Saturday, December 20, 2008

"Christian" Music

I was reading an article a couple of days ago about "secular" vs "Christian" music and it really got me to thinking about something that I have thought about (and probably have written about) in the past.

The fact is, I really think that the term "Christian" music is a meaningless term. And I will go even further. I really don't think that the word "Christian" was ever meant to be used as an adjective.

Interestingly enough, I checked out the dictionary online and there it was, plain as day, the word "Christian" defined as an adjective. Here is an example:
"of, pertaining to, or derived from Jesus Christ or His teachings.
i.e. a Christian faith."
See even that, even though it is an adjective, I could go along with. Christian faith. I am okay with that.

However, nowhere in the definitions was I able to find a definition using the word "Christian" as a way to describe, for lack of a better term, a thing. As in the case in point, music.

I really think that using the word "Christian" to describe a type of music is completely silly. And the idea that we as Christians should only be listening to "Christian" music is utterly ridiculous. However, if you feel that as a Christian you need to only listen to "Christian" music then unless you are a hypocrite, you must also follow suit with other forms of entertainment. You must also only watch "Christian" television programming. You must only watch "Christian" movies. You must only read "Christian" newspapers or magazines or books and so on.

And if you want to go even further with this idea, and only have "Christian" things in your social life then you must only go to "Christian" restaurants or shop at "Christian" grocery stores and buy your gas as a "Christian" gas station. See how ridiculous the use of the word "Christian" is as an adjective now?

In reality, there are some bands out there that use the "Christian" label just to guilt you into listening to their music when in fact they are not all that talented. Why would you listen to music that is crap just because it is "Christian?" An old analogy I read a long time ago went something along the lines of if you used a "Christian" plumber and he did a horrible job, would you hire him again just because he was a Christian or would you hire someone else that could do a better job, whether he or she was a Christian or not?

There are quite a few bands out there that do use the "Christian" label and are decent bands, but they are unfortunately in the minority. There are also plenty of bands out the in industry that do not use the "Christian" label because they do not want to box themselves into that label, yet the members of the band do in fact profess to be Christians themselves. In fact, this has become quite the trend in the last few years and many of these bands have done quite well for themselves commercially.

Another band which I will not name (I'll let you guess) is not a "Christian" band however 3 of its 4 members do claim to be followers of Jesus. Many of their songs do reflect a sort of "Christian" worldview and often speak of matters of faith in their music. This band specifically is one of the most popular bands in the world and has been for a couple of decades. But they are not a "Christian" band and their music is more spiritually themed than some of the "Christian"
bands lyrics I have heard in the past.

Very recently, a band that I consider to be one of my favorite bands, released a Christmas album. There are certain songs on it that mentions the words savior, Christ the Lord, etc.... I know for a fact (at least I am pretty sure...) that the de-facto leader of this band is not a Christian. I think he is into Eastern stuff of some sort. But he has no problem singing about Christ being the savior of mankind. Does that make this a "Christian" album by a non-Christian band? How does that work? It is a very good album by the way. :)

In a recent online article on the Relevant website, John Brandon says:

"People are Christians, things are just things.....Marketing folks love categorization because it means targeting your ads, pigeon-holing your constituency."
The fact is, there is still a strong Christian music industry because there are people out there that are still fooled by it. The fact is that the Christian music industry is no more ethical than the "secular" music industry (secular, there is another stupid word). Their business practices are no better than those of other industries that are non-"Christian." In fact, let me use for an example expenses. If you have been into a "Christian" book store lately, you may have noticed that everything in their is priced much higher than their non-Christian counterpart items. The only place I can think of off the top of my head where the Christian CDs cost the same as a Slayer album or a Motley Crue album is Best Buy. You try to buy a CD by a "Christian" artist from a "Christian" book store, chances are you are going to pay, at a minimum, $4-5 more than what you could have paid for it somewhere else. Their book prices aren't any better. The fact is, I am not, and will not, cater to an industry that charges more for their products and use the "Christian" label in an attempt to guilt you into buying their stuff because if you buy it anywhere else than you are a sinner.

It makes me better understand how Christ felt when he went into the Temple in Jerusalem and went ballistic when he say all the entrepreneurs selling stuff in the courtyard. I think the modern Christian music and book industry is very similar in nature to these people.

Anyway, the point I am making is that "Christian" music is a stupid term and needs to go away. However, if you feel that listening to music by a "non-Christian" recording artist is going to affect your own personal faith, fine, don't listen to it. By all means, keep buying and listening to your Steven Curtis Chapman albums or your Michael W. Smith albums or your Amy Grant albums (although with that last one you might one to do your research on just how great role model she really is as a Christian). Go ahead and keep listening to them if that make YOU feel better. But don't come down on the rest of us that don't care what type of label a particular band is categorized as. Personally, I don't care. There are certain bands that I don't listen to because I absolutely disagree with some of the thoughts they have on things but that is MY personal choice. Otherwise, I am just as happy listening to bands that are not professing Christians as I am that are.

That is all I have for now. Any thoughts?


  1. yeah ok - you are SO arguing with me on your blog - butthead. You're not slick.

    Philippians 4:8 (NIV)

    Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.

  2. I have no problems "thinking" about things that are right pure lovely, etc....I can think about them while listening to Weezer. :)

  3. To me Christian music is any music marketed through Christian channels like a church or Christian book store. It's a parallel music industry in its own little bubble. Just because a musician is a Christian doesn't mean they have to be marketed and distributed this way. Dustin from Thrice writes a lot of theologically-centered music while being in a "secular" band on a "secular" label. There are other bands like Danielson Famile making unique and creative art who are in the parallel "Christian" music industry. To me these terms don't have much meaning because I don't care where I buy my music (in a seculr or Christian outlet) but just that it is good.

  4. The problem I see with thinking in those terms is that you would have to consider bands like Anberlin and Emery as "Christian" bands although they don't necessarily label themselves that way.

    While I agree with you in that there are some bands out there writing theological lyrics while in "secular" bands that just proves my theory that the idea of a "Christian" label has become more and more silly as time goes by and more and more bands come out with something to say.