5 Reasons to Kill Christian Music

As humans endowed with free will, intellect, and the burning desire for transcendence, we should stop making Christian music. Here’s 5 of 100 reasons why:

1. Writing a “Christian” song reduces Christianity to a modifying adjective.

The well-intentioned creation of the Christian genre deems Christianity as equatable with as any other genre, like “Easy Listening”. Thus our earth-shaking, intellectual and faithful assent to the incarnation, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ is degraded into a choice amongst equally labeled choices: “R&B”, “Rock/Pop”, “Christian”, “Soundtrack”. (Circle which one doesn’t belong.)

A Christian genre insinuates that Christianity is the modification of a pre-existing reality. “Oh, you have music? Well here, have Christian music.”

But Christianity is reality. It makes a claim that we come from Love and are destined for Love, and that this is the very nature of every human being’s existence. Such a claim cannot modify music, it can only be the reality from which all our music springs.

Music should blossom from Christianity as vows from love. It is the poetic expression of reality as experienced by the Christian, not the expression of Christianity forced into poetry. If we are going to sing that “Jesus Saves” it should not be because we are writing a Christian song, but because Jesus really does save, and we are writing a good song.  In short, we should not write “Christian” music at all. We should be Christians and make incredible, authentic music.

2. Music is already Christian.

Writing a Jesus-song is a well-intentioned denial that Jesus is the transcendental source of every song. We cannot actively attempt the creation of something beautiful without reference to Beauty itself, who is God. We cannot sing something true — even if it is the most misunderstood truth that “all you need is Love” — without reference to Truth itself, who is God. We cannot attempt to lift the spirit and transcend the world — which is the innate goal of all music — without acknowledging a transcendent reality towards which we have the incredible capacity to lift our spirits.

Harmony, melody, rhythm, rhyme, dynamics — these are not the joys of the material or even the animal world. Music is a creation unique to those “made in the image and likeness of God”, namely, to human beings. To sing is to express our immense dignity. To sing at all is to praise the God who distinguishes us from all things songless.

Even the most banal, goat-sacrificing, wannabe Satanic metal participates in the Christian reality by stringing three notes together and calling it a melody. Their songs contain order, and order is the province of God. Their songs contain harmony — however overdriven — and thus amount to pitiful attempts at Beauty, and Beauty is God. Sure, these bands intentionally miss the mark, miss the point, preach vice, fall short of writing anything good enough to last, and waste time indulging the petty, Dionysian emotions, but even their failure is Christian. Failure to be Good, True and Beautiful, can only exist in reference to the Good, True and Beautiful. If their music is bad, it is bad because it fails to be good, and thus in its very badness it gives testimony to that-which-it-fails-to-be, namely Good, who is God. Purely evil music would not be music, because evil is Nothing. If Satanic musicians really wanted to defy God, they’d let their amps exude white noise for an hour and call it a concert.

Sorry kids.

3. “If you label me you negate me.”

Kierkegaard’s words are vindicated by the Christian music world. By our insistence upon Christianity-as-genre we’ve effectively carved out a ghetto for music-about-Jesus. We have our radio stations, our record labels, and even our own, distinct, “Christian-music” sound. Christian, have you noticed how easily you ignore the Atheist section of the bookstore? What on earth makes us confident that the atheist will fall on his knees before the next round of Third Day? Here a C.S. Lewis quote seems worth tattooing to our faces:

I believe that any Christian who is qualified to write a good popular book on any science may do much more by that than by any direct apologetic work…. We can make people often attend to the Christian point of view for half an hour or so; but the moment they have gone away from our lecture or laid down our article, they are plunged back into a world where the opposite position is taken for granted….What we want is not more little books about Christianity, but more little books by Christians on other subjects—with their Christianity latent. You can see this most easily if you look at it the other way around. Our faith is not very likely to be shaken by any book on Hinduism. But if whenever we read an elementary book on Geology, Botany, Politics, or Astronomy, we found that its implications were Hindu, that would shake us. It is not the books written in direct defense of Materialism that make the modern man a materialist; it is the materialistic assumptions in all the other books. In the same way, it is not books on Christianity that will really trouble him. But he would be troubled if, whenever he wanted a cheap popular introduction to some science, the best work on the market was always by a Christian.

So it is with music. What’s needed is not Christians writing “Christian” music. What’s needed is the best music in the world to be written by Christians, that the world might know the validity, depth, and truth of Christianity as an experienced reality, not as a deluge of cliches set to pop-music, working to negate the meat and bone of this rich, all-encompassing religion.

4. As a label, Christianity becomes an excuse for mediocrity.

Isn’t all singing about Jesus inherently valuable?

No. Love covers a multitude of sins, but a cliched refrain of his Most Holy Name will not cover the fact that your melody, chord progression, and overworked synth track are recycled versions of Nickleback’s last single.

Writing a song under the mindset that the Holy Spirit will use that song to “reach people” is a denial that the Holy Spirit uses you to reach people, and has given you the emotional depth, the poetic imagination, the enlightened intellect, and the spiritual sensitivity to write a damn good song.

Songwriting is a minor gift of the Holy Spirit. When the Holy Spirit becomes an excuse for mediocrity — the divine shoulders on which we dump a work of poetry, the craft of musicianship, and our own authenticity — we aren’t conversing with the Spirit, we’re making excuses, and committing a bizarre sort of heresy. We are saying that God is a magician who makes songs, books, poetry, art, blog posts and all the rest meaningful and life-changing after we’ve created them.

We are the ones who, in participation with God, make art awesome. If your music is bad, and you’re praying that God will do something great with it, stop praying and make better music.

5. “Christian” music isn’t Christian.

The mission statement of America’s most popular Christian radio conglomerate is as follows:

K-LOVE communicates the Gospel through mass media to leads as many people as possible toward salvation and spiritual growth. Air 1 Radio delivers positive cutting-edge Christian music to teenagers and young adults.

If the reality of Christianity is that which is expressed in the majority of “Christian” songs — and that which K-Love takes as their guiding principle — than I would much prefer to be an atheist. K-Love plays “positive” music. (Don’t get me started on the “cutting-edge”.) Every Christian radio station in existence gives the bizarre assurance before every song they play that they are in fact “positive”, “encouraging”, or “family friendly”. (It seems they could replace it all with “We are about to give you a song that sounds like a blanket on top of a kitten.)

Christianity is positive, but not in the way Christian radio stations mean it. The definition of “positive” is “explicitly stated, stipulated, or expressed” and Christianity is all of those things (and the closer you come to the Catholic Church, the more explicitly stated become the statements). But “positive” — as in “positive feelings” — indicates a certain shallow happiness as foreign to Christianity as Scientology.

We love a suffering God. To love Jesus Christ — which seems to me the essence of Christianity — is not to feel positively about him.

If you would sooner die than look your beloved in the eyes and thank her for giving you “positive” feelings, incorporate that same feeling into your consideration of writing a “positive” song about the Church’s Bridegroom, Jesus Christ. We our sojourners in the Valley of Tears. Our joy is immense, but never apart from the Sorrowful Heart of our Savior. Our new life comes from a death. Music should be our beautiful, authentic expressions of reality, and there is nothing authentic about “positive” Christianity.

Jacques Maritain sums it up: “God does not ask for “religious” art or “Catholic” art. The art he wants for himself is Art, with all its teeth.”

Discussion Questions:
1. Which musician leads more people to sing God’s praises?

(a) Chris Tomlin

(b) Marcus Mumford.

2. If you answered (b), does it follow that Marcus Mumford writes “Christian” music?

(a) Yes. (Follow up question: Why are Mumford and Sons absent from Christian radio?)

(b) No. (Follow up question: What of “Awake my soul/For you were made to meet your Maker?”)

(c) Yes, but he disguises it so non-Christians enjoy Mumford & Sons.

(d) No. Marcus Mumford writes good music. Mumford & Sons did not win album of the year for each of their albums in spite of the Christian content of their lyrics. They are not the rising generation’s most universally beloved band because they managed to effectively disguise their Christianity. The Christian content of their lyrics springs from an authentic source. Their music does not strive to be “Christian music”. Marcus is a Christian and his songs reflect his experience of reality. Because there is no need whatsoever to conform to a genre of Christianity, Mumford & Sons have utterly no need of cliches, and are free to express the brutal truth of Christianity in all her darkness and joy, using a language entirely real and universal. Thus thousands of drunk hipsters who would laugh at a chorus that shouts about shouting about letting all the world know that Jesus saves…will praise Jesus at a Mumford & Sons show.

Be Christian. Write Music.

  • http://twitter.com/SamRochadotcom Sam Rocha

    B-R-A-V-O! Do it again, and again.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100001837523704 Matt LaMar

    One of the many reasons I enjoy metal bands that have Christian members. They aren’t making Christian music, they just don’t exclude Christianity from their lyrics. It’s apart of their life, so they sing about it occasionally. And it’s not all positive encouraging happy crap either.

    • Jim

      Would you mind giving some examples of such bands? I would be interested in giving them a listen.

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100001837523704 Matt LaMar

        As I Lay Dying, Demon Hunter, War of Ages come to mind. They are metalcore, if you are into labeling things. Tourniquet, The Crucified, are some thrash metal bands. Though I suppose The Crucified are more thrashcore..

      • TechMage89

        Not sure what Matt was referring to specifically, but one band whose music has some very prominent Christian themes, even though not all their members are Christian, is Nightwish.

        • Brian

          No, Nightwish as a whole has very little if any such themes, they are not a Christian band in any meaning. The confusion results from a recurring theme of angels in their songs and music videos and the occasional Biblical metaphor. Their 6th album is titled “Dark Passion Play” for example.

          Toumas Holopainen (who writes about 90% of their lyrics), is in fact, quite agnostic. When asked if he was religious he replied:

          ” …[I'm] Not religious. I trust in the gospel of doubt and wonder. It`s often the pride of mankind which makes them think they have all the answers. I rather live in mystery and have an open mind towards everything. Faith sometimes makes a virtue out of not thinking.”

          To my knowledge in fact, no member of Nightwish is Christian. The source of my quote is Nightwish.com under their “Nightmail” section.

          Now to Jim, bands I can quickly name that fall under the category Matt described are: Anberlin, Thrice(seriously give them a listen!), Oh,Sleeper, Impending Doom, Hasted the Day, For Today, and Demon Hunter.

      • Obliged_Cornball

        Sorry, meant to reply to you. See my response to Matt.

      • Rose

        I would recommend Thrice. The Alchemy Index albums especially.

      • Kradax

        Megadeth. It’s no secret that Megadeth’s heart and soul, Dave Mustaine, is a devout Christian. In quite a few songs you can find not just Christian themes, but great moral lessons as well. Not to mention bad-ass riffing and some killer solos!

        • Joseph

          In the early years not so much (self admittedly by Dave himself).. Looking Down the Cross comes to mind haha… but point is still valid. Even the new stuff isn’t preachy in the least, except for a thanking of God in the credits lol.

        • Dave P.

          Dave Ellefson of Megadeth is studying to become a Missouri Synod pastor.

      • Tony A.

        Give Theocracy a listen. Excellent song-writing and fantastic power/progressive metal to boot.

      • Jason

        August Burns Red, and The Devil Wears Prada are my 2 favorite metalcore bands – and they are both comprised of Christian members.

      • Stephen

        Killswitch Engage.

      • Evan Pierce

        Skillet, Demon Hunter, Red, there are dozens of ‘em out there…you can probably find more through listening to those bands actually.

    • Obliged_Cornball

      They’re no longer around, but check out Extol. Their later work actually influenced a few modern metal bands. They don’t run into the form-function conflict that a lot of other Christian metal bands do, because they’re not always trying to be as “br00tal” as possible while singing about transcendent love.

      • Joseph

        EXTOL KILLS! Can’t tell you how happy I was to find such a great band like them. They’re one of my guilty pleasures hehe

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1640074522 Joseph Jablonski

    Love many of the points you are making (I chose to create an Indie Rock radio station over a Christian station, check me out Sundays 2-4 on wcua.cua.edu). However, I think they need to be counter-balanced with an appreciation for the “Christian” genre from the inside. For its evangelizing power, Christian Rock does not have much capability; this is something that I understand. It is very similar, in a way, to the Gather hymnbook, which, at Catholic University, gets slammed pretty hard.

    However, while having all “Chrstian” Music be like Mumford is a great ideal, I have run repeatedly into a brick wall: There are people out there that LOVE Christian Rock and Gather hymns, and, mustering as much evidence as I can empirically account for, they find transcendent meaning in the songs to Christ. I.e., my father found Christ deeper in his life from the praise and worship songs in Adoration, and my girlfriend stays loyal to her Gather hymnal.

    What you are saying, on a level, may be true. Mumford won their Grammy, which none of the K-Love artists will do at this point. But dismantling the latter, established genre is much more problematic than accepting the blessing of both.

    I’ll try getting a counter-point up on Gaudium Dei for you to read! Thanks for the input though! Keep writing!

  • Bob

    I disagree with a lot of this article. Mumford and Sons DID win *despite* their Christianity. They *DID* manage to effectively disguise their Christianity. Our culture is extremely hostile and intolerant toward anything Christian. Most people don’t even know the inspiration for Mumford and Sons, they don’t even know what the lyrics are saying beyond some of the choruses. They think the songs are about relationships or something, music can be powerful even without understanding what is being said! Music in a foreign language or even Instrumental pieces can bring people to tears.

    • Claude

      Our culture is extremely hostile and intolerant toward anything Christian.

      What?! Our culture is dominated by Christianity!

    • Claude

      Our culture is extremely hostile and intolerant toward anything Christian.

      What?! Our culture is dominated by Christianity!

    • Tony

      You’re basically saying that it was their intent to Trojan horse the Christianity message in their lyrics. Which is not true. They won because they are real artists, not a glorified, our of context worship band, playing caffeinated, contemporvent church songs to a disillusioned youth.

  • Obliged_Cornball

    “In the same way, it is not books on Christianity that will really trouble him. But he would be troubled if, whenever he wanted a cheap popular introduction to some science, the best work on the market was always by a Christian.”

    At least in my own experience, this is false. Art and science *by* Christians has little power to convince me unless it can only make sense in a world where Christianity is true. For an example you can relate to, Richard Dawkins has made substantial contributions to evolutionary biology, but you probably aren’t lining up to convert to atheism, are you? Now if his claims only made sense from an atheistic perspective, they might be more persuasive…but Christians can still for the most part accommodate them in their own worldview. And so nothing changes, so long as the data fits with a person’s initial assumptions. The Christian book may or may not have the power to do that, but it is at least in a better position to try.

    • TechMage89

      However, Christianity, almost uniquely, claims to explain everything. The world is a sacrament, a sign of God. Therefore, everything is ultimately explicable with reference to Him.

      Dawkins does not persuade with his science because he fails to show that his science has anything to do with atheism (perhaps not for lack of trying, but I think most people agree with me that his philosophical foundations are rather incoherent). It’s also unremarkable, because his atheistic materialism is rather typical of our time and culture, so it doesn’t stand out in the least.

      If Christians can stand out first by excellence in what they do, whether that be science, or engineering, or art, and we can relate that excellence to the universal truth we profess, that’s something our culture finds startling, I think, and it’s good evangelism.

      The idea here is that one ought not try too hard to sound “Christian” as if Christianity is just another fashion or hobby, but reflect the belief that one professes that Christ is to be found in all things.

      • Obliged_Cornball

        I think you’d be surprised of how *a*typical “atheistic materialism” is, even in this time and culture. Methodological naturalism is a popular approach to science, but that does not necessitate the truth of materialism in reality. I’ve found wildly divergent statistical claims about scientists and belief, but suffice to say that materialism is never always a given. I’m not particularly fond of Dawkins’ philosophy though, I’ll give you that.

        I’m not sure if claiming to “explain everything” is exclusive to Christianity. But let’s say it is, and one does manage to find Christ in science, art, or whatever other discipline. Relating excellence to truth is apparently quite difficult, and mere relation may not be enough. There have been some brilliant Christian scientists whose theories have found acceptance even among atheists, yet those atheists don’t renounce their beliefs. The problem is what philosophers of science might call “underdetermination;” which occurs when multiple theories can be justified using the same data. If you want to support your worldview using science, you can’t just *relate* the science to it, nor use science as corroboration – you have to show how other worldview’s are incompatible with it.

  • Rebecca Fletcher

    I would have to say I disagree. While some Christian music is mediocre, there is mediocrity found in any genre. Also, as far as putting Christian music in its own category, isn’t this blog on the Catholic channel on Patheos? Things do tend to get sorted. I frequently listen to KLOVE and Air1 and even though there are some songs that leave me scratching my head or disagreeing entirely, it is a ministry that does lead people to God. And there is nothing wrong with being positive and encouraging. We need that!

    • Luke

      Amen! You can’t tell me that songs like “Worn” by Tenth Avenue North or “Strong Enough” by Matthew West aren’t powerful tools that lead people into worship and even conversion.

    • Roy G. Biv

      SOME Christian music is mediocre? I would say MOST is. Seriously, find one song that isn’t just a watered down version of a secular song. It’s like the church has been doing for years with the holidays, steal the pagans days and dress them up as our own. any person with any musical talent and respect for their creativity pukes on the inside when they hear this kind of music. It’s not holy or sacred music, it is a way that the music industry has found to manipulate the religious masses. Sad and pathetic.

      • musiclover

        I accidentally hit the up arrow, I meant to hit the down arrow…I disagree with your comment. I just wanted to clarify.

      • http://www.facebook.com/MommySohler Mommy Solher

        I would say the Church has, with pagan holidays, been finding what is Good and True and keeping it, rather than tossing everything out. There is a depth and meaning to the symbols which in paganism were shadows of the Greater Reality which comes from God. What we don’t want to do, ever, is toss the baby with the bathwater.
        I will say I agree about most Christian “Pop” music. Most is terrible. Not all, though. Can I plug Larry Norman again? :D

      • http://www.facebook.com/kruszer Kristine Kruszelnicki

        Keith Green? (not to be confused with Steve Green) I’m not a Christian but I know quality when I hear it. Back in the 70′s and 80′s that man banged on the piano and exhibited so much talent that he had been pursued by secular record labels. Not too many Christian artists of his caliber but when I listen to him crying out in his songs I see a genuine faith that you don’t see in the majority of Christian artists. In particular “Asleep in the Light”, “A Billion Starving People” lyrically and So You Wanna Go Back to Egypt” and “He’ll Take Care of the Rest” for musical genius come to mind.

        • Onan Coca

          I am a Christian, and totally agree Kristine. Keith Green’s music is soul stirring…
          Perhaps some combination of the authors article and what currently exists would be the best route for Christian music to take.
          I’d prefer not playing Mumford & Sons in front of my little ones because i’m pretty sure he drops the f-bomb in at least one song, no? And while that’s totally up to him – i’d prefer my kids listen to Chris Tomlin.

        • jon

          agree agreed

        • Vonda Zimmerman

          LOVE LOVE Keith Green since I was a teenager! Still listen! Also–Natalie Grant’s song ‘Held’ is the most beautiful song I ever heard explaining suffering and what we do and who we are…Josh Groban does a beautiful Pie Jesu

      • jon

        agree

  • Obliged_Cornball

    “Purely evil music would not be music, because evil is Nothing. If Satanic musicians really wanted to defy God, they’d let their amps exude white noise for an hour and call it a concert.”

    Sunn O))) beat them to it, though.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qdeqvhxu7iI

  • Kelly Richardson

    I was “punk rock” back in the day (1980′s) …and I drifted FAR from my faith… I came back to the Catholic church when I was 39 (on fire) and was introduced to (so-called) “Christian rock.” I now listen to nothing but because it brings me closer to God. If/when I do listen to a secular rock station on the radio and hear old songs that I used to like and sing along to I stop and really LISTEN to the lyrics …and I am shocked by what I hear… embarrassed even… so yeah I have to turn off the radio (I have kids in the backseat)… so I disagree with this article… but that’s okay. I love Marc’s writings. To me the only reason I call it “christian rock” (yes I know all music does come from God) is so that I know that the music I am about to listen to has the message I want to hear and sing a long to… because most of what is on the radio is mindless drivel (yes I agree some Christian music stinks!)…

    • escottie

      Most of what you hear as “Christian Rock” are full of bands who are not under the label of “Christian Rock” rather people who recognize it as Christian themed categorize it as “Christian.” In many interviews I’ve heard many of these “Christian Rock” bands say they are not a Christian band but rather a band composed of Christians.

  • Nicholas

    I agree with most of the article, except for the fact that it hasn’t gone deep enough into why Christian music is bad. The problem is that the FORM of worship just doesn’t illuminate correctly WHO is worshipped (God). The FORM also both reflects our own understanding of God, and creates in others their conception of God. Applying this reasoning to the Liturgy (actually, to ALL the spiritual practices of a Christian denomination), we realize that it is the fundamental source of our understanding of God Himself. Then, if you would like the fullest, most complete understanding of Christ (as formed by the Liturgy and other spiritual practices), then you may very well end up attending a Byzantine Rite parish, or becoming Eastern Orthodox.

  • [Insert Name Here]

    I completely agree! As a younger person, I hate Christian radio because it is so shallow. Most “Christian” songs are the same as secular songs but they replace the word “baby” with “Jesus” and call it Christian. No wonder 70% of teens leave the Church! We’re feeding them fluff! None of this music holds any value or true significance.

    • Johnyboyfromgr

      Im going to have to agree with you here. As a 16 year old, and having questions with my faith, the music i listent to will greatly impact me, and my opinions in most cases. If you where to ask a teen who left church what music they listen to they will probably say somthing like One direction, justion bieber, jason derulo, (and my least favorite) Eminem. In the past several years i have seen many friends stop going to church. The music they listen to has a big impact on that. However, part of the job of a parent is raising their kids to walk and follow christ, well you cant do that allowing things into your home and allowing your kids to stay home from church. You say “church is the best thing for you” but you let them listen to CRAP, its almost hypocritical. Not trying to rip on parents here, but many times the parents dont see the full picture by a teens brain. There is like mentioned many times before a fine line between the Good music and the Crap

      • http://www.facebook.com/julia.a.mandeville Julia Anne B Mandeville

        As a mom of a teen – I agree with you on the paying attention to what is allowed. We don’t listen to the radio much (Sports, Classical, 80s mostly) – My daughter knows of One Direction, Justin Bieber — but she would much prefer to listen to the likes of Amy Grant, Michael W Smith, Kutless, BarlowGirl, Rich Mullins, Edens Bridge (Celtic) etc — Only what We have on CD — Not even Christian Radio — Not that we really even have much of one around here.

        • Bad Article

          At least you’re not sheltering her!

    • Sidney Eugene Montgomery

      Your comment is completely irrelevant and it does not even help your argument at all. You think you know…but really you don’t know. And you’re using a lame comment that I have read hundreds of times on any article that bashes Christian music…..and that is to replace “baby” with “Jesus”.

      Most of the music I listen to have words like Yahweh, praise, lord, grace,

      glory, lamb of god, etc.” And I’m talking about artists like HIllsong, David Crowder, Chris Tomlin, and more.

      And, so what if there is a “Christian label”. I only listen to Christian music and nothing else because I know the other music is just garbage. And I know that stations like KLOVE will play the music I want to hear…positive and uplifting. Since, when is there anything wrong with that? It’s not like I’m out there idolizing Miley Cyrus and Lady Gaga.

  • Catherine1

    Hmm, I’ve been thinking about this question for a while now, though I still haven’t come to a firm conclusion. I think you make some very valid points (in what is a very fine piece) especially regarding the authenticity of “positive” Christianity, which is definitely something more people need to hear. (Love the image of the kitten and the blanket, very apt). On the other hand, Joseph is right in saying that there are a lot of people who genuinely find meaning and hear the voice of God speaking to them in worship music.
    I’ve been to lots of youth retreats where it greatly added to the experience, although I do draw the line at the clapping during Mass. I’m not sure anyone can claim to draw the line between a beautiful song and a mediocre song. Isn’t that a matter of individual taste? If the song points towards Truth and Beauty for that particular listener, then doesn’t that make it worthy of being called a good song? If art points towards the divine, then can’t God speak to us through it, whether it’s Chris Tomlin or Mumford and Sons or Beethoven or the soundtrack to Braveheart? I suppose my point is that it might be unwise to dismiss “Christian music” out of hand, but we shouldn’t let it take over either.

    • http://blog.goliard.us/ Blog Goliard

      “I’m not sure anyone can claim to draw the line between a beautiful song and a mediocre song.”

      It’s hard to have a sensible conversation about anything, really, when one approaches the subject from a position of hard-core relativism.

      What is Beauty anyway, apart from individual taste? What is Truth?

      (Don’t forget to wash your hands.)

      • Joseph

        In common language, this is very true and I don’t think relativistic. I listen to different bands and genres for different reasons… Music is mostly emotional… the Safety Dance is a terrible song if you only like sad music, but if you like happy dancy music it’s one of the best songs ever! When talking about music and art, we should remember that they don’t have to contain everything objectively good to be beautiful… usually it just shows one tiny little aspect of beauty in a given piece… it’s why there’s so many different music and art styles in general. We can’t show it all with one piece! The artist’s job is to shed light on all aspects of beauty, even the not so “pretty” parts.

  • Claude

    If Satanic musicians really wanted to defy God, they’d let their amps exude white noise for an hour and call it a concert.

    It’s official. Lou Reed’s Metal Machine Music is an act of the devil.

    Meanwhile, if beauty were truth I’d believe the Prologue to John to be true. Yet, I don’t believe so.

    By describing bad art as a form of heresy you are investing aesthetics with moral value. I do this too, but it is a fallacy.

