Why Would I Rather Listen to Belching Throat Singers Than Contemporary Christian Music?

Me when I hear Christin music. WHY?

[Update: Christian Music DJ, JB, Responds: “Dear Haters …”]

So it’s 3:30 a.m., and I’m at my desk wondering why I’m at my desk when I should be in bed next to my warm, snoozing wife.

I swear, that girl sleeps like an elderly zombie on quaaludes. And it doesn’t matter how freaked she is from anything going on at her job, or anything like that. She’ll be, like, “Someone at work today pulled out a gun and started shooting at everyone in the office! It was horrible! The police bashed in a wall to get to this maniac, and …  zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.”

And then she doesn’t wake up for seven hours. No matter how much noise I make, or how hard I jab her with my elbow as I’m getting out of bed at 3:30 in the morning so she’ll come and have some warm milk with me and keep me company.

I swear. Some people.

Anyway, I just fired up my laptop, thinking to test the theory that writers are at their creative best when they’ve only had three hours of sleep, even though I happen to know the big champion of that theory was novelist Throckmorton “Buzzy” Marlow, who died unpublished. But whatever. I thought I’d see.

What I saw instead was that I had an email waiting for me from someone named “JB.” I’m not naturally a big fan of people whose moms weren’t smart enough to include a vowel in the spelling of their name (my poor friend, SM: if only his mom had known about the letter “a”), but what the heck. I opened the email.

It turned out to be from the host of the late night show at Air1 Radio, a national Christian radio network with more stations than the police have.

“Just wanted to say, ‘howdy,’ wrote the affable Mr. B. “I do late-nights at Air 1, a national Christian network. Love your blog; I get some great material from it. It’s one of the six or seven sites I go to first when I start doing “show prep.” I’ve even reposted some of your musings on my Air1 Facebook fan page. We’re like-minded! Keep up the great work.”

Now isn’t that sweet? Turns out I like people with no middle vowel in their two-letter name. I mean, what vowel’s gonna work for my new friend JB? Who’s he gonna be: Jab? Jeb? What is he, an old, shotgun-toting hillbilly? (Not that there’s anything wrong with that.) Jib? Jub? Job? Who wants the responsibility (or danger quotient) of being named Job?

No: JB he was born, and JB he shall remain.

Anyway, I wrote back dj JB to thank him, and we did some e-back and forthing—seeing as he, too, was up.

Nice guy!

While we were e-chatting, I turned on his show. It’s mostly Christian music. So then I listened to Christian music. I got through about four songs worth of it.

Listening to that music raised a question for me: Why does listening to Christian music always make me want to listen to virtually anything else? I’d rather listen to The Monrovian Throat Singers Chorus rasp and belch their way through “Ode to Soren the Deaf Graveyard Worker” (one of the Bach’s lesser known operatic failures) than I would to one song from the “contemporary Christian music” catalog.

Why? What is my problem? I’m a Christian. And I can hear how often so much of CCM sounds just like music I actually do like. Oftentimes the vocals are top-notch; the arrangements are perfectly decent; the players are perfectly excellent; the production values always seem extra good, actually. And yet such music invariably strikes my entire aural/neurological system like unto a wet fork jammed into an electrical outlet.

Why? It doesn’t even make sense. I’m such a music freak I made a living writing about contemporary music for a year or two. (“Contemporary” is one of these words, like “humorist,” that immediately robs the thing to which it points of the very quality it’s meant to describe. Nothing instantly seems less contemporary than anything described by that word; if a dinner speaker is introduced as a “humorist,” you know you’re probably going to drown from falling asleep in your soup.)

So I thought I’d talk here about what my stupid problem is with Christian music. Because by way of finally determining the exact nature of that problem, I decided to settle in, and really listen to and think about the Christian music JB was playing on his show. I’ve never done that; I’ve never cared why I don’t like CCM, in the same way I’ve never slowly chewed lima beans and methodically thought about why they were making me retch. I’ve never cared why; I just spit them out, slap the chef around, and move on. Same with Christian music: I always just turn the stuff off, or put in my earplugs, or go to the box office and beg for my money back, and move on.

But the time had come, man. It was time for me to figure out why perfectly excellent-sounding music—about a subject that actually means a great deal to me—always makes me feel like some grandmother is pushing my face into a crappy peach cobbler she made.

But now, alas, this post is already too long. If you have any opinions about contemporary Christian music, do share! You share me yours, and then I’ll share you mine.

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  • It's not artistic expression, it's mimicry. It's created in response to Christian's demands for popular music that is not "of the world". It does not contain any true emotion just filtered and glossy expressions of "isn't it great to be exactly what we are–successful people who have been saved by Jesus". How in heaven's name can anyone expect to always be artistically inspired BY GOD enough to make a CAREER and a LIVING out of making worship songs? If a songwriter/musician's got bills to pay, you figure that they're gonna be feeling some pressure to produce which is a whole other, rather ungodly form of inspiration.

  • Ace

    Don't feel bad, I can't stand the stuff either. I love old Gospel music, I love singing old hymns in church (well, most of them), but I cannot stand contemporary Christian radio music.

    And the reason I don't like it is the same reason I don't like WWJD bracelets and t-shirts with bible verses scrawled across them in illegible fonts – it just smacks of the same sort of commercialized, fake, plastic McReligion that I loathe.

    Turning something as profound as human spirituality into a commodity to hock to the masses just turns my stomach. And I know it's nothing new, people have been using religion to sell products, garner votes, sway the masses and so on has been going on since some caveman looked across the Earth or sky and thought hey, maybe there's something out there.

    Still don't like it.

    I'm sure there are some very talented, and very sincere Contemporary Christian Music artists, but by the time the stuff hits the airwaves, something has sucked all the soul out of it and turned the emotion of the music into fake soap-opera acting. (Of course I never liked Backstreet Boys or any of the equally manufactured secular pop music that was so popular when I was in high school so maybe it's just fakery in general I hate, but the religious aspect in C.C.M. just makes it that more distasteful)

    Yuck. Yuck. YUCK.

  • Lisa

    I play in the worship band in my church, but rarely listen to CCM. I suppose the reason why is because I tend to like hard/alternative rock and most CCM doesn't fit that bill. Most of it is just too "pop" for my liking.

  • There may actually be great musicians out there that I'd enjoy listening to who just happen to be Christian (a la Bono) but what gets played on contemporary Christian music stations is sappy, hopelessly mainstream and, as Mary Linda suggested, devoid of creativity.

  • Ace

    There are some very good, original musicians out there. You just don't find them on major labels or their stuff on the shelves of your typical Big Box store.

  • I can understand what the Christian music market is trying to do, make available music that appeals to a certain segment of listeners, and that has lyrics that don't necessarily involve the topics found in most popular secular music. There is some great talent in the genre, and I have found songs that musically are interesting. With some songs the melodies and arrangements are superior to what one find in popular secular music. The variety of styles range from pop to grunge, but the topic is all the same. That is where things bog down, in my opinion.

    Topically the lyrics are all positive, and generally point to God. However that consistency runs into the danger of being less then honest about Christianity. Yes some of the music can be uplifting and encouraging, it can, at times, not all that often, point out some things we can do better at, but as a creative art, the lyrics tend to fall short of what Christianity really is on individual basis.

    If we are completely honest, we know that life as a Christ follower is little about singing praise and worship song, but more about the every day living a life with ordinary circumstances, pains, losses and successes. Where are the messages of frustration, of honest struggles with challenges of life that we all face, of the faith or not? Where are the lyrics of feeling on the outside looking in, of being different, of trying, and often failing to balance life between the sacred and the secular? Where are the songs that talk about how the bottom has fallen out of one's life and wondering where God is in all this? If some of the Psalmists did these things way back when, why are not lyric writers of faith doing so these days?

    Art, and in specific, musical art should be able to be a way of expressing oneself about struggles, conflict, sorry, joy, frustration, anger, compassion, contentment and all the rest. To leave the negative out of the mix paints the picture of Christianity through music only using a small part of the pigments available. At least that's how I see it.

  • Have you seen the South Park episode about CCM? That is sorta how they portrayed it.

  • Jonathan

    The question remains, when I (one) wants to listen to cotton candy music, why more likely to tune into the Top 40 station as opposed to the CCM station, as I submit that the production, talent, songwriting chops, etc. are in equal parts bad, good, surprisingly poignant, predictably bland, or a combination of the above.

    For me, I think I've realized that I want my religious music to feel… different. If I've given my life to this cause, I want the soundtrack to be grand, meaningful, on-the-mountaintop, at every given moment. Unrealistic, I know, but an expectation nonetheless.

    So if I'm just driving through traffic, I don't mind hearing about The Way You Make Me Feel [Baby], but I certainly don't want to hear The Way You Make Me Feel [Baby {Jesus}].


  • Nathan

    I don't really know what you mean by "Christian" music. How is music "Christian" or not? It seems to me that to call music Christian is useful only as a marketing tool. Stuff like Derek Webb (one of my favorite artists, who sometimes gets called a Christian artist) is actually pretty great music with a serious message. But, I can't stand the falsehood of praise music. For example, "I Could Sing of Your Love Forever" just sang over and over. No, I couldn't. At some point, I'd have to stop singing of Your love. It's a great love, but I'm gonna need to eat or poop. The choruses just seem to say things that aren't true. And, above all, don't we need art to tell the truth? I do.

  • Hmm I admit I'm surprised at the negativity. There are certain country artists that I adore… Jars of Clay in particular, and Big Daddy Weave.

    The River Song hit me at a dark place "the pain is an ocean, swirling us around…"

    And Big Daddy Weave's My Father's House makes me smile, because it reminds me of being a child at family reunions with the folks I loved… and I believe Heaven will be much the same, with all hands pitching in to prepare the feast…

    I love Open the Eyes of my Heart, I don't know who sings it, but it makes for great worship music on a Sunday morning.

    All that said, I also listen to country, to rock, classic and a mixture of other genres, whatever catches my fancy. My playlist has everything from Meatloaf to Mozart, from BonJovi to Big & Rich. So I may be a bit odd in my musical leanings. LOL

    The only music I absolutely can not stand is "pop". UGH. I swear if I hear "Charlotte's Burnin' on the Dance Floor" one more time I may have to set the place alight myself. :-p And of COURSE that's what my kids prefer to listen to. Go figure.

    I think most of the objections to Christian radio are due to the "play it safe" attitude of many radio stations. They must cater to the very devout, so they tend to play the "safe" music, the sounds that soothe and do not offend cloistered Christians who prefer to close the shades and pretend the world doesn't exist. Finding really good Christian music takes a bit of exploring, but it is out there, and it is gaining in popularity. Our local station, Family Life Network (FLN.org), has introduced an online station just for the younger crowd with more bang and less crooning. Who knows, maybe it's the start of a musical revolution!

    Rejoicing in the day,


  • Deb

    Totally agree with you John! However, what I will say is that the few times I've been to live Christian concerts, the music is WAY better and even ROCKS to a large degree. For some reason, when the same music is played on the radio, the Christian stations tend to mix it such that the edginess of the guitars are turned down so as to not be too Rock-ish. Maybe it's they way the records are produced, but, the same song that totally kicked-ass live is lame and "poppy" sounding on the radio. I don't get it!

    Anyway, check-out Nichole Nordemann…by far one of the most original, raw, truly real and gifted Christian artists out there. Again, I saw her live first and she blew me away, but her lyrics either live or recorded are not "happy-crappy Christian-y" at all.

  • Argy-bargy

    "Throckmorton." *snort-laugh*

  • Argy-bargy

    I'm with you, John. I admire your fortitude. I never got past TWO songs before going to listen to anything else.

    One of the best "Christian" songs I've heard is U2's "Mofo" which has the brilliant line: "Looking for to fill that God-shaped hole."

  • Elizabeth

    Just to clarify: the gripe in question is not with Christian music, but with music marketed as Contemporary Christian and played almost exclusively on Contemporary Christian radio stations. Correct? We are not actually having a conversation in which the majority of people can't stand artists as diverse and wildly popular as U2, Prince, and Bob Dylan, all of whom have claimed to be Christian and written music dependent on Christian themes. Are we?

