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!
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!