    • Dave P.

      It’s official. Lou Reed’s Metal Machine Music is an act of the devil.

      Wasn’t it intended to be a practical joke of sorts?

      • Claude

        Hey, that sounds familiar. I had forgotten!

  • Loved

    Great essay! Thanks. I have one question though about the following statement:

    “Harmony, melody, rhythm, rhyme, dynamics — these are not the joys of the material or even the animal world. Music is a creation unique to those “made in the image and likeness of God”, namely, to human beings. To sing is to express our immense dignity. To sing at all is to praise the God who distinguishes us from all things songless.”

    How can you say this when the birds sing around us? I don’t think that fact takes anything away from your essay; it probably adds to your argument considering the birds are praising God without cliche lyrics.

  • Luke

    Apologies if I’m not quite getting the point of your article, but I think you’re throwing out the baby with the bathwater here.

    The Psalms, Biblical hymns, Sacred Music (chant and polyphony) – these are all “Christian” music. They all strive to be explicitly Christian music – as they explicitly worship God. Calling on Christians to make music that communicates transcendentals, but avoids an explicit worship of God, goes against an entire musical tradition of the church. That’s why the “Christian” modifier exists, because music that worships God is not (or rather, should not be) like listening to any R&B, Rock/Pop, or Soundtrack piece, it should be to give glory to God directly. Some do this badly, some try to use drum-kits in Mass, and some simply take bad secular music and put Christian lyrics to it; but this does not negate the need for music which allows us to join in praising God.

    Marcus Mumford might “lead more people to sing God’s praises”, but there’s no real point if his lyrics remain obscure rote-learned sing-alongs turned on the self in a mosh-pit indiscernible from any other indie-rock concert (which, admittedly can be said of a number of Christian-rock concerts as well). I fear that a world filled with Mumford & Sons et. al. is a world that says you cannot explicitly state your faith in the public sphere, and that you are not free to worship God; unless you bury it within lyrics that fly under the secular world’s radar. It’s a world where “Christian” music tells you that you can just sit where you are and not have to explicitly mention or think about God: because that’s a bit tacky, a bit un-cool. Which I think is just as bad as the “making the Church relevant” problem you mentioned in your last article.

    Of course we should make *good* music that communicates truth without it being cornered off into a fortified “Christian interest” field, but we also need to make *good* music which gives praise and worship to God explicitly. Because we ought to worship Him.

    • Tim OK

      Luke, I think youre hitting on something important, and at the same time missing something.

      What you’re referring to is called (in my mind, anyway), “worship music” (or, perhaps, “Christian worship music”. This includes hymns, praise songs, chants, meditations, and falls in line with biblical psalms and hymns. It is directed towards the Christian God in the tradition of Scripture and the Church history. I think, here, you can truly say there is such a thing as distinctly “Christian music.”

      But what is usually meant by the term “Christian music” is a very different category, and this is what the article is all about (which I totally agree with). “Christian music” usually means ‘pop (or rock, metal, country…) music sung to Jesus’, and here I think is the source of all the problems Marc is talking about. Whereas worship music is directed at God, “Christian music” seems to do two diferent things at the same time- entertain an audience and at the same time make sure Jesus/God/Bible is mentioned as many times.

      I remember I was at a “Christian-teen-emo” concert once where the singer of the band, with piercings, tattoos, and leather studded skin-pants was not so much singing as screaming. The audience was screaming, too. Jumping up and down, hands in the air, etc.

      Right after each song, though, the lead singer would stop, tell everyone to quiet down, including the band, and give a devotional. It was so odd- two different things, running up against each other. Everyone could tell… this isn’t what normally happens at a concert. And there seemed to be this guilty feeling that Christians couldn’t just enjoy a concert- there “had to be some jesus in there” or it just wasn’t “Christian.”

      That’s where the problem is. It’s not faith- it’s lack of faith. It’s a weak theology of creation, which holds that all things are good that come from God (surely, music would fall in there!). There’s a fake-ness to Christian music that causes others (and, indeed, many Christians) to sneer and think the faith is not authentic.

      • Trace

        This explanation here helped me understand the original post better, because I totally agree with Luke. I wish you would have explained this position here along with the original. That’s all.

      • Luke

        Thanks for your reply Tim :).
        I completely agree that – as I mentioned above – taking bad quality music (of any genre) and grafting Christian lyrics onto it is certainly not a good thing. But I have two concerns with regards to Marc’s post:

        1) His arguments, to me, seem to be equally applicable to “worship music” as bad-quality-secular-music-with-Christian-lyrics. Some quotes to demonstrate:
        “…we should not write “Christian” music at all. We should be Christians and make incredible, authentic music.”
        “Writing a Jesus-song is a well-intentioned denial that Jesus is the transcendental source of every song.”
        “What’s needed is not Christians writing “Christian” music.”
        Marc does not qualify anywhere anything about this referring to a specific subset of Christian music – and he ought not to, as these arguments are against the concept of explicitly Christian music, and cannot be confined within that concept without contradiction. I could just as easily say that a Psalm is “a well-intentioned denial that Jesus is the transcendental source of every song.”

        2) I think a false dichotomy has been created about Christian music: there is beautiful pious Sacred music sung by scholars towards God, and then there is kitschy “Christian” music sung by rock/pop/rap bands. The very good intention among young zealous Catholics of reinstating Sacred music in primary position at Mass, and distancing ourselves from bad-quality artificially Christian music has had an unfortunate side effect: a somewhat elitist bundling together of all explicitly Christian non-Sacred music in one pile to be shunned.

        There are only two reasons why “Christian” music could be bad: if it is bad-quality (like any type of music in any genre), or if it’s seemingly pious intention is superficial (i.e. the “Christian-teen-emo” concert you referred to). But not all non-Sacred Christian music commits either of those offences.

        If Marc had simply said “Christians should make good music” or “Christians should not shoehorn their faith into their music after-the-fact”, I would have wholeheartedly agreed. But instead his post felt like a scattershot attack on an entire subsection of Christian music that has the potential to be good, and has taken out all Christian music in the process. Good music can be made by a Christian with a guitar and his song-writing heart set on God.

        (Also, a couple of disclaimers: I don’t own any “Christian music”; I would like to see Sacred worship music as the default in Mass; and I’m not the same “Luke” as the commenter who replied to Rebecca Fletcher’s comment :P)

        • jon

          hey guys a good healthy drinking water may be spoiled by some intented dirt or accidental poison in it..music is like that.. simply put some bad lyrics like an antisocial lyrics and its does not naturally become bad but by accident or self indulgence . now dont argue what is anti social . so it could be a christian guy who put up with a fashion of his own choosing like a guy with a tatoo or a guy with no tatoo.personally I dont like tatoos cause I heard that they cause liver damage.some people will surely argue like the devil has become health conscious and promotes removable tatoos which does not cause liver damage. liked the topic on harmony…music or sound is already an existing element of creation if we arrange the noise or sounds in some order they become arranged ,,pleasing to our ears. now one does not become a christian by arranging those sounds or becomes a non believer by doing so in whatever manner of expression like vocal guitar drums etc.i like the sound of a distorted guitar on expressing the terrible storm aftermath of the crucf of JESUS CHRIST.the nuclear energy is used for medical purpose or to develop a destructive war head ?the blast itself is accompanied by a sound suppose to be a musical note played by some unknown element I suppose.I prefer a smooth violin intro on expressing the resurrection… the bottom line is all about cultural timing. christian musicians who want to play all the so called or named forms like rock metal r&b etc or gospel ..be lyrical and try to be to the point ..a well suited theme should work.you better not play your loud punk rock in front of some elderly audience as it may cause ear damage. even if it is about expressing ummm killing some demons inside .or saying no to drug abuse ..or Jesus is the rock kinda song .concerts should be arranged wisely with some adv-information.sound engineering skill is highly encouraged.as far as fashion statement goes i dont wear my dirty jeans to bed .ear nose piercing i think Jesus already experienced a lotta pain caused by billion or more times bigger than your tiny piercings (meant for pain worshippers)note: Jesus did not inflict it on himself .i wonder what he has to say about the normal piercings like beautification.? writing a song on pain of the social crisis may involve a plea to the government and can be loud but a song of prayer to God be rather more presentable and well balanced esp while performing inside the church with all kinds of audience expected unless the band want to sound funny rather than dashing. or groomed. it is a very bad idea when a group tries to attend stars like status within the church community and starts acting like one ..as they fail to succeed out side the more competitive world.even feeding bad repu to the secular groups . talent is not forced upon but nurtured patiently or the more lucky ones have it all already. A christian should pray sincerely. .and reasonably .please..please good lord above. give us our daily bread ..that we get some strength to work for the butter. i think the blues will fit in to this prayer song with a pinch of comedy .christian humor music? not necessarily. it wont even be a good song.

      • LH

        “Teen Emo Christian Band”. Huh. That’s a funny term.

    • http://www.facebook.com/50crowley Brian J. Crowley

      Marc had an earlier post in which he distinguished prayer from “praise and worship” music. Essentially, his main point was that we are called to sing the mass, not sing ‘at’ mass.
      If what you’re singing is a prayer in a book, good for you.
      If it is a song on a CD, then it is time to reevaluate your priorities.

      • http://www.facebook.com/MommySohler Mommy Solher

        Going to disagree here… I do agree with the poster who said this tossed the baby with the bathwater. There is good Christian music, sung from the heart AND musically good (it’s just a lot is awful). Some is just FUN (I love some of Larry Norman’s stuff). But the broader view I agree with– music and art that is Good points to God, be it “Christian” or not. There is a bigger picture here. This does not, however, mean Christian music on the radio is a bad thing… it’s just not the only thing or even the most important thing. And let’s hope it’s GOOD MUSIC and not crappy music.

      • Luke

        I haven’t read Marc’s post, but I’m hoping he isn’t taking what is proper musically for Mass and applying it to all prayer through music. “Praise and worship” music is certainly not proper to Mass, but I can’t see why it cannot form part of a person’s prayer life if properly ordered (and not used as a form of emotionalism, or as the source-and-summit of one’s prayer life).
        On your last comment (assuming you’re not just talking about the Mass), why is singing a song on a CD bad? You’re more likely to find good songs of prayer in a book, but there’s nothing inherently bad about a CD, surely?

    • ForsythiaTheMariner

      I can see where you’re coming from, Luke. I agree, the Psalms and other sacred hymns are not meant to sound of this world. But I think that, like Tim OK said below, the kind of music being referred to in Marc’s post is a very specific kind of modern music. I’ve always found that it somehow manages to make the mysticism of Christianity feel like a Hallmark card. I think what Marc is saying is that art–whether music or a film or what have you–doesn’t have to explicitly worship God or Jesus in those terms. There are many wonderful films, for example, that are really “Catholic” in nature and I believe do bring viewers closer to Christ, even if they never specifically mention Christ.

    • http://blog.goliard.us/ Blog Goliard

      “I fear that a world filled with Mumford & Sons et. al. is a world
      that says you cannot explicitly state your faith in the public sphere,
      and that you are not free to worship God…”

      I find it hard to reconcile this point of view with the existence of, say, “The Four Seasons”. Most of Vivaldi’s greatest compositions were not explicitly–and certainly not didactically–religious. Was he not free to explicitly state his faith in the public sphere or to worship God (despite being a Catholic priest)?

      • Luke

        I thought my oversight here might be picked up :P. By “filled” I meant “filled exclusively”. There is absolutely a place for Mumford & Sons (I’m a big fan!), and Vivaldi’s not-explicitly-Christian concertos. My concern is that Marc’s arguments, taken to their end, mean that explicitly Christian music should not exist at all. A world where one cannot produce music that explicitly refers to God cannot be interpreted as anything but a world where one is not free to worship God. A Christian should be free to write purely secular (good) music if they so wish, but they should be equally free to write music explicitly toward God or about their faith.
        Thanks for giving me the opportunity to clarify though, I hope I understood your point properly. Please refer to my reply to Tim if I skipped over anything :)

        • http://www.scirev.net/ Wolverine

          I understood that Marc is saying, one can produce music but it doesn’t have to explicitly refer to God, which is different from what you are saying..

    • Anon

      Were David and Solomon thinking of Christ when he wrote the Psalms??? The Psalms would be more accurately called Jewish music….

      • AAE

        Jesus Christ himself prayed the Psalms; he ratified them with his own tongue.

      • Den

        Er, Jesus is God and God is Jesus. (At least in Christianity)

  • Tony

    Whoever recommended Thrice, big high five. They’ve been one of those constants in my life for many years. Great guys and great artists.

  • http://www.facebook.com/carol.charron Carol Ann Charron

    you’ve been listening to bad christian music. turn off christian music and listen to the good stuff…..like Gungor and Jon Foreman. Just sayin’

  • Nicholas

    If Satanic musicians wanted to hold a concert, they would use all kinds of Holy, Catholic, nice words, prayers, and phrases, but scream and distort them to nothing resembling true beauty, so that the Faithful would be totally confused and have no clear conception of the God they are worshipping… oh wait….

    • CHRIS

      technically they aren’t distorting true beauty… that “true beauty” is something us humans have developed to think is beautiful in society. what if our society grew up for years calling heavy screaming music beautiful? Beauty is an opinion on this earth. If a screaming metal band is playing music about worship, it is beautiful to GODS ears because it is WORSHIP… YOU just don’t call it beautiful because that is your BIASED HUMAN OPINION

      • Micha_Elyi

        [W]hat if our society grew up for years calling heavy screaming music beautiful?
        CHRIS

        Then, dear Chris, your contrafactual “society” would have a word for ugly that is pronounced and spelled exactly like our real world’s word for beautiful.

        • Joseph

          Just as a thought experiment… If you have seen the movie of the webber dude’s Phantom of the Opera, I think you would think some of the screams of emotional pain and hurt coming from various actors adds to the beauty of the whatever you would call it (musical?). Well, just as those can add to a beauty, so can distorted vocals in metal. I mean, I don’t expect anybody to enjoy Slam death metal, I think I can reasonably expect people to think a little to realize there’s even objective merit. Hell, even Hildegard used guttural vocals to portray the devil or evil in her music for crying out loud (if I remember my Classical Music listening class correctly). Art uses contrast. Not all art contains all aspects of beauty either.

          • Joseph

            Objective merit in using certain styles of distorted vocals I mean… for example as applied by Death, Cynic, Into Eternity etc…. Probably not a lot of merit in using the gurgles that often characterize Slam Death… it’s more just good ‘ol fun haha

        • stan lee

          Yeah, I don’t know how you can lump all screaming/growling vocals as ugly/immoral. I bet you don’t think Tibetan throat-singing music is necessarily beautiful. And Maori hakas don’t involve “singing” in the traditional sense (neither does rap). But both were thought beautiful in their cultures, and by many of us. Screaming, a la Underoath, Demon Hunter, etc, is just a modern Western variant of this.

      • Nicholas

        No, beauty is objective, not subjective and biased. Unless you have a profoundly distorted spiritual conception of God that in no way jibes with that of the Apostles or the Church Fathers, heavy screaming music is completely unacceptable as a means of worship.

      • Roy G. Biv

        Keep drinking the kool aid, bro

    • Joseph

      Yep, because making a particular kind of noise with your vocal chords is intrinsically good or bad. Just like I generally dislike For Today for music reasons, and their die-hard fans because of this, I dislike even more the people that don’t like them specifically because they use a distorted vocal style to sing about Christ. These types of bands pop up because they like the style and feel compelled to display their Christianity extremely explicitly, or even worse, when they start with the desire to preach and only use the music as a medium with which to do so. Though, yeah, many “actual” satanic bands will use much much more Christian imagery in order to invert it or what have you… whorish nuns in their music videos etc. But no, singing my favorite Death song isn’t more evil than doing to cookie monster voice to my little sister. I do agree, however, that it would probably be a somewhat inappropriate medium in which to say “I love you Jesus” haha. But I’ll have to say, this is probably one of the most blasphemous things I have ever seen http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v0MkJtI3FvU Though I freaking love the music, and the lyrics themselves to appear blasphemous either

    • http://blog.goliard.us/ Blog Goliard

      All I know for sure is that Satanic musicians would never dream of playing a concert without first unlocking the Boîte Diabolique.

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mE0takm9TX0

      (clip from “Look Around You”, Series 1)

  • Danielle

    Brilliant essay. Copy-editing note: Lose the apostrophe in the word “one’s” in the last paragraph under #4.

  • Pietra

    And this is why I love the Lord of the Rings. Tolkien is still the master of writing literature whose lens is Christianity – a lens transparent so you can’t see it until it’s already too close for safe ignorance, and yet a lens perfectly reflective of the Beauty it contains.

    • jon

      one ring to control all..in the hands of an unlikely creature..alas some things of the world be better off with…it says a lot a lot lucifer was a music leader of some kind kicked out of the band by the manager becoz his lead solos were too long or did he write some thing like fuck you GOAT .?all the way it seem he had the ring in his pocket that darkness created .A secret affair discovered , caught and executed..FROTO AND THE BAND did a great job but ..i dont know why i get the feeling that the ring still exists ..and is passed over to different individuals testing and tempting ..as ever it was. Pietra.

  • http://tellmewhytheworldisweird.blogspot.com/ perfectnumber628

    Wow, great post. The whole thing. So many good points here.

  • http://www.facebook.com/saxpiano Michael Incavo

    I like the concept of this article, but it’s very closed-minded and lacks empirical musical conclusions. There is an entire science of dissonance and intervallic structure that should have been referred to. And in addition, it’s easy to hate on Chris Tomlin and all them. But it’s an art form just like the rest. Just not as much about the chords as it is about the feelings.

  • http://www.facebook.com/rebecca.duncan.7359 Rebecca Duncan

    I totally agree with this and I am an example of what CS Lewis talked about. I did not convert because of this BUT it gave me a grounding. I grew up loving Anne Rice and reading her constantly. She was an atheist when she wrote those books but she wrote beautiful things about the Catholic Church. It made me change my mind when I thought that all Christianity was drab and dull and stupid like Protestantism and Christian Rock crap I heard on the radio. There are some Christian Rock songs that are ok but I agree that the best comes like Mumford and Sons or Anne Rice or Tolkien.

  • Emily MacMichael

    If you have an hour, this is a fantastic lecture making a similar argument about movies (specifically, why “True Grit” is better evangelization than “Fireproof”). He has some great Flannery quotes to back up the argument: http://vimeo.com/38932241

  • B Harrington

    1. The idea of not labeling Christian music “Christian” bc all music IS Christian is absurd. There are thousands of interpretations of beauty and God and mercy, and philosophy is all about defining and truth. God sent His Word. To bring the Good News. Communication and specifi are GOOD.
    2. Kill Christian music? No. REDEEM IT.
    3. Your argument is semantical and goes nowhere. It illuminates but not on its own. I think your argument only exists by the fact that the quality of excellence in the Christian music genre is sub par, and that if Christian music sounded better and was more attractive (bc let’s face it, it’s mostly corny and removed), you’d want it to remain. Your argument is confused – is it about what Christian music IS, what music IS, or what can be described as beautiful…like, just what are you talking about.
    4. Sooooo bc no one can really describe or label the ineffable, we should all just stop painting? Writing? Trying? You want eternity but we are in time where life unfolds, and beauty must be painted, sung, described, and sewn and come into being as the seconds allow.
    5. You sound pretentious and you should stop.

    • http://www.facebook.com/50crowley Brian J. Crowley

      You’ve missed the whole point. Christianity was (and is) intended to be a way of life, not a ‘part’ of life. For a Christian to apply the label “Christian” to any form of art/career/education/etc is to imply that there is also a non-christian form; and since God is the creator of everything, that is simply not possible.

      Christian music, as it turns out, is primarily listened to by disillusioned youth who spend their Sundays in non-denominational megachurches justifying absurd fundamentalist teachings about the literal meanings of the Bible. This form of Christianity is less lifestyle and more theater. It is an event, and that is exactly what the early Church fathers tried to avoid.

      In short, if any of the following sounds ridiculous…
      Musical Music
      Artistic Art
      Sculptural Sculpture
      Architectural Architecture
      Literary Literature

      …then so should this:
      Christian Music
      Christian Art
      Christian Sculpture
      Christian Architecture
      Christian Literature

      • B Harrington

        Wait. So what you just did was say that all forms of art are Christian, that all art is Christian. Ok now so does that apply to EVERYTHING? Why is art only included?

        PALEASE understand me that I GET that all goods are under THE Good of God and that we can’t do anything without it being in some way about Him, maybe for or against, implicitly at least. I UNDERSTAND that Christianity is a way of life and that it is in itself not a KIND of anything and isn’t a piece of the pie when it IS the pie; He is the thing. So why can’t we say that something reminds us of the only Way, the only Truth, and the only Life by calling it Christian? Christ himself discriminated by calling Himself THE way and THE truth and THE life. Are you just mad at language or what?

        Why can we literally not make a statement that something speaks of Jesus Christ by calling it Christian? Why not? Isn’t there Christian living? There’s evil living…Why can’t I say that this music is about Christ by calling it Christian music? In our english language isn’t that an appropriate way to describe a good that explicitly describes or illuminates a part of Christ? Christ is NOT everything- He is not evil and He is not IN everything, and that’s biblical. So why can’t I say He is in that and he isn’t in that? His life isn’t spoken of or illuminated extra-ordinarily in some of Marilyn Manson’s songs but He is in some by Sarah Groves or Luke Spehar’s?

        There are a lot of KINDS of music, and Chritsianity isn’t a kind of anyting…but it also is since we are not in heaven and there are things OF God and things that AREN’T. Isn’t Christianity NOT something and then it IS something else? I don’t understand why you are saying that everything is Christianity and that we can’t say that there is music that is objectively ABOUT God by calling it “Christian”. I don’t understand. So help me.

        WOW. Ok so here’s you in the middle bit of your comment: Christian music is mostly listened to by dissilusioned youth (what’s that? and what youth AREN’T), Sundays spent in non-denominational megachurches is bad, and all those ignorant so-called Christians justify absurdity. SOOOO are you saying that Christian music is born of false doctorine? Are you saying that it’s not Christian music that sucks but the people or does Christian music suck and so sucky people listen to it? …WHAT.

        And are you saying that Christian music isn’t Catholic? There are a lot of Catholic song writers out there but they DO fall into the “Christian music” category…because we are Christian.

        Or by what you are saying can you even call yourself that?

        PS You just judged a lot of good people and btw you are NOT better than any of them.

        • B. Harrington

          PS God did NOT create everything. Evil is the absence of a good and God doesn’t make anything absent, evil is born of man’s pride and is only ALLOWED by God AND He redeemed us by punching it (evil) in the face and making the cross our ladder to joy and Christ Himself.

    • http://blog.goliard.us/ Blog Goliard

      Just because you didn’t understand him, doesn’t make him pretentious.

      • B Harrington

        You just assumed 2 things.

        1. That I’m an idiot and that’s why I called him “pretentious”.
        2. That my criticism of this essay is just because I’m protecting Christianityand music in the name of Christianity. (No – I don’t think this essay is a good
        one.)

        I AGREE with you that lousy Christian music has a leg up on other bad music because it’s Christian. And objectively that is wrong; the bar HAS to be raised. Granted, but not EXCUSED, there is a LOT of trash produced out there. And I think we allow lousiness for the sake of Christian music’s good message, whereas the other
        stuff we hear on the radio is about b*****s and ho’s. A lot of the music sung about Christ IS lousy, and that’s actually a scandal. I do believe that the bar for good music, and in this case Christian music, has GOT to be raised (and maybe even higher because we are explicitly talking about Beauty Himself?..Idk. Maybe. Whatever.)

        Explain yourself.

        • B. Harrnington

          “It’s a brave and even braver man to criticise Christian music” YEAH RIGHT. It’s totally socially acceptable to criticise Christianity and Christ-like actions and Christian music. So the real question is: WHERE DO YOU LIVE.
          I want to go to there.

          • http://blog.goliard.us/ Blog Goliard

            I was speaking of criticizing “Christian”-labeled products of popular culture in a discussion amongst Catholics and other Christians–for instance, in the form of an article on a Catholic blog. That tends to provoke fierce blowback.

            Obviously it would take no courage at all to instead blast K-LOVE or “Fireproof” or Thomas Kinkade at a University cocktail party or in the pages of the New York Times.

          • B Harrington

            But is that to justify what he says? His courage? I just don’t think it was a good essay and that he didn’t take his claims far enough to include the implications.

        • http://blog.goliard.us/ Blog Goliard

          I’m not sure what I am being called on to explain.

          Perhaps it was my opening sentence, which you took exception to. And not without some reason: while I did not and do not assume that you are an idiot, I was too abrupt in what I did say, and I apologize for that.

          What I did conclude, based on your comment, was that you had not identified Marc’s main point, nor understood many of his arguments. (Which is not completely your fault; I would agree that the essay could be improved.)

          I do not believe it is correct to charge someone of pretentiousness, and demand that they “just stop” (stop with this particular line of argument? stop annoying you? stop writing about music? stop blogging, period?), when one has misunderstood what they’re on about. Particularly when the charge was just thrown out there without any accompanying arguments or examples. That was my point.

          Which, again, is not a statement that you are an idiot. Smart people misunderstand other smart people all the time. (Smart people even misunderstand idiots rather frequently…and of course vice versa.)

          (I also did not assume anything remotely along the lines of #2; but I see no need to belabor that one.)

          • B Harington

            Well, thank you.

            So you still think I don’t undderstand, so, by “explain yourself” I mean, what is Marc’s main point and his arguments that I don’t understand?

