Sunday, 13 October 2013

Should Christian music be obvious?

What is the first thing when you see when you type "Christian Music into Google?" You get a myriad of hits that match your response. What about if you type in "What is Christian music?" What is your response hit then? I will do the work for you on this one... the first thing that comes up is the trusty Wikipedia definition, and it is this definition that sparked the idea for this post.

Wikipedia describes Christian music as: "Christian music is music that has been written to express either personal or communal belief in the Christian faith." Awesome, now we know what Christian music is, then why is it that so many people question the music itself? That is what I hope to unpack.

I was recently privileged to spend a couple days at a Christian radio station, this was a big deal for me, considering the fact that Christian radio is something I would like to go into. Anyway, I digress. This radio was more of a talk station, but there there was still a lot of music played on the shows, and as such, there was a lot of music that needed to be gone through and tested to see if it was relevant or not. Here at RICS, we place youth music in high regard, we love the guitar solos and the drum beats that make the feet tap. I asked the music man at the station what sort of music they play at the station and the answer was simple: "Clear and Clear." This was explained to mean that in order for a song to be played on the station, its lyrics must be clearly audible, and clearly understandable. Simple. Only it isn't that simple.

My question this week is "Should Christian music be obvious?". What I mean by that is this: should bands that claim, or perhaps do not even claim to be Christian, ensure that they have The Lord; Jesus Christ our Lord; The Cross; or any other obviously religious reference in their songs? And more importantly, if they do not, can they no longer be classified as Christian bands?

The secular market of music is saturated with lyrics that lend themselves towards all kinds of different connotations. The music industry has seen a degradation in the lyrics of songs over the last few decades which saddens me. The reason for this degradation is simple, sex and scandal sell. Artists are required to sell albums, therefore they create the music that will sell the most albums. A few Christian bands have been slated recently for making a move to the secular scene, this meaning that bands such as Switchfoot have said they are no longer Christian rock, but rather Alternative Rock. Many in the Christian music scene threw their toys out their cots upon hearing this, because they see this as them denouncing their faith. I disagree with these people, I believe what Switchfoot have done is exactly what we need more of in the Christian music industry.

Switchfoot is actually a perfect example for my question. Many of their songs are not obviously Christian, in fact, if you didn't know they were all Christian, who is to say you would think they were. Just because they do not swear or make vulgar references in their songs does not make them Christian. Thus I ask the question again, does Christian music need to be obvious?

I believe their are many sides to this conversation, and I would love to have the conversation with you, so please comment. For the purpose of this I will deal with two.

Yes, Christian music does need to be obvious. Why? It needs to be obvious in order to fulfill its purpose. The Purpose of Christian music is to tell the world about Jesus Christ, and you cannot do that without mentioning some form of religious context in your songs. Christian music is targeted at Christians and Christians want to listen to it because they want to be soothed by the lyrics and feel close to God through the music.

No, Christian music does not been to be obvious. Why? Labeling music as 'Christian' is boxing something that has massive potential up and backing it into a small corner. Christian music needs not be obvious because there are currently bands that are doing fantastically through the subtle references they make in their songs. Christian bands that have a subtle influence that comes through their songs have a greater reach, they are not preaching to the choir, instead, they are preaching to the lost and the searching. Should that not be the true purpose of Christian music?

Those are two perspectives. I think both are valid. However, I tend to agree more with saying that Christian music does not need to be obvious. I often encourage friends of mine to listen to bands such as RED and Disciple, because they are not overtly Christian, yet when you listen closely, the meaning hits you like a ton of bricks. I think that Christians need to be careful of placing a "For Christians only" sign on Christian music. We want the world to know about this music. I personally want the world to stop listening to sex crazed teenagers singing about all the action they are getting. Instead I would rather listen to a band who plays music because they love to play. They write lyrics so that their songs tell a story. And they are not afraid to speak The Truth.

Before I get a flurry of responses, I am aware their is a difference between the different types of Christian music. As such, I want to end off with another trusty Wikipedia definition for Christian rock: "Christian rock is a form of rock music played by individuals and bands whose members are Christian and who often focus the lyrics on the Christian faith..." here comes the important part... "The extent to which their lyrics are explicitly Christian varies between bands."

I hope I have placed a couple questions in your mind that you want to engage with me on. So please, engage away. Let us look at the section of music for what it is, music with a meaning, music sung by those wishing to make a difference in this world. Music that is trying to change the way people see modern music. So let us not box bands into categories where they will never be discovered, rather, let us display them for all the world to hear. What do you say?

Have a Rocking week everyone

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1 comment:

  1. Hey J

    I agree that Christian music doesn't need to be 'obvious' because it'll have a wider reach if it isn't, but I think if it is not obvious it could be mistaken for something that it is not. If no-one were to sing 'explicitly Christian' music it's meaning would be lost because we wouldn't be able to discern it from other kinds of music...

    Let me know what u think :)