  • Bill

    ****Why does listening to Christian music always make me want to listen to virtually anything else?*****

    Because it's vapid and sappy and oozes crappy peach cobbler…..when it doesn't sound just simply false, empty of reality but full of self-righteousness. I can't listen to it either. There's no there there.

    And John, you and your readers may be interested to know that there is a play by Archibald MacLeish called "JB" based on the book of Job. I played in it in college ever so long ago. Fascinating play.

  • John,

    First, your crowd-sourcing is brilliant. I've often thought about the purpose of art and music and why "contemporary Christian music" sounds so contrived or synthetic.

    As Christians, we know that having purpose is important part in living a productive, fruitful life.

    But as imperfect humans, we best relate to honest expression of feeling that surrounds things like unrequited love, pain and suffering. Or perhaps something totally goofy with no purpose other than a catchy melody.

    I asked myself "Is purpose conveyed in the words or is it in a melody?"

    I'll never forget one time I was in Spain listening to gypsy music, which I love, and asked my Spanish friend, "what are the words like to this song." In his spanish accent, he said what I somehow already knew. He paraphrased: "think I'm going to die…life is cruel. She left me. Life is pain and then you die."

    Why did I like the music so much even if I couldn't understand the words?" Is it possible to convey pain with music? Why am I so amused by the song Elvis sang about his blue swade shoes?

    In "walk the line" there is a scene where Johnny Cash is auditioning, trying to play gospel music and the producer isn't having any of "the same old songs" finally asks, is that all you've got?, ready to kick them out, johnny desperate to try anything, began playing a his own material, his fellow musicians were visibly uncomfortable as he starts singing the song that he wrote in Folsom Prison. This becomes the big break Johnny Cash got as he was signed to make a recording. He finally let go of his inhibitions and let his honest (dark?) feelings come to light.

    Star Trek Voyager "Virtuoso"

    the doctor, who is basically a robot discovers through this episode why music is more than the technical abilities.

    You might say Contemporary Christian music the Synthetic Music Box that Aldus Huxley wrote about in Brave New World. (chapter 15) It has a purpose; it has an agenda. It is contrived. Some of the songs remind me of commercial jingles for breakfast cereal.

    Now, I don't want to judge, but somehow, I don't think you're going to believe me or be so interested in what I write, until I do.

  • A lot of excellent comments. I’m with many of the commenters here on having nothing but disdain for saccharine pop and tired platitudes, whether the music is spiritual or secular. I listen to some Christian music, but it has to meet certain criteria: I want real people playing real instruments and lyrics that don’t portray the Christian life as merrily skipping from one mountain-top to another. At least for me, the walk of faith takes place mostly in the valleys between the mountain-top experiences and I want to hear something that reflects that. If anyone is in the market for such music, I recommend T-Bone Burnett’s solo stuff (particularly the album “The Criminal Under My Own Hat”), Sam Phillips, Michael Card, and Robert Randolph.

    That being said, I love old-school gospel and hymns, especially with lyrics that celebrate the promise of heaven; the lyrics of “This World is Not My Home” always stir my heart.

    Finally, I have an old semi-relevant post on church music over at my blog that any readers are welcome to check out if they wish.


    Sorry John, for the shameless self-plug.

  • Ace

    You really hit the nail on the head there – and I think John posted something a while about about how Christians tend to skirt around negative emotions and not deal with them, and CCM tends to do exactly that to the nth degree.

    Life ain't all sunshine and bunnies, even if you have accepted Christ, but you'd never know that listening to CCM.

    I've encountered a few independent Christian musicians in the past that are actually really good and creative and don't live with their heads in the sand, but they do not generally get airplay on the radio.

  • John, I think I have a comment in moderation…

  • For me it's because my most powerful music experience remains my second Metallica concert, sometime in the 90s, when forty thousand people were chanting "Die! Die!" during the interlude of their song "Creeping Death". The song is about God's death creeping through Egypt as the plague that broke Pharoah's back and opened the door for the exodus of the Israelites.

    I guess it dawned on me at that point that the line between secular and Christian music was a bunch of crap. And if metal bands can sing about biblical stories, and CCM groups can sing about them too, give me the one who plays really loud, really fast, and looks like someone who'd actually be interesting to hang out with.

    There are a few times that a band like P.O.D. or even Kutless can make it work from the CCM side. But it seems so very rare to me. I'd rather listen to Breaking Benjamin or Five Finger Death Punch.

  • Tony Masinelli

    At least we're not music snobs. You know, like those secular people. Ahem.

  • This may surprise you but some of my favorite bands are Christian bands… that is Christian Heavy Metal bands,.

    In fact, just last weekend I traveled to LA and back to see the "Cool Tour" featuring such Christian acts as "As I Lay Dying", "Underoath", and "The Acacia Strain." The latter band on stage said they were there for the "glory of Jesus Fucking Christ" and then launched into one of the most intensely brutal and musically complex songs I've heard in a very long time.

    In fact, no matter your religion, you can't be a serious metal fan these days without liking Christian bands. I may not agree with their theology, but I adore their music. Trust me, this is a long way and much better than Stryper.

  • Sam


    There's crap and creativity in any musical genre.

    It's up to us to sort out what we like and don't like but I think it's a shame to stereotype any type of music as something we won't listen too.

    It's like refusing to go to an art gallery based on some objectionable art housed there. We may do so, but there may be some genuinely awe-inspiring works displayed that we miss out on.

  • Chris White

    I've chewed lima beans slowly and it's the sensation of fuzziness inside them that makes them disgusting…

  • wen

    Wow Guys, I'm shocked @ the negativity! Why? I've heard MANY CCM songs that are anything but "pie in the sky"! How about (I think it's) Casting Crowns "Praise You in the Storm"? That song speaks to me on several levels!

    When I was muddling my way thru the early months of grieving the sudden death of our toddler daughter, I WOULD NOT have survived w/o the music that God brought across my path!! Songs like SuperChic[k]'s (1) Beauty from Pain & (2) We Live! ~ 2 songs in particular that ministered, DEEPLY, to me in the darkest pain I've EVER known, &, in ways I could NEVER explain to someone who has not lost a child, songs that met me EXACTLY WHERE I WAS – places so dark, so filled with despair, that even tho I survived, I can't barely fathom EVER revisiting!!!!!

    So, maybe the fact that you're so quick to bash the hard work & often God-inspired music of some talented people, may indicate that you've never experienced TRUE, DEEP, PERSONAL ministry thru music??

    Certainly, I don't mean to be judging any of you, but what I am asking is have you (who are spreading this incredibly BROAD blanket of negativity) ever been in a place where NOTHING but the lyrics of a God-inspired song have even come CLOSE to speaking to the raw, aching, desolate recesses of your heart??

    Sadly, I have. :'( And I thank God for the music that He used to get me thru the most painful time of my entire life!!!!

    I shudder to think of what I would've missed, if I, like some of you, would have made a global opinion on an area so diverse!

    Possibly time for a "re-think"? Just sayin' …

  • Odgie,

    I love T-Bone Burnett. Your recommendations speak my mind! (except Michael Card–don't know him. will have to check him out.)

    I'd add Van Morrison who had added more to my spiritual understanding than anyone but Jesus.

    Sam Cooke

    Mahalia Jackson

    A lot of bluegrass and Americana genre music is very spiritual without being self-selected as "Christian".

    And really, a whole lot of music can be deeply spiritual, depending on the intention you bring and where your head is when you listen.

    Mary Linda

  • Erin

    The songs that bother me are the “Jesus is my boyfriend” variety (there’s one out there now called “Just Like Falling in Love” or something like that….CREEPY.) The other songs that bother me are the ones about “someday we’re all going to be in heaven and it’s going to be so happy, can’t wait until that day because life here on earth SUCKS!!” (“What Could Be Better” by 33Miles comes to mind.) I mean, where’s the Christian message in that? Get off your duff and feed the hungry and clothe the nekkid and all those other things Jesus told us to do while you’re waiting around. Don’t just sit there and stare wistfully out the window, looking for Jesus to descend on a cloud. What a waste of a Christian!! It isn’t all crap though. Casting Crowns usually gets it right. At our church we play “Does Anybody Hear Her,” “Slow Fade,” and “If We are the Body” a lot because they actually challenge people. I see people cringe when we sing “judgment looms under every steeple/with lofty glances from lofty people” but you’d better believe those people think twice before they judge that single mother sitting next to them after singing that song!!! So CCM can have redeeming qualities, but too many Christian artists take the easy way out and just sing what people want to hear: “We are the best, we are happy, isn’t it great to be us, BLAH BLAH BLAH.”

  • Erin

    Since when is "cotton candy" played on Top 40? I go there and all I hear about is bumpin' and grindin' at da club, then gettin' it on with 2 sweet honeys.

  • Jeannie

    I think CCM is best appreciated when introduced to it at an early age. It's part of a specific culture. For those of us who grew up in churches where we couldn't be "part of the world" it is all we knew. It's an acquired taste to be sure, not unlike certain ethnic foods.

    I don't listen to it as much these days. My husband couldn't understand why pop/rock hits of the 60s, 70s and 80s weren't part of my history and culture. He didn't grow up in conservative Christianity so he never knew what it was like to feel convicted for listening to "secular" radio. When he feels nostlgic he listens to Paul McCartney, Van Halen and Lynard Skynard, When I feel nostalgic I listen to Keith Green and the 2nd Chapter of Acts. I chalk it all up to the culture we were raised in.

    Although just like any other genre of music there are brilliant arts and there isgarbage. And no artist hits a home run anytime.

  • Kent

    I agree with many of the comments about CCM, but my primary issue with it is that it is bankrupt – both musically and theologically. It is anti the very thing it tries so desperately to be. It just simply leaves me cold and, just as we often have to cleanse our palates after eating; I have to return to Bach, Handel, Buxtehude, Mozart …etc, after even catching a second of the stuff just to cleanse my ears and head.

  • I do like that song, and like Casting Crowns in general.

  • Robert Meek

    I would rather listen to the Dooble Brother's version of "Jesus Is Just Alright" (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FnLHCS4ztbo) than to most "Christian" gospel music. And that admission, within the confined circles of fundamental old-time pentecostalism that I was raised, would be considered of the devil, if not down right demonic and satanic, that song, etc.

    The only reason that I can think of is we were severely censored in our home in our latter years. We could not watch Carol Burnette, MASH, or most anything modern. We were confined to I Love Lucy, The Beverly HillBillies, The Andy Griffith Show, etc. TV Circa 1950s to 1960s. We were allowed a few things: Lost In Space, Star Trek, Land Of Giants, Mission Impossible, Get Smart.

    And music, had to be only "Christian" music. No exceptions. We went from The Mamas & The Papas and Simon & Garfunkel being okay to strictly exclusively Christian.

    It got to be nauseating.

    My last two years of high school, the only way I got secular music was on my drive home from school, alone, in the second family car. (As we went now where the schools provided no bus transportation, until all prior grades up north, and I had a license, I was driving to and from school.)

    That's the only reason that I can come up with.

  • damn, now i have that song worming through my head!!!

  • wen, i am so so sorry for your loss….((hugs))

  • DR

    Wow, some of these comments are so cynical. In reading the comments, I can't help but note how instinctive it seems for people to orient ourselves toward a "tribe" of thinking and feeling in a particular way. I like this blog for how it spurs on a bit of a rebellion regarding some traditional evangelical and fundamental approaches to worshipping Jesus. That being said, I find the "Fu@k yeah! Contemporary christian music is nothing but fluff and bullsh!t" just as reactive and just as formulaic – even lazy – as I do the Fundamentalist cookie cutter approach sometimes.

    When one is in pure reactive mode, we're still in bondage to whatever we happen to be reacting to, are we not? God is unbounded – He is Wild. He will never be contained, and categorically insulting and demeaning contemporary Christian music in it's entirety is – in my opinion – diminishing the power of the Holy Spirit who inspires what He (or She) wants to inspire for purposes that are way beyond my understanding.

    For example, there are moments where I'm moved by Alanis Morisette's "Everything". Sinead O Connor's "Thank You" is for me, For Hearing Me" is one of the most incredible worship songs I've ever heard". And sometimes the Barlow Girls songs make me cry, they are so beautiful.