            Regarding what I said at #2, regarding your first comment, it sounds like you think my reaction was based on emotions, misunderstanding, and the fact that he is criticizing something Christian, not his actual criticism. I don’t think you even addressed my points but only waht I said except for my “pretentious” and “stop” comment which was me being a smart ass.

            Well he seems pretentious! He minimizes and trivializes the grace that people have experienced by a lot of Christian music!

          • http://blog.goliard.us/ Blog Goliard

            Okay, here’s the heart of the issue. Many of us have become sidetracked here with arguments over the qualities of different types of music, but that’s not the main point Marc was raising.

            You wrote:

            “I think your argument only exists by the fact that the quality of excellence in the Christian music genre is sub par, and that if Christian music sounded better and was more attractive (bc let’s face it, it’s mostly corny and removed), you’d want it to remain.”

            No, Marc wouldn’t. This is the biggest misunderstanding. The main point behind his items 1, 2, and 3–and the Maritain and Lewis quotes he showcases–is that “Christian music” is not a genre, or at least should not be.

            (He probably should have saved the tangential items 4 and 5 for a separate piece, so as not to have the earlier, more critical points overwhelmed by the inevitable ensuing fight over musical quality and taste.)

            As for the pretentiousness bit:

            “He minimizes and trivializes the grace that people have experienced by a lot of Christian music!”

            It seems that your accusation here is that he’s not respectful or accepting enough of others’ feelings and claims of spiritual benefit.

            That may or may not be a fair or relevant charge; but in any event, it’s not what pretentious means.

          • B Harrington

            Why do you say that his main points are 4 and 5? 1, 2, and 3 seem to bridge the way for 4 and 5. I have to think that the sound and quality of music are relevant to 1, 2, and 3 and that they aren’t just tacked on there. And since he chose not to seperate them, I have to think that he intended them to make a whole, and I’m not going to assume anything but base my opinion upon what HAS been written.
            More specific word: condescending. How about that?
            It’s not just being disrespectful, it’s the pretense that what has not a-ffected him is not AS objectively E-ffective and should be thrown out. Trivializing and disrespecting are just the fruit.

          • B Harrington

            What I read from you was that he’s a brave guy to criticize Christian-anything, especially in these circles, and that that should be commended and, as you evinced, is a reason for defending him.

  • B Harrington

    Your humor is sardonic, arrogant, and mean. PATHEOS bro PATHEOS

  • Aaron Watts

    This is a bit of a ridiculous article. firstly you can’t just say that all music should be written by christians because that’s so unrealistic that it’s just never going to happen. Maybe in an ideal world this could be useful and then we wouldn’t need a distinction between secular and Christian music.
    Secondly, it makes no sense, following this to suggest that all music is Christian but Christian music isn’t actually Christian. Regardless of whether secular music with subtle Christian hints in it brings more people to God, there needs to be a distinction in genres so that people looking for Christian music (potentially after listening to a band like mumford and sons) can immediately go to the Itunes genre of ‘Christian’. Without this, the likes of Chris Tomlin and Tim Hughes would be lost in the vast expanse of every other artist out there. The genre label isn’t offensive or degrading, it’s merely a way to distinguish different types of music from each other. This doesn’t stop Christian music becoming popular, artists like Delirious (History Maker) and I think Matt Redman (10,000 reasons) have made the popular music charts.

    Finally, God might be asking for art with all it’s teeth but why does that have to suggest that He doesn’t want religious art? If two people individually sit down to right a song and one of them explicitly wants to write it for the glory of God but the other is creating it for his own gain, surely the first would be appreciated more and will be more beneficial to bringing people to God.

  • http://twitter.com/CaroG87 Annette McClellan

    I so love this. More than you know, because I totally cannot ABIDE “yippee-skippee-for-Jesus” music. GAAAAG! From one “bad Catholic” to another….. (badcath.blogspot.com)

    • Cake Eater

      You love YOU more than you know and what YOU like.

  • Mary

    Forgive me if I’m missing something obvious because it’s been a while since I was knee deep in heavy duty Theology and philosophy. But while I first was nodding my head I left the article wondering why religious visual art is exempted from this idea. Would we say that there should be no “Christian” or religious paintings? That a painting of a bird is just as Christian as The Last Supper? Someone please enlighten me on the difference, please?

    • ForsythiaTheMariner

      That’s a good point, Mary. To my thinking, the difference is that many painters have painted Christian “subjects” like the Last Supper, but have not limited themselves or defined themselves to a category like a ‘Christian painter”. Rembrandt, for example, painted many Christian subjects like The Risen Christ Appearing to Mary Magdalen or The Return of the Prodigal Son, but he also painted The ‪Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Nicolaes Tulp‬, as well as many self-portraits and paintings of women bathing. Besides painting The Last Supper, Da Vinci also painted the Mona Lisa. Eugène Delacroix painted Christ on the Sea of Galilee and The Good Samaritan, as well as Liberty Leading the People.

      I think the difference is that these men were wonderful painters whose faith in Christ influenced in their work, yet they did not paint only explicitly Christian subjects and they were never defined in their times as Christian artists. I think Marc’s point may be that as a Christian, we don’t need our Faith to always be explicitly mentioned or reduced to simple talking points that somehow always end up sound like a “Jesus is my Boyfriend” pop song. Just as we can see Christ suffering in the distressing disguise of the poor and unwanted, we can also find Him in anything that is good, beautiful and true.

      • Claude

        To my thinking, the difference is that many painters have painted Christian “subjects” like the Last Supper, but have not limited themselves or defined themselves to a category like a ‘Christian painter”.

        You are forgetting the considerable impact of patronage. Fortunately for us all, the Church has been a great patron of the arts. Likewise, the Mona Lisa, to use one of your examples, was a commission. The Church was for centuries a major political player in Europe. It would have been strange to identify artists as “Christian” when they operated in a predominantly Christian culture.

        It seems to me that Marc is drawn to notions of authenticity and that he finds the Christian music genre artificial and just bad. Then, too, it is a convention to identify the best art with the transcendent and divine. SInce Marc is intoxicated with God, the most beautiful, the most genuine expression and the essential Truth converge in and reflect God. Even as a nonbeliever I can identify with this tendency. But for one thing I think it’s a mistake to associate good art with the good. And evidently there are many for whom “Christian music” resonates, so the vexing issue of taste is introduced into the matrix. Well, there’s no disputing taste.

        When I think of “Christian music” I think of gospel and the classical tradition. I am mercifully unacquainted with this genre that Marc finds so marginal and false.

        • ForsythiaTheMariner

          You’re right, Claude, I didn’t take that into account here.

          I suppose a better example might then be literature, with Catholic writers like Flannery O’Connor, Walker Percy, Evelyn Waugh and others being excellent writers who tackled Christian and Catholic subjects, yet without falling into a category of “Christian authors”

          As you said, the “Christian music” Marc is referring to is not gospel or classical hymns, but something else entirely. Still, I would take it any day over some of the “hymns” (all, coincidentally, written in the 60′s and beyond) that I’ve heard during Catholic Mass, which are so watered down and dull and saccharine that I believe they actually had an impact on why I left my Faith for such a long time.

          • Claude

            The literary analogy works!

            It is a disappointment when the Catholic Church, with its glorious artistic heritage, resorts to sentimentality and kitsch (EWTN, I’m looking at you).

          • ForsythiaTheMariner

            I don’t get ETWN where I live, so I can’t comment on that, but I agree about some sentimentality and kitsch and, worst of all, some of the worst architectural design for churches. It almost makes me believe that it is intentionally ugly, so as to transform the beauty and the majesty of the Catholic Church into something horrifically dull.

          • Claude

            Bad architecture is a plague on the nation that is hardly restricted to church design!

            EWTN is headquartered in Alabama and seems to have incorporated local Protestant fundamentalism and some of the worst conventions of cable TV and televangelism: hideous graphics, babbling talk show hosts and shallow commentary, a lack of dissenting viewpoints, thinly-veiled political propaganda, and a steady stream of home-shopping pitches for expensive product. I was aghast when I first saw it. Mind you, at times it can be (inadvertently) entertaining. I remember one time when “Cooking Priest” Fr. Leo Patalinghug was a guest on “Life on the Rock” with “Fr. Mark.” That was priceless. The incongruity between the two priests, who are both charismatic in their different ways, was very funny.

            Somebody below mentioned EWTN’s “Crossing the Goal,” some kind of Catholic men’s inspirational show. It’s modeled on the obnoxious loudmouths at ESPN and is just embarrassing. Occasionally I’ll tune in to the channel in hope of catching footage of goings-on at St. Peter’s. Needless to say, the Masses are gorgeous.

            I should say that I watch the station only sporadically. With that disclaimer, EWTN seems to me, with few exceptions, to be one big panderfest, and its badness is especially bewildering for a Church that has such a long and rich cultural tradition. At one time the Vatican was even going to investigate the channel (why exactly, I don’t know), so its founder, Mother Mary Angelica, ceded control to a lay board of governors to ensure its independence.

          • Mary

            Thanks for the replies. Still working this through…so if say Third Day decides to sing a few angsty songs or pens a song about nature or whatever, then Marc would be okay with it? I feel like that may be simplifying his argument a bit? (Maybe Third Day is not a great example but the point still remains…) If these “Christian artists” just wrote about more than their faith (as long as they were really GOOD at what they produced) it would all be a-okay?

          • Claude

            As I understand it, for Mark reality is Christian, therefore to create an identity for “Christian” artistic expression is superflous. Since “authentic” artistic expression rebounds to the glory of God, bad art is “heresy.”

            So it’s not a matter of artists writing more or less about their faith, but of a misguided notion of what constitutes “Christian music” in the first place and a readiness to accept music identified as “Christian” despite not rebounding to the glory of God because it’s not good enough.

            This argument is shaky because, for starters:

            1) Reality is Christian only for Christians;

            2) The problem of distinguishing good from bad art, or good from bad music, is an obviously contentious issue that involves matters of taste and prevailing cultural norms arising out of the entire history of cultural production.

            I listened to this Third Day on YouTube and thought they were really Bad. But if I were to listen to, say, Alison Krauss, singing “A Living Prayer,” a praise song her guitarist wrote, well, that one’s Pretty Good. I also think that Krauss is at her best when singing religious songs (I’m not religious, so it’s not a bias). In other words, I don’t think her cross-over stuff is Nearly as Good. Then again, Beyonce singing and dancing “Single Ladies” is without a doubt Divine.

            Let’s just say I wouldn’t want to have to hammer out the reasons for these judgments, though they are readily made.

          • http://blog.goliard.us/ Blog Goliard

            “1) Reality is Christian only for Christians”

            Christians believe that reality is Christian for everybody, not just themselves.

            Yes, others certainly disagree…but I’m not sure how that’s relevant to a discussion about whether or not there should be a “Christian” genre, or whether musicians who are practicing Christians have an obligation to focus the lyrics of most or all of their songs on expressly devotional themes.

          • Claude

            not sure how that’s relevant

            Since Marc’s premise is that reality is Christian, and that premise breaks down unless his theory obtains regardless of metaphysics, or unless you want to insist that Marc’s premise for his argument doesn’t matter, then it’s relevant.

          • Claude

            ^ Oops. I meant Marc’s aesthetic theory, not his premise, breaks down unless it obtains regardless of metaphysics. His premise, that reality is Christian, can certainly not be assumed.

          • Claude

            I’ve been thinking about at what point an aesthetics predicated on Christian reality would differ from the God-surrogate “spirit of the age” which generally presides over artistic production. In both cases derivative art (“Christian music”) comes under criticism, and in both cases genre can be an issue. In 2013, a painter of traditional impressionist paintings that do not themselves assume an ironic or critical posture toward impressionism is unlikely to gain much traction in the contemporary art world. Furthermore, the painter would probably identify himself as an “impressionist” rather than a “fine arts painter” or simply “artist” because this antiquated style, one that does not capture the “spirit of our age,” is distinct from all the other visual art competing for recognition in the marketplace.

            For both Marc and our quaint impressionist the inspiration for art is the nature of reality. The impressionist could paint the most amazing painting since Monet, but its time has come and gone. A painter who was Christian would function under the same cultural parameters. (Interestingly, prominent Christian-identified visual artists tend to be “folk artists.”) Further, creating for the glory of God and creating to reflect or even to define the sensibilities of one’s time, are both ultimately disinterested endeavors that aspire to the transcendental.

            So, while the premise of a Christian reality has a bearing on the identification of a genre, as an aesthetic system both as a source of creative power and destination, a Christian reality and other conceptions of reality operate under the same paradigm. The point at which aesthetics as determined by Christian reality breaks down is the point at which it becomes moralistic: the argument many people here are making about the overriding imperative to save souls. But then, we are no longer talking about art. Sorry, I guess this is all obvious and a longwinded way of saying: You have a point about irrelevance, although it doesn’t have to do with genre.

          • http://blog.goliard.us/ Blog Goliard

            A thoughtful, fascinating post…I’m grateful for it. I think you’re right to draw an analogy between the “Christian music” artist and the out-of-his-time impressionist painter–the desire or need to label them, in both cases, does seem to have much to do with their counter-cultural quality.

            In my experience, Catholics are more likely to rebel strongly against this than Protestants. Being confined to a cultural niche just doesn’t feel right when the world of the High Middle Ages and of the Renaissance is a prominent and fond part of one’s mental furniture; when one is keenly aware of all the centuries when the Church preserved and fostered and even drove the culture of the Christian West.

            (Interestingly, prominent Christian-identified visual artists tend to be “folk artists.”)

            That’s true of the music scene as well…at least if we’re using the word “folk” in a broad sense, encompassing a wide range of popular, contemporary forms.

            I would further argue that the “Christian” genres are, in truth, overwhelmingly “Evangelical devotional” genres. Even when the artists are Catholic, they have a tendency to pick up many of the aesthetics and assumptions and sensibilities of contemporary Evangelical and non-denominational Christianity, however much their doctrine and personal piety remain Catholic.

            The point at which aesthetics as determined by Christian reality breaks down is the point at which it becomes moralistic: the argument many people here are making about the overriding imperative to save souls. But then, we are no longer talking about art.

            Bingo. I think the perceived imperative for “Christian” genres of art to be explicitly, even clumsily, didactic is one of the biggest problems that I–and, I think, Marc–have with it.

            It is easy for this to morph into an argument over aesthetics–and as you rightly indicate, so much of this output is better described as kitsch than art, and not just (or even primarily) because of lack of skill and sophistication in execution. But the more important warning here is against such a narrow and relentlessly horatory view of the world, vision of art, and mode of being.

            Beauty and culture–and even the obligation to give praise and glory to God–are so much broader than that, so much bigger than that. The lilies of the field, we are told in the Gospels, outshine Solomon in all his glory, standing not just as examples of beauty but as a testimony to God’s love for, and tender care for, all His creation. Yet I’ve never seen a single lily that was inscribed by God with a passage from Scripture; nor does their physical form seem an explicit reference to the Incarnation or the Crucifixion or the Eucharist or anything of the sort.

            He who painted the field with lilies must not have been much of a “Christian painter”, then.

          • Claude

            I don’t have time to reply at any length right now, but–thank you for your generous and lucid response. I could be mistaken, but the lilies of the field are the only explicit commentary on aesthetics by Jesus in the synoptics? At any rate, the field of lilies is certainly common ground.

          • Emma Wright

            If they were better writers, they’d convey ‘jesus’ without having to revert to christian cleche’s… God created the world, and all the language we use… someone poetic like Bob dylan is more likely to say something interesting about the love of Jesus than a ‘christian’ songwriter who says, unpoeticly and unoriginally, ‘Jesus loves you’ We’re supposed to be co-creators, not parrots.

  • Julie

    Wow. I find this article to be dripping with pride, sanctimony and self-righteousness. Perhaps you haven’t found “Christian” music that you find Holy Spirit inspired and so therefore you single-handedly conclude that its not an Art form and you believe you are actually speaking on behalf of the Almighty in dismissing it. There is a Holy Spirit inspired poetic quality to the lyrics of many Christian songs that literally bring me to tears. The words, the lyrics bring me to tears and the Holy Spirit is in the midst of it. They are not cliche or happy or skippee to Jesus as one of your commenters said. On the other hand, there are countless “non-Christian” songs over the years that are so empty, so void less in their pursuits that I will often feel Holy Spirit grieved just in having heard them.

    Looking at my own iPod, take Rich Mullins, Tenth Avenue North (By Your Side, Healing Begins), Jesus Culture (One Thing Remains), Nicole Mullen (Redeemer) to name just a few. Many of these artists and songs through their lyrics deal with very raw and very real life experiences of hard times, feeling alone and trying to follow Jesus. There is nothing “cliche” or “skippee to Jesus” about it; the attempt to knock it down, to me, just reeks of sanctimoniousness. You, and those like you, know better than everyone else. This theme seems to run through here – I am sort of appalled at the comments of some who subscribe to your blog, like this one: “Christian music, as it turns out, is primarily listened to by disillusioned youth who spend their Sundays in non-denominational megachurches justifying absurd fundamentalist teachings about the literal meanings of the Bible. This form of Christianity is less lifestyle and more theater. It is an event, and that is exactly what the early Church fathers tried to avoid.” Wow. “Non-denominational megachurches justifying absurd fundamentalist teachings.” There’s no judging of Protestants here is there? As a former Catholic from a long string of Catholic families and 12 years of Catholic schools until I was 18 (when finally I met Jesus face to face in a real and personal way), I am appalled by this kind of smugness.

    • http://blog.goliard.us/ Blog Goliard

      Well, okay…if we’re going to make the discussion about feelings, I’m not sure what basis you have for complaining about Marc’s point of view.

      When you listen to certain sorts of “Christian music”, you feel moved, and that the Holy Spirit is in the midst of it. (Hmm…who’s “speaking on behalf of the Almighty” now?)

      When Marc listens to the same things, he feels unmoved, if not annoyed. And he would seem to find them considerably less blessed by the Spirit than either a really good sacred piece (a Mass by Bach, say) or a really good secular piece (an opera by Mozart, for instance).

      If you believe that there are objective standards of artistic merit to bring to bear here, feel free to employ them in defending the quality of the contents of your iPod against Marc’s. Otherwise, I’m afraid we’re at an impasse…we’ve got Marc’s feelings, and we’ve got yours, and the only real objections you’re left with are either “How dare you not like what I like?” or “How dare you be so mean in your explanation of why you don’t like what I like?”

      P.S. I can’t speak on behalf of other commenters, but I’m quite happy to confess to having judged Protestantism and found it lacking…and even, in some manifestations, absurd. Otherwise, why would I have bothered converting to Catholicism? (And surely you did much the same when moving in the other direction…otherwise, why would you have left?)

    • http://www.facebook.com/kurtklement Kurt Klement

      Thanks for sharing this Luke. Marc speaks for himself and not the Catholic Church. Unfortunately, I have to warn you that your great response will likely be followed by more “smugness” of his kind. But thanks for venturing here and sharing your experience and insights.

    • RH

      YES.

    • shaun

      i’m not sure he meant to say that all christian music is bad. he is just saying it isnt automatically all good. he also even says that the holy spirit will use anything to speak to us. so clearly he isnt trying to say that these songs are NOT holy spirit filled/inspired. of course they are! but they are not holy spirit filled because the author is singing specifically about Jesus. they are holy spirit filled because God can speak through anything and everything, and he DOES speak through anything and everything. re-read his post again and really think about what he is saying. try and look past his witty – but – not – really -the – point title.

    • faustinamax

      In all sincerity, do you find C.S. Lewis to be prideful? Or Johnny Cash, who similarly once explained why his music that reached so many people “I am not a Christian artist, I am an artist who is Christian.” (Great article about him over at National Review, by the way.)

      I’m sorry you had to leave the Catholic Church to find Jesus, especially since you met him ever Sunday in the Eucharist. I know how music and church experiences can elicit very emotional and touching experiences. But I will leave you with a charitable challenge….no smugness intended. Perhaps you are more attached to that sensation/emotion than the Lord, Himself? I know I have that temptation, myself, so I am just making that suggestion. It is something to be wary of. What if a friend told you about an emotional experience she had while attending a pagan ritual?

    • WSquared

      “a long string of Catholic families and 12 years of Catholic schools until I was 18″

      …why does anyone necessarily think that this even imbues them with any real knowledge or sense of what it means to be Catholic? That it often doesn’t is painfully obvious to anyone who has ever left the Church and come back.

    • Daniel

      Excellent reply.

    • Todd Lemmon

      Sorry, but “By Your Side” is the exact kind of trite, bullshit Christian music the author’s referencing. It’s lame, weak stew. Just because you like it doesn’t make it good. Art is not subjective nearly as much as people want it to be. Just read Schaeffer’s exceptional book “Art and the Bible” That will help you understand what this dude is saying.

    • RMpp

      This article is unbelievable…it is almost as if the writer is purposely being negative and has never really listened to a wide range of current so called Christian Music. Bono of U2 has been writing, hinting and referencing the gospel for the last 30 years in many of their songs, in fact on their last 5 albums or so there has been a direct in your face “Christian Song” such as Yahweh, Grace or Magnificent. I would bet 95% of U2 fans are unaware of what U2 are trying to get across or that they are Christians and that Bono hints to the gospel and uses scripture Old Testament and New as a big influence in his song writing. So like Mumford and Sons where is it getting them as far as leading people to Christ, which is our #1 purpose as a Christ follower? In fact I followed U2 fairly closley for 24 years before I was saved and not until then did I really discover or notice all the Christian Music in U2′s music. Now I enjoy their music more than ever!!!

  • Raj

    Love it! Bravo! I can’t stand that acoustic guitar sappy mess they claim as music. Terrible. I’m extremely religious, but that stuff is awful.

    • C H

      You’re “extremely religous”? Is that why you get to call what moves your brothers and sisters in Christ a “sappy mess” that they “claim” as music? Who ARE you to say that.

  • Nathan718

    How about a comprimise? We’ll let Christian music live, so long as it is NOT at Mass. please, all Music Directors, please give us Liturgical Music at our Liturgies! And before anyone mentions Vatican 2 ridding us of Chant, Latin and Polyphony, please read Sacrosanctum Concilium. It’s not that I dislike hymns, much to the contrary, but they simply don’t belong at Mass anymore than a reading from Spe Salvi or Deus Caritas Est belongs (and I love reading Pope Benedict) or reading Dante’s Divine Comedy (another must read, re-read, repeat book) belongs – they simply are not liturgical texts. The same holds true for “On Eagles Wings” a nice song, but wholly inappropriate at Mass. God Bless!

  • DeGaulle

    I would suggest Bob Dylan’s latest album, ‘Tempest’, as an example of a great work of art, not presented as a ‘Christian album’ per se, but replete with often outrageous and audacious, but always respectful, references to Our Lord and his mother. Being Dylan, a master of language, many such references are cryptic indeed and involve in many cases a rearrangement of hackneyed phrases and renewal of cliche that refreshes and reinvigorates their meaning. For example, what about this for a line (dismissed by secular critics as an example of Dylan’s ‘violent’ lyrics) as a comment -with Christ as the narrator-about resurrection: ”Two-timing Slim, who ever heard of him?,
    I’ll drag his corpse through the mud.”?

    And lines such as: “I pay in blood, but not my own”.

    “If I can’t work up you, you’re gonna have to work down to me

    some day”.
    All of these songs are accompanied by some mean, searing blues riffs or fine folk tunes, nothing twee about them.

  • Thomas

    Just a comment that is particularly Catholic…too many these days are guilty of throwing the baby out with the bath water when they dismiss “contemporary” liturgical music (say from the 70′s on) in favor of “traditional” liturgical music. Traditional liturgical music was once, also, “new”….and it’s unreasonable to say that “nothing new” can be sacred…..However…where is the “catholic popular music”? There are many great songs that are no longer being recommended for use during Mass that are wonderful compositions, reminding us of our Catholic heritage…these should be embraced as non-liturgical, but popular Catholic music…Also, why isn’t there a non-liturgical space for Catholic-themed songs, such as songs exalting the Saints? We Catholics need to encourage the creation and appreciation for Catholic-themed music outside of Mass–it’s an important extension of our heritage. And, one other thing–music should ennoble the human experience…in this I believe there should not be any personal tolerance with mediocrity in any of the arts–to the artist: create only that which is worth listening to, please!

    • Joseph

      While I agree that being modern chronologically speaking doesn’t objectively affect the quality of liturgical music… but generally speaking, there’s some pretty funky stuff in some of the liturgical music that came out during the 70′s and 80′s from what I see at Mass occasionally. The old stuff is simply tried and true is all. It’s like any musical genre… There’s the “classics” that you can expect nearly everyone to find objectively good, and the newer you get the more risky it is as far as taste goes. But the new stuff can also be even better than the old… it’s just the way it is haha

  • KW
  • prem

    wow… i just got cancer from reading this article…

  • Denise

    This is why both Mumford and Sons albums are on my kids’ iPods, with the exception of the more explicit songs.

  • http://twitter.com/indoorspinning Indoor Cycling

    What if this article was called “5 reasons to kill Jewish music”. That would be anti-Semitic

  • http://www.facebook.com/ralph.shawver Ralph Shawver

    I think your article hits the mark in a number of ways and misses it in some others. Lyrics that directly praise God, not concealed in a greater “art”, are perfectly in keeping with our tradition. And, doesn’t authenticity have its roots mainly in the artist’s intention? I’ve met many of the folks that write some of the music on Christian radio, and they are uniquely prayerful individuals that strive to write sincere music that praises God. If you don’t think there’s any depth in Christian music, listen to Matt Maher’s Empty and Beautiful sometime – a Catholic to boot. The intention of the writer and artist matter, even if it doesn’t always live up to being “great art”. Yes, much of it is banal and sappy, but is it really any more so than the Marty Haugen and OCP drivel we’ve been subjected to for 30 years? Beauty or banality, in that sense, are in the ear of the beholder. And, as some have commented, the notion that drums have no place in church? Please. Jesus didn’t speak Latin and he never heard a pipe organ. Your main point is well taken, however. Good art is good art and is what we should always strive for with all our strength and all our soul. Then we let other figure out which pigeon hole to place it in.

