I really don’t like Christian music. By which I mean the “Contemporary Christian Music” genre, manufactured mainly out of America. I know people out there who only listen to this kind of Christian music. I think that’s sad; they’re missing out on so much. I guess one of the reasons I don’t like it is because it enforces an unnecessary sacred/secular divide. My favourite Christian artists are U2, Stevie Wonder and Martyn Joseph. None of them sell themselves for their Christianity. They sell themselves as good musicians.
There is a view abroad that Christian music needs to be separate from ordinary rock and pop because the non-Christian mainstream wouldn’t be able to handle explicitly Christian themes in music. This is bogus.
You broke the bonds
And you loosed the chains
Carried the cross of my shame
Oh my shame, you know I believe it.
- U2, I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For
(A song which, by the way, sums up my experience of church, as well as Bono’s.)
Explicitly Christian music can sell perfectly well if it’s any good. Heck, U2 have just gone and done it again:
The rule has been disproved
The stone it has been moved
The grave is now a groove
All debts are removed
- U2, Window in the Skies
I don’t think it’s anything to do with whether or not the music handles Christian themes. My contention is that “Christian music” needs to be a separate genre because most “Christian artists” simply aren’t very good. They can’t compete on equal terms with mainstream music. U2, Stevie Wonder, The Blind Boys of Alabama, Aretha Franklin and (to a lesser extent) Martyn Joseph are the exceptions who have broken through because either musically or commercially they actually have some chops about them.
But really, I think CCM exists purely because of economics. Major segments of American evangelism have been persuaded that rock and roll is the devil’s music, and a huge market has been generated for music that’s OK for Christians to listen to. I think this displays a wrong view of holiness, as I explained in one of yesterday’s sermons.
Actually, I would go further than that. I have recently been trying to find worship in music that is not necessarily Christian at all. I can worship much more freely to Tin Tin Out than to any Matt Redman song. Part of our ethnomusicology course at Bible college helped us discover our “heart music”; what really speaks to us deeply through music. I get moved by soul, blues and downtempo. Not many “Christian” artists working in those areas (Moby?) so I have to make do with what I can find…