    I guess my point is that worship seems to be that kind of thing that one just chooses to enter into regardless of the medium. We're all going to have our preferences of what works and what feels irritating, hymns for example bore me to tears it's hard to get into them I have to really make myself. That's not true for other people. It's not because hymns are "archaic" or that I'm not traditional enough. It's just that I'm wired to worship God in that moment in a particular way. I feel like there's room for all of it.

  • Derek Webb's song "A New Law" has an apropos line in it:

    Don't teach me about truth and beauty, just label my music.

    Most Christian Bookstores don't carry his albums or at least some of his albums anymore.

  • like

  • Erin

    We did the Doobie Bros. song at my church once. For the Prodigal Son reading once we did "Carry On my Wayward Son." It was met with a few raised eyebrows, but no one could deny the Christian message in those songs!

  • A'isha

    My dad and I were talking the other day about why we use the word "Christian" as an adjective at all. Isn't "Christian" a noun? So why do we have "Christian" music?

    That aside, I do listen to some Christian music. I like it. I like that it helps keep my mind from going places where I'd rather it didn't. Paul says in Phillipians if I remember correctly, to think of whatever is pure, right, noble, true, etc. (I know that brings up the whole issue with Paul, but I believe it's good advice nevertheless.) Personally I'm not too fond of most of the "praise and worship" music. Like someone said earlier I just can't sing of Your love forever! The repetition of phrases tends to grate on my nerves after awhile…like 1 or 2 minutes! I listen to almost every kind of music out there with the exception of rap…a girl has to have some pride! LOL I think sometimes it just depends on the mood I'm in.

  • Yeah, "God or your girlfirend" — there's a name for that.

    So it can "crossover"

    isn't that ironic?

  • I like some of the music on CCM stations. Much of it, like pop music, is not "great" but it is pop(ular).

    I like some of the music on pop music stations too. However, a lot of the music I like is very hard to find on the radio and certainly never on any one station. And, of course, Bach's music (was that reference intentional) is different kind of CCM (classical christian?).

    I favor secular music that points to the divine without realizing it.

  • Elizabeth

    I’m with the majority in my distaste for CCM. Its aesthetic is plastic and overproduced; its musicality is banal; its lyrics are cloying and predictable. That’s not unusual for contemporary music, though. I could say the same thing about pop, country, or novelty rap. So why is it that the very idea of CCM feels like an earwig tunneling into my brain that I just want to smash my own skull to stop?

    The thing is, I love shout-outs to God in music. Just not in “Christian” music. For me, a good religious reference is what pushes a song from being super-good to want-to-marry-it-and-have-its-babies-good. And every musician who was anyone in the 1990s did the God shout-out.

    Nirvana (1991), *the* band of the decade, in “Lithium”: I’m not scared, light my candles, in a daze ‘cause I’ve found God. Alanis Morrisette (1995) in “All I Want”: And I am frightened by the corrupted ways of this land, if only I could meet the Maker. And I am fascinated by the spiritual man, I’m humbled by his humble nature. REM (1991) in “Losing My Religion,” their highest-charting hit in the United States: That’s me in the corner, that’s me in the spotlight losing my religion, trying to keep up with you. Tori Amos (1992) in “Crucify”: I’ve been looking for a savior in these dirty streets. Looking for a savior beneath these dirty sheets. I’ve been raising up my hands to drive another nail in. Just what God needs: one more victim.

    These weren’t cheesy, niche-market offerings. These were dogged spiritual struggles hidden in the monster hits of the decade. Why did it happen? Was it a long-term after-effect of the social vapidity and fundamentalist pomposity of the 1980s? Was it subconscious fear of the upcoming millennium? I don’t know. I was only a young adult caught up in the confluence. I can tell you, though, that even when I did not consider myself Christian, I was always hyper-aware of these lyrics. I always recognized the secret nod from God.

    Here’s what I call a praise song. From the funny but well-meaning “Jesus Was Way Cool” by King Missile (1990): He could’ve played guitar better than Hendrix. He could’ve told the future. He could’ve baked the most delicious cake in the world. He could’ve scored more goals than Wayne Gretzky. He could’ve danced better than Baryshnikov. Jesus could have been funnier than any comedian you can think of. Jesus was way cool.

    Or the haunting images from “One of Us,” sung by Joan Osborne (1995): If God had a name what would it be? And would you call it to his face? If you were faced with Him in all His glory, what would you ask if you had just one question? What if God was one of us? Just a slob like one of us. Just a stranger on the bus tryin' to make his way home. (Osborne got Grammy nominations for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance, Record of the Year, and Song of the Year for this recording.)

    Anyone can find God by looking for Him. It is a mark of real art when He can use music to find them. And not in some sterile venue or sanctuary, not with sexless back-up singers and official church approval. This Christian music found me hostage to loneliness in front of MTV, or swaying and sweating in filthy clubs. That’s what we need more of: real, unpretty struggles that can touch the heart. If that music reached me, it could reach anyone. It’s a small miracle, meriting the honorific Christian music. Some marketing concept has hijacked the label. I’m taking it back. Anyone who doesn’t like it, you know, Shore Family Motto. That’s what I think of CCM.

  • I like you Elizabeth. Ever the vigilant reader.

    And yes, cannot stand Christian Radio though I worked in our church's very active worship ministry for several years–two very different things.

    The church we're in up north here is almost like Christian Radio when it comes time to show God how we feel about HIm by making a big noise. So I don't work in this one. Sometimes it's decent but most of the time I feel like puking.

    When I die, I want good poetry and music that actually means something to me at my funeral.

    I hardly think there's anything more beautiful than Art Garfunkel singing Bridge Over Troubled Water.

    Just blared it on the stereo. 'Sides, Paul Simon is right up there with King David when it comes to poetry.

    I'm gonna go add that to my memorial file right now.

  • I so totally agree, Mary Linda.

  • Jeannie

    I have to admit that even though I don't listen to CCM 95% of the time anymore that I still enjoy Casting Crowns and Third Day.

    There is something about listening to those old songs and remembering an innocent, unquestioning yet passionate faith of my youth that is very comforting to me.

    Today's youth groups are listening to different groups then I did, but no doubt for the same reasons.

  • JohnB

    My sister posted a Keith Green song on her page yesterday afternoon, and it triggered some memories from 30 years ago. My mind went back to simpler times where the songs of the Imperials, 2nd Chapter of Acts, Phil Kegey (spelling?) and many others were what I listened to. In fact, I was pleased to learn I could sing right along with a Matthew Ward song that I hadn't heard in 20 years.

    When I'm stressed, some of these songs come to mind. At different times of the year, I find that some music just comes to me. At Christmas it's usually traditional/classical stuff, but it Easter it's Don Francisco for his account of the crucifixion and resurrection.

    No matter how much my personal beliefs have changed, there is no way that I could rid myself of the music from my youth. I wouldn't want to anyway.

    One of these songs made for an interesting story a year or so ago.


  • The Doctor in Voyager is not a robot, he is a hologram.

  • I'll echo deep condolences, wen. Awful, awful pain. My heart really weeps with you.

    I think what some of the other posts contend is that they've been deeply ministered to by music which is not categorized as "Christian."

    I think it's good you add to the balance here. When I worked in music ministry, most of the music we did ministered to me deeply.

    But a lot of what I hear on Christian radio just doesn't. Like John's question, sometimes I wonder why. That's all.

    I think God uses whatever He desires to use and he IS everywhere. I'm so glad for you He was comforting you during your deepest mourning through some powerful words and music.

    Peace and love

  • Beautiful post, Elizabeth. Nicely said, as usual.

    The four years I taught music in a pretty conservative and spirit-raging Christian school, we had this discussion often: "What is Christian music?" Pretty interesting….

    My teen and pre-teen worship team produced some glorious moments authentically crying out to God. I'm thankful.

    And like you, I like it best when God uses the unexpected. This discussion is really part of that whole God in a box mentality, don't you think?

    And I am so glad the Creator of the Universe doesn't stay that small.

  • christine

    The lyrics of Christian music are often too treacely. I want something real, something more than God-loves-you-and-if-you-just-remember-that-life-will-totally-rock….give me depth, give me life, give me reality


    How about the oldie but goodie, In the Garden? Change a word or two and it could be Juliet about Romeo. Plus, it's gnostic—joy we share. . .note other has ever known.


    oops, that's none other,not note other.

  • Ace

    "REM (1991) in “Losing My Religion,” "

    Uh… in the Southeast (USA), the term "Losing my religion" refers to losing one's temper, flying off the handle, becoming angry, swearing, etc.

    That song has *nil nothing nada* to do with religion. It's basically a song about a sour relationship and unrequited love. Sorry to rain on the parade, but as an R.E.M. fan and a girl from Georgia this bit of common misconception about that song is somewhat annoying to me.

    Not sure about that Nirvana lyric either. I always took that line as someone sardonic/sarcastic/dark humor rather than a profession of actual faith, in context with the rest of the song (read the lyric sheet). A lot of references to God and religion in song lyrics aren't as straight-forward as one might think, and many are metaphor. Kurt Cobain was agnostic at any rate, and "Lithium" was not written from a personal perspective, but rather grew out of his experiences living with an evangelical family in high school.

    It's a common mistake to assume poetry and song lyrics are always written from the poet/writer's own perspective but that's not always true, often they are written from the perspective of another person or an entirely fictive personality.

    I won't comment on Morrissette as I don't listen to her music.

    There are a lot of genuine religions/spiritual references in "secular" music but those particular examples aren't very good ones.

  • Ray Cruitt

    Black Sabbath is about as Christian as you can get, they are probably the only “Christian” band that I like. The stuff that goes by the name Christian music seems way too self-satisfied, like “Look at me, I’m saved! I love Jesus.” These sort of sentiments are out of place in the rock genre, which I believe is more about the messiness of being human. Black Sabbath sang about battles between good and evil, flesh and spirit, God and Satan, with the evil winning out many times over. Christian rock is just about being in a state of grace, ALREADY! There’s no battle, no drama to it. At least, and you can correct me if I’m wrong, that’s always what I’ve noticed.

  • Anna

    A friend of mine calls it “Jesus-is-my-boyfriend” music. This is what gives me the creeps about it. On the other hand, I loooove the song “You Got the Love” by Candi Staton and also now by Florence + the Machine. So maybe I do like it, as long as it’s clubby sounding. I dunno.

  • Mark Lattimore

    Though I do genuinely enjoy the music of a few CCM artists, much of CCM is, to me, like scraping fingernails across a chalkboard. I suppose the reason for my disdain for much of CCM is the same as my disdain for much of secular Adult Contemporary (or Pop or whatever label is in vogue) music — the songwriting is just really poor or unoriginal. It’s largely trite and formulaic so that once you’ve heard about 5 songs, you’ve heard them all (and I won’t begin to talk about the theological wasteland a lot of CCM is). Billy Joel talks about the first time he saw the Beatles on Ed Sullivan. On the heals of Hollywood created artists like Frankie Avalon the Beatles were a band with long hair (for that time, anyway) who wrote their own songs and played their own instruments and brought a raw originality to an industry that was becoming prepacakaged, one-size-fits-all. I know it’s a tired complaint, particularly by those of us who claim that the best music is 25 or more years old, but secular music has reverted to the days of the executive and accountant-created musicians — and CCM has followed suit.

  • monte

    that is totally cotton candy in my book, the opposite of anything insightful or meaningful

  • monte

    I have been there. Christian music ministered deeply to me when as a teenager I was struggling to understand why God was not saving from my homosexuality. I did find that some of the most important music was not radio play though; instead some older church songs and one particular home-made cassette tape of a very accomplished woman who has never had any commercial success, just a great musician and singer with some self-written tunes that got into my soul.

    I still find some deep solace in some of the old hymns and spirituals. I can't stand the ccm corny crap though. It's too upwardly mobile in a way that looks to the bright, clean and shiny and (mostly) ignores the gritty and crappy in life except to thank Jesus that they're saved from it. That stuff is meaningless to me. I guess I just a poor boy at heart and the struggle means too much to me to laugh it off with some blow dried, starch seamed, fashionably-touseled-hair pop music.

    I don't listen to Christian music all of the time. I go to it when I need it. And when I go to it I'm looking for the real deal.