  • dictated by/. efrom Ali

    Cfrom Alison. Can anyone recommend non Christian praise music? Many thanks. AlisonLouisebell@yahoo.co.uk

  • Lindsay

    As soon as I saw the title I knew it would be an advertisement for Mumford and sons.

  • Fr. Daniel

    Good points made Marc, but you’re going to get better and worse, deeper and shallower out of every musician and every genera. Let everyone keep cranking out the music! The good stuff will last, the lesser things will fade.

    But if someone’s making the best with the talents they have, they should be encouraged, not hammered on. There isn’t a Mozart born every few weeks, so we can cut musicians some slack if they aren’t 1 in a million. If enough people are writing and performing, there’ll be more gems to discover.

    • http://www.facebook.com/kurtklement Kurt Klement

      Thank you Fr. Daniel for bringing moderation to a Marc Barnes blog discussion. His approach is so divisive in the Church. He highlights some important and even wise points at times, but uses the nuggets of truth to attack and divide using a few bad examples to paint with a broad brush. It’s really getting old.

    • WSquared

      With all due respect, Fr. Daniel, I think Mr. Barnes also said something about just writing *good* music. As Catholics, we do know, or should know, that good isn’t just a matter of taste. So writing good music does include better direction and honing for the talents that somebody does have, whether those talents be in abundance or meager compared to someone else. That requires discipline and right orientation. There’s something that Fr. James V. Schall, formerly a professor at Georgetown, said (paraphrasing Aristotle) about how great things will not be seen by those whose souls are not rightly ordered.

      It also requires building on what others have done– at least the gems, anyway. There isn’t a Mozart born every few weeks, but it’s important to note that somebody taught Mozart. You can’t push at the boundaries of what currently exists, say, unless you know what they are and know why they matter, and you can’t do something new with particular forms unless you first understand and respect that form, what it does, and why it matters. There has to be a more diligent, systematic, and humble sense of practicing a craft.

      • Daniel Ray

        Yes, totally agreed. Writing and performing good and beautiful music (in the thomistic sense of transcendent Good and Beautiful) are skills that take time and guidance to develop. Along the path there will be some pieces and performances that miss the mark, and miss it by far! However we shouldn’t berate anyone for trying.

        I like the Shall thought about the need for an up-right soul. That’s my theory why Gesualdo could never have become as good a composer as Palestrina, at least not with some more spiritual balance and order in his life.

  • http://www.facebook.com/chris.vance.33 Chris Vance

    Marc Barnes, you have successfully articulated what many of my fellow seminarians and I have been trying to say for years. Thank you. I have a suggestion for another blog post. If you read Joseph Ratzinger’s essay on Uncertainty, you may find some excellent and entertaining material on the common ground between the believer and nonbeliever. Particularly, the story about the clown is quite compelling.

  • Jeremy

    Marc, have you read any of Flannery O’Connor’s essays? I recommend picking up a copy of her “Mystery and Manners” – a lot of the things she talks about in reference to what a “Catholic novel” should be could be applied to the idea of “Christian Music” as well.

  • Joseph

    This is beautiful music http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BeVtjpnja6Q

    Maybe there are people out there who naturally prefer christian labeled popular music, but it becomes almost musically abusive to me. Can’t tell you how guilty those hardcore preach bands made me feel whenever I contrasted it with the music I actually enjoyed listening to. Everyone tries to make you feel evil or bad for liking something that isn’t specifically christian. These same people find no problem enjoying their secular movies, books, and plays guilt-free. That is what I hate the most. Sorry, but worse quality is the rule for non-liturgical music given the label “christian”. There are exceptions to this rule obviously, just as I enjoy Opprobrium, early Mortification, Antestor, Believer, Extol (they have some of the best metal out there)…. but I have no idea what my music library would look like if I was just limited to Catholics only. Most christian music just feels incredibly inauthentic to me. While some are mad that Marc is moralizing musical quality by saying Christian music is generally terrible, they do EXACTLY that when they label music christian. They say and sell it as morally better than everything else, which brings me back to the first point. The song “Moment of Clarity” by Death brings me to a very close place to God. But Chuck was by no means a Christian as far as anyone is aware of. But his music is authentic, and that’s why I love it. It’s my favorite.

    With that said, I don’t always enjoy being a metalhead. It puts me in a situation where I am considered ignorant and bigoted and of a worse moral quality than those around me. That, and I’m surrounded by people utterly hostile to most of the views I hold. But it is the music I naturally enjoy. To force myself into music I don’t like is abusive to myself. But honestly, I have the same problem with a lot of other Christian practices that occur at youth group type dealios. I find it very very uncomfortable to stand around holding hands with people and saying out-loud my prayer intentions or discussing my relationship with Jesus. If it’s more intimate and one-on-one I don’t really mind, but I would feel the same if we were talking about how much I love my mommy. It’s a very personal thing, as well as a relationship. It fluctuates. I don’t usually like the lyrics to lovey-dovey pop songs for that very reason. Nor do I generally enjoy listening to women sing. It puts me in an uncomfortable place emotionally. It’s not objectively bad, it’s just that, while I like women singing during mass, a time when I’m mentally in that place, I don’t enjoy ALWAYS being emotionally vulnerable. Metal is extremely “macho” and it is a music that I can comfortably be myself in and identify with, and is generally less morally degrading as a lot of other genres. But I can like Megadeth even if Dave isn’t constantly displaying christianity.

    The important thing is that I don’t just absorb whatever message the bands are singing about… and this would apply to any christian music created by Protestants from a Catholic perspective. I just happen to deal with it more than most I guess. I am a rational being for pete’s sake. And this pressure to avoid metal is mostly because people haven’t properly passed down their faith to their kids. It’s the same with literature or anything else… I mean, I could read about Buddhism and still be Catholic, but the child of someone who hasn’t been able to effectively pass on the faith could very likely become a self-proclaimed buddhist after simply seeing a youtube clip of the Dalai Lama. Teach your kids to think for themselves and maybe you won’t have to worry about them becoming an Atheist when they discover Iron Maiden. Sheesh! With that said, I purposely won’t listen to certain bands if they have incredibly ignorant anti-christian lyrics, because it’s like they are singing about killing ME haha… just like I wouldn’t particularly enjoy bands that constantly talk about burning America.

    If I wanted to be a preacher I’d join the Dominicans. As a musician, I just want to express myself and what I actually feel. I want to create music. We are allowed to talk about other things like dinner and war, why can’t we play music about them?! Maybe some people are comfortable explicitly telling everyone how much they love Jesus, but I am not. Just like I love my mommy very very much, I’m not going to go listen to a band that only talks about how much they love their mommies. My problem isn’t necessarily that there exists folk (in the general sense, no like the genre) music with christian themes or lyrics, but that there is an expectation for me to prefer this to everything else, even to the point where I feel a moral obligation to say I love you Jesus in my songs. It’s ridiculous, and St. John of the Cross doesn’t even do this with his poetry, even though it’s ALL about loving God. Hell, the Bible itself doesn’t live up to this standard. It’s a false dichotomy, and it makes us look silly, inauthentic, and deluded. Maybe I’m just a terrible Catholic and the only reason it doesn’t feel natural is because I don’t have a strong enough faith or relationship with God, but it never feels right writing explicitly christian lyrics or songs. And like I said before, the relationship FLUCTUATES. As an artist (haha) when I have written any sort of lyrics that are explicitly Catholic (thankfully never put into a song haha), when I’m not in that same place emotionally or relationship-wise with God I just get the grossest feeling inside and I feel like a very nasty hypocritical/inauthentic person. It just doesn’t feel right to me.

    Maybe it’s just me, but I don’t only talk about how much I love Jesus, and maybe that’s the only reason it feels unnatural to write music explicitly about that. Maybe I am just morally inferior to For Today because I don’t enjoy singing about God outside of the context of Mass. All I know is that I don’t usually enjoy it, and I abhor the expectation that I should.

    To end this long and nearly meaningless rant, I will say that when you consume ANY media or art (music,lit.,cinema etc.) when have you EVER enjoyed being preached at? I know I’m not the only one who wants to burn a book you are reading once you discover some preachy bias that you don’t share. I remember being required to read The Sweet Hereafter by that Banks dude and I wanted to kill myself the entire time. It’s torturous. Sure, there’s a definite place for reinforcing media… I generally only read religious literature. But for me, when it comes to music, it takes a different form entirely, and honestly it’s more about headbanging and instrumental beauty/awesomeness than anything else. If the lyrics are good it’s a bonus. So BITE me

    • Joseph

      Also, you need a less superficial understanding to why many people enjoy metal Marc. And from I know it’s not because you weren’t exposed to it, but it’s there all the same. The culture, while very intrinsic to metal itself, isn’t the first reason people love the music. Not everyone is all “HAIL SATAN BRING ON THE BR00TAL TOONZ” Maybe it is something borne of some sort of insecurity on our part, but we just like epic and heavy music. We generally like to think of ourselves as offshoots of some of the awesome classical music that has a darker and more minor tonality. There’s a lot to be musically and melodically salvaged from perhaps a more objective standpoint if people can get past the harsh vocals. I don’t know why I like them, but I do, and I feel like it expresses an important part of the human emotional palate… Cynic and Death definitely tap into this!

      • Obliged_Cornball

        I don’t think Marc was specifically hating on all metal in this post – just a certain subset. His knowledge of that subset is still lacking though. In a past entry, he used the terms “death metal” and “black metal” to refer to the same set of artists (lol) and included a Nevermore album cover as an example (LOL). I don’t think his ignorance of metal changes his message though, which is only that it’s hard to convey “Satanic” concepts through orderly art.

        On a more personal note, I’ll add that “A Moment of Clarity” is one of my favorite songs ever. It’s also cool that you like Extol, and I very much liked the Beyond Creation song you linked to. You seem to have pretty good taste in metal.

        • Joseph

          Yeah… And with the picture of Immortal… sometimes the point isn’t that they’re trying to actually look evil, it’s just theatrical (or even humorous). I don’t personally listen to black metal that often, unless it’s of the more death metal variety, but I get a general idea. I don’t think it changes the message either, and he’s right, and I find a lot of the imagery to be very silly… Inverted Crosses being the best example. The best way to kill God in the culture is to completely ignore him. It’s more compelling to see goodness portrayed without reference to him, and evil only in reference to him, than to be merely angsty about it haha.

          It feels good to know there’s at least one more person out there with the same taste of music while still being religious (Catholic right?)… You start to feel like the only one sometimes. Forest (the bassist for Beyond Creation) always gets me where I itch musically… Love it so much… You should check out his work in Augury as well… Jupiter to Ignite and Brimstone Landscapes are amazing songs… Virtually everything I look for in good metal!

          • Obliged_Cornball

            I’m actually *not* religious, but that has little bearing on my musical tastes. I listen to plenty of secular music conveying messages with which I do not agree. It’d be a silly double standard if I ignored good religious music because I don’t agree with that either. It’s all about being consistent (and enjoying good art in the process, ha). In the end, I agree with Aquinas (and Marc) on the idea that beauty requires a match between form and function. Christian metal bands that manage to strike the difficult balance between bleak and uplifting do write beautiful music.

            I do have some Christian metal-loving friends (some of whom are in bands even), but only one of them is into the more “progressive” side of things. I’ll be sure to check out Augury (and send a recommendation his way if they’re any good).

  • WILLIAM BAUER

    Most Christian radio music stations are formatted to appeal to the white evangelical female. There about six radio stations in the nation that play actual Rock music with Christian content. I am the Operations manger of one of those six.

  • http://rosenzweigshmuesn.blogspot.com/ daniel imburgia

    “5 Reasons to Kill Christian Music” strikes me as a title some smarmy sales representative might suggest to increase page hits. Apparently marketing music is no less problematic than marketing blogs. Perhaps the way to find and live any measure of freedom or beauty is not through endless arguments about terminology and categories. If, as Derrida rightly says in “The Gift of Death,” “Something has not yet arrived, neither at Christianity nor by means of Christianity. What has not yet arrived at or happened to Christianity is Christianity. Christianity has not yet come to Christianity,” then of course we may as well abandon categories altogether and quit futzing about the labels at Barns&Nobles or Amazon and maybe respond more to what I just heard over at F+T: ’…what the public square needs most of all: not just more discussion and debate about God, not just a deeper consideration of Christian ideas, but the visible presence of symbolic lives, lives that mean God.‘ Now if y’all go looking for a sound track for a life like that, a life of suffering, sorrow, tears and blood, both wet and metaphorical here are three suggestions: (caution there are curse words). Sabbath blessings and Obliged.

    Tom Waits, “Hell Broke Luce”

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0Fju9o8BVJ8&list=FL9jaxhjKAZ3xS_xu6DVRP9Q&index=1

    Sinead O’Connor – from “Theology,” Out of the Depths

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oXbOrCqXRoA&list=PLE2tiNwhCl1KNM8erwHMimUGc448oX77R&index=1

    Mary Gauthier, “Mercy Now”

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IT7NiFpJmvI&list=PLE2tiNwhCl1KNM8erwHMimUGc448oX77R&index=14

  • Dave G.

    There are certainly some good points here, not the least of which is watching out for the trend of brandifying Christianity. Also borrowing from the more troublesome aspects of the rock era (in your face Mr. Authority). As Catholics, it isn’t easy to say “all authority sucks, except the Catholic Church that is.’ I see many Christian artists try to emulate that ‘up yours’ mentality in how they pose for pictures or even frame their music.

    With that said, Christian pop music may well produce some wonderful, God centered lyrics and inspiring music. We live in the trash bin of our culture. We don’t live in the trash bin of Mozart’s culture, history took care of the trash from that period. We are left with the best of the best. As people 200 years from now will be from our era.

    As for the slogans, yeah, we want to make sure that we don’t try to make the Christian faith into a pie-in-the-sky feel good movement. But sometimes, the ‘positive’ and ‘family values’ terms are aimed at parents who know their kids are frequently exposed to ‘life sucks, have sex, then die because everything is pointless’ mantra of our post-modern culture. If Christianity isn’t all Pollyanna, it’s worth pointing out it’s not Reservoir Dogs either, especially when aimed at elementary aged kids.

  • david lamay

    I take the point of this post, particularly what C.S. Lewis is saying. However, if it comes down to talent and good taste (aesthetics, I guess), then there’s nothing wrong with being blatantly Christian as long as you do it really well. Right? If someone were to come along and “break the mold,” playing incredibly moving and stirring songs which were explicitly about Jesus, then I think we’d all have to give him a free pass. After all, there’s always someone who comes along and upsets expectations.

    • Joseph

      I wholeheartedly agree. For me, problem is generally that they are so limited to one particular feeling. If they are well rounded than all the power to them!

  • Steve S.

    Really, I have a lot of sympathy for what this article is saying, and I largely agree with you. But let me play devil’s advocate for a moment. Especially in a liturgical setting, there is such a thing as too much technical brilliance. Surely you’re familiar with Augustine’s Confessions, in which the author remarks on the way in which technically excellent chanting would draw his mind away from contemplation of God and toward enjoyment of the music only for its own sake. (I wonder what he would have thought of a Bach cantata!) Aesthetically excellent works of art draw attention to themselves by definition. Certainly liturgical art should avoid the garish and the banal, but isn’t there also such a thing as liturgical art that is too aesthetically good to serve its purpose?

    I think the Psalms are a case in point. There are a few psalms that are, technically speaking, very good poems. There are others that are technically mediocre. Yet, somehow, they are not only sacred songs but also sacred Scripture. I don’t read Greek, but I’m told that St. Luke’s style is much superior to St. Peter’s. Why didn’t somebody in the first century tell St. Peter to learn to write better? Does his clunky style make his epistles less worth reading?

    Even when it comes to music written for entertainment, aren’t many songs (“Christian,” “secular,” or whatever) produced only to be consumed? I’m all for writing songs that are aesthetically good, but it takes some exceptional talent as well as marketing savvy to write aesthetically good songs that are also widely marketable. This is the nature of an entertainment industry that produces massive amounts of music and lyrics: most of it is banal, mediocre, and forgettable. Christians who want to write excellent songs no longer face much ideological opposition to their content, but they do face strong institutional pressure to rapidly produce watered-down music that is as marketable as possible. I admire any musician who is able to write a single song that is both good and popular.

    And if one more person complains about how banal “Christian” songs are compared with “secular” songs, I threaten to copy and post the entire lyrics to “MMMBop.”

    • Claude

      Certainly liturgical art should avoid the garish and the banal, but isn’t there also such a thing as liturgical art that is too aesthetically good to serve its purpose?

      No! Great liturgical art makes me think about the religion, and I’m not even a believer. Neither am I out of the ordinary. Of course, Augustine was out of the ordinary.

      I don’t read Greek, but I’m told that St. Luke’s style is much superior to St. Peter’s. Why didn’t somebody in the first century tell St. Peter to learn to write better? Does his clunky style make his epistles less worth reading?

      Peter was almost certainly illiterate and neither 1 nor 2 Peter are thought by scholars to have been written by the apostle, though there is greater certainty about 2 Peter. The Greek is said to be highly literate, so you may be thinking of the author of Mark.

      • Claude

        ^ I never use the underline tag, so not sure how this happened. My apologies.

  • http://www.facebook.com/larryjune.gibbs Larry-June Gibbs

    Interesting and thought-provoking. I share your displeasure with mediocrity and the cheapening of the label “Christian.”
    But I strongly disagree with the statement, “evil is nothing.” Why? Simply because I believe Scripture and the statements of Jesus Christ about evil. In your context of Satanic music, your statement implies that music with sinister tone and blasphemous words are only bad because they don’t measure up to something better musically or poetically. No, this is not rocket science, they are evil (and white noise, while annoying, is not).
    Here’s one of the statements Jesus made about evil: “…from within, out of the heart of man, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, pride, foolishness: All these things come from within, and defile the man.” Mark 7:21-23 Now, hearing the many songs that include and glorify those things won’t in itself defile a person. BUT, if my own heart gives ear, and I agree, and sing along from my heart, I’m also producing the same evil thoughts. The music encourages my selfish rebellion against the holy God. And the truth is, all of us have a fallen nature that naturally gravitates toward sin.
    A regenerated person also has a new nature (II Cor 5:17, II Peter 1:4) that has a distinct distaste for the unholy, and yes, the mediocre.

    • stan lee

      Perhaps the author was referring more to evil as a negation of reality – not a separate reality in itself. I would question whether the music of satanists is evil – music (like a chord, or a melody) cannot be evil by itself any more than an axe can become evil by its use.
      Now, lyrics are a different thing altogether…

  • http://www.facebook.com/marek.petrik Marek D Petrik

    Wake up people. This makes no sense whatsoever. The reality is not christian – christianity is simply one of many religions.

  • Frederick

    Its really quite simple. Art, both visual and aural, is always coincident with the dominant or common zeitgeist of the time and place in which it is created or produced.

    Furthermore all art is an autobiographical description/portrait of the person who creates it, regardless of the seeming subject, including religious themes and ideas.

    Sacred Art can only be created, produced, shown and performed within the context of a comprehensively lived Sacred Culture. It takes years of profound discipline, one pointed commitment, and self-knowledge to even begin to produce/create Sacred Art.

    Furthermore Sacred Art can only be appreciated and understood within the context of the Sacred Space of a comprehensively lived Sacred Culture. Otherwise it inevitably becomes degraded and bastardized.

    The modern Western world has no Living Spiritual Tradition, and therefore is incapable of producing Sacred Art.

  • http://www.facebook.com/john.mcintyre.5492 John William

    “If Satanic musicians really wanted to defy God, they’d let their amps exude white noise for an hour and call it a concert.”

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Noise_music

  • Sam

    Would it be ok to post a link to my semi-long rebuttal/response/commentary here?

  • Colleen Hair

    You should check out Josh Garrels, “Love and War and the Sea In Between”

  • Don A. Gonzalez

    I thought of this passage from St. Josemaria’s collection of homilies (Christ is Passing By, 53):

    “So, though it may be proper to some periods or situations, I do not like to talk of catholic workers, catholic engineers, catholic doctors and so on, as if describing a species within a genus, as if Catholics formed a little group separate from others. That creates the impression that there is a chasm between Christians and the rest of society. While respecting the contrary opinion, I think it more correct to speak of workers who are Catholics, or Catholics who are workers or engineers. For a man of faith who practices a profession, whether intellectual, technical or manual, feels himself and is in fact at one with others; he is the same as others, with the same rights and obligations, the same desire to improve, the same interest in facing and solving common problems.

    The Catholic who is prepared to live in this way will, through his daily life, give a proof of his faith, hope and charity: a simple and normal testimony without need of pomp and circumstance. The vitality of his life will show the constant presence of the Church in the world, since all Catholics are themselves the Church, because they are members in their own right of the one People of God.”

    • http://www.facebook.com/MommySohler Mommy Solher

      yes! love Jose Maria. :) (one of the few Saints you can watch on Youtube, in person).

  • http://www.facebook.com/michaelbastos Michael Bastos

    I’m independent fundamental Baptist and not Catholic but even I like listening to Christian Rock music but I’m very selective. I don’t see anything wrong with that classification because it allows me to refine even further the selections that are out there. Without it I would literally have to go through every song on an album to make sure it was alright. As for using it to save others, that’s God’s job and not that of music, the foolishness of preaching is what the bible says Good had chosen to use and not melodies or warm feelings.

  • Jay Everett

    The Catholic Church calls music other than sacred “polyphoney”, and most of it is not worthy of the Mass. Today many “Modern Catholics” like the “polyphoney” because they will not take the time to learn sacredm music. Them loyal Catholics have no problem with this.

  • MissL

    Really? This hen-pecking semantics to death. It seems that there are many, many real issues engulfing our world that you could pursue without attacking a ministry that is trying to reach an audience and further Christ with their gifts and talents. This would be equivalent to attacking the mens EWTN show “Crossing the Goal” because it reduces living for Christ to a football strategy. When efforts are being made– sincere, genuine efforts–by God-centered Christians, this is uncalled for. I’m not even sure what your goal was here, but it read like an attempt to deface Fellow Christians doing the best they know how to spread God’s message.

    • http://www.facebook.com/kurtklement Kurt Klement

      Thanks MissL. He did the same thing last week to the great work by many in Catholic youth ministry. He takes a few bad examples to paint with a broad brush. Last week any youth ministry that he thinks is trying to be “relevant” was in his crosshairs, this week it’s Christian music. Marc is a reactionary. And unfortunately a bunch of ultra traditionalists enable and encourage his divisiveness.

      • http://blog.goliard.us/ Blog Goliard

        It’s a good thing that labeling people “reactionary” and “a bunch of ultra traditionalists” isn’t divisive or anything.

        Or is it okay for *you* to criticize fellow Catholics, but not for Marc?

    • http://blog.goliard.us/ Blog Goliard

      It seems that there are many, many real issues engulfing our world that you could pursue without attacking a blogger who is trying to reach an audience and further Christ with his gifts and talents.

      (See how easy that was? And how cheap and beside the point?)

  • Diane

    So, in your world…when I get in the car with my 4 kids and turn on the radio…we should listen to:
    a) mainstream shallow offensive garbage sprinkled with Christ inspired music
    b) the classical station (oh- wait they shut that down–which my kids loved by the way)
    c) one of the many Mexican stations that we don’t even know whether it’s honoring Christ or not
    d) adult talk radio (not always suitable for kids, especially in our liberal town)
    e) ah…AIR1 which encourages us to focus on God today and not ourselves

    • http://blog.goliard.us/ Blog Goliard

      f) Bring CDs or other recordings along to listen to, if it’s a long journey (presuming you have a car stereo capable of playing them).

      g) Engage in conversation with each other.

      (I know what a challenge it can be to deal with young children, and how the pacifying function of television or radio can be a lifesaver now and then; but on the other hand, constant stimulation and background noise are not, after all, fundamental human needs…nor even especially healthy. Most of us these days have not nearly enough silence, nor in-person conversation unaccompanied by distracting noise, in our lives.)

  • http://www.facebook.com/josh.proctor.102 Josh Proctor

    Ah, well…everyone falls short from time to
    time. This comes to me in the same spirit as the misguided souls who
    rail against Vatican II. What you’re really railing against here is *bad*
    music and the fact that there exists a genre, a ridiculously
    general genre labeled, “Christian Music.” A better analogy for why
    labeling an artist or album as Christian is ignorant: Calling all music
    that sings specifically about Jesus, “Christian Music” is like labeling
    all music that specifically sings about sexual acts as, “Romance Music.”

    I’ll answer your discussion questions also: 1) Chris Tomlin. 2) Mumford’s music is not heard on most “Christian” media because they curse in song. Easy as that. After the debacle with Evanescence, Christian radio and music stores are not ready, even a decade later, to take that risk.

  • http://twitter.com/uhnoneemus Michael Logan

    Great article. 3 & 4 are my favs. I do, however, think that the article comes from a distinct “artist” perspective. From a consumer perspective, you may not want to hear music that is more representative of the “entire life experience of a musician who is also Christian”. On Sunday morning, I may not want to hear about a drunken night of soul-searching that leads you to asking questions like, “What do I stand for?” Or a song about a lost girl in a big city who lives too fast and dies causing you to have visions of heaven and angels. (I’m just thinking of themes of a couple popular mainstream songs that sound like they were definitely written by a Christian.) I, the consumer, may just want to hear songs of adoration that love on Christ. And it has nothing to do w/ those kinds of songs being “less Christian” as opposed to me wanting something more focused. Music is a vehicle. And we get in to let it take us places. Sometimes I want to go to “How Great is Our God” land and I want to stay there.

