Mainline Protestant Channel
The New Path of Christian Music
This new paradigm is not, however, confined to mainstream success. In their heyday, the indie group Pedro the Lion garnered a cult-following from young, hipster, "Emo" evangelicals who sought a musical home unlike what had previously been offered. But lead singer Dave Bazan attracted criticism from various evangelical gatekeepers as he explored the very edges of Christian identity in recordings and on stage. In classic postmodern form, Bazan's quite public musings have blurred categories associated with both "Christian" music and Christianity. The result has been nothing short of a fundamental paradigm shift. Though Bazan is merely one of many examples of this shift, a pattern has emerged, one where Christian-based musicians often avoid gesticulating like old-time evangelists offering altar calls. Now, musicians of faith often entertain thoughts associated with postmodern theory, while holding to the practicalities established by Jesus. Groups like U2 established a sort of precedent, clearing the way for Dave Bazan, as well as groups like Camera Can't Lie, Switchfoot, Mutemath, and Bruce Cockburn.
Today's CCM is more diverse than the "Jesus music" of previous generations, in some ways reflecting the collapse of corporate record companies, the rise of "indie" music, and an ever-changing evangelicalism. These changes will continue as Christians become increasingly tolerant of those with whom they share a world. Progressive Christianity is charting new paths for those of faith who seek to create art that is both inclusive and world-changing. Christian musicians continue to write about the environment, famine, the third world, poverty, racism, sexism, sexuality, and the like. The culture war is not over. But its tone has changed.
Shawn David Young is a socio-cultural historian. Having taught in the contemporary Christian music program at Greenville College, Illinois, he developed an interest in the connections between music, religious belief, politics, and the music industry and is now exploring how "postmodern" religion and pluralism have influenced popular faith-based music, the emergent church, and progressive spirituality. Young is a contributing news editor for Religion Compass Exchanges, an online journal from Wiley-Blackwell, and is working with David W. Stowe and Jim Jabara on a documentary film that explores the connections between early Christian rock music, the Religious Right, and the Evangelical Left.