  • monte

    I couldn't agree more. One problem for popular music of any kind is the need to satisfy marketing demands. That's a huge problem for message-driven music like Christian music. Not to say that none of it is any good, but too much of it sounds like country or rock or pop with a few of the words changed. That doesn't necessarily make for a bad pop song, but when I go to christian music I'm looking for something a lot more substantial. I'm looking for something that I can't get from country, pop, rock songs that are on the radio. It doesn't make sense that I would be satisfied with a christian imitation of a pop song,

    When I was 15 contemporary christian worked for me. Now, almost 30 years on, a lot of life has passed through my soul. My needs and questions are a lot more complex than they were then. When I go to christian music now, it is usually to some of those old hymns, Louvin Brothers tracks, other older southern gospel standards, etc.

  • sean

    lol sorry but its shorty not charlotte 🙂 You are correct when you said you gotta look for it cuz there is some great "christian" music but…….it is not the "contemporary kind" Your cloistered comment is so on point and it brought a huge smile to my face thanx

  • sean

    Lend your ear to Project 86 or read the lyrics to Flyleafs songs both of which will counter your theories

  • sean

    I must agree for the most part the program directors should be let go when it comes to most CCM stations. How are we to attract new sheep into the fold when they hear the majority of the "Crap" being passed off as "Christian" music ?

  • Deb

    Christine, look-up Nichole Nordemann…seriously…depth, life, reality…no joke…she's amazing…

  • denver

    Because it's cheesy – sunshine and lollipops cheesy. They always said they *weren't* a Christian rock band, but I always liked Creed and considered them the best "Christian" music, because you know why? Their music was "real" and not diabetes-inducing, catch-phrase abusing, over-processed crud. It's like there is a formula that they all follow: you must sound happy, must never talk about anything being hard (except for the idea that you're persecuted for being Christian in a Christian-majority country, which seems to be a major theme), you must somewhere use the phrase "praise His name" or the word "savior" in every song (just like 98% of songs on Spanish-language radio must use the words "mi corazon" (my heart)… what is with that?), etc. For me, it doesn't help that lite rock generally makes me want to toss my cookies, either, and most CCM is of the lite rock variety.

    This is why CCM was so easily (and hilariously) lambasted on a South Park episode. You say the word Jesus, and you're guaranteed to sell records! …was pretty much the joke. It doesn't matter if it's good, as long as it's Christian, the Christians will buy it! 😉

  • Kupcheck

    your decision to use Creed as an example just discredited the rest of your email.

  • Kupcheck

    it might be crap to you. If a program director can't get listeners to listen to his station, then he gets fired. Your broad listening audience is what determines your format.

  • Ok I'm sorry, usually I just lurk but after reading some of the comments I just had to chime in. I kind of understand where you guys are coming from with the whole "don't like CCM music" – some of it annoys me too and I have to turn it off – but I keep seeing people asking for real, honest music that talks about the struggles of living as a Christian or finding God and I thought I'd toss out a few recommendations (feel free to ignore me if you want)


    Thousand Foot Krutch




    Decyfer Down


    Group 1 Crew




    Sure they have a harder sound but if you want realism and honesty about struggles and sin there you go…it's precisely why I listen to them because they are not "oh we are saved now so the world is perfect and we are happy." And that's my two cents,



  • Kupcheck

    Nicely worded!

  • Kara

    I don't know all of these bands, but as another person who would rather stick sharp things in their ears than listen to CCM? I totally second the recommendations of Skillet, Flyleaf, Fireflight, and RED, and would add Soul Embraced and Underoath.

  • peet

    Bruckner, Bach, Mozart, Haydn, and Handel all wrote Christian music. Check THEM out if you want a deeper faith. The reason I hate CCM is because it's vapid, sophomoric, simplistic, commercialized, badly-written, superficial, and imitative. It is the sound of people trying to serve God AND mammon.

  • alison

    My pet peeve regarding CCM is someone who writes a "bridge" to sing between verses 3 and 4 trying to contemporarize a perfectly good 18th century hymn. Bad, bad stuff.

  • Loved the post- most "Christian" music makes me retch as well. It's like it's mediocre on purpose, designed for an audience who doesn't want to be "tainted" by real music.

    I do like some artists, like Switchfoot. But I'd usually rather listen to Toad the Wet Sprocket or Audioslave.

    Lately I've been listening to some of the CCM artists from the 70's and 80's, like Sweet Comfort, Daniel Amos, and especially Paul Clark, whose music really excelled. I don't even listen to the words…

    But 98% of the stuff they play on "Christian" radio isn't worth my time.

  • Jeannie

    Robert, you were lucky! I knew families where the kids weren’t allowed to have a radio in their car and they referred to I Love Lucy as I Live Loosely. Yes, they have all discovered music exists outside the Christian ghetto now. ; )

  • Tim

    Didn't have time to read more than the first couple responses…but let me get a word or two in. For close to 20 years, I was an integral part of a "contemporary" Christian worship team that led the believers in worship services at a large church in San Diego's North County. I am a musician and that talent came to me without lessons or formal teaching. Blest with a good ear and relative pitch, I used those gifts to help lead people in what I thought was a meaningful expression of heartfelt sentiment put to song.

    Does anyone believe that the type of music the Psalmist David churned out was any less similar to the popular styles, chord progressions, and "vibe" that the Jews heard day in and day out throughout Zion? Solomon said that there is nothing new under the sun.

    From time to time, some of us think we have created something holy…set apart and particularly special that has never before been done in quite the same way as WE have done it. Then comes the AH SHIT moment, when we hear, read, or see a thing that is so close to what we thought was originally OURS. At first we think, "That son-of-a-bitch stole my work!". Until we do a little research and find out the thing was created years, maybe decades previous to our carnation of the thing.

    Don't get me wrong, I find few worship choruses original, let alone inspirational. But that isn't what I expect from worship. What I hope for, is a personal touch from an extraordinary God, in the most ordinary of circumstances. We do most everything in vain. Solomon so wisely cited that ALL is vanity. The remarkable thing about worship, is that we purpose to offer our best, as lame and crappy as that usually is, and somehow, God in His infinite love and grace makes it special anyway.

    Attitude…spirit is the key to worship. Not excellence, not mastery and certainly not originality. Who the eff do we think we are, anyway? God?! : )

  • Ben

    I saw a few metallica shows in the 90s, and you're right, thd "DIE! DIE!" thing was pretty freaking awesome.

  • Tim

    Yea Alden. Jon Foreman and Switchfoot — all PKs who made the genre proud. A dang decent poet who has great musical chops and even better intuition about his bandmates and craft that isn't so "on the nose" that I find it embarrassing. I watched these kids grow up in a church that shot their wounded and gossiped about the ones they couldn't kill off. Good on them for recognizing that God is bigger than the shabby little pictures we paint. They seek to paint different pictures and find a new way. That is revival. That is inspirational. That is the exception, sorry to say.

  • Ben

    I think for me it boils down to purpose. If I want to worship, then worship music fits the bill (pick your own flavor). If I want to be enlightened or encouraged, then usually I'll be reading instead of listening to music. If I want to listen to great tunes I'll be listening to the best the world has to offer – which rarely (but sometimes) includes christian acts.

    I would also like to strongly recommend "Good God! A Gospel Funk Hymnal" which is a remarkable collection of 60's and 70's gospel funk.

  • A'isha

    "I find few worship choruses original, let alone inspirational. But that isn’t what I expect from worship. What I hope for, is a personal touch from an extraordinary God, in the most ordinary of circumstances."

    Tim-This struck a chord (hahaha) in me. I've been having a difficult time worshiping at my church, and now I think that it's because my focus has been on the people there and not the extraordinary God who works in us. We have a decent worship team in my small town church. Some of the people are very talented, but the one leader who I really like isn't particularly that good of a singer. The thing with him is that I think he really does expect God to work in the people in the congregation. I said earlier I'm not particularly fond of praise and worship music, but I do think that God can use it to bring us into a place where our focus is on Him. Isn't that what we want as Christians…our focus to be on God? Doesn't mean I want to listen to it 24/7 though. 🙂

  • I love buttered lima beans.

  • I think this may be the first thing on this thread I can understand or that lets me understand why the music exists. I like sacred music and sing (too loud) in church. But CCM stuff doesn't usually sound sacred to me. But if I am part of a cult or culture that rejects the general culture, I may need it.

  • What you’re really outling here, Ace, is the difference between bringing a Reader Response approach to the experience of literature (which cultural poetry certainly is) and a Historical or New Historicism approach which examines, as does hermeneutics, the context wherein a piece of art is produced.

    This is a whole already entirely established debate about whether the author’s intention must be considered by the audience of the piece of art.

    Personally, I think it might enhance knowledge, but isn’t necessary for the initial powerful experience of interacting with particular literature since as human beings, we naturally and necessarily bring our own filter anyway.

    As a teacher, however, there are times when I point out, hey, no, there is no way “the let us” in this line has anything to do with a salad. Stuff like that.

  • ken

    Spot on!!!!

  • ManimalX

    Though I don't personally mind most CCM, I am neither haughty nor foolish enough to think that my subjective taste in music is the universal, objective standard that defines what "good" music is. Some folks don't like CCM, but that hardly means it is bad or worthless music. Millions upon millions of people worldwide are spiritually, emotionally, mentally and even physically edified on a daily basis by CCM music (physically because there are a lot of people who work out to Christian music). I have a hard time dismissing anything that is causing millions of people to worship God throughout their day…

    Also, music albums don't just magically disappear from store shelves and concert venues don't fill themselves with fictional fans. People buy music they want to hear and listen to radio stations that play the music they want to hear. CCM might not be your cup o' noodles, but millions of paying fans disagree with you.

    On that same "note" (heh heh), I will never understand why some folks have such a problem with the business side of music. Christian musicians want to make money from their work? Say it ain't so! *eye roll*. Record companies don't want to lose money on their investments and do their best to make profits? Blasphemy! *eye roll*.

  • ManimalX

    @ Sylvie:

    You wrote, "If we are completely honest, we know that life as a Christ follower is little about singing praise and worship song, but more about the every day living a life with ordinary circumstances, pains, losses and successes. Where are the messages of frustration, of honest struggles with challenges of life that we all face, of the faith or not? Where are the lyrics of feeling on the outside looking in, of being different, of trying, and often failing to balance life between the sacred and the secular? Where are the songs that talk about how the bottom has fallen out of one’s life and wondering where God is in all this? If some of the Psalmists did these things way back when, why are not lyric writers of faith doing so these days?"

    With all due respect, a quick survey of CCM proves your statements false. I'm not sure where you are hearing all "happy clappy" all of the time, but all of the stations I have ever heard play lots of songs that deal with "real" issues.

    Consider some of the songs that are frequently on CCM airwaves:

    Amy Grant's "Better Than a Hallelujah" is about all sorts of "real life" moments:

    God loves a lullaby

    In a mothers tears in the dead of night

    Better than a Hallelujah sometimes.

    God loves a drunkards cry,

    The soldiers plea not to let him die

    Better than a Hallelujah sometimes.

    We pour out our miseries

    God just hears a melody

    Beautiful the mess we are

    The honest cries of breaking hearts

    Are better than a Hallelujah

    The woman holding on for life,

    The dying man giving up the fight

    Are better than a Hallelujah sometimes

    The tears of shame for what's been done,

    The silence when the words won't come

    Are better than a Hallelujah sometimes."

    Steven Curtis Chapman's "Heaven is the Face" is a song he wrote while trying to deal with his little girl's death… in fact, the whole album "Beauty Will Rise" is a gorgeous, heart wrenching album full of both sorrow and hope:

    "Heaven is the face of a little girl

    With dark brown eyes

    That disappear when she smiles.

    Heaven is the place

    Where she calls my name

    Says, “Daddy please come play with me for awhile.”

    Heaven is the sound of her breathing deep,

    Lying on my chest, falling fast asleep while I sing.

    And Heaven is the weight of her in my arms,

    Being there to keep her safe from harm while she dreams

    Heaven is a sweet, maple syrup kiss

    And a thousand other little things I miss with her gone.

    Heaven is the place where she takes my hand

    And leads me to You,

    And we both run into Your arms.