    So, IMO, the issue isn’t with music that we have come to accept as traditionally Christian (ex: anything by Chris Tomlin), the issue is that a Mumford & Sons song could be just as (if not more) authentically Christian than a Chris Tomlin song. So, I’m not sure that we should “Kill Christian Music” as much as we should throw so much more music under that umbrella. The point about Satanic music still being of God because of the order required to make it is a good one. And I think that a theologian making that point in a debate with another theologian would win the argument. But as a consumer, music that explicitly glorifies Satan doesn’t make me think of God in even the most abstract way. Mumford and Sons does. FUN does. Ed Sheeran does. Practically any John Williams score (with no lyrics whatsoever) does. And, yes, those are my personal favorites that may not work for everyone. But I think that this article does help open the eyes of the narrow-minded, and it at least forces them to see how songs like the ones I just mentioned are just as “Christian”… even if they aren’t your preference.

  • http://www.catholic.com/ likeasaint

    Modern Christian music tends to do more telling than showing (the same goes for Christian movies). I think Matthew West’s song Forgiveness is about forgiveness.

  • Guest

    Great article. 3 & 4 are my favs. I do, however, think that the article comes from a distinct “artist” perspective. From a consumer perspective, you may not want to hear music that is more representative of the “entire life experience of a musician who is also Christian”. On Sunday morning, I may not want to hear about a drunken night of soul-searching that leads you to asking questions like, “What do I stand for?” Or a song about a lost girl in a big city who lives too fast and dies causing you to have visions of heaven and angels. (I’m just thinking of themes of a couple popular mainstream songs that sound like they were definitely written by a Christian.) I, the consumer, may just want to hear songs of adoration that love on Christ. And it has nothing to do w/ those mainstream examples being “less Christian.” I may just prefer something more focused at that particular time. Music is a vehicle. And we get in to let it take us places. Sometimes I want to go to “How Great is Our God” land and I want to stay there.

    So, IMO, the issue isn’t with music that we have come to accept as traditionally Christian (ex: anything by Chris Tomlin). The issue is that a Mumford & Sons song could be just as (if not more) authentically Christian than a Chris Tomlin song. So, I’m not sure that we should “Kill Christian Music” as much as we should throw so much more music under that umbrella. The point about Satanic music still being of God because of the order required to make it is a good one. And I think that a theologian making that point in a debate with another theologian would win the argument. But as a consumer, music that explicitly glorifies Satan doesn’t make me think of God in even the most abstract way. Mumford and Sons does. FUN does. Ed Sheeran does. Practically any John Williams score (with no lyrics whatsoever) does. And, yes, those are my personal favorites that may not work for everyone. But I think that this article does help open the eyes of the narrow-minded, and it at least forces them to see how songs like the ones I just mentioned are just as “Christian”… even if they aren’t your preference.

  • asdfdfasdf

    “modifying” is adjective in that title. Jus sayin’…

  • John

    David danced….

  • Elizabeth

    Amen brother.

  • http://twitter.com/Zweifs Katy Zweifel

    I have argued this point for ages. I even did a couple college radio shows with that idea in mind – of just playing GOOD music that encourages discussion and reflection on the true, good, beautiful – and reality of the human experience. The example I always use is that I’d love to create a radio station run with Christian principles, but that would include songs like “Brick” on the playlist – because it expresses the reality of abortion. Thanks for this post!

  • R H

    The numbering corresponds to the numbered subjects above! :

    1. Does writing a Christian song actually
    reduce Christianity to a modifying adjective? God is God, and I know Godly
    men…does that reduce God? Can we actually DO that? And what about saying
    something is beautiful? God is Beauty, but I don’t think he’d oppose us saying
    that we reflect Him in that way, in a beautiful way, or by saying, wow, that
    sunset is beautiful! We use words to describe the Word but that doesn’t lessen
    Him.

    2. Everything can’t help its inherent Christianity,
    and that all art is Christian or Catholic…so does this include everything or
    just music? Are all created and made things Christian because we had a first cause? I understand that we cannot stop being the Creator’s creation; even
    those in hell were once images of Him. I know that all goods are under THE
    Good, God, and that we can’t do anything without it being in some way about
    Him, maybe for or against, implicitly at least. I understand that Christianity
    is a way of life, that He is THE life, and that Christianity is in itself not a
    KIND of anything and isn’t a piece of the pie when it IS the pie; He is the
    THING.

    But Christ himself discriminated by calling Himself THE way and THE truth and THE
    life. So why can’t we say that something reminds us of the ONLY Way, the only
    Truth, and the only Life by calling it Christian? Why can we literally not make
    a statement that something speaks of Jesus Christ by calling it Christian? Why
    not? Isn’t there Christian living? There’s evil living…Why can’t I say that
    this music is about Christ by calling it Christian music? In our English
    language isn’t that the most appropriate way to describe a good that explicitly
    describes or illuminates a part of Christ? Because Christ is NOT everything -
    He is not evil and He is not IN everything, and that’s biblical. So why can’t I
    say He is in that and he isn’t in that? That His life isn’t spoken of or
    illuminated extra-ordinarily in some of Marilyn Manson’s songs but He is in
    some by Sarah Groves or Luke Spehar’s?There are a lot of KINDS of music, and Christianity isn’t a kind of anything…but isn’t it in a real way since we are not in heaven and there are things OF God and things that AREN’T. Isn’t Christianity NOT something and then it IS something else?

    Why can’t I confess what I know to be like Christ, or of Christ, by calling it Christian? Can I call myself a Christian? I’m a sinner and small and impoverished but I don’t bring Christ or Christianity to my level by calling myself what I am; He stoops down to ME.

    3. “If you label me you negate me.” WHY would you want to hush the bride from talking explicitly about her beloved Bridegroom?? She can love Him with all she does but she can still SAY it too! I do believe that actions speak louder than words, but not louder than the Word. WORD. There is something that is important to understand with the logoi or logos, and why he got THAT specific about what He is. The Word was with God, the Word became flesh…He is SAYING something, and our bodies have a Theology, and I think we don’t need to silence what can actual SAY stuff. I think we need to make it really really really good and expect much more, much more of the gravel of the interior life, not just the surface.

    4. Indeed the Christian music world needs reform and a much higher bar, but I don’t think we need to silence it entirely by killing it or ending radio stations
    that play those songs. I listen to NPR for the news, and I like to listen to K
    Love on my way to work in the morning to hear a song that’ll help focus myself
    onto Him. I’d like better songs to come on the radio, and I think we should
    strive to fitness the Christian music world, but not kill it. :)

  • Tim

    Marc, I found your article rather weak, at best, and lacking any truly substantial arguements. Your first two points, on the inherent Christian nature (or lack of it) in music (through lyrics, form, compositional style, etc.) is good, but using that point to criticize an identifying label given to a genre of music is hypocritical. If you think about it, there is not a genre of music in the musical world that actually has a good descriptive, identifying label. Classical music, Romantic music, Traditional Church music, Rock music, etc., etc., all of these terms lack description and fail to communicate anything substantial about the music itself (Its lyrics, form, etc., etc.). So demanding that this music be held to a higher standard in regards to a label is unfair. That being said, your first two points aren’t really points at all.

    On your third point, you make a complete switch from your first two points and criticize the label “Christian Music” for being too descriptive. You go on to argue that mere labels and titles are not what is needed, but that what is needed is an authentic, substantial Catholic/Christian musical feel, one of substance and order, and one which, you argue, does not exist in “Christian Music.” Yet that assersion is not very factual. It is just your perception resulting from your experience with the classical forms. Sure, “Christian Music” may not have the depth of the Classical forms, yet for those who have been born and bred in the secular anti-religious world of Led Zepplin, free Jazz, and the like, “Christian Music” definitly does have a substance, order, and distinctly Christian feel, that does not exist elsewere. What is more, this music fills a certain, actual, real void for goodness, order, and God, that these people have. Why would we want to critize that? Sure you could argue that these people should just skip “Christian Music” and go directly for the Classical forms (polyphony, chant, organ, etc. etc), but just as when someone is weak you don’t feel them rich food, the Classical forms are something which many Christians are unable to relate to. It would be meaningless and unwanted repetition for them, rather than being sincere and true.

    On your fourth point, yes, singing about Jesus is inherently valuable, and, yes, love does cover a multitude of sins. Nevertheless, mediocrity is not one of those sins. What is more, if you want to consider a true measure of mediocracy, consider the *best*, most ordered, perfect, musical form that we humans have, and think about how mediocre it is in comparison to The Almighty, Himself. Yet, nevertheless, God loving and *happily* accepts our best attempts as individuals to praise Him, through lyrics and form, whether it is the most awesome of organ pieces performed by a true master, or the honest, sincere singing along to K-Love on the radio by a Christian girl driving down the street.

    And on your fifth point, on “Christian Music” not really being Christian, it’s an empty statement without the support of your previous four points.

    • RH

      I really like how you said all of this. I love this part: “…whether it is the most awesome of organ pieces performed by a true master, or the honest, sincere singing along to K-Love on the radio by a Christian girl driving down the street.” What a beautiful image. Thanks!

  • Jared W

    The pretentiousness of this article downright sickens me. It smacks of a child trying to sound grown up. The author does himself and his argument no favors when he uses phrases like, “We cannot attempt to lift the spirit and transcend the world — which is the innate goal of all music — without acknowledging a transcendent reality towards which we have the incredible capacity to lift our spirits.” WHAT? You sound like a fool that just got hold of a thesaurus.

    I know what you’re trying to say here, but really? You couldn’t have expressed it like a normal person? You try to lend credibility to your argument by using big words, and quoting philosophers. I could find tons of quotes from other philosophers that directly dispute what your philosophers say. Then what?

    Since you like definitions so much, here’s one for you, “Genre: A category of artistic composition, as in music or literature, characterized by similarities in form, style, or subject matter.” So then how does this work? “A Christian genre insinuates that Christianity is the modification of a pre-existing reality. “Oh, you have music? Well here, have Christian music.” By definition a Christian genre insinuates that the subject matter is Christian, focused on Christ. Look at Ephesians 2 or 2 Corinthians 5. They talk about the MASSIVE difference between who we were before we found Christ and who we are now. John 15:5 says, ” “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” So I’d say there’s a significant difference between the music produced by a Christian and that of a non-Christian.

    “Harmony, melody, rhythm, rhyme, dynamics — these are not the joys of the material or even the animal world.” I’m not sure where you live, but if you’ve ever heard crickets or cicada bugs you would not have written this.

    Continued in reply below…

    • Jared W

      “Sure, these bands intentionally miss the mark, miss the point, preach vice, fall short of writing anything good enough to last, and waste time indulging the petty, Dionysian emotions, but even their failure is Christian.” We’ll overlook the purely subjective nature of the first part of this sentence and focus on that last bit. To be Christian is to be a “little-Christ,” a representative of Him. Pardon me if I don’t think Marilyn Manson fits that mold.

      The next few sections seem to leave your initial argument that having distinct Christian music is wrong, to all Christian music is mediocre.

      “Writing a song under the mindset that the Holy Spirit will use that song to “reach people” is a denial that the Holy Spirit uses you to reach people, and has given you the emotional depth, the poetic imagination, the enlightened intellect, and the spiritual sensitivity to write a damn good song.” What happens if somebody else sings your song? Then the Holy Spirit isn’t using you anymore?

      “If the reality of Christianity is that which is expressed in the majority of “Christian” songs — and that which K-Love takes as their guiding principle — than I would much prefer to be an atheist.” Therein lies your problem, either that you actually believe this statement, or that your maturity level allows you to throw this out so flippantly.

      “The definition of “positive” is “explicitly stated, stipulated, or expressed”” I found 15 definitions of positive, you picked this one. It doesn’t really fit that well in the context of the K-Love statement does it? But it does fit your argument. So now you’ve twisted their mission statement for the purposes of your argument.

      “But “positive” — as in “positive feelings” — indicates a certain shallow happiness as foreign to Christianity as Scientology.” I fail to see in the K-Love statement where they say “positive feelings”…

      What book of the Bible did Maritain write? I couldn’t find it. Don’t even get me started on the farce that you call “discussion questions.”

      Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying that one should listen to only Christian music, but it does have its place, as David so wonderfully shows in the Psalms. Just because you don’t like the style,
      wording, or sentiment (which, lets be honest, is your real beef here), doesn’t
      make it wrong.

      I agree that Christian music can often be a shelter for mediocrity, but if the artist is sincere in their praise of our Lord, who are we to judge or care about their level of talent?

      Seriously, grow up.

    • http://blog.goliard.us/ Blog Goliard

      “You couldn’t have expressed it like a normal person?”

      The sentence quoted seemed utterly normal to me. How would you have phrased it instead?

      • Jared W

        “The sentence quoted seemed utterly normal to me. How would you have

        phrased it instead?”

        The fact that the sentence in question seemed “utterly normal” to you is just an indicator that any further argument on this will be “utterly” useless.

        “Let’s leave aside the use of a single, preferred definition”

        Let’s not leave it aside. Reference the definition you’re talking about here and then tell me how it’s wrong.

        “Would you still find this statement to be true if we replaced the word “music” with “chair” or “coffee” or “academic paper on advanced number theory”?”

        Really? Do you truly believe, for even a second, that you could compare music in this context to a chair, or coffee? Let’s pretend you really are that dense. The expression of emotion and feeling that comes from music could not possibly be mirrored in a cup of coffee or a chair. 1 Corinthians 10:31 says, “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” So based on SCRIPTURE and not my own opinion, I’d say that that chair or coffee ought to be crafted as if it were being crafted for Christ himself. So yes, in theory it ought to be a significantly better quality product. That is, if you REALLY want to use those examples. As for the academic paper, you really ought to read the C.S. Lewis reference in the actual article.

        “What difference should I expect to hear between “The Four Seasons” and a work of chamber music by an impious composer of the period?”

        I should like to think, if you are a fan of classical music (which seems to be the way you want to be seen), that you would have already noticed the difference between “The Four Seasons” and other composers’ work.

        • http://blog.goliard.us/ Blog Goliard

          So you can’t rephrase Marc’s sentence then. (Or maybe you just don’t want to put yourself through such trauma, seeing as how reading it in the first place downright sickened you.)

          And, even when called on it, you can’t see how the following words of yours apply equally to your choice of definition for “genre”:

          “I found 15 definitions of positive, you picked this one. It doesn’t really fit that well in the context of the K-Love statement does it? But it does fit your argument. So now you’ve twisted their mission statement for the purposes of your argument.”

          And you believe I’m dense for asking how your proof-text from Corinthians, which refers to “whatever you do”, might apply to carpentry or cookery or any “whatever” apart from music. (And yes, I did read the C.S. Lewis reference in the original article…though I don’t know why you would give it much weight, since like Maritain he didn’t write any of the books in the Bible, and that seemed to be a problem for you before.)

          Nor are you prepared to offer an actual answer to the questions raised in my final paragraph above; rather, you prefer to dodge, cast an aspersion or two, and then throw the questions back on me (even though my whole point is that your position requires an answer to them).

          You’re right. Further argument is useless here.

          • Jared W

            So you have no response to anything else I said? That’s all you gathered from my reply?

            For the sake of argument, I will rephrase what Marc said.

            We can’t expect to lift our spirits and escape our everyday struggles (which is the goal of music), if we don’t acknowledge the grace of God that gives us a reason for our joy.

            So now that I’ve rephrased it (in normal everyday terms), what is your argument? You’ve just based your whole dispute on the fact that I hadn’t rephrased anything. I expect that you’ll begin arguing about my rephrasing and still completely ignore any other point I’ve brought up. Which makes me think you have no response. Because under all your archaic, pretentious vocabulary (I can use big words too) you have no foundation for your argument.

          • http://blog.goliard.us/ Blog Goliard

            “Archaic”? “Pretentious”? I used nothing but perfectly ordinary words in common use among educated people.

            [further snarkiness redacted...I apologize for starting to lose my temper]

          • Jared W

            Apologies, for whatever reason my computer did not allow me to see past the first paragraph in your previous post and did not see that you did respond to some of my other points.

            “And, even when called on it, you can’t see how the following words of yours apply equally to your choice of definition for “genre”:”

            My argument was not so much against the selection of a definition that fit his argument, as it was the fact that the definition he used didn’t even fit the context of the K-Love statement he was disputing. The definition for genre that I used was in direct context with the way it was being used not only by myself, but by Marc as well. If you read my statement completely you would have understood that.

            “And you believe I’m dense for asking how your proof-text from Corinthians, which refers to “whatever you do”, might apply to carpentry or cookery or any “whatever” apart from music.”

            The “proof-text” from Corinthians hadn’t been introduced yet. So you were NOT questioning it. You merely took four unrelated subjects and attempted to compare them. I’ll break it down so you can understand. I believe you are dense for your comparison of music to coffee and a chair. They are not the same thing. Music is in artistic expression. While coffee and a chair can be used in that manner, their primary purpose is practical. They are not in the same category. You could compare music to painting, architecture, dance, but for some reason you chose those items, which makes me think that you don’t really understand the difference.

            “And yes, I did read the C.S. Lewis reference in the original article…though I don’t know why you would give it much weight”

            Regardless of the weight I give it, it seems that you do give it weight, based on your defense of this article. So I simply brought it up as a response to your example of an academic paper.

            “since like Maritain he didn’t write any of the books in the Bible, and that seemed to be a problem for you before.”

            My problem is not that he didn’t write a book in the Bible. My issue is when authors quote people like Maritain and even C.S. Lewis, as authorities on religious matters, WITHOUT (and that’s the important word here) any scriptural support for their statements.

            “Nor are you prepared to offer an actual answer to the questions raised in my final paragraph above…(even though my whole point is that your position requires an answer to them).”

            If you want an actual answer (I thought I was pretty clear but here goes), Vivaldi’s “The Four Seasons” sounds very different from other composers’ work. There is a reason why it was (and has remained) such a popular work, and other composers’ works have fallen by the wayside. So I would argue there is not an “absence of such obvious difference”, and that Vivaldi both understood AND accomplished his role as a Christian composer.

            “Why do educated people and their vocabulary irritate you so?”

            You should read George Orwell’s essay, “Politics and the English Language.” That aside, my issue is when uneducated people attempt to sound educated through fancy words that distract from the fact that they have no intelligent argument.

          • http://blog.goliard.us/ Blog Goliard

            I clearly got up on the wrong side of the bed today and I’ve allowed that to come through in my writing…I apologize for being abrasive.

            I also feel that we’ve been talking past each other, and are starting to strain at gnats, so I shan’t clutter up this comment thread much further.

            Let me just say that most of the questions I was asking were meant to tease out further explanations of your position–such as your distinction between artistic expression and the practical arts. I guessed that you were drawing an implied line between the two, but wasn’t sure. I also appreciate your clarifying that in the latter case, your expectation of the Christian is simply one of general excellence.

            One thing I’m still not clear on–so I will risk asking one more set of questions–is what your standard is for artistic expression. Do you have a general expectation that a Christian artist will frequently (or always) direct his artistic output towards explicit expression of Christian beliefs and teachings, and explicit praise of Jesus? And it’s clear enough how this is done in the visual arts, or in music with lyrics…but how about instrumental music?

            Hence my reference to “The Four Seasons”–is it merely the general excellence of Vivaldi’s composition that sets it apart here as the work of a Christian (meaning that instrumental music is not so different from the practical arts after all), or do you believe that such a work has a more explicit way of conveying the Christian message and praising God (which I confess I haven’t yet detected in the quarter century since I first encountered that work)?

          • http://blog.goliard.us/ Blog Goliard

            P.S. Or — to sidestep the instrumental vs. vocal complications — how about the three songs I happen to be currently preparing for recital: “Les Roses d’Ispahan” (Gabriel Fauré), “Vado ben spesso cangiando loco” (Salvatore Rosa), and “Blow, Blow, Thou Winter Wind” (Roger Quilter)? (As you may guess, I’m a beginner still.)

            I’m not sure what “Christian music” partisans would make of these composers’ choice of subject matter–much less my freely choosing to perform only such secular pieces at recital rather than, say, something out of our church choir repertoire. Would they view such songs as something standing apart from “Christian music”? As non-Christian music? As inferior to “Christian music”? As something that merely has a different purpose than “Christian music”? (A lesser or less worthy purpose?)

            Would they object to calling those who write or perform such music “Christian musicians”? (I might object to calling myself the “musician” part, on grounds of limited proficiency and deficient musical education…but that’s a different matter.) Would they want to know more about the individual’s orthodoxy, manner of living, and degree of apparent piety before deciding?

            Would recordings of these songs be unwelcome on a “Christian radio” station merely for reasons of format and taste…or for other reasons as well?

            Perhaps a way out of this mess–and, more importantly, a way to get me to stop nattering on like this–would be to call the genre not “Christian music”, but “devotional music”? Or is that not quite what people mean when they promote it as “Christian music”?

  • dave_aka_lambsev

    Psalms truly capture the essence of man and God in fellowship. The Idea that all music is Christian (Christ like) is really false. REALLY false. Can you imagine Christ countenancing the words to “Californication” by the Red Hot Chili Peppers? Is Jesus the transcendental source of this lyric:

    First born unicorn
    Hard core soft porn
    Dream of Californication
    Dream of Californication
    Dream of Californication
    Dream of Californication

    Marry me girl be my fairy to the world
    Be my very own constellation
    A teenage bride with a baby inside
    Getting high on information
    And buy me a star on the boulevard
    It’s Californication

    Or how about Nigga Nigga Nigga by Gangsta Rap?

    Yeah, mother fucker
    sup nigga
    Gangsta Rap nigga.
    Nigga
    Nigga Nigga Nigga Nigga Nigga Nigga Nigga , im %100 nigga
    Nigga Nigga Nigga Nigga Nigga Nigga Nigga , im %200 nigga
    Nigga Nigga Nigga Nigga Nigga Nigga Nigga , why do police hate niggas?
    Nigga Nigga Nigga Nigga Nigga Nigga Nigga , they hate us cause our dicks is bigga
    Nigga Nigga Nigga Nigga Nigga Nigga Nigga , why you call yourself a nigga?
    Nigga Nigga Nigga Nigga Nigga Nigga Nigga , cause im a mother fucking nigga!
    Nigga Nigga Nigga Nigga Nigga Nigga Nigga , why you drink so much beer?
    Nigga Nigga Nigga Nigga Nigga Nigga Nigga , I dont drink beer, I drink malt liquor

  • lensa

    God knows the heart of the one that wrote the music and knows the fruit of the praise. If it is to Praise the lord, Let it be!

  • http://www.facebook.com/moonbeam.yoder Moonbeam Yoder

    The most delightful joyfilled and totally luminous and well thought out music that brings me into close encounter with my Lord Jesus is the music of the late, great Richard Wayne Mullins. It is a great balm to a weary soul and his passion for God resonates in each and every song. It is timeless. Have never heard it on any Christian radio. No synthesizers…go figure…sigh. i no longer listen to Christian radio.

  • andy

    I think much of what is discussed above is an argument against bad Christian music, not against Christian music in general. I heard Matt Maher in concert a few years ago and have been hooked on his music ever since. I can listen to one of his songs that I’ve heard dozens of times and still a different line will hit me and make me think. I’ve tried to listen to the local Christian rock station, and I just can’t get into it. Frankly I think a lot of it just isn’t very good music. But there are a couple of artists, Maher being the main one for me, that sing “Christian music” that really have tremendous, positive impact on my life.

    • Shaun

      i agree, this is what i was trying to say also. i think he needs to change the title of this post. he really isnt promoting the death of “christian music” and by that i mean all modern day songs about jesus. he is promoting getting rid of just plain dull and cheesy music, as well the “label” of “christian music” — which the way to do that is really to get people to realize its all christian music cuz it all comes from god and therefore saying “christian” is a genre will become redundant. and we need to stop saying “i will convert people for god with my music, and start saying “i pray God converts people through me regardless of what i do”

      — i also saw matt maher in concert, and he is one of the good ones. Tenth avenue north and Danielle rose are two others you should listen too…. they are wonderful trust me! :) they seem less like they are trying to make people feel good and more like they are trying to just speak the truth about God and all he does. — just avoid tenth ave’s song “losing” from their newest album… its a silly sounding one. but the rest is perfect! :)

  • http://www.facebook.com/patsue.martin Pat-Sue Martin

    If Chrisian music leads people to God and saves their souls, we need to use it. As a manager of a Christian radio station for 8 years I saw many instances of this happening.

