are those who have been able to make a cross over and infiltrate the secular music world P.O.D , switchfoot to name two popular bands. There are many songs by bands that are not labeled Christian but are inspiring. I can think of a few U2 songs and Creed’s ‘My sacrifice’.

christian music is actually really horrible

Well, uh, that’s kind of a narrow-minded generalization there. Are you trying to imply that every single artist who dares sing Christian music regardless of style (rock, pop, hiphop, etc) is awful? And by horrible do you mean you dislike the idea of Christian lyrics or that you feel modern Christian musicians are simply untalented? Please give us examples of these “really horrible” musicians. I’m very curious to know why exactly you feel Christian music is horrible.

christian music is sorta like emo, scremo, or jewish music, its just plain bad

Don’t forget sik music!

Well, certainly there is some bad “Christian” music, just as there can be bad music in any genre. However, we are lucky in that “Christian” music can actually be many genres… from the pop stuff you might hear on the radio to gospel to ancient chants to even classical music, that can all be Christian. I have even heard of Christian punk, and Christian metal!

Now personally, I don’t like pop music. Secular or religious, I just don’t really care for the tunes, and the lyrics can be a bit too shallow or repetitive. But that hardly means that I’d dismiss all of Christian music simply because I’m not fond of Michelle Tumes and Amy Grant. Nay, I quite enjoy Rebecca St. James (pop, but with much better sound and a variety of influences), and I love listening to the chants and classical. And those are VERY Christian!

So don’t be so quick to brush it all off based on a couple of bad experiences… you’ll be missing out on a lot. For as long as there has been a Church, people have been singing about it and in it, so there is a great wealth of truly beautiful Christian music.

I have all of the WOW Hits and WOW Worship CD’s that they have ever made since coming out with them in 1996. There are alot of them songs and bands that make me so happy and bring me so much closer to the love of Jesus and God. One song that I can tell you about now is called “Watchin Over Me” by FFH. That one there is awesome. " This Day" By Steven Curtis Chapman, " Adore" by Jaci Velasquez and “We Delight” by Caedmons Call are just a few out there that just makes you feel good. Casting Crown is another good group who sings " Praise You In This Storm" and " Voice Of Truth". MercyMe, Michael English, Michael Card, Michael W Smith, Natalie Grant, Newsong, Newsboys, Phillip, Craig and Dean, Point Of Grace, Avalon, Rebecca St James, Rich Mullins, Sarah Groves, Sanctus Real, Sonicflood, Third Day, Toby Mac, Twila Paris,and Watermark are all good groups and individuals who bring me closer to God and Jesus. I could name more but there isnt enough space in here to do so. So this kind of music must not be that bad :slight_smile: Smile. One of my favorite Catholic based song is called " I’m A Catholic" By Jim Shoulak . Another good Catholic artist that I like as well is Paul Lisney.

Christian music is definitely not a singular genre and not all Christian songs mention Jesus every few seconds, LOL. There are lots of Christian songs that sound just like any other song you would hear on the radio. Several Christian rock and pop music artists have been gaining popularity over the years, such as Switchfoot, Relient K, POD, Stacie Orrico, etc.

Here are some of my favorite songs by Christian music artists (if you listen to the lyrics, you’ll notice that most of these songs aren’t explicitly Christian):

“Dare You to Move” by Switchfoot
"Be My Escape" by Relient K
"My New Dawn" by Daniel Kirkley
"Whispers in the Dark" by Skillet
"Together" by Krystal Meyers
"Open Up Your Eyes" by Jeremy Camp
"Save" by The Rocket Summer

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