    Oh God, I know, it’s so much more than I can dream.

    It’s far beyond anything I can conceive.

    So God, You know, I’m trusting You until I see

    Heaven in the face of my little girl,

    Heaven in the face of my little girl.

    But in my mind’s eye I can see a place

    Where Your glory fills every empty space.

    All the cancer is gone,

    Every mouth is fed,

    And there’s no one left in the orphans’ bed.

    Every lonely heart finds their one true love,

    And there’s no more goodbye,

    And no more not enough,

    And there’s no more enemy."

    Natalie Grant's "Held" is about being bitter and angry and disappointed with God:

    "Two months is too little, they let him go

    They had no sudden healing

    To think that providence

    Would take a child from his mother

    While she prays, is appalling"

    Mark Schulz's "He's My Son" is a desparate cry to God from a parent watching their child die from cancer.

    Superchick's "We Live" is about trying to find forgiveness and hope while facing tragedies such as a parent losing a child, battling terminal illness, fighting depression.

    Barlow Girl's "Alone" is about losing faith and doubting God's presence.

    I could go on and on and on. Yeah, there is a lot of happy, positive stuff in CCM. I mean, why in the hell wouldn't there be?! We as Christians have every reason to be joyful and hopeful, and there is nothing wrong with wanting to hear music that reflects that. But it is just wrong to claim CCM is void of "real life" or struggle of any kind.

    @ Tim:

    You wrote, "Attitude…spirit is the key to worship. Not excellence, not mastery and certainly not originality. Who the eff do we think we are, anyway? God?! : )"

    Well stated!

  • kupcheck

    I think saying that it's NOT artistic expression is a reach, don't you? It's like me walking into a museum and saying that So-n-so's paintings of flowers suck because they're just a mimicry of this other guy's paintings of flowers. I SOOOO know nothing about paintings.

    I think it's also a stretch to say that it doesn't contain any true emotion….. That maybe so for you, but it's seems kinda arrogant to assume that's the case for the artist/writer.

  • kupcheck

    "satisfying market demands" doesn't hold any water, I'm sorry. Pop music will always sound like pop music…..mainstream or otherwise. Country will always have a certain "sound". If you're looking for something deeper…..Secular or Christian…. radio should be the LAST place you go to. ALL radio is "mainstreamed" and "commercialized"

  • The Christian radio stations here, tend to not update their playlists all that often. We have one alternative station that has the edgier type of music, and some is really good, but again, the playlist is limited and often is not updated near often enough, although they do much better then the other two stations in my listening area…of course not counting the stuff on the AM dial.

    My church uses the more contemporary style of worship music, and I actually like it. To me the setting is appropriate. I just don't want to hear it all week long. They on occasion have also performed music by Rhianna, Daltry and Martina McBride, which has often been used to set the tone for the sermon.

    I am also like Mary, my music tastes are quite varied. I have one of those little Pandora radio station that runs the gamut from Ella Fitzgerald to Duffy, from Areosmith to Brad Paisley, from Ravel to Beonce', sprinkled in with a little Relient K, Casting Crowns, and some others. Then Lady Gaga and Evanessence shows up on my play list.

  • I too have found where some songs in the Christian genre have helped me through some really tough times. They serve a great purpose. I also cannot sing How Great Thou Art without weeping, which is of course a classic hymn. There are some wonderfully poignant pieces of music in the Christian realm. And I don't think we are dismissing them out of hand, at least for me. What I have issues with is the trend to, as someone said it, play it safe with emotional topics.

    Personally I can't listen to a lot of Southern Gospel without wanting to rip my eardrums out. I find it lacking originality musically, and the singers sound like they are trying to sing over each other, which often makes the vocals sound harsh and forced.

    But that's the cool thing about music. There is enough variety to satisfy about anyone.

  • I have never heard the first two songs. And I never said it was all Christian songs that didn't deal with life in its hard places. The others I have heard and very much like. They stand out to me because of their honest emotional tone. They are songs that are also very well done musically with great chording and arrangements, which is what catches my attention first anyway. Songs like the ones you mention are important because they DO stand out from the crowd of the rest, that is why they are memorable.

  • Ace

    Country will always have a certain “sound”.

    Oh I wish.

    Country music up through the 60's does not in any way resemble country music from the 90's through today. It's turned into a mushy commercialized pop mess, with the exception of a few acts. Taylor Swift is a talented pop singer. She's not a country singer.

  • Ace

    Well, everyone's entitled to an opinion, but the phrase "losing my religion" still does not mean what most non-Southerners think it means.

  • Ace

    (Substitute the phrase "losing my cool" if you want something less regionally-specific)

  • No, there are a few stations out there playing Americana music; in Nashville, WRLT is my station of choice. Americana artists (living in Nashville, I know a few) aren't trying to become huge stars: They're people who have a gift of story-telling in song form who create honest, true music. Sometimes they'll have songs covered by famous country or pop stars but they, themselves don't have stars in their eyes.

    And college stations are always a wonderful source of diverse programming (I listen to WRVU, Vanderbilt's station. This morning is my favorite show, "Swing Shift". You can find it streaming on-line.)

    I don't have subscription radio (I'm tempted but too cheap to pay for it) but have listened a few times and I gotta say that there are some fabulous shows: Little Steven's Underground Garage, Outlaw Country, stuff like that. Great fun!

    Mary Linda

  • You're right. I shouldn't say it all sucks because some of it may be good. I'm just not patient enough to wade through the piles of crap to find something of value. I prefer to stick with secular music, finding Truth in sometimes unlikely places.

    Mary Linda

  • Has there ever been a better name than Archibald MacLeish? I think not. I wish that were my name. I wish I had named all of my kids Archibald MacLeish so I could say it every day, many times a day. Thanks for reminding me of Archibald MacLeish.

    Mary "Archibald MacLeish" Linda

  • If having taste, not liking music that panders to the lowest common denominator, is snobbish, call me Thurston Howell III.

    Mary "Archibald MacLeish/Thurston Howell III" Linda

  • "Carry On" is by the band, Kansas the bass and guitar players of which went on to become born-again Christians with the remainder of his career in the genre we're discussing: Dave Hope and Kerry Livgren.

  • funny!

  • That sounds great! Thanks for title-

    Mary Linda

  • Ken

    Without taking the time to read all of the responses: For me I will tune away from CCM and listen to country for the same reasons you mentioned (me being a christian as well). My observation is this; when listening to the proclamations made in a country song about the things the person in the song says they are going to do (go to the bar, get drunk, get in a fight, hang out with his friends down by the river fishing for bass, etc) verses the proclamations made by the person in the christian song (I will lay my life down for you Lord, you are everything I need and I will always serve you, seek you …. blah, blah, blah) I'm more inclined to place my bets on the country singer following through on their statements of intent. Seriously. Listening to country seems more credible based upon professed intentions. That's just me.

  • Tim

    A'isha, if you happen to be a parent, nothing melts your heart more than the crackly out of tune voice of your child singing his or her heart out. Caterwauling for Christ is probably one of the greatest things we can offer God…especially when He knows that we don't particularly do it for how it makes US feel. I can identify with the challenges you face in worshipping as part of a church, but sometime just make up some simple tune while you're driving to work about how much God/Jesus means to you.

    I know John and Cat don't have or want children. I respect their choice. But as much heartache, insolence, mental anguish, and financial debt I may incur on my kid's behalf, I know that I have a greater understanding of God's heart toward me because of my decision to have a son and daughter. Of course that doesn't make me want to go out and buy CCM on CD.

  • Jeannie

    I am familiar with almost all of those and they are very good.

  • Elizabeth

    "I am so glad the Creator of the Universe doesn’t stay that small." Love it, Beth.

  • Suze

    What drives me crazy is the endless, mind-numbing repitions of one or two lines. I am not inspired by the sound of something repeating again and again while the drums & guitars get louder and louder – Christian or secular, it's boring and totally lacking in creativity and appeal! I like music that tells a story, and "I could sing of your love forever" is not a story, it's me telling you how great I am because look what I am doing for you; or, in some songs, how great you are because of what you have done for me. God is great whether he's done anything for me or not – He's great just because He Is. I don't need instruments that drown out the words to make Him greater or to make the "music" seem more meaningful. Real words of truth and beauty – that's what stirs me about God's world – and music that draws me to Him, or comforts me by reminding me of his faithfulness. A screaming guitar riff or pounding drums do not draw me closer to God – they seem more designed to pound the listener into a mystic state where he/she will be all about feeling, nothing about thinking about what they are saying/singing/hearing.

  • Jeannie

    I used to listen to Mark Schultz's song all the time when both my children were in Pediatric ICU for weeks. Made me cry a lot but gave me a little stength. Mark has done some fantastic other stuff too.

  • I listen to 85 percent instrumental music. Instrumental music allows me to worship with my own words, not someone elses.

    Christian music should not be confused with worship music. Worship music does not necessarily need lyrics. I am not sure what the purpose of CCM is. It does not appeal to me, and most of the time I feel like someone elses feelings and expressions are being rammed down my throat, and unless the musical arrangements are amazing, I feel like the lyrics ruin it many times.

  • Elizabeth

    @Ace: Re: R.E.M. (1991), "Losing My Religion."

    Uh… This is not my first time on a ride in your amusement park. A couple of weeks ago, you corrected a small slip of the tongue of mine and used it to try to dismantle my entire comment. Twice. I'll repeat what I said the second time: do you think I am so dumb as to let you catch me in that kind of mistake again? All of the facts in my music comment were triple-checked and clearly marked. All that bit with the exact dates and quotes? That was all for you, babe. So let's get this started.

    Most importantly, to me anyway, I never ascribed any Christan motive to any of the artists I mentioned. Several of them, Nirvana and Tori Amos for two, are famously on the record as being anti-Christian.

    My argument was that real art transcends the original frame of reference of the artist, whether he was talking from his own experience or inventing a character. I spoke only about my experience as a listener. Great art has the balls for this. Anyone can *get* David or the Mona Lisa without knowing what the artist had for breakfast the morning he finished it. It is exactly that emphasis on provenance instead of content which makes me squeamish about CCM. If true inspiration is at work, why do I need to know the artists's stats? Is God checking IDs before He shows up? This is a simplified take on what Beth Luwandi said so eloquently with her educator's hat on. (That Beth Luwandi: what a doll.)

    But you didn't really dwell on the meat of my comment as much as nitpick at details you didn't like. Your main problem was with what I said about R.E.M. I can see how you thought this was your best shot, being a Georgia girl and all. Unfortunately for you, R.E.M. is the one of which I have personal knowledge.

    I was not always so lucky to live in the center of the universe we call New York City. From 1985 to 1993, I lived full-time in Jacksonville, Florida. (Sporadically thereafter.) The city limits reach the Georgia border. I know about the Southeast. I was south-er and east-er than you.

  • Elizabeth

    @Ace: Re: R.E.M. part 2.

    While in Jacksonville, I attended a performing arts highschool. Do you know what outgoing female teen-agers do while bored in a backwater like Jacksonville was then? (Jax has actually grown up quite nicely since. Holla!) Especially once they get drivers' licenses? They track down nearby hot bands. Athens was only 362 miles away, easy road-trip distance, and no one was hotter than R.E.M.

    I'm not really a groupie type myself; I'm more a National Merit Scholar who stayed sober enough to drive everyone home type. Do you know who the groupies always invited first to the R.E.M. parties? The National Merit Scholar who usually stays sober enough to drive everyone home.

    So, while I have heard of the Southern term "losing my religion," I can say that this "mistake" bothered R.E.M. not one bit. I talked with them about it. Maybe they were just being polite; some of my friends were/are pretty hot. Or maybe, if it had been a genuine concern, they would not have encouraged the "mistake" by building on the religious theme with the later line "choosing my confession." (But let's not let anything as trivial as what the band actually wrote stand in the way of your complaint.)

    In short, while your knowledge of Southern colloquialisms is spot on, your knowledge of this song is nil/nada. I don't have subpoenas proving it, of course. But I graduated in 1991, when the song came out. I lived 6 hours away from their hometown. I had the boundless energy and spare cash that only a high school senior has. I think for believability, it beats the crap out of your, "I'm from Georgia and I like R.E.M., so you suck" argument.