  • shaun

    i totally get what your saying… but it seems partially redundant, if i am using the right word here. you said we shouldnt be writing “christian” music but rather we should be christians simply writing music. … but… isnt that what “christian” musicians are doing? like… they are christian… and so they go out and try to right good music and the music they make is naturally about god? i mean, i get that a lot of the time they are really cheesy about it. but its still music and ultimately attends to the good. as you said, even a song about satan could ultimately attribute to the good for the sake that it is still music no matter how aweful.

    and the matter of people being all “i will right this song so the holy spirit uses it to convert people” — ok i get that whoever says this may be missing the point a bit… but still his woulds speak truth even if said in a less perfect way from the mouth of a not so well informed individual. the holy spirit WILL use his song. it seems the real problem is not the “christian music” but rather our opinions of it. the musician should realize that even if he werent using god’s name every line with pauses in bewteen for the audiance to start rocking back and fowarth with there hands raised up to heaven, god would STILL use his music.

    and the “christian” genre label. like seriously, if everyone were christian, there would be no lable… it would all just be christian music. i dont think its that christians placed this lable on themselves, i think its that non-christians placed it on us. i think that is what you meant though.

    in short i dont think it should say we want to kill “christian music” but rather we want to kill the label of christian music. how do we do this? by proving to everyone that christian music isnt JUST (although it does include also) music that says the name jesus a lot. and of course, pray for the conversion of people. — some “christian” music is lame and cheesy, and i choose not to listen to it very often. some “non-christian” music is a bad influence… and i choose not to listen to it. some “christian” music is wonderful, so i listen to it al the time and its just by chance it says Jesus’ name a lot. and some “non-christian” music has God whispering very steadily through it even though jesus isnt mentioned once…. SO i listen to it. its not that all of the modern music about Jesus should be killed… just that stupid pointless and constricting label of “christian genre music” should be killed.

    — and yes. christian radios should stop trying to only put up music of the variety that says Jesus a lot. mumford and sons should be up there too. and many other bands. i like simple plan, i hear God using their music… and i bet they never intended that. but God is also using Tenth Avenue North, and they did intend it. in the end it doesnt matter whether they intended it or not… God’s using it is the point.

  • Victo

    I think someone saw « How to Write a Worship Song in 5 Minutes or Less »…hmhm.

  • Bob

    I am trying to understand the author’s problem with Christian music based on positive feelings. Certainly our faith is not to be based on feelings. It would be childish to expect Christians to go around with smiles all the time, beaming at everyone. And you can’t manufacture genuine Christian joy by having the congregation sing an upbeat, “positive” song about Jesus–or a hymn by John Wesley for that matter. Or by playing it on the Christian radio station. Joy is a work of the Holy Spirit.

    But when you are truly joyful, what the songs are doesn’t matter so much. It helps if they have the elements of what makes for good music…engaging harmonies, intelligent, thoughtful lyrics, etc. However, the music is only there to help you worship, be it “positive” and upbeat, or somber and sorrowful. If you are already worshiping the Lord in your heart, almost any decent song can be a catalyst to lift your spirit to Him. Just my opinion!

  • Galatians 5:1

    Who are you to be judging what these people are doing unto the Lord? It is a matter of their hearts’ attitudes toward God, but this article is judging on the outward appearance. If God can use these songs to bring sinners unto repentance or to edify a believer, then why are you disparaging them? We should not be focused on the music, but rather the Savior.

    If you have been called to be a Christian who makes music rather than a maker of Christian music, then do the former unto the Lord. For the sake of love and unity, do not be a barrier to those called to do the latter unto the Lord. Let us discard this legalism that takes our attention off of the cross of Christ and divides us. Instead, let us return to the place where we were saved, on our knees with our eyes fixed upon our Lord Jesus Christ.

  • Joseph C.

    Music is the language of the soul.If your soul lives for God,you will sing His praises regardless of what is considered correct by the proper authorities,remember the scribes and pharisees thought Jesus was out of it for telling them they knew the letter of the law but not the spirit of the law.If the music lifts the soul to a closer union with the great “I AM”,maybe it’s time to listen and let the spirit move you .What are you afraid of? Stop judging before you find yourself condemned to a lifeless soul thirsting for the truth.”Love one another.”

  • Dmac

    Thanks Marc for putting words to something I’ve always felt

  • matt

    I take it the author likes Mumford & Sons.

  • http://twitter.com/AndrewJL86 Andrew Lewis

    “Good music is good music, and everything else can go to hell.” – Dave Matthews.

  • MusicianMom

    Ugh – past of me trembles to comment, because of the mean-spiritness of some commenters, but I wanted to add my few thoughts.
    Maybe Christian music is not for everyone, but it has its place – a good place. It is not just “happy happy, make some easy money” music, but for many Christian musicians, a real ministry.

    For myself, I have listened to Christian music since I was 13 years old, or younger if you count my parents’ Glory and Praise and St. Louis Jesuits albums. Music has ministered to me at many times in my life – happy times, angry times, hard times, and sad times. There have been times I could not pray, I was so angry with God, but there was music. I clung to that as I worked my way back to opening my heart to Him.

    Sometimes that music was Bach or Mozart. Sometimes it was Rich Mullins or Steven Curtis Chapman.

    Now, as the mother of 4 busy children, Christian music is still important to me. I turn it on in the car, and use my driving back and forth to practices, classes and events as a time of praise to God. I sing along. it is prayer – maybe not the deep prayer of the rosary or the intellectual prayer of the Ignatian exercises, but it is a small prayer in my busy day that reminds me of Who is the center of my world, Who I am ultimately working for and why I should mind my manners and mouth as I drive in the middle of some of the craziest traffic in the country.

    I listen to Mumford and Sons, too, and am moved. There is meaning in music outside the “Christian” label, yes. But to whole-handedly dismiss a entire genre because it is unappealing to you, well, it is short-sighted.

    Ugh – I have more to say and am not saying what i am trying to say well, as there is a 4 year old rolling marbles on a plastic chair next to me and a 15-yr-old with a severe head cold moaning on the couch.

    This is GREAT post for thought and should be interesting discussion on music and faith.

  • Algie Herries

    Some time ago, our beloved Holy Father tried to have an intelligent conversation with the world by way of one of his interviews with Peter Seewald (you will recall his reflections on the use of condemns by male prostitutes). Of course, he learned (in a painful way) that the world is not capable of immediately understanding everything he says. Still, he persevered in calling us to think in an elevated (not “exalted”, but elevated) way about about Christianity and the world.

    As I read the comments here, I am reminded of the mass criticism of the Holy Father’s words. But I would encourage you, Marc, to persevere. I know you love music – and I know you love Christ – and that it pains you to see Christ become a mascot. Thank you for elevating us beyond ourselves by your words.

    You are a model layman, truly a son of the Council, and your making all of the Council Fathers proud.

    - a Catholic priest from NY

    • Algie Herries

      you’re (sorry)

    • Cake Eater

      Father,
      Are you saying that the Holy Father, regarding his statement about condemns mentioned above, grew from his assumed naivete to understand that the world didn’t “take it like he meant”? How do you know that? How do you know that it was painful? How can you speak for the Holy Father? I’m really asking.
      And with all due respect, a model layman is NOT someone who uses his power to flippantly judge other Christians and what moves them to know God just a little bit better. And how can you possibly speak for the Councili Fathers? I’m pretty sure the council was about embracing ALL of our brothers and sisters in Christ.

  • http://www.facebook.com/awolfe.ii Andrew Wolfe

    I use the label “Christian” largely to protect myself from perverted lyrics. It’s useful to me in that way. It’s not so much endorsing the music as rejecting the violent sex-soaked swill surrounding us.

  • nobody

    well. as it turns out, some of best rock and roll I’d heard in a long, long time I’d heard on the Christian radio stations (one “non-demoninational”, on “Catholic”) that I listened to almost exclusively during the ’90s. Some tunes were obvious (and perhaps unwitting) rip-offs of well known tunes; some artists, seemingly near-clones of some famous name; but a good bit of it struck me as original and vibrant — that is, when it wasn’t contrived — even Steven Curtis Chapman. Maybe it’s because I didn’t listen to the stations that it was ALL being copied from, but not likely.

    However, I am happy to report that on my reversion to Holy Mother Church I have been liberated to download most of the music I grew up listening to, and it’s great rock and roll.

    And of course, listening to Christian music on the Catholic station exposed me to the Mass, Scott Hahn, and Scarecrow and Tinman whatwith that Catholic testimony. And Iona. But of course it was on WXRT in Chicago that I got turned on to Gerry Rafferty (“…take me out of this darkness, sweet Star of the Sea”…). I’m rambling…

    which is why of late I prefer to just shut up and play my guitar.

  • Dan from Georgia

    If we get rid of Christian music, what are all the soccer moms going to listen to between trips to Target and Chick Fil-A?

    • Cake Eater

      What are you trying to say when you write this?

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=768400430 Kevin McNeese

    I love coming across articles like this. I can’t see the purpose that an article like this serves. To me, I read a lot of complaining and not a lot of solution. So you don’t like “Christian radio?” So what. Christian radio has edified and saved more people that you, me and every person that has commented here will ever reach.

    So you don’t like labels. Ok. What are you gonna call it? I mean, you have to call it something. It’s called written language. Everything you touch and do has to have an identifier? Arguing about what that is seems…pointless.

    And whatever happened to allowing God to use any medium He deems appropriate to reach people? I know plenty who were reached by Christian music. Some of it I wouldn’t spend more than 2 minutes listening to. And I know many more whose lives would be in shambles without it. I know worship services, mapped and planned and stuffed with (gasp) Chris Tomlin songs that have exploded into personal connections with God. I know artists who have done more ministry on the road away from families and friends than anyone here will ever hope to do.

    Stop being so cynical. Stop writing to make a point that bashes an entire medium that edifies and encourages and saves so many. A medium that is thriving and growing and gaining traction that is filled with hope in the midst of a decaying world of entertainment filled with trash and vileness and sex. Just stop.

    If you don’t like it, don’t listen to it. And write about how something else annoys you that has nothing to do with Kingdom Building. Why anyone would be so annoyed with Christian music to the point of feeling compelled to write something like this is just beyond me. Wake up and celebrate all the wonderful, glorious ways God reaches out to, and through, His creative people, even it’s something you don’t personally enjoy and/or understand.

    • B Harrington

      YES!!! Hear hear! Awesome.

  • Blackest of the black kitties

    I love how you slight death metal as ugly, simple, untalented and uninspired. Typical. The conversation of how shitty Christian music is and how it is an uninspired, tepid attempt at secular popularity and a chance to cash in are as old as, well, Christian music. There are inspired, beautiful, songs of the lord I’m sure, but read the lyrics to some songs from some of these “Satanic” bands you so easily put beneath your bar of judgement and you may soon see that the depth of their beauty far surpasses that of some recycled praise songs. It is real content. “Teeth” as the first quote says. Its not shiny, happy people holding hands out here, it is truth, and death, and pain. Some people need the bitter to appreciate sweet.

    • RH

      AhGREED! Metallica’s song Unforgiven III almost SOUNDS like the interior life during the struggle to forgive oneself. Love it.

  • http://www.facebook.com/jmdomaniii John Doman

    I would love to hear Marc talk about a long-dead songwriter called Rich Mullins….

  • Cake Eater

    Remember when Augustine set the Bible aside because he thought it was too elementary?

  • Amanda G

    I like this. The music I like best involves christians that write songs. Whatever genre

  • http://www.facebook.com/ambvalencia Barbara Fraser Valencia

    “there is no atheist art, though you may not love the creator you affirm him by creating in his likeness” Gabriela Mistral :).

  • Catherine Edmumd

    Thank you, Marc! I’ve been ringing this bell for a long time now.

  • Charlotte

    Love this! While you’re at it, toss ‘Christian’ literature (see Flannery O’Connor’s “Mystery and Manners”)…..some of the same reasons I don’t want to be known as a “Woman Poet” or win a poetry contest for poets over 50….

  • Kevin

    Agree with alot of what Art says. Kinda ironic that in the process of dissing the usage of the word “Christian” as a descriptor of music (which I agree with), the author uses a similar descriptor to explain how “Satanic Metal” is already “Christian” because it relies upon order and melody. Didn’t think that one through, did he?

    Yes lots of “Christian Radio” is shallow and mediocre, but so is regular radio. It is also watered down and mediocre because it’s all about appealing to as big of an audience as possible in hopes of attracting advertisers, which means taking as few risks as possible.

    It kinda seems like the author is throwing the baby out with the bathwater just because some extremely mediocre music made by Christians is labelled “Christian music” in hopes of finding an audience to sell it to. That fakeness of mediocre I also sneer at, whether “Christian” or not. However, sometimes things labelled “Christian” are actually high-quality and those making it didn’t do so because they were compromising for an easy sell, but rather because this just happens to be the audience most interested in the music they make.

    Yes, I fullheartedly agree that, we need “the best music in the world to also be written by Christians.” However, to disparage someone like Chris Tomlin because he doesn’t make music that’s as well-received as Mumford & Sons is a bit of a reach (I agree that Mumford is a superior musician, but some of his music makes me worship. Other songs don’t). We also need worship music, which is written for the express purpose of glorifying God. Generally (with the exception of an occasional exception, like Mumford’s or) even the best songs written for the sake of glorifying God have very little appeal to those with no desire to seek Him, nor to the radio stations who play them (which perhaps is why “Little Lion Man” was Mumford’s first hit) or the record labels willing to promote them. Those set on turning from God have little desire to be challenged by the music they listen to. That’s why music that’s more of a feel-good opiate is more popular. It’s also why I am amazed when a band like Mumford — with spiritually-seeking lyrics — builds a huge audience and even wins some Grammys.

    But I also absolutely also worship God through music by guys like Chris Tomlin and Matt Redman, who likely fall into the author’s definition of “Christian Music” (since he used Tomlin as his example in the discussion questions). Just because they write catchy worship songs that are played on “Christian radio” doesn’t mean that their work is mediocre. Some of it is actually good. Since I first heard it a couple weeks ago, Redman’s “10,000 Reasons” has done nothing but draw my heart closer to God, as have Tomlin songs like “Indescribable” and “God of this City.” Just because they have a lower degree of musical complexity than Mumford doesn’t automatically make them a mediocre ripoff of the mainstream. It just means they have a strong grasp of what makes a good melody and want to imbed their songs with Truth in a way that will also draw others into God’s presence. Is that a “blanket on top of a kitten?” No. Does it need to be balanced out by music dealing with the other, “non-positive” aspects of life? Absolutely.

    What about other believers making music like Gungor or Jon Foreman or Sufjian Stevens or Derek Webb or Will Reagan or bands like Stavesacre or Waterdeep or Sleeping at Last (I don’t know who is labelled “Christian” anymore — all I care about is — do I like their music. Does it challenge me)? Just because those aren’t household names like Mumford says little about the quality of music they make. There’s a lot of crummy music out there that people love and sing along blindly with. Just because something is good doesn’t mean that it is widely known. Conversely, just because something is popular doesn’t mean it’s good (clearly, if you look at most music).

    The author says “If we are going to sing that “Jesus Saves” it should not be because we are writing a Christian song, but because Jesus really does save, and we are writing a good song.” I agree. But if I want to make a living with my art, a lyric that tells people “Jesus Saves” may be brilliant, but the reality of current culture is that the only place it’s going to get airplay is not on mainstream popular radio. “Christian radio,” for all its faults, may give it a chance. I don’t think the author has a clue how difficult it is to make a living as a musician. I suspect that it’s even more difficult to do so as one who is making music that openly glorifies God, so I’m inclined to cut the musicians who write a good chunk of the songs that draw my heart into worship in church a bit of slack.

  • Kevin

    Kinda ironic that in the process of dissing the usage of the word “Christian” as a descriptor of music (which I agree with), the author uses a similar descriptor to explain how “Satanic Metal” is already “Christian” because it relies upon order and melody. Didn’t think that one through, did he?

    Yes lots of “Christian Radio” is shallow and mediocre, but so is regular radio. It is also watered down and mediocre because it’s all about appealing to as big of an audience as possible in hopes of attracting advertisers, which means taking as few risks as possible.

    It kinda seems like the author is throwing the baby out with the bathwater just because some extremely mediocre music made by Christians is labelled “Christian music” in hopes of finding an audience to sell it to. That fakeness of mediocre I also sneer at, whether “Christian” or not. However, sometimes things labelled “Christian” are actually high-quality and those making it didn’t do so because they were compromising for an easy sell, but rather because this just happens to be the audience most interested in the music they make.

    Yes, I fullheartedly agree that, we need “the best music in the world to also be written by Christians.” However, to disparage someone like Chris Tomlin because he doesn’t make music that’s as well-received as Mumford & Sons is a bit of a reach (I agree that Mumford is a superior musician, but some of his music makes me worship. Other songs don’t). We also need worship music, which is written for the express purpose of glorifying God. Generally (with the exception of an occasional exception, like Mumford’s or) even the best songs written for the sake of glorifying God have very little appeal to those with no desire to seek Him, nor to the radio stations who play them (which perhaps is why “Little Lion Man” was Mumford’s first hit) or the record labels willing to promote them. Those set on turning from God have little desire to be challenged by the music they listen to. That’s why music that’s more of a feel-good opiate is more popular. It’s also why I am amazed when a band like Mumford — with spiritually-seeking lyrics — builds a huge audience and even wins some Grammys.

    But I also absolutely also worship God through music by guys like Chris Tomlin and Matt Redman, who likely fall into the author’s definition of “Christian Music” (since he used Tomlin as his example in the discussion questions). Just because they write catchy worship songs that are played on “Christian radio” doesn’t mean that their work is mediocre. Some of it is actually good. Since I first heard it a couple weeks ago, Redman’s “10,000 Reasons” has done nothing but draw my heart closer to God, as have Tomlin songs like “Indescribable” and “God of this City.” Just because they have a lower degree of musical complexity than Mumford doesn’t automatically make them a mediocre ripoff of the mainstream. It just means they have a strong grasp of what makes a good melody and want to imbed their songs with Truth in a way that will also draw others into God’s presence. Is that a “blanket on top of a kitten?” No. Does it need to be balanced out by music dealing with the other, “non-positive” aspects of life? Absolutely.

    What about other believers making music like Gungor or Jon Foreman or Sufjian Stevens or Derek Webb or Will Reagan or bands like Stavesacre or Waterdeep or Sleeping at Last (I don’t know who is labelled “Christian” anymore — all I care about is — do I like their music. Does it challenge me)? Just because those aren’t household names like Mumford says little about the quality of music they make. There’s a lot of crummy music out there that people love and sing along blindly with. Just because something is good doesn’t mean that it is widely known. Conversely, just because something is popular doesn’t mean it’s good (clearly, if you look at most music).

    The author says “If we are going to sing that “Jesus Saves” it should not be because we are writing a Christian song, but because Jesus really does save, and we are writing a good song.” I agree. But if I want to make a living with my art, a lyric that tells people “Jesus Saves” may be brilliant, but the reality of current culture is that the only place it’s going to get airplay is not on mainstream popular radio. “Christian radio,” for all its faults, may give it a chance. I don’t think the author has a clue how difficult it is to make a living as a musician. I suspect that it’s even more difficult to do so as one who is making music that openly glorifies God, so I’m inclined to cut the musicians who write a good chunk of the songs that draw my heart into worship in church a bit of slack.

  • anonymous

    I think you better look up the definition of Christian. Definitions are everything in philosophy and theology.

  • Kelly

    Maybe I’m missing the point, but Christian music, to me, is not a means to evangelize others. I like it because it evangelizes me. It helps me praise God. I like singing in my car about God. I know he is listening. Enough said.

  • John Hundley

    Well, I think if anything this article makes people think. But, that being said, none of the great hymns would have ever been written if people approached it with this perspective. To get good Christian worship you have to put up with the crap. How could anyone ever come up with a good worship song if they looked at it from this view? Nobody would ever get started, because we all grow. Hillsong would have never happened. David Crowder would have never played How He Loves.

    Interesting post, but I don’t think your argument holds.

  • Samantha

    I love your Mumford reference in the discussion. Great article, and more great music where Mumford&Sons comes into play.. Avett Brothers, for instance. Ahhh, I could go on for days..

  • http://twitter.com/AndrewJL86 Andrew Lewis

    Listening to most Christian music and other styles of music, like all rap, hip-hop, pop, r & b, and most country, is a lot like a Catholic going to a protestant church service; its just shallow and lame. It can entertain a lot of people, but that doesn’t mean its good music (The best and highest form of music is orchestra and symphony type music, but that’s not we’re talking about, I’m talking about bands with drum sets and guitars.) So listening to christian music is like going to a protestant service, where sure, its a good message, everyone is nice, you feel welcome, and you’re happy that people are there, but as a practicing Catholic, the only thing you’re thinking about while you’re sitting through that service is, ‘this is stupid, I just want to go to Mass. I’ll sit here and be nice because my friend means a lot to me, but this just sucks compared to the Mass’ So when I listen to music like christian music and most country (all the rest of the genres are the worst), I’m thinking ‘this is nice, its music, which is good, I’ll listen to it for my friend because they mean a lot to me, and sure, they’re talented, but it honestly sucks when I compare it to the musical talent of Dave Matthews Band.’ Even as much as I like Mumford & Sons and the Avett Brothers, two of the best song writers out right now, their actual music is not even close to what DMB puts out. I know its a different style, but you cannot honestly say ‘they are better than DMB’ or ‘they are just as good.’

    So, I’m not necessarily saying that christian and country music are bad and no one should listen to them (I love country music on a summer day outside drinking beers and fishing), but please just simply recognize that some music is actually better than everything else. Like actually better, not just preferred.

  • tomgade09

    It seems to me that this is exactly what Christian Hip-Hop aims to do. Rappers like Lecrae are endeavoring to create music that is better than secular hip-hop. Although it is labeled “Christian”, it is not simply the reworking of the same beats from the secular side with some “Jesus” splashed in. He (and other, less well-known Christian Hip-Hop artists) are creating something truly unique, and endeavoring to live out their convictions publicly.

    Lecrae’s music in particular is gaining the attention of the secular media. He has even won a Grammy! Check out the linked MTV link. It seems like he has done a great job avoiding the typical topics of hip-hop, while also avoiding labeling the music as exclusively able to be enjoyed by Christians. Now when one hears “hip-hop”, they don’t just think secular names, they think of Lecrae and others, like Trip Lee. It seems this is exactly what you are referring to in this post.

    http://www.mtv.com/news/articles/1701803/grammy-lecrae.jhtml

  • Tony

    Pretty new to your blog Marc, but I’m liking a lot of it.
    I think your spot on with all points except partially #2. Oh, and I totally agree with that Lewis quote being tattooed on our heads. I think the points your making fit in well with the Catholic vs modern evangelical, bible-belty nonsense divide that exists, but for some is a confusing fine line.

    Regarding the 2nd half of #2… there is no reason why music, just like all else in the world, cant completely become detached from its original source of good, melody or not. Music was once a great reflection of culture, now it’s not… or if it is, is a fine example of how shocking the world’s (un)culture has become (which that demonic duo serves as a fine example).

    On a sidenote… there seems to be a special privilege asserted to extreme forms of music simply because some Catholics enjoy it, namely metal. I understand why metalheads listen to what they do, it shuns the putrid mainstream trends that exist in today’s world. But replacing it with shock-value? metalheads fail to take the extra step in the thought process that although they may have gladly missed society’s net, they have landed in one of the buckets that catch those who are missed, which is really just as bad, if not worse.

  • Slvrpgn

    I think your all or none philosophy is incorrect. I understand where your coming from. But I had a St. Paul like conversion which lit my heart on fire. The “Christian music” helped it stay on fire until I knew where to go next. Christian music finds people at different stages in their life and helps to bridge the gap with God. No, it is not Catechism by itself, but it does have a place in our lives of evangelization.

  • Grateful

    God alone knows the hearts of the musicians.

    The abuse of a good does not negate the good of a good. What a grace that some people blessed with musical talent are willing to label their music — even if they try but fail to create music up to a standard desired by some — with a label unpopular to many. Christian music. Even if all music *should be*, all music is not. Please God, let people continue to be willing to dedicate the use of their talents to you, even to the point of publicly stating that that is their goal.

    The statement that “evil is nothing” is an oversimplification (and therefore an inaccurate summary) of the Catholic view. Satanic music is vastly more harmful than white noise.

  • Melissa

    I love this. Peter Kreeft talks about this in “Jesus Shock.” He writes, “Christianity no longer produces the world’s most beautiful and arresting art. Modern man is rejecting Christianity not because it looks stupid or wicked but because it looks boring… Its pictures are no longer moving pictures.”

    Just as there is not a Christian “genre” of truth, there is no such thing as a Christian genre of art! If it is true, good, and beautiful, it is Christian. Let’s stop making bad music and slapping on a Christian label to it. Bad music is not helping build up the Kingdom of God.

    Artists, dancers, musicians, arise! The new evangelization is all about beauty and you are the forerunners for the world’s conversion.

  • Susan

    Thanks for your post. It gave me a lot to think about–so much that I wrote one of my own in response.

    http://catholichotdish.com/faith-and-reasons/in-defense-of-christian-music/

  • http://camandlynds.tumblr.com/ Cam and Lynds Talk Culture

    Hey Marc,

    You should read my post (which responds to yours) sometime:

    http://camandlynds.tumblr.com/post/44185558114/lynds-why-we-need-cliche-christian-music

  • Name

    I am an atheist and I enjoy listening to Mumford and Sons, but it hasn’t made me any less atheist. Neither did listening to Johnny Cash. Mumford’s songs are vague enough that most listeners can find their own meaning in them- much like religious texts.

    Fact is, good music is not and will never be the preserve of only one religion. Making music is something pretty much all human cultures enjoy. Not just humans either; contrary to what you say, whales, songbirds and mice all produce music and exhibit something called ‘vocal learning’ which means they can learn tunes from each other rather than just producing them by accident. You might not consider that ‘proper’ music but a whale wouldn’t think our music was ‘proper’ either.

    I don’t listen to ‘Christian’ music so I can’t comment on it’s quality, but it seems like labelling music as ‘Christian’ is mainly a tribal thing, for those Christians who want to show off their Christianity to each other, or who are terrified that secular rock will corrupt their poor, innocent little angels.

  • will you

    marry me?

  • musiciangirl591

    I’ve gotten to the point where I can’t listen to K-Love anymore (there are some Christian Rock songs I love, most of them taken from my experiences at a Catholic High School), but I prefer traditional music now :)

  • FabioPBarbieri

    There is at least one modern hymn which is a masterpiece, both theologically exact and very affecting. Listen to the last few lines: The chances we have missed, The Graces we resist, Lord, in Thy Eucharist, Come and redeem! (Excellent rhyming,too.) http://youtu.be/heXlciNl2CU

  • Paul Bradford

    Would you be more at ease if the genre were called, “Christian WORSHIP” music.

    Seems to me that the fullness of being made in God’s image and likeness requires me to express many different aspects of the human personality — all authentic. I go to Mass for the same reason I go to clubs: the give glory to God. Both activities glorify God, but they call forth different styles of music. I don’t want to listen to ‘Blessed are They’ when I’m at the House of Blues any more than I want to listen to ‘Lithium’ during the rite of preparation.

    Nobody expects a piece of music to be all things to all people; and musicians, of course, take that into consideration when they compose or perform. Musicians have to be mindful of the fact that anything they produce will be appropriate in some circumstances and wildly inappropriate in others.

    There’s no way to have music without have musical categories — that’s because we’re all multi-faceted. Somebody’s sure to come up with a word to denote the kind of music people want to listen to when they’re worshipping. And, yes, I agree that it should be GOOD music and that it’s really deplorable for a musician to think, “Oh, since this is God’s music it’s OK for me to do a half-assed job.”

    If you check out my iPod playlists you’ll see music written by renown atheists such as Phil Ochs and Randy Newman. Both musicians strove to express truth and beauty and goodness and both produced music that glorifies God. I don’t want every track to be a lesson in theology. It’s enough, sometimes, that it has “a beat I can dance to”

    Paul

  • http://www.BrianJones.com/ Brian Jones

    Okay, so I’m not crazy. I wrote about this last year – “How Could A Good God Allow Bad Christian Music.” http://brianjones.com/how-could-a-good-god-allow-bad-christian-music. With you 100%.

  • goodcatholic

    you write well. But who is your audience, because if you’re trying to convince all people to see beauty as you see it with that tone, you won’t win a lot of people over. We as Catholics have to be sure not to come across as arrogant or pompous in our delivery. I would venture to say that Karol Wojtyla would have never written article in this tone.

  • Dan Hicks Mixing

    In response to your final point in reason number 2.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y_aiuMIC1Hg

  • Lynda

    Please tell the Christian radio stations this!

  • SATAN666

    This article is half correct. Yes, christian “music” is garbage, but so is organized christianity.

  • Laurel Massé

    I think that our culture, as a whole, mistakes happiness for joy, and prettiness for beauty. Most pop Christian praise music I hear is happy, and pretty, and sentimental. And decidedly toothless.

    Beauty is fierce. Do we really think the angels are always saying “Fear not!” because they aren’t pretty? No. I believe it is because they are so beautiful we can’t bear it. We have a long way to go before something like that can be said of much of contemporary so-called Christian music, or art, or film, or TV.

  • http://www.facebook.com/philippe.damerval Philippe Damerval

    I disagree with the assessment that the article is weak: whether one agrees with the premise or the conclusion, or both, this is a well-written and convincing article. The points made are real points in that each declares a distinct thought and presents reasonable arguments to support the author’s position. If I had to disagree, which I don’t happen to, I would have to concede that if one stays on the topic in one’s response, the article is an adversary to be reckoned with. The gentleman arguing that it is weak is not staying on topic in my opinion.

    I see some validity to the “throwing the baby out with the bathwater” argument. If someone thought appropriate to view spirituals, as they were brought into tradition by African-American congregations, as “christian music”, which is defensible, one cannot avoid feeling that it would have been a loss to deprive ourselves of the treasure trove that is spirituals in music.
    However, the article does well in identifying a label as borderline self-contradictory and objecting to the commercialization of lower quality music to the Christian community by attributing to it a label which is at best misguided.
    Thank you for some great writing and interesting ideas!

  • http://www.facebook.com/justin.parsley.33 Justin Parsley

    I think there are some valid points to this article. I also think that there are some things that are amiss about it. 1) Yes Christian music can tend to not lead secular people to heaven, but it does strengthen those who already believe which is a ministry in and of itself. 2) It does provide a completely different, clean, and straightforward choice for people to just enjoy. Maybe they just get into it as music, so what? it’s clean it’s pure without a lot of the excess junk that other genres have. Again it is in and of itself a ministry in that case and does have it’s place. My final thought is, how does the title “5 Reasons to Kill Christian Music” help bring lost souls in? Does that not put up a blatant wall that separates just as much?

  • jeff

    I have found that some of the greatest pop musicians–those you would say the muse has really touched– of our generation are deeply religious.–U2, Killers (albeit Mormon), Sufjan Stevens, Jack White (ok, not deeply religious, but seems to retain a strong personal faith), and now, I find, Mumford and Sons!

  • Ram

    I’m not sure if anyone has mentioned yet (since there’s already 200+ comments have haven’t read through all of them) the difference between “Worship Music” and “Sacred Music” such as the psalms and hymns used for liturgical purposes. I don’t think many “Christian Music” writers use their whole musical potential/talents to write the music (lyrics in particular), most of it is laid out in scripture…also, many write it in “love song” format and just replace “my love, lover” with “Jesus”. Anyway, I am so glad Marc touched base on this topic, I’ve been trying to discern why I am not a very big fan of “Christian Music” and his post gave me some perspective to understand why.

  • joel bunker

    I am not sure why there’s a oddly injected line of rhetoric in this blog that for some reason seporates Catholism from the rest of Christianity, but I do disagree with any notion that we as believers in Christ must “suffer” God, his will, or the son our savior Jesus Christ. To be honest I find the entire argument about Christian music rather riddiculous. Who is any human to interperate the will of God, and to suggest they know what sort of music he may or may not approve of. As far as Christian music, I know many people who find great comfort and enjoyment in Christian music. The arguments presented ignore the most obvious view point, which is why can’t a song be a song for the sake of being a song. If i song has Chriatian lyrics, is positive, average, has lyrics about pornography, or even so called “Satanic Songs,” if it touches the soul of even one person (Even it’s author, singer, or band member), and the feeling that person gets makes them feel more spiritually connected to God then not a single note has been wasted. Even if a song merely makes some one happy, then it has entrinsic value, and whether people believe it or not then God is there with them. God does not wish us to suffer, be sad, or be unhappy. Therefore, if a simple melody can and does lift the spirits of even one person, even for a few minutes, then that song is positive (If only to a few). This entire blog seems to be one of taste, and overly strong opinions. If a Christian station is truly trying to spread the good news of God’s love, just playing good tunes with Chriatian themes, or doing anything but directly using the name of God, the Son, and the Holy Spirit as little more then a marketing plan then

  • joel bunker

    They are not doing any thing wrong. As to Christian music being easy listening, why not? Why must God and your faith be always somber, dreaded, and serious at all times? We have a God of love, whom gave us the ability to laugh, smile, feel passion, to feel spiritual, feel connected to him, connected to our fellow humans. We have the ability to let a song transport us , relax us, or heal us emotionally (If only while the song plays), and in my opinion the ability to do so are gifts which we should always enjoy. The only truly evil music is rap music, which promotes violence towards women, crime, criminal lifestyles, and gang or street violence. Not because the artists are evil, as most artists seek
    Merely to entertain and make happy their fellow man. In fact, even “Satanic Metal” or “Gorocore Rap (“Satanic Rap”) is all for show, fun, and the fans intelligent enough to no more believe in the reality of the lyrics then they believe in the reality of Vampires, Warewolves, and zombies. However, either do to the level of education, lack of maturity, lack of sophistication, or the basis in reality created and promoted by hardcore “gangster” rap, those whom listen to that form of music tend to try to immitate and emmulate the stories and life style pertreyed in hardcore rap music. Therefore, when the odd situation of life imitating art happens, especially in a jaunera where violence towards women, violence in general, and criminal life styles are promoted and idealized, then there tends to be a problem. However, no matter how evil or vile I believe “gangster hardcore rap music” to be, I will defend to the death peoples right to create, play, listen to, sell, and distribute that music in this country (As long as it is sold to consenting adults).

    Music moves the soul. The soul is of God, and therefore anything which moves the soul, makes the spirit happier, and especially if when in that joyous state the individual feels a stronger connection to the devine is a positive. Religion and dogma are merely the human created tools by which we as humans attempt to become or feel connected with the Lord our God. Jesus spoke of the connection and love of God. True spirituality through Christianity. That is the goal, and not to tell another person that the way they go about finding that connection with God to be incorrect. Especially, if the only reason to do so is because the manner in which they seek true connection with God, through the belief in his only son our Lord, is slightly different then the way in which you chose to know and worship God. It is at that point at which one has truly sinned and violated a commandment. Thou shall not take the Lords name in vien, actually means “Do not turn others away from God or his love, by using the name of God, taking your morals/opinions/ideas, and claim those beliefs to be those of the Lord our God.” To tell another that God doesn’t love them, or loves them less because they practice their religion and seek connection with God in a manner different than you could cause another to turn from God. However, they are not turning from God, but those whom tell them God will judge and punish them for not abiding the dogmatic practices of those whom truly are taking the Lord’s name in vien by doing so. There are ten rules, that are sins. Only ten, and then Jesus added the caviet and “Do to others, as you would have them do to you.”

    I apologize to the blog, for drifting a bit off subject. However, it is all connected
    As we are to God the Father, once we accept Jesus as our Lord and Savior. And just so no one gets any misunderstandings, I am a Lutheran.

  • Steve

    There is a definitive difference between so called Christian music and Sacred music. Sacred music is for the express worship of God within the various liturgies. Now at Mass there is a lot of music which not only doesn’t aid the liturgical celebration of the Sacrament but also contains heresies and is down right just horrible music. Music proper to worship does exist. Anyone who has heard Gregorian chant, a polyphonic mass, the Byzantine chant, the orthodox chant knows that this music is truly transcendental. This sacred music glorifies God in its beauty as music and in its lyrical form of prayer. Sacred music is not only Christian though. I have been on the street in India and heard the Muslim call to prayer. Enter a mosque and you will find the Muslim praise Allah in chanted prayers. Sadly though many American Christian churches have forgotten about sacred music because it is too old. It doesn’t appeal to the youth. So in an attempt to attract the masses they invented so called Christian music or praise and worship music which fails to glorify God in both it’s mediocrity as music and as prayer. It fails to be sacred music because it tries to be contemporary. Sacred means to be set aside. The minute you try to make it like popular genres of music it fails to be sacred and liturgically appropriate. And sadly that is the music we see in most churches since Vatican II. Sadly most churches now are build like concert hall not places of worship. Enter a church actually build to glorify god, enter a truly sacred place built for worship and you will realize “Christian music” would be out place. If you want to experience sacred music in the vernacular attend a Byzantine liturgy. The sights, the sounds, the smells will instantly tell you you are on holy ground. And as the prayers are sung you will understand that drums have no place here. If you wanted to hear a great drum solo you can go to rock concert. Jesus loves good rock. But church is not the time to rock out. It is place for the ritual of worship of God that transcends time.

  • Glenn

    Is it the beat that affects people and makes them move and become
    emotional or is it the lyrics? Excluding the lyrics, I see very little difference between the music of satanic rock musicans and Christian rock musicans. I once heard
    someone say that if we took the most popular Christian or rock music today and replace the instruments with the sound of someone washing dishes, the kitchen noises and lyrics would not make the charts. Would anyone listen to mere words like “when Christ died on the cross, my sin was imputed to Him. And when I received Christ as my Lord and Savior, His righteousness was imputed to me” Salvation comes by Faith in Christ Jesus the Promise of God. Acceptance of this fact needs no music, as the lyrics say it all and make me sway, move, jump and joyfully bow down to a Great God who has given me a gift requiring no deed. I say we have joyful music each and every day as we move about this earth walking not in the flesh but in the Spirit that God so graciously gave us at salvation. His words are spirit and they are life! Must we worship huministic sounds with Christian words to truly believe and absolutely without a doubt know that God is with us? He is writing down “every” word, deed and intent of the heart in our personal book. God is with us and sees all that we need as there are no loopholes in “every”. Are we creating idols upon this earth that replace the glory of what He has already given us or are we, in this generation, not properly taught how to live in a relationship with God, full of faith and understanding of Grace?

  • Albion

    I’m not a Christian — not even close — and I am staunchly secular but I am surprised that the best reason to stop making “Christian music” was not given here, that is: modern Christian music is total rubbish. Having grown up listening to the traditional music of the Church of England, I know what good, nay, sublime, Christian music is truly like. At the Service of Thanksgiving for Her Majesty The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, which I was happy to take part in, this music was on display once again. This infidel will gladly sing along with “All People That On Earth Do Dwell” and “Guide Me O Thou Great Redeemer”; “Jesus is my best friend” on the other hand, no thanks.

  • rerememe2002

    I think this article hits it spot on. I am a budding musical lyricist and I have been trying to put into words my feelings about my craft for a long time. In my heart I know what music is and what “Christian” music is and strive to accommodate that perspective in everything I write. Thank you for putting to words what I have long believed and understood.

  • Christine

    Reading this with a guitar in my hand…thanks for the inspiration.

  • Atriux

    Listening to K-Love is what brought me back to God. And i think C.S Lewis rolled in his grave when you quoted him. This article is pointless and does more to drive people away from God than it will ever bring to him. Yes some people who write Christian music aren’t writing it with praise to God in mind, but many are singing from their souls giving praise to God. Maybe you dont like how they dress or look, like Brian Head Welch who used to sing for Korn but is now one of the most inspiring Christian artists I have ever heard. He sings from his soul giving thanks and praise to God. Gods heart breaks when we stray from him but the hosts of Heaven shout when we offer our worship up to him no matter how it looks.

  • Elena

    Christian music is a game in romanticism with Jesus… (

  • http://www.facebook.com/justine.richie Justine Richie

    in a place where Ella Fitzgerald used to play the piano , that’s still on that stage , WMR UNIVERSAL MUSIC GROUP it’s proud to Presents the Jazz Voice of the Year , the New Sinatra “ANDY WALKER” live on stage at the RONNIE SCOTT’S Theather in LONDON for the “THAT’S MY LIFE TOUR ” the 1th and 2th may 2013 . Tickets pre-sale SOLD OUT – http://www.walker-music.com

  • Luciferisgod

    Hail Satan is all his god killing glory may your families wither and die.

  • Emma Wright

    I’m so surprised by all the comments about this article, all I could think was, YES!!! To pretty much everything here. Another problem with ‘christian music’ is I feel a little bit guilty for disliking it so much. BECAUSE it’s labeled christian, it makes me feel I ought to like it… but I don’t. It makes me feel a bit sick in the tummy and very very uncomfortable because it’s cheezy and generally a (bad) rip off of what was popular 5 years ago in pop music…and all seems to sound the same to me! Why isn’t it more experimental and creative?

    I don’t feel that way with classical beautiful church music, it’s the new power chord christian genre (which I think we’re talking about here) I’m a singer/ songwriter and I’m catholic.. I have felt pressure to fit in with ‘christian music’ but it doesn’t come naturally – this article is very freeing!!

    If I am truly myself, and continue to search for goodness, truth and beauty- God’s going to come through. I’m generalising because I don’t listen to much christian music, but in turn that’s because it has a bad image and first impression, to the point that it is actually doing the opposite of converting people. It’s creating an exclusive party many people aren’t interested in going to anyway.

  • What now?
  • http://twitter.com/Dryb0nz Trent DeJong

    Great article and I am very much in agreement.

  • Karlota

    “We love a suffering God. To love Jesus Christ — which seems to me the essence of Christianity — is not to feel positively about him”… What does that mean? Idk about your God but my God is far from suffering, he is alive and well! He is suffering from reading this article is what he is suffering from…To love Jesus Christ is to celebrate him, because he loves us and we should love him… and that is the most encouraging thing we have to hold onto!

  • http://www.musiclv.com/ MusicLV

    Thanks so much for compiling so much useful information in one
    place – Really going to help me out.

  • Robert Siwel

    I’m not a “comment” type on the Internet – to be honest this is the first time I’ve commented on anything. But I must congratulate you on a piece well-thought, well-written, and with a great message. Thank you!

  • Sally

    If the author doesn’t like Christian music, he should stop listening. And let other people do what they want to do -even if it means – egad! – listening to Christian music.

    Since he apparently does not like freedom of speech for others, he should just move to Iran where he can know he will NEVER hear Christian music.

  • Larry

    You are so off the mark, that I can’t even begin to respond! As for me and my guitar, we will serve the Lord!

  • VS

    What an un-biblical article. Contradicts the Bible very much.

  • Chad Franklin

    Please stop writing dumb articles that make no sense. I listen to christian music because it’s tagged christian music. It makes it easy to find good music that is not offensive. I can be confident buying a cd from a christian artist in the genre of dubstep and know that I don’t have to keep my finger on the mute button or preview it before my kids can listen to it in case there’s f bombs dropping out. So why don’t you do a Pro’s and Cons?

  • a fellow Catholic

    Some good insights, but man are you missing it with one of your main jabs against Christian music – that it’s ineffective in leading to conversions. It would help if you did a little homework in this area before pontificating so strongly. You’re aware of KLOVE being the largest Christian music network in the USA. Do you know who their target audience is? But do you know their results in delivering to that target audience? Here’s one data point that you and all Catholics should give considerable thought to: when KLOVE recently surveyed their listening audience, they found that half said they were non-believers who did not know if God exists or not. HALF. That’s astounding, especially when you look at who they’re targeting: secular non-believers. They simply give them a small dose of the Gospel (call it soft, call it positive – whatever you want) and attempt to get them into the door of believing, of professing faith in Jesus Christ. From a business plan and strategy point of view, they’re nailing it. And from an evangelization point view, show me one Catholic media apostolate as effective as KLOVE. Just one. And if you tell me EWTN, take a quick look at some major market ratings of KLOVE vs Catholic radio stations in various cities. As Catholics, we have a lot to learn from an evangelization media apostolate like KLOVE.

  • Deenster

    While, as a songwriter who is Catholic and refuses to call his songs “Christian”, I could not agree more with your article, I have to wonder if many of the psalms (at least as sung in many catholic churches) suffer from the same lethargy that you disdain in “Christian” music? While Song of Songs hits beauty wonderfully, psalms like, God mounts His throne to shouts of joy a blare of trumpets for The Lord, sung in church to the least joyful sounding banal organ music in a minor key is just so painful. Is there a fault in our GATHER hymnals? Thoughts?

  • #

    “If Satanic musicians really wanted to defy God, they’d let their amps exude white noise for an hour and call it a concert.”

    Oh yes, of course! As long as your music is experimental, or excludes enough popular/classical music tropes, it’s THE DEVIL!

    I don’t really get that part at all.

  • http://atlantarofters.blogspot.com The Sanity Inspector

    Great piece. I am much more impressed by rockers who try to be Christian, than by Christians who try to rock.

  • cinhosa

    I disagree with the idea that Christian music is a bad thing. First there are the Psalms. Do I need to elaborate? Secondly, the point of K-Love’s “positive AND encouraging” is to help us Christians remember that life here on earth involves suffering. The positive vibe is better described as “Christian Hope” (1 Cor 13). I think they use the adjective of “positive” because it will attract more non-Christians. I think if you listened to this station for a few weeks, you would understand. Finally, I personally find deeper meaning in my faith and identify much more with Christian music.

  • Barry Bennedetta

    Opinions are like assholes. Everyone has one and they usually stink. You however are just an idiot! I would like to be able to see things from your point of view, but I just can’t seem to get my head up my ass far enough in which to be able to do so! – Barry Bennedetta – Multi-Platinum Christian Lead Guitarist/Songwriter and that toured with Ozzy Osbourne on the infamous Ozzy Osbourne, Motley Crue and Waysted 1984 World Tour, ranked the “4th Greatest Metal Moment of All Times” and played lead guitar on Cinderella’s triple platinum debut album that sold well over 3,500,000 copies worldwide. I currently play for God in a United Methodist Church in a contemporary praise and worship band. The songs that we do, which are mostly written by Chris Tomlin, Paul Baloche, Matt Redman and Lincoln Brewster are by far the best music ever written since Bach and Mozart. I will soon be going to write Christian Praise and Worship Songs, record in Nashville Tennessee and tour the United States. So suck it and please do not buy my record and if you write more bullshit like this about me or my album, I will give God 5 reasons to kill you! Have a nice day shithead!

  • Barry Bennedetta

    “If you do not believe, you will not understand.”
    - Isaiah 7: 9 as interpreted and quoted by St. Augustine. Opinions are like assholes.
    Everyone has one and they usually stink. I would
    like to be able to see things from your point of view, but I just can’t seem to
    get my head up my ass far enough in which to do so! – My name is Barry
    Bennedetta (raised Catholic) – Multi-Platinum Christian Lead Guitarist/Songwriter and that toured
    with Ozzy Osbourne on the infamous Ozzy Osbourne, Motley Crue and Waysted 1984
    World Tour, ranked the “4th Greatest Metal Moment of All Times.” In 1985 I gave my life to God and asked Jesus Christ to come into my heart as my Lord and Savior. In 1986 I played lead guitar on Cinderella’s triple platinum debut album that sold well
    over 3,500,000 copies worldwide. Since then I only play for God. I currently play in a United Methodist
    Church, in a contemporary
    praise and worship band. The songs that we do, which are mostly written by
    Chris Tomlin, Paul Baloche, Matt Redman and Lincoln Brewster are by far the
    best contemporary Christian praise and worship music ever written since Bach and Mozart. I will soon be going to write an album of Christian Praise and Worship Songs, record them in Nashville Tennessee and tour the United States. I would appreciate that, in the future, you keep your misinformed over-educated opinion to yourself, because you just gave me 5 reasons to never read any of your misleading articles ever again. Thank you.

  • Yosef

    Aristotle once said, If you listen to the wrong kinda music, you’ll become the wrong kinda person.

  • Gabriel

    Responding to these points made against Christian Metal: http://www.deathmetal.org/article/why-christian-metal-is-an-oxymoron/

    On Point 1: They are essentially taking the standpoint that T.S. Eliot
    took on “originality”; Eliot, although he was Christian
    (Anglo-Catholic), believed there should be no “Religious / Devotional”
    poets, because it is like writing a hymn based on information you heard
    elsewhere but not on a direct experience… This may have some truth to
    it (like how John Wesley before his conversion was honest of his lack of
    comprehension of his brother Charles’ hymn on being spiritually
    regenerated), BUT, Stevens forgets that Christ our God _commanded_ that
    we bear witness to Him nations-wide.

    On Point 2: It is true
    that there are _some_ aspects of several metal genres that seem way out
    of place in Christendom, so let’s be honest about these:
    guttural
    vocals coupled with apocalyptic sounds, meant by death metal &
    grindcore originally to evoke images of Hell and death / gore and beastly
    destruction, whether inspired by Dante’s Inferno or not… but because
    of the Resurrection, Death’s sting is lost, and Satan & Hell are
    conquered, there is no reason for this kind of motif-sound in Christian
    Metal (and it’s like those strange fundamentalists & legalists who want to scare you with Hell’s fire & brimstone and leave you there);
    also demonic shrieking vokills coupled with a dark, hateful sound while wearing corpse paint… the corpse paint & shrieking
    vocals in black metal were originally inspired by the ancient berserkers
    or otherwise evil demons, so Unblack Metal would be more Christian to
    stick with being clad as medieval warriors and doing heroic sounding
    clean-vocals (as Slechtvalk & old Sanctifica & Bleakwail have
    done in certain segments of their music), and as for the sound it should
    be beautiful (“melodic”) & epic but never impious (in the way that
    Horde sounds more like Darkthrone and not at all like Heaven)–as for
    “fascism” they have yet elsewhere praised feudalism, thus we can note that the Middle Ages
    up to the pre-Enlightenment Reformation era were the most thoroughly
    Christian eras of the West (did he forget the Byzantine & Tsarist
    empires or St. King Louis & Clovis & Hakon the Good? Charlemagne
    doesn’t count, as he was heterodox);
    and strictly speaking, even
    70′s Metal/Hard Rock & Speed Metal started out as the music of
    worldly rebellion (nihilism) which also makes them poor choices for making Christian Metal, despite that these genres
    could be Redeemed since they are capable of not mere raunchiness
    but even exclusively of joyousness (like Folk Metal);
    anyway, I suppose the
    one metal genre that “makes the most sense to be Christian” is Power
    Metal or NWOBHM, thus it’s no surprise that there is more Christian
    Metal of this style than of any other. But also sensible along these
    lines would be more Christian “Viking” Metal for the aforementioned
    reason of the Christian Middle Ages / Age of Chivalry. And let’s not
    forget that Lord of the Rings, which Metal makes use of RATHER often,
    was written by a devout Roman Catholic. Should we call THEM assimilationists for “stealing” these Christian-themed novels & twisting it all for themselves?
    P.S. There is too much Christian Metalcore & Post-core… They should convert to Straight-Edge!

    On Point 3: To the contrary, this country has become post-Christian.
    While mainline Evangelicalism / “Contemporary Christianity” may be
    shallow, anti-intellectual, and the statistical majority (i.e.
    Churchianity… well, the nominal religion), nevertheless traditional
    Protestantism & Tridentine (not Novus Ordo) Catholicism & non-modernized Eastern Orthodoxy are
    _in fact_ counter-cultural relative to this Secular Humanist modernity
    we live in.