    And while I love the variety of perspectives here at Chez Shore, if you want to do right by a maligned demographic, perhaps you can illuminate us with a factoid not so commonplace that it is literally in the first paragraph of the Wikipedia entry for the song. Come on. Do a little research. I do it for you.

    Have we finished your "who's cooler" game yet, Ace? Are you ready to talk music now?

  • There's a very important balance involved in living Christ-like. We are to be in the world, but not of the world.

    I'm a fairly big consumer of art (in visual, audio, and literary forms), at least for the size of my income. It's a huge part of my life. I explore art both to learn more about this world I'm in and the God who created it, and to remind me of what I've already learned because God knows I have a tendency to forget.

    When it comes to music, I need songs that speak to the struggles and hardships of this life, so I don't forget that I'm in the world. And I need songs that speak to the eternal hope and promise of God, so I don't forget that I'm not of the world. I can get the first from secular music, in great quantities. The second is a little harder to find outside of labeled Christian music. The best bands find a balance point between these two.

    If I spend too much time filling my mind and spirit with the truth about the struggles and hardships of this life, I can become cynical, jaded, even depressed, and become useless to God. If I spend too much time filling my mind and spirit with the truth about God's eternal hope and promise for us, I lose touch with the current reality I'm living in and become useless to my fellow man whom God has commanded me to love.

    The Bible itself is full of this tension. The lives of the Apostles were full of it. The life of Christ himself was full of it. So I think it's well-grounded to assume that I need it too.

    There's a lot to be said about this topic, but the point I want to make is this: we can't afford to go to either extreme. Dismissing all music labeled "Christian" as worthless is (at least) as dangerous as dismissing all music not so labeled.

    (I can give specific examples if anybody wants, but I wanted to avoid naming specific bands and songs for the sake of people who may simply dislike them for unrelated reasons.)

  • Kristen

    Like many others have pointed out, contemporary Christian music is a bit like aspartame, it's trying to be similar to something else you want (or something its makers think you want), but substitutions generally fall short. I had a junior high youth group leader who'd go around asking kids what music they liked so he could try to find a suitable Christian substitute: "Oh, you like Snoop? Great, try DC Talk!" Wha?! You should have seen him struggle when I told him I liked Jimi Hendrix, Deep Purple, and Led Zeppelin. What was he supposed to do? Go back in time and start the contemporary Christian music movement earlier so that he could come back and provide a cheesy sounding alternative to the music I loved? Eventually he said something like, "hey, between you and me, Hendrix is amazing, keep listening." 😉 It probably did a lot more for me to know that my youth group leader was a real person than buying a Newsboys album would have.

    The youth group music struggle came up again in high school. New leader, less cool than the first, made some girls on a houseboat retreat turn off their Lauryn Hill. He said, "this is a time for Godly reflection, not secular music." Or something like that. The album was "The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill." Heaven forbid teenage girls in relationships with horny boys who don't treat them very well should listen to lyrics like, "my heart is gold, I took back my soul and totally let my creator control the life which was his to begin with." From that moment on, I felt like we were getting miseducated by clueless people who thought music had to sound bad in order to be good for us.

    I couldn't name any Christian music I liked until I fell in love with gospel and bluegrass. And it was actually mainstream hip hop, through sampling, that turned me on to gospel. I went looking for the original songs and realized there was a whole world of Christian music that stood on its own two feet, instead of trying to sound like some other crap. Bluegrass was probably the most eye opening b/c it brought me to the old timey revival music that I'd been born too late to experience. Give me "Softly and Tenderly" over "I Could Sing of Your Love Forever" any day! What I like about these two genres is that they're musical genres in their own right, the subject is faith in Christ, but the music is something good even without words. The problem with contemporary Christian music is that the word "contemporary" doesn't mean anything, except that it's supposed to be of the time and place that it's in. I hate it when people tell me their decorating style is "contemporary," b/c it basically just means that they like what most other people like right now. With contemporary Christian music it just ends up meaning that it sounds like most of the other music I'm trying to avoid — saccharin pop, smooth jazz, the new Dave Matthews Band. I suspect a few people who actually listen to contemporary Christian music (which I rarely do) feel the same way. But they think they *should* like contemporary Christian music, so they listen.

    My advice to Christian musicians, make music in the genre you like, the message will come. And write about life once in a while. The Lauryn Hill song that got banned on the houseboat trip was great b/c it was about loving the wrong boy and turning to the creator for help. Writing about worship is great, but the prayers of my life don't sound like, "My God is mighty to save." Mighty to save? Who even says the word "mighty"? I can't love a song I can't relate to. When I first heard the song "Revival," featured in a snowboarding movie called "That's It, That's All" and listened to the words, "why am I so blind with my eyes wide open, trying to get my hands clean in dirty water," while watching some guy ride high above God's creation, well, that was a lot more like my life.

  • Kristen

    Oh, and I realize the lyrics in "Softy and Tenderly" like "see, on the portals" and "why should we tarry" aren't exactly representative of how I might pray to God in my daily life (in case someone wants to call me on criticizing contemporary Christian music for not sounding like real life and yet loving the old timey stuff), but to me the old timey music is different b/c it taps into something more ancient, something that most contemporary Christian music just doesn't. And when "Softy and Tenderly" was written, the words were simple and unpretentious. Now they sound quaint, but still warm. Lyrics like "shine, Jesus, shine, fill your land with the father's glory" just sound foreign and overwrought.

  • Wen,

    I'm such a goon and in my hasty reading missed your powerful story. Thank you for sharing it and for relating the importance of CCM in seeing you through.

  • ManimalX

    @ Kristen you might want to change your examples of phrases that "sound ancient" 😉 One little thing to keep in mind is that a ton of CCM songs are inspired by specific Scriptures! That being said, I appreciate your thoughtful post. Just be careful not to start using your own relative, personal musical tastes as an objective, universal standard that defines what "good" music.

    I really, really love hymns, but "Softly and Tenderly" is probably one of my LEAST favorites. It reminds me of my great grandma's house, which smelled of old people and baby powder… 😉

    So who exactly who uses the term "Mighty to save?"

    – Who is this coming from Edom, from Bozrah, with his garments stained crimson? Who is this, robed in splendor, striding forward in the greatness of his strength? "It is I, speaking in righteousness, mighty to save." – Isaiah 63:1

    – The LORD your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing. – Zephaniah 3:17

    And the whole "spreading the Father's glory" thing? Well, that is kind of Jesus's THING, no? (re: Matthew 16:27, Mark 8:38)

    Just sayin'!

  • Mud Pie

    I gave up on store bought Christian music years ago. Something unnatural about it. All my Christian music comes from Christian underground artists. They play Christian night spots around the USA and don't get air play. I don't bother with Christian radio. For every good song you have to hear 3 or 4 bad ones. I think Leeland was the last mainstream Christian band I heard at church that I liked and I'm not sure how much all their songs get played. I have a hard time keeping my Underground Christian music. Seems people "forget" to return it or "misplace" it. Once loaned out it never comes back. You have to go to large cities for these genres like Dallas, Atlanta and usually to Christian movements that aren't part of mainstream church but more street oriented.

  • Stephen Smith

    Why the “looking for something” in the first place? Where does this “need” to have a Christian musical expression come from? More specifically, where has the need for public displays of personal worship (isn’t ALL true worship essentially, authentically PRIVATE?)come from? I find the whole smooth scenario of studio-perfected, culturally acceptable WORSHIP MUSIC, (oh, excuse me…CONTEMPORARY CHRISTIAN MUSIC) as creepy!! It violates something in me that longs for the unseen, unpublished faith of authentic people. And most of the “authentic” people I know live a far too complicated existence to find such SMOOTH expressions of worship anything other simplistic, emotional nonsense. JUST AN OPINION.

  • Debbie

    I’ve tried to listen to CCM, but I could not get into it. My impression is that the songs are too “orchestrated” and the content not coming from the experiences of real life. Why do I love “Amazing Grace?” Why do I love “Christmas Shoes?” Because it comes from within, the real experiences of the writers.

    When I say, “orchestrated” I mean “fabricated” I mean that the songs are trying to be something specific. The writers are trying too hard to win people over to God… but a lot of times I get turned off because it seems fake.

    When people decide to convert to any religion, they are won over by the people, by the community (my opinion). The real life stories of the parish community relayed to them when they are inquiring about a particular faith. I think this is what I want in the Christian songs I hear. I want to hear about how God has touched a real person, in real life. I want to be touched by the soul of that singer. I want Christian songs to stir my soul~!

  • “I don’t bother with Christian radio. For every good song you have to hear 3 or 4 bad ones.”

    You do realize you could remove the word “Christian” from the above sentence and still have that be true. The sad truth is, for many of us, 90% of all music, regardless of genre, isn’t our thing. And in my opinion, 90% of the songs out there, again regardless of genre, are simply uninspired and uninspiring.

  • Tricia

    It’s been a long time since I’ve spent time listening to a christian radio station, and I think the reason is that most of the music was trying to offer a very simplified solution to all of life’s major problems. The overall message I perceived was that whatever was going wrong in my life, if I would just turn it over to God my life would magically be perfect and joyous. I’ve never known God to work that way in anyone’s real life. Everyone I know has had to work their way through major challenges, more often than not hating God for a time, in order to learn a major life lesson and feel closer to God in the end. I prefer songs like Garth Brooks “Unanswered Prayers” because it better matches my understanding of how God challenges and teaches us.

  • I haven’t even read it yet, and I concur 🙂

  • I’m a fan of Rich Mullins, actually. And Andrew Peterson and Mitch McVicker.

    I think that they have quite a bit of depth if you really listen, and there’s some serious thought called for in some of it.

    None of the three is (well, WAS in the case of Rich Mullins) afraid to point at themselves or their fans and say, “This is what’s wrong.”

    The AP song “Come Lord Jesus” is one of the few songs that takes a stab at Christian excesses (unless you count “Stupid” by The W’s, but you could be forgiven for not counting that … though The W’s are/were the best Christian band for swing dancing). “I’ve carried my cross to the dens of the wicked/You know, I blended in just fine.”

    That’s actually quite a lot of impact right there.

    And while Mitch McVicker’s songs might seem silly in some cases, I’m a fan of a lot of what he does. Even “The Lemonade Song,” which sounds frivolous, is powerfully deep if you compare Jim (who’s never set foot in a church but loves God) and “the saints” (who come out of the church and start beating up on Jim).

    There is a lot that I can’t stand, though, and some of the criticisms make sense to me. When it’s all said and done, I think it’s a taste question.

    There’s a lot of music for which I don’t particularly care, and some of it is fluffy-Christian-lite stuff. Other stuff is really good.

  • Susan Edwards Love via Facebook

    I’m with you on CCM, but I love lima beans. So there you go. That said, I dislike CCM for the same reason I dislike any product or idea that’s trying to market itself to a target audience in a very calculating manner. Hey, maybe people will like Christians more if we have groovy music! Yes! That’s the ticket! Or, on the other hand, we don’t want our young people listening to that awful, sin-inducing rock ‘n’ roll (or rap or you fill in the genre), so let’s put out Christian songs and PRETEND they’re that awful sin-inducing fill-in-the-blank genre. Keep them safe and insulated from the rest of the world. It’s insincere and inferior to what it’s trying to imitate. Plus usually the lyrics make me gag.

  • Patricia L. Money via Facebook

    John, you took all the thoughts I’ve ever had about Contemporary Christian music out of my head and used then. It’s just trying to hard to be uplifting and virtuous, while trying to be hip and happening, and falling short in the process I’ll take Norman Greenbaum doing Spirit in the Sky any day.

  • Mary Withers

    Most “contemporary” Christian music is shallow and manipulative.

    As a person who has been in church choirs ever since she was first capable of walking down an aisle holding a hymnal while singing, there is MUCH Christian music I adore. Think Bach, Byrd, Vivaldi, Palestrina, Schubert, Mozart, etc. … and even some of those goopy Victorians all gay choir leaders seem to love. ;->

    That music seems sincere and celebratory. They are not “selling” anything.

    Christian music, like nearly EVERYTHING Christian these days, is just an Ad — directive, ostentatious, annoying, “We have something you need even if you don’t know you need it”. And the oft-satirized (see South Park) “romantic” tone of much of it is just … sick-making.

  • Jeremy Burgess via Facebook

    oh boy… we’re doing this again. 🙂

  • Lyn

    You know that saying, “90% of everything is crap”? Something I’ve observed in contemporary Christian culture (in the US at least) is that we don’t throw that stuff out as long as it has the label “Christian” on it. I worked in a Christian store for a while and, dear Lord, the absolute junk that was made, marketed, and sold in Jesus’ name is appalling!

    Part of it is simply the limitations of supply and demand. There’s lots of demand out there for Christian stuff and lower supply, especially when you get to something as specific as a narrow style of music with Christian lyrics. So, the quality of the supply may be lower than for other stuff with a lower demand and larger supply. So while contemporary secular stations can run the absolute cream of the millions of songs recorded in whatever broad genre they’re playing, Christian stations may have to dig down, past that 10% on top and to the not-too-awful-bad stuff down there in the 90%.

    Then again, I think there’s also the Top 40 radio phenomenon going on– they’re playing the same small playlist over and over and over and over again and again. No matter how good those 40 songs are, your ears get jaded after a while and yearn for something else.

    And I say this as someone who likes more than a few contemporary Christian songs.

  • Mary Withers

    So very very sorry about your little girl.

    When my 25-year-old Marine son — my firstborn, the apple of my eye, the person most like me in this entire world — committed suicide (he was a combat PTSD victim), music saved ME, too.

    In my case, it was Techno/EDM … much of it with no lyrics at all … and heavy metal! Something about both genres’ intensity, the wild beauty, and all the pounding rhythms, like the heartbeat of the universe, helped cleanse me.

    Different strokes, as they say. Glad you were able to find SOMETHING to help you hold on. Losing a child, whether in infancy, childhood, adolescence, or young adulthood, is the hardest path a person can ever walk. We are strangers, but my heart goes out to you.

  • My problem with the bulk of it: seems to me it’s sickeningly sappy with no meat on its bones. There seems to be no real reason for it but to clutter the airwaves. I’ve sat through Sunday services too many times (and I am not a churchgoer) and listened to chorus after chorus of ‘Let us praise you Lord, you are so amazing, we are not worthy Lord, you are wonderful Lord’ blah blah blah on and on ad infinitum. I want to hear stories that move me and in that way connect me to God. I think a God that likes that kind of watery praise is suspect.

  • Mary Withers

    I agree. I will eat *ANYTHING* but lima beans.

    It is the texture. That fuzzy mush thing. MY body believes that anything of that consistency must have been dead way too long, and needs to be expelled from mouth (or stomach) ASAP.

  • Lyn

    The again, we have hundreds of what were at the time contemporary worship songs recorded very publicly in our Bible. They’re called the Psalms. Then you also have things like Miriam’s Song and Mary’s Song and even what sound like worship songs in the writings of Paul. So public worship and even public sharing of private worship has a long scriptural history.

  • Randy

    Most secular singers sing out of the shear passion and love for music. You can hear there heart and spirit in what they are singing. Thus grabbing the listener by their hearts and giving them something enjoyable. It seems to me that the “flatness” that you feel from a lot of CCM is because people are serving out of obligation, it’s the right thing to do etc etc. But find a Christian artist that is truly singing out of their spirit with passion – that’s a whole other vibe. I love love love several Christian artists but very very few of them are in any of the radio stations. I too can barely stomach a large portion of the music played even though I agree with everything you said about it. It’s professional, well produced, on key etc etc, but my spirit just goes “mmph”.

  • Kathleen Grimes Ricker via Facebook

    Aww, dammit, this was hilarious and all too true, but I’m still waiting for you to tell me why I hate CCM so much, and why that hatred doesn’t apply at all toward either J. S. Bach, John Rutter, or gospel choirs.

  • Hoss

    Simply put, I used to listen to CCM simply because as an evangelical Christian, it was what you were supposed to do. So I listened to K-Love, Family Life Radio, and Air-1. I did everything from attending Christian concerts, buying the CDs, lifting my arms, etc… But I soon realized that listening to CCM for me morphed into being a part of the Christian evangelical subculture which promotes home schooling, voting “my values” (translation – voting for certain political platforms that are in line with Christ centered teaching), wanting to hang out with other christians exclusively rather than going out into the world. I am not criticizing these things but only what they mean for me that it is something you have to do to be a Christian in this country. I still love worship music and some Christian groups like Jars of Clay, Casting Crowns, and even Toby Mac, and Steven Curtis Chapman. Others like Rebecca St. James I can live without. I find myself listening to more jazz now but I still love the Lord.

  • K.E.

    I used to work at a Family Christian Store when I was in college, and the majority of music we sold was of the Christian co/pop (contemporary/pop, CCP) variety. I will admit that I hated CCP before I started working there. Actually, I still dislike most CCP even after having worked there.

    I think one of the reasons so many people are turned off by Christian co/pop is because it doesn’t sound authentic. South Park actually hit the nail right on the head with their episode about CCP. Cartman wrote very successful Christian songs for his band by taking popular Top 40 songs and replacing “baby” with “Jesus.” To me, a lot of co/pop sounds like roughly the same amount of thought was put into it. I’m not saying that the artists aren’t genuine in their faith or belief, but I mean that those wouldn’t be the words most of us would use, in most situations, to express our feelings about our faith.

    Going on with the South Park example, if you were going to write a song to the person you are most in love with, would you take a Justin Bieber hit (I was trying to find something as cringe-worthy as CCP) and replace all the words “baby” or “girl” with the name of your lover? No, of course not. That would feel cheap and inauthentic. It would be a nice try, I guess, but it wouldn’t be your love song. Even if you picked a really great song by your favorite musician, it still wouldn’t be as real as if you had written the words–ALL the words–yourself.

    I think that is what rubs so many people about Christian co/pop. It’s like Cartman replacing the words to a Justin Bieber song with “Jesus” and selling it as praise music. My relationship with God doesn’t sound like a J-Biebs song, that’s not how I would write it. I have found a lot of individual co/pop songs that I like, from a lot of quality artists–Relient K, The Fray, Switchfoot, and Leigh Nash (lead singer of Sixpence None the Richer) were among some of the artists whose CDs we sold at the Family Christian Store.

    But their sound is unique in the Christian co/pop world, and ultimately, most of the music CCP has to offer simply doesn’t sound like what I would say if I was writing God a love song, or an appeal to His mercy, or any of the other subjects of CCP music. It just doesn’t sound like my feelings about God, so it feels cheesy and fake.

    Maybe that’s just me, but after spending countless hours in the store listening to those songs play on the corporate sampler, I realized THAT was why I didn’t like them.

  • Mark Bay

    There was a King of the Hill episode a few years ago about this very thing. Hank Hill (Mike Judge) made a very cogent point: “You think you’re making Christianity better, but you’re only making rock n’ roll worse.” Too often it seems like CCM is relying on the genre label to sell some seriously sucky, trite, generic pop music. I am a Christian, but I’d rather listen to Metallica than any CCM.

  • Carol VanderNat

    I couldn’t agree with you more….”love” song to Jesus make me cringe…..

  • John you are a hilarity!

  • Carol VanderNat

    I’ve done VBS programs for children for years, and each year it seems that the “canned” music provided by publishers gets harder and harder to try to present to the kids…kids aren’t stupid…and phrases like “let’s let Jesus into our hearts”…go right beyond most of them. I’ve had much better results taking a song like “Blue Suede Shoes” or “WMCA” and rewriting the words…latest one? the Green Acres theme…not only is it great fun for me, the kids leave with a message that they can use and share. “C’mon everybody, let’s just praise Jesus” doesn’t fly anymore……

  • Christie

    My husband and I are laughing right now at this post because this is EXACTLY what we’ve always said. I removed the Christian radio stations from my preset locations because every time I would turn to it, I felt like someone was getting ready to pull out one of my teeth. There is some quality Christian music, but they tend not to play it for some reason…and I think it’s all political…what happened to John Gibson, who is an excellent Christian artist? Oh yeah, he was too “controversial” because he seemed too “mainstream.” Wouldn’t want to allow any “worldliness” to corrupt the pure, whiney, and holy music that they currently play. “Contemporary?” That is laughable!

  • The problem I have with CCM is its nihilism. Yes, I know, it’s superficially very “affirming,” makes all the right holy noises and all that. But beneath that, it negates all the rough edges and mess of life, and takes every question with no easy answer and decides that a simple (and, too often, simplistic) faith will take care of everything. I can’t speak for anyone but myself on this, but I find a lot more soul, and spirit, in stuff that’s not explicitly Christian. Songs that leave the doubts in, because to me they speak more directly to life (and, directly or indirectly) God as I’ve experienced it.

    Listen, for instance, to any number of great Blues artists, or singers whose lyrics and voices tell you they’ve been there and back (Chris Whitley and Levon Helm both come to mind, but there are countless othes). If I can step away from CCM for a moment for an example, it’s like the difference between the Jimmy Ruffin and Paul Young versions of “What Becomes of the Brokenhearted”. Young’s version is too slick by half, but also too hopeful by half, especially in the song’s closing section. Ruffin’s, on the other hand, has a quality of resignation, or even desparation, underneath it. When the former sings, “Nothings gonna stop me now/ I’ll find a way somehow/I’ll be searching everywhere…” there’s that typical uplift that you get from too many songs and too many movies, where everything has to be tied up neatly by the end. Ruffin? No such luck. You know from those lines that he’s hoping against hope, but that on some level he knows better.

    I don’t mind inspiration in music (or anywhere else), but it works better (for me, anyway) when it comes more by surprise than by calculation… when it sneaks up on you, often from an unexpected place. And all the better when you catch glimpses of the sacred within the profane, ’cause at the end of the day, isn’t that what life’s about anyway?

    (just my $.02 worth)

  • That was worth more than two cents, Paul. That was great.

  • Amy

    Hey–no mocking the homeschoolers, LOL! (We have one in school, one homescholar. And I’m only pretending to be offended.)

    Do NOT get me started on Rebecca St. James. I. Can’t. Stand. Her. She is single-handedly responsible for bringing stupid Purity Culture into mainstream Christianity. Her song about protecting her precious virginity is the most extreme example of all that’s wrong with Christian pop.

  • Matt

    Contemporary Christian Music exists for one thing: to sell Contemporary Christian Music. There is no deeper purpose than that. It rubs us the wrong way because we know we should not use God or faith in Jesus for such things.

  • Al

    I guess the point is that just because a song is well-intended and sincere, it doesn’t mean it’s any good from an artistic point of view. I don’t doubt that the artists who make contemporary Christian music are sincere in their faith, they just seem to express it in a shallow, trite and conventional way. Given the level of debate around some of the big social issues in mainstream Christianity – like gay and women’s rights, birth control, “purity”, and capital punishment- it’s not too surprising that there’s a strong market for this style of music. It’s light and fluffy, fells good if you’re into it, doesn’t force you to think, and doesn’t rock the boat.

    Personally, I like what Alice Cooper says about his music. He describes himself as a Christian who rocks, but not a Christian rocker. Music and faith don’t have to overlap which is fine by me.

  • Amy

    I used to listen to Christian radio. But it all sort of sounds the same. There are a few bands/singers I like, but not many. Funny, I tend to feel the same about pop radio too–that I only like a fraction of what’s played. The difference, though, is that on pop radio, they change the songs when new ones come along. Christian radio keeps playing songs popular 10 years ago. So not only do we get *new* crap, we have to continue to suffer through *old* crap. Much better to choose artists/bands I like on last.fm or Pandora and just listen to what I like.

    I’m not totally sure what I dislike specifically about CCM. One friend calls that stuff “Jesus is my boyfriend” music. That’s certainly one thing that grates on my nerves. But I think another part is that it often seems very self-centered. There is a song called “I Know Who I Am.” Seriously, the song is longer than “Hey, Jude” and it repeats “I Know Who I Am” over…and over…and over. I counted once and the chorus ALONE has the word “I” 27 times. Are we singing to/about God, or ourselves? That one may be the worst praise song offender, but it’s hardly an isolated song. And it’s not limited to praise songs. I expect self-centeredness from regular pop/rock, but if I’m singing to or about God, I think the song should mostly not be about me.