    On Point 4: Christian Hessians (indeed, why can’t a Hessian be a thinking Christian just as another Hessian can be a Pagan or a Hermeticist
    or a Neo-Platonist, etc?) when they are true to themselves, are still
    non-conformist… It is _Contemporary Worship_ music that is “broad”
    (and often DOES sound like Britney Spears). They say Christian Metallers are committing assimilationism, but if these Christians are actively part of the Body of Christ somewhere then non-Christian Hessians will never ever see us around anyway. Christians are set apart & not _of_ this world. If they also deny the legitimacy of Christian Punk music, perhaps they’d say Punk was already assimilated into the mainstream so this is why Christian Punk was possible in the first place, and they don’t want the same done with Metal? Problem is, strictly speaking, Metal HAS been assimilated and is full of buffoons ever since the rise of pseudo-metal rock groups like Pantera & Slipknot & Lamb of God, so now most “metalheads” listen to that stuff and scream blasphemy if you don’t accept it yourself. “Trve Metal” is not taken seriously in most American metal circles.

    On Point 5: Look
    back to response on Point 1. Also, this same writer has elsewhere
    acknowledged the mystical Christianity of William Law & Meister
    Eckhart. http://www.anus.com/etc/prozakhistan/christian.htm [their url is an acronym for American Nihilist Underground Society]

    If adhering to esoteric Christianity instead of its exoteric form is
    all non-Christian Hessians prefer, I’m up for the challenge… Christ
    was an esoterist Himself! (We drink the Blood, wherein He bestows Life.) And as the Scripture says, “He _grew_ in
    knowledge and wisdom”.

  • bosco

    Not to call him out on his hypocrisy, but how can he claim in #2 that
    ALL music is Christian, only to change his mind and later decide that “Christian”
    music isn’t Christian? Unless Christian music somehow doesn’t qualify in the category that is ALL music? Maybe the author should actually pay attention to what he writes.

  • jje

    So is John Cage’s 4’33″ “purely evil music” because it consists of no sounds at all or is it still a reflection of Beauty Himself because God’s first language is silence?

  • anonymous

    this is dumb. christian music…it helps new christians understand better if they don’t want to go to a service…helps them see how passionate people are. helps people express themselves, there’s noting in the bible discriminating music. christian music worships god…don’t you thing God would want that? Think again…ive been listening to capital kings lecrae family force 5 toby mac and newsboys for the past hour and it makes me and many others happy.

  • Grotoff

    So… whale song means that they have souls?

  • David

    “good” music? There is no accounting for taste, brother. Its probably not realistic or fair to expect everyone to make music that you approve of.

  • Bryon

    There is one whole piece of this discussion you forgot. The musician or musicians themselves. It’s easy to criticize and carry on and talk about watered down and blah blah blah but what about the artist? As a musician playing in bands for more than 20 years and being a part of the writing process. I don’t go “wow how can I get Jesus in here?” Most song writers write songs from the heart. So where is that persons’ heart? I try to have mind deep rooted in God and spiritual truth, because of that my songs tend to always be labeled “Christian”. Truth is I could just write a bunch of words that mean absolutely nothing to me and then they would be labeled “secular”. I certainly would have a bigger fan base and I might even have made a dollar or two but it all comes back to where music flows from. I play “Christian” music not because I have to but because that’s who I am! To tell me to write a bunch of lyrical gibberish so it’s not “Christian” is to tell you to rip your heart out of your chest and leave it on the floor!

  • Cookie Monster

    This article is ERRONEOUS and FALLACIOUS

    Per the article ‘5 Reasons to Kill Christian Music”

    #1 Writing a “Christian” song
    reduces Christianity to a modifying adjective.

    The assertion is ridiculous. It’s not even worth picking
    apart.

    #2 Music is already Christian.

    He continues: “Writing a Jesus-song is a well-intentioned
    denial that Jesus is the transcendental source of every song.”

    Absolutely ridiculous!

    This assertion includes an attempted syllogism that since
    all music is from God, even “the most banal, goat-sacrificing, wannabe Satanic
    metal participates in the Christian reality.”

    Ridiculous! You might as well say that fornication is good
    because God made sex.

    #3 “If you label me you negate
    me.”

    The quote from CS Lewis is instructive, but the author
    commits the either/or fallacy by insisting that all Christian music must be
    indirectly Christian. No one faults Owl City for “Fireflies,” but why should we
    fault Owl City for “Galaxies” or their version of “In Christ Alone”?

    #4 As a label, Christianity
    becomes an excuse for mediocrity.

    He asserts: “Writing a song under the mindset that the Holy
    Spirit will use that song to ‘reach people’ is a denial that the Holy Spirit
    uses you to reach people, and has given
    you the emotional depth, the poetic imagination, the enlightened intellect, and
    the spiritual sensitivity to write a damn good song.”

    A non sequitur. The Holy Spirit does inspire song writing
    and that belief denies nothing.

    #5 “Christian” music isn’t
    Christian.

    There are two fallacies here: overgeneralization and non sequitur. First,
    even if this arguments against K-Love’s mission statement are accurate, they
    cannot be applied to all Christian music. Second, an argument against a
    Christian radio station’s advertising or mission statement is not an argument
    for the eradication of Christian music.

  • Daniel

    You can sure tell when an article is written by an amateur musician and an amateur theologian. Yes, I did play the ad hominem card. I started to counter the statements in this article put there are just too many unsupported opinions to actually respond. No definition of “Christian Music”. No talk of what makes music mediocre. No statistics as to who actually gets saved at a Mumford and Son concert. This would not get very far in a juried journal.

  • Daniel

    Can anyone tell me which chord progressions are more Holy?

    • Brian Sullivan

      Anything with a G sus chord… :-)

      • Daniel

        Awesome. I just saw that on FB. Hllarious.

  • MSample2

    #1: Christian music will continue to be called Christian music as long as it contains explicit Christian truth. #justafact

    #2: Beauty is a part of creation. It is ONLY good when it is not tainted by sin. Beauty is NOT Christian. Music and art are largely a product of culture, which in our case is certainly not Christian.

    #3: Yeah, if someone wants to dismiss all explicit Christian truth, they will probably also dismiss all explicit Christian music.

    #4: With no disrespect to McLuhan, the message is not the media. If you really want people to hear the message, you will use it wisely with the media. Message is no excuse for mediocrity.

    #5: Music, like other forms of earthly beauty, is marketable. “Positive” music sells better than “Christian” music. #sadfact

    #1,5: Even though branded as “positive” music, KLOVE, etc., still play enough explicit truth to be called “Christian” radio. #justlife #dealwithit

    And finally…. how do you worship? What songs do you write? It is one thing to criticize, it is another thing entirely to live out your criticisms with art of your own. After all, reality can be a great test for ideas. Sometimes our theories knock up against the hard walls of reality and in those cases…. it’s easier to criticize what’s out there, than what we hold precious within.

  • Thoughtful

    Who decides what is give the title Christian music? Who puts the labels on the CDs that tells us they are Christian? Could it be that Christian music is defined not by a set of Godly principles but by a market group? If we allow titles to define us then we allow ourselves to be controlled by the people that give the titles.

  • Scott Berry

    Does the instrument, tone, tempo, and lyrics define what is worship music? Can you worship God through (and I’m not a personal fan this genre) screamo?

    Do hymns not entertain us? Should worship have zero entertainment value? Do you really think that God wants a joyful giver when it comes to our tithes and offerings only to turn around and want stoic worship? Does scripture not say, “Make a joyful noise to the LORD”?

    Here is the thing. As long as you are truly worshiping God in your heart, there really is no wrong way to worship him. There is nothing wrong with playing “Christian Music” that sounds like modern pop music, rap, rock, metal, jazz, or any other genre of music.

    The genre does not degrade the worship. It is the content. If you want to argue that the content of modern Christian Music is spiritually weak then that is a different matter all together.

    It is not wrong of a Christian to hope that their music becomes a tool for the Holy Spirit to reach someone. Nor is it bad for some accountant in a basement office to hope that his Christian walk is not revealed through his work ethic and business practices.

    If I pick up a trombone (an instrument that I have never played) and pray that God use the notes that I create to reach someone, am I doing the right thing, having the right attitude? No, I wouldn’t say that. Can God still use my inexperienced and overwhelmingly lacking skills to still reach someone? Of course!

    Yes I agree that Christian Music needs to of the upmost quality and not some mediocre backwash of modern music, but that doesn’t mean that just because a song sounds like it was sung by a Christian version of Nickleback, that it is not God honoring.

  • Mike

    First off, the others bias is way too
    aggressive. It is perfectly fine to be an outspoken Christian, but you cannot
    cross the boundary of directly insulting someone with their sense of intrinsic
    human value simply tossed to the wayside. This writer is coming in with a
    direct bias, a bias in this sense which is unhealthy and clouds his sense of
    judgment. Instead, he should assess the situation with a clear mind so he can
    make a clear decision.

    Secondly, to refute his first point,
    which is probably his weakest, is that the best you can do? I hope not. That is
    pure nonsense. What do you intend to call our music? Do you simply want us to
    call it music and therefore be even less impactful on society? Christian is an
    adjective and it should be the best adjective we should be able to at least
    attempt to describe Christ. If someone
    asks you what type of music you prefer would you respond music? No, most people
    would respond “rap”, “rock”, “death metal”, “gospel”, and even “Christian”. If
    you think calling something Christian is bad then what do you call yourself, or
    would you rather not limit yourself to an adjective. If you disagree with this
    adjective use what do intend to call Christian music, because no matter your
    opinion it will continue.

    First of all Music isn’t already
    Christian. Christian is Christian. Secondly you are equating attributes of God
    on the same pedestal AS God. Truth is not God, nor is good God, nor is beauty
    God; instead God is true, God is good, and God is beautiful. Without God as a
    standard of the meaning of those words we would have nothing to relate them to.
    And secondly not all truth is Christian and truth does not, in all cases,
    glorify God. For example, rape. Rape happens and rape is a very truthful and
    real reality to some people that does not at all attempt to transcendentally
    glorify God. You may say wait a minute I am talking about music. Well I am too.
    There is music about rape, lust, murder, adultery, blasphemy, theft, and sin.
    Yes there is. With today’s modern artists who will blatantly admit to one if
    not all of these acts of ill will.
    “Even the most banal, goat-sacrificing, wannabe satanic metal participates in
    the Christian reality by stringing three notes together and calling it a
    melody.” What? Do you really want to make that claim? Heck to the NO. The
    Christian reality is giving one’s life to one who already gave his life for
    you. Not attempting false idol worship of the wicked being on the planet. We
    cannot simply be the reverse, or opposite, of the world. That is not good enough.
    We have to be followers of Christ. Whatever that may be. We cannot twist
    reality to make it suit our opinions but must realize it is what the doer is
    intending it to be, downright sin in the eyes of the Creator.

    Yes I
    agree with you on this point “Christians need to be writing the best music in
    the world.” Yes they do, and dare I say yes they are. Are you going to tell me
    that the best music in the world is only limited to X-Christian music? Because
    that is a very bold claim to make; especially since you appointed yourself
    judge. Secondly I openly peruse the atheist section of the bookstore. Why?
    Because they may have something to offer even if it as miniscule as one word,
    one thought, one sentence, because all those ones can add up to a mountain of either
    lies or truth, either ways things we need to be very assertive on. Lastly we
    also need to build ourselves up within the church. I think new Christians,
    especially, should start out with some “baby food” if you will. If that “food”
    ends up being the very simplistic theology professed through our music, so be
    it. It is a dual benefit.

    Only to hold this author up to their own standard; they said
    all music is a truth that ultimately leads to God, yet right there in their own
    words they rebuke the only music that actually attempt to point to God.”
    Isn’t all singing about Jesus inherently valuable? No.” How can you say all
    music is essentially Christian except Christian music? It rationally doesn’t
    make sense. “Hey, I know, let’s kill of this Christian music that is initially
    trying to please God.” The main problem is the author assumes music is made to
    please man, when in all reality GOD created music to please, worship, and exalt
    GOD. When we realize music is not meant at all to glorify us, or comfort us, or
    pleas us but instead is only a way of showing our divine appreciation and
    praise to God we make leaps in our worship with the Father.

    In
    order to live out our Christianity we should look to the guy whose name appears
    in our title Christianity. Correct
    me if I’m wrong, but wasn’t Jesus positive sometimes? He told us not to doubt
    in our faith, but to trust in him. In fact it because of what he has done that
    we are able to be “happy, fun, excited, and positive”. Why should we be
    positive, because we are no longer in certain doom of eternal and ultimate
    damnation? There is nothing wrong with being positive, I don’t think God wants
    or intends for us to be solemn and negative all the time. Positivity is no
    substitute for God, but is a good way of pointing to him. In refutation of this
    last statement “Music should be our beautiful,
    authentic expressions of reality, and there is nothing authentic about
    “positive” Christianity.” Like I previously stated music should not point to us
    but should point directly back to the Father. Music should not be about our
    pious little lives but about the Ultimate Reality. We are called to praise God
    with our lips, and like GOD says in Psalm 119 we are to do that with
    contemplation of Gods word, Gods laws, and Gods way.

    So arguments of being an adjective, claiming that lies somehow point God, the best music is not and cannot be in the “Christian” genre, and claiming to be
    positive “Christian” music is not at all helpful amount up to a sack full of
    ridiculous excuses to be selfish and listen/write music not for God but for us.
    Irony does not explain the meaning of killing of Christian music, more the
    words of ideological suicide.

    As long as music takes the attention off of ourselves and gives it God it is ,in
    fact, Christian. No matter what way no matter how it sounds, appears, or
    looks; if our intentions are selfless,
    just, humble, and holy and give glory where it is due that is “Christian”. I
    believe that is music.

  • Tera Sitzmann

    I think your article is great! I totally agree with your point of view. I remember a group called D.C. Talk. The “DC” stood for decent Christ. It was Christian Rap and it was not good at all. I like hearing religious music when I go to church but I do not care to listen to Christian/Rock/Pop that is played over mass media stations.

  • RMpp

    This article is unbelievable…it is almost as if the writer is purposely being negative and has never really listened to a wide range of current so called Christian Music. Bono of U2 has been writing, hinting and referencing the gospel for the last 30 years in many of their songs, in fact on their last 5 albums or so there has been a direct in your face “Christian Song” such as Yahweh, Grace or Magnificent. I would bet 95% of U2 fans are unaware of what U2 are trying to get across or that they are Christians and that Bono hints to the gospel and uses scripture Old Testament and New as a big influence in his song writing. So like Mumford and Sons where is it getting them as far as leading people to Christ, which is our #1 purpose as a Christ follower? In fact I followed U2 fairly closley for 24 years before I was saved and not until then did I really discover or notice all the Christian Music in U2′s music. Now I enjoy their music more than ever!!!

  • AffanGul

    Man, I thought I was the only person in the WORLD who thought this. Fantastic blog post. In what way schmaltzy, second-rate pop music serves to further Christianity is a mystery to me. Who even listens to this stuff?? I know it’s big around the Calvary Christian people, but over there it’s more of a competition to see which of the ham-bone christian bands can get the most play time. C.S. Lewis hit it on the head. We need Christians making world-class music, film, art, documentaries. We definitely do not need more crappy second-rate knock-off cliche Jesus-music.

    • AffanGul

      This is not to say that worship music has no validity. This is obviously not the case. They Catholic Hymnal is full of music which has stood the test of time and stands on its own as world-class music. I think we are talking about Christian pop-music, which is banal and cliche, like over at Calvary Christian.

  • Bad Article

    “Failure to be Good, True and Beautiful, can only exist in reference to
    the Good, True and Beautiful. If their music is bad, it is bad because
    it fails to be good, and thus in its very badness it gives testimony to
    that-which-it-fails-to-be, namely Good, who is God. Purely evil music
    would not be music, because evil is Nothing. If Satanic musicians really wanted to defy God, they’d let their amps exude white noise for an hour and call it a concert.”

    This is a pretty ludicrous line of argument. Then again, we are talking about an invisible man in the sky, so maybe that simply follows logically. But anyway…

    1) Some noise performers do exactly that. There are quite a few musicians working with chaotic, arhythmic, atonal music styles.

    2) You call this music “bad.” What does that mean objectively? Nothing — you are arguing aesthetics. Unless you want to say that harmony is divine and dissonance is not… anyway this is pointless. What are harmony and dissonance anyway — combinations of frequencies. Nothing to get excited about. None of this has meaning aside from that given to it by society.

    3) Assuming that there is something to your “good and evil” musical analysis, music that “fails to be good” as you say might also be understood not as a failure to be “good” but as a mockery of “goodness.”

    BTW, let’s go back and re-outlaw the number zero because it represents the “Satanic” concept of nothingness. Or maybe it’s highly necessary to a scientific understanding of reality…

  • Bad Article

    Also many staples of “Satanic” music come from the Church itself; the prominent use of the flat fifth or “devil’s interval” being a prime example. Who called it the Devil’s Interval? The Church. Nobody would probably care much about it otherwise. But it became taboo and thus a viable musical symbol for those who would defy religious authorities, which is another function of the “evil” music you write about. And defy them we should! Bunch of hypocrite pedophiles.

  • blackbear

    I highly, HIGHLY recommend Andrew Belle’s ‘Black Bear’ album to everyone. He is a Christian, though he doesn’t represent himself as a ‘Christian’ artist. His music is categorized as singer/songwriter and the spiritual themes hidden throughout the album are thought-provoking without being thrown in your face. If you read one of his latest interviews you can hear about his spiritual inspiration to portray God as the metaphorical Black Bear.. truly beautiful. The actual production and singing are as top-notch as the lyrics of the album, by the way.

  • Long time bit-player in CCM

    (A)
    I have always stated (and you can google-check my blog for
    verification) that “Christian / Christianity is not an adjective, it is a
    verb or a noun. It is what I do or who I am, not a mere description to
    place alongside ‘cute’, ‘fuzzy’ or ‘non-intellectual’.”
    (I expounded further here than I have in the past. I may have to
    amend my quote elsewhere.) So on point one, count me in full agreement.

    (B)
    I have a hard time believing that Jesus inhabits (or even lays claim
    to) any song that Marilyn Manson (or for that matter Lady Gaga or Justin
    Bieber) ever wrote or sung. Exclaiming that “Jesus is the
    transcendent source of every song” is grossly over-exaggerating Jesus
    role as creator. Likewise claiming that “any three chord melody”
    “Participates in the Christian reality” is likewise a foolish way to
    look at “art.”

    I’m
    sure there were some pretty astonishing and lifelike depictions of
    Ba’al as statues that must have been full of beauty and style — But
    God despised every one of them as idols. Do you really think God
    therefore would praise modern offerings up to Satan?

    The
    same could be said of this… & I doubt that anyone has ever
    considered it — but I honestly think there were probably plenty of
    tunes written to the praise of Ashtoreth and Bahemot — But God never
    once acknowledges a single one of them.

    On this one, full DIS-agreement.

    As
    for what is “Evil” — it is DEFINITELY not “Nothing” as the author of
    this piece states. After this comment I will link you to to the first of two blog posts
    I wrote this year on what the Bible declares is “Evil” — I spent 18
    months studying —>> JUST THAT ONE WORD <<— as it appeared throughout
    scripture. The answer may just blow your mind. It's definitely not "Nothing" though, not even close.

    (C)
    Christian Ghetto. Does the Author then negate the whole of point (A)
    by failing to remember that "Christian" isn't an adjective? That's
    pretty a subjective approach to using the word. "Let's not apply it to
    Music, but it's ok to string it alongside 'ghetto'."

    Ok, that was a bit of sarcasm.

    His
    point here is valid. What we need less of is Christian's seeking to
    ENTERTAIN other Christians with pithy stories of New Shoes on Christmas
    day — and far more Christians like Twila Paris (Ummmm, who?) who seek
    to honor & glorify God the Father by praising HIM directly for all
    that He's done. (If you've ever sung "Lamb of God" or "He is Exalted"
    in church, both those songs are by Twila.) The rightful approach to
    music is not to seek to "WOW" the world — but to "HONOR" the Father
    and Christ.

    Whatever you do or say, whether in word or in deed, do all as unto the Lord Jesus….

    Ever think about that verse IN CONTEXT???? Here's the verse right before it.

    Let
    the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish
    one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the
    Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. (Colossians
    3:16-17)

    Wow… now there's an eye-opener.

    (D)
    Disagree. there are plenty of artists out there who've not sold out to
    the Corporate money-grubbers. Phil Keaggy has laid down an impressive
    body of work over the last 40+ years, on almost every genre, all of
    which has rightly been labeled 'Christian'. It distinguishes his work
    and sets him apart from people who're merely playing guitar for their
    own glory.

    Another
    newer artist who bears the label Christian and excels for having done
    so is Josh Garrels. Youtube the song "Resistance" some time and give
    yourself an hour to chew on his lyrics for just that one song… you'll
    need it.

    Just
    because someone bears the moniker "Christian" doesn't always mean they
    are mediocre. And there are plenty of NON-Christians who don't even
    care what label they bear — but are mediocre nevertheless. (Lady Gaga
    / Justin Bieber / Miley Cyrus anyone?)

    You
    can't generalize this one. There are those who do bear the name
    "Christian" and live up to it's standards — and excel. They are not
    the many, rather the few, but they are there.

    (E)
    The writer states: K-Love plays 'positive' music. Stop there. Isn't
    one of the very admonitions of Paul to us as believers to —- think
    upon whatever is noble, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever
    is right, whatever is praiseworthy or admirable. (Philippians 4:6) I think we get so
    caught up in wanting to BE depressed, that we often forget that this is
    not the Lord's desire for us. We CHOOSE depressing music so that we can
    FEED our depressed mood, so that we can MAINTAIN our personal pity
    parties and not look to the Lord for healing.

    That is one mere thought without following through the rest of his statement. Let me move on.

    Ok,
    having now finished his statement, let me say this. I do agree that
    there is a falseness to modern CCM. It fails to address the human
    condition with any sense of reality. Sin is painful. Being trapped in
    sin is moreso. Being crushed by the weight of our sin… yeah. Those
    of us who remember being lost, and remember what great joy came in
    finding the honest forgiveness of God in His grace, never escape the
    tension between the two. The greatest example of this is actually
    "Amazing Grace"

    How sweet the sound that saved a WRETCH like me.
    I once was lost, but now I'm found, was blind… but now I see.

    The tension is there, the joy, and the shame.

    Wonderfully tied into an exquisite bow… for which Grace is the gift presented.

    Now….
    all that said… James reminds us "Count it all joy, my brethren, when
    you fall into various trials & temptations…." Feeling depressed
    — remember joy. Feeling crushed? Remember joy. Feeling tempted and
    tried? Remember joy. See where this is leading? We're not called to
    wallow in misery. And most of the music that people WANT outside of the
    "Positive K-love message" really is about wallowing in misery and
    melancholy. Not all… but a fair bit of it. and when someone starts
    writing that they HATE / DESPISE the positive spin of modern Christian
    music, my first thoughts turn to "Why do you want to wallow in the muddy
    end of the pool?"

    Balance?
    Try some Mark Heard. His lyrical honesty will cut you straight to the
    heart and leave you bleeding…. but with enough grace to sense hope.

    Try some Bob Bennett, who's pain is worn on his sleeve, but never forgets the faithfulness of God.

    Try
    Rich Mullins or Keith Green or Julie Miller — all of them did a fine
    job of painting their emotions with the Christian artistic brush. Never
    forgetting the grace that saved them.

    Because in the end… isn't it Grace that this is all supposed to be about?

    This
    article has some points… but you can't throw out the all the good
    with what's bad… and expect that having done so, you're gonna catch
    the world's attention. The gospel isn't about playing the latest,
    greatest tune….

    The gospel is about Jesus, dying on the cross so as to cover your wretched, miserable, sinning self with his wonderful mercy.

    I've long said (even when I was a Christian DJ) that music doesn't save people — That's the Holy Spirit's job.

    How we all need to remember that.

    http://juliemillerfan.xanga.com/2013/04/24/what-does-the-bible-say-is-evil-part-1-the-old-testament/

  • Richard Conway

    There is so much in this article that borders the ridiculous, but I think what makes me most angry is his point that Christian music is an excuse for mediocrity. Him using that argument is what cheapens Christian music, not Christian music being labeled Christian music, because he falsely labels Christian music as bad by saying that.
    Music is a business. If it is mediocre it won’t make money and will fail. Just because it is Christian doesn’t mean that the laws of supply and demand don’t apply. If he thinks it’s mediocre then he just has a problem with the people that buy the music, not the artists, because product created is dictated over the long run by the consumer, not the artist.

  • Wendy Williams

    Thank you!!! Absolutely how I feel. My heart and soul weep with sadness and disgrace when I have to sing music that does not measure up to the standards I believe God asks of us.

  • CER

    All this discussion because someone, as very long time ago decided to give the music we sing a “Label” and for lack of any better term they used the word “Christian” It does fit as a description does it not? What else would one call it? God Music? I wonder if when writing the Psalms (which are primarilly songs) if anyone questioned David about his use of this name, or if they said that by writing these songs he was cheapening his faith. Sorry if I offend or sound harsh. Maybe I do not understand this authors point. I accept that may be true. But I get tired of Christians attacking other Christians, or in this case things that are Christian by title. He is completely ignoring the fact that this kind of music reaches people every day. People who randomly turn a radio dial and find “positve, unlifting” music and their lives are changed. It happens. Not to mention all the other good things that come out of this music genre. Is there bad christian music out there? Of course. Just like everything else, we are human. Thats the point. I wonder what this person would think if he heard a song like, oh “God of wonders” for example. Or “Proof of your Love” for another. How can you listen to songs like those and not be changed, not be moved. Stop being so negative!!

  • Noah Delatte

    I completely agree with you However, can you name any bands other than Mumford and Sons that write genuinely good music and are Catholic/Christian?


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