  • John, I like your writings but you’re feeding a stereotype that is not necessary. There is good and bad music in all genres. Contemporary Christian is no different. It’s simple music, on the whole, as are they hymns we have sung for hundreds of years. Some of it is appropriate and beautiful for worship; some of it is not. Some is for edification and some is simply for marketing and profits.

  • Cathy Elings-Sysel via Facebook

    Sorry. I love Casting Crowns. I used 2 of their songs on my wedding video.

  • Matt

    They can’t take a stand because they cannot afford to lose a section of their buying public. They exist to sell records. The more “general” they can be with their faith, the more records they can sell. Just think, if they took a stand on gay marriage for instance, it would hurt their business, even if it is the correct thing to do.

  • Penny Lee Hummel via Facebook

    Any reason is OK by me.. That stuff is water torture!

  • Thank you! I’ve felt the same way ever since church friends first shared CCM music with me decades ago. I’ve tried, through the years, to give the local CCM station/s continued opportunities to catch my ear and my heart…but I always end up cringing and changing the dial.

    To be fair, I’ve heard some wonderful music, solid theology and quality artistry. Some. But it can be few and far between. Mostly–even the “rocking” stuff–seemed to fall flat. Literally. As if whatever punch, rhythm or raw feeling might have originally been in the music had been intentionally technologically flat-lined before hitting the airwaves. (Face it–the power of rock is in the musical “sex” of it. Too scary for Xn rock!) However, this *has* gotten better in recent years.

    I love Mark Bay’s KOTH reference! I saw that episode and cheered Hank’s comment.

    Hoss also hit on a big trouble spot, for me, with “Christian radio”: The selling of the entire RW package. That, to be a “good and proper” Christian, these are the values you will ingest and reflect, this will be your party/candidate, etc.

    Personally, I’ve been having more issues lately with the entire concept of marketing the faith. I get a little squirmy seeing the CCM culture becoming its own animal, over and above the faith to which it aims to point. As voiced elsewhere in these opinions, I agree that most of the people behind this music are true-hearted. Unfortunately, the whole “Christian culture” thing has always seemed, for me, like a suit that fit badly.

    Ironically, I’ve been part of a Christian rock band and write and perform what I like to call “faith music”. (We generally performed mainstream music and hymns, leaving the P&W and CCM stuff alone.) But every time I turn on “Christian radio”, it’s like looking through a window at a foreign culture and wondering, “Hmm…what’s that all about?”

    Anyway, thanks for the laughs and the chance to share our thoughts on this topic. I’ll continue playing in worship and at local open mics, but I’m keeping my dial tuned to mainstream radio and the classical station.

  • I was also going to mention Casting Crowns and I dislike a lot of other stuff.
    “Jesus, Friend of sinners we have strayed so far away
    We cut down people in your name but the sword was never ours to
    Jesus friend of sinners the truth’s become so hard to see
    The world is on their way to You but they’re tripping over me”

  • That’s the words to Jesus, Friend of Sinners.

  • And I have a theory: If you click through a bunch of preset radio stations which I do (and a couple of them are Christian) you can always tell by this certain quality of voice when you have hit the Christian ones. What is that quality? Is it overly-emotive? I don’t know how to describe but it seems worse with the male singers.

  • Linnea

    I actually do like some CCM. Michael W. Smith had some good stuff back in the early ’90’s: “Place In This World” got me through some difficult times as a teenager, and “Picture Perfect” reaffirmed my own suspicion that there was more to being beautiful than looks and wearing whatever was “in style.” I also found his song “Give It Away” a powerful and challenging picture of how Christians should seek to serve the world. Steven Curtis Chapman has done some good music, and so has Amy Grant (though there’s still debate in some corners whether she is truly a “Christian” artist.) I always think of Amy’s songs “Ask Me” and “Somewhere Down the Road” that deal with real pain and tough questions: the former, according to Amy, was written about a friend of hers who was a survivor of childhood sexual abuse. The latter she wrote about the aftermath of Rich Mullins’ death. Also, though they don’t define themselves as a “Christian” band, U2 has certainly does some music that could fit into that vein, including “Magnificent” from their latest CD. I don’t care for the music that is all about how we’re unworthy, or how everything will totally be better once we’re in heaven. That said, not all “Christian” or “Christian-leaning” music is shallow, plastic, overly happy music. Some of it really does wrestle the demons we deal with in the real world, and that’s the music I can appreciate.

  • Barbara Rice

    I tried. to listen to CCM. I really tried. I thought that’s what you were supposed to do. I decided I liked the devil’s music better.

    Someone said to Neil Young that all his songs sounded alike, and he said, “It’s all the same song.” That’s what CCM sounds like to me. Incredibly boring, mass-produced, generic stuff to make you reach for the insulin. While the premise may or may not be sincere, the songs are pretty much all the same: I’m gonna lean on Jesus because He’s my rock even though things may get really sucky. It reminds me of the lyrics of fluffy oldies pop songs like “We’ve Only Just Begun” and “Hey Paula” – once we’re married everything will be great and we’ll never have any problems!

    If they come out with some honest lyrics about real issues, I’ll reconsider.

  • Rachel

    This post caused me to wonder, too. I have two ideas about why it may be that Christian rock is not very gripping. #1, a lot of it is trying to sell you something instead of just expressing what’s in the writer/performer’s heart. I don’t mean trying to sell music, which is a given, but evangelizing — trying to convince listeners to be “saved.” That’s why some non-Christian rock with content about God comes across as more honest, and I think we react to that. My reaction to God statements in secular rock tends to be more, “yeah, I see what s/he means — I agree,” while my reaction to Christian rock feels more like guilt at not being ready for the altar call and the whole package.

    #2, like so many protestant liturgies, it’s geared more toward mental understanding and less toward sensuous wonder. For me, so much about worship is right-brain: I’m affected less by persuasive words and more by beauty in the experience. I love Taize for this reason–simple, repetitive phrases that act more like mantras than persuasive speech. I like to listen to Hindu music for this same reason. It feels holy and ineffable.

    All that being said, when I was a teenager I was very taken by the bad-boy Christian rock of Larry Norman. I loved “Why Should the Devil Have All the Good Music?”, “The Outlaw,” and “Blue Shoes White.”

    Larry Norman.

  • Rachel

    Sorry for the extra “Larry Norman” at the bottom of my last post. It was a note to myself not to forget to mention him, which I forgot to erase….

  • Earnest. That’s the word I’d use for the quality you describe, Shirley. Earnest, and not in a positive way. Maybe pseudo-earnest.

  • Diana A.

    Hey, don’t you be knocking the Carpenters! 😉

  • Diana A.

    Good lyrics!

  • Diana A.

    Yeah, there’s a real trend toward dumbing down Christianity even for adults. Not cool

  • Melody

    I’m sorry, but I honestly can’t think of any CCM that is truly substantial, either lyrically or musically (especially the latter, since I have a master’s degree in music, so my tastes in music are discriminating). The main thing I’ve noticed–and you’re right about this–is CCM is simple. Not just that, even–it’s wholly simplistic. It doesn’t take any risks, for fear of an uproar in the evangelical community. Musically, it’s formulaic, with little harmonic experimentation or dynamic expression. It’s like everything is sung in the same range, same dynamic (volume) level, same topics. (FWIW, too much of secular pop music does the same thing.) I can tell you, the music written by the great composers-Mozart, Bach, Handel, and my personal favorite, Mendelssohn–much of it was religious, and blows CCM out of the water, because it has all these aforementioned elements that CCM lacks. I think if CCM were more creative, more willing to push the musical envelope, these stereotypes wouldn’t run so rampantly.

  • Diana A.


  • Thanks for talking about this! Glad to know I’m not the only one who is turned off by CCM. It just seems more authentic for me when I find spirituality in unexpected places.

  • They usually sound like they’re trying to sound “uplifted.” Plus, the “christian values” they’re espousing are usually just values of passivity and “niceness.” They talk about a vague idea of God, instead of about real life. There are some exceptions, like the previously-mentioned Casting Crowns.

  • ve always wondered why I always found CCM annoying as well. Maybe it’s because it was all I was allowed to listen to growing up. Maybe because it all sounds exactly the same. Maybe because it feels like repackaging Christianity so younger people can relate. It’s insulting to Christianity and to younger people. IMHO.

  • Michael wbl

    i think its awful because its contrived. its false art. if a band plays about what is meaningful to them, it seems inevitable that some will sing about god. and they do. bands like skillet, demon hunter, and relient k. but many people dont know that those bands are christian. and the reason is because they care about other things too. not everything they play is about god. and bands who play only about one subject always suck. preaching sucks. whether or not you a preaching to a wicked baseline is not relevant. i want to hear what really moves you. not what you think should move me. christian music is stupid because music shouldnt be confined to one thing. the great bands of our time from the beatles to rise against, sing about more than one thing. sure the beatles sing MOSTLY about love, and rise against is MOSTLY political. but not exclusively. theres a world of topics out there, and when you isolate one of them, your saying ‘ look god is awesome, and being christian doesnt mean you cant be cool’ but your just selling a message, and it comes through in the low quality of what ostensibly appears to be good art.

  • K.E.

    Recently my local Christian radio station underwent a serious remodel. Imagine what Extreme Home Make-Over would do to a radio station. Now they advertise that the “Christian contemporary classics” (AKA a bunch of really, really bad music) can be streamed from their website, but they will not be airing it live anymore.

    Now they air a lot of (sorry to the artists of the classics) much better music. The Fray, Casting Crowns, Leigh Nash, Mandisa, Switchfoot, Kirk Franklin, Rita Springer, Building 429, Mercy Me, etc. I think they realized that they were going to lose everyone under the age of 50 if they didn’t change what they were airing. I guess even in the world of Christian co/pop, they will eventually have to bend to the will of the people!

  • Is it too late to change my opinion on Casting Crowns? Great words to the song, but dang, he’s whine-y too, since I listened again. I think the difference is “this is how I feel/believe and you should too” versus “this is how I feel/believe, deal with it” music. It is in effect, advertising.

  • I just clicked this link again and read through the comments. What a fantastic, intelligent discussion!! JS, I hope you appreciate all your commentors–how you got them all in one place with no crackpots in the mix, I will never know. I’ll gladly take the position as the dimmest bulb in the box if I can still be proud to be a part of such superlative commentary!

  • Brymel Chadwell

    Hello, i was just surfing the web for CCM material when i came upon this. Just want to share something for a moment, i have read through many of the comments before deciding to post. WE are all unique creations, having different tastes, opinions and motivations. But, i think we have forgotten something very important in this discussion, it’s not about us,it’s about HIM. CCM is supposed to be designed and geared into leading those who want to worship into worship, not forcing those who would rather be listening or doing something else. Is it really the music that is the problem?? Or is it our hearts aren’t in the right place for worship and our flesh is fighting the very act that our Lord craves from us? CCM is nothing more than a tool to help guide us and encourage us in worship to our creator. If you don’t want to be led into worship, or you are focusing more on you than HIM, why blame the music? It is a heart problem, not a CCM music problem. I hope you all find the channel you need to open your hearts in true worship to God, but why condemn something that is good to many others because you personally don’t get it or don’t like it? I truly believe there are many more important topics we could benefit from than bashing CCM because of personal indifference. God bless.

  • No its a taste in music problem. CCM may appeal to some, but to others its dreadful. I spent a period of time listening to it. Then I realized that there were some key elements I found lacking, and that ruined the genre forever for me.

    1. Lack of creativity in the lyrics. There is little substance there, thought provoking words, a few variations of lyrics that can be mass produced and set to a different set of chord structures.

    2. Lack of creativity in the music. Now there are some great songs in CCM, but most is just a variation of southern gospel with modern settings, formulated, easily adapted. Now I loathe southern gospel with a particular passion. If the only two music styles in the world were southern gospel and CCM, I’d have to pick CCM.

    It is not a heart problem to seriously dislike this style of music. I personally think it is over commercialized, fluff trying to get a piece of the pop music action, by adding Jesus and Hallejuah to the lyrics. Other people eat this stuff up.

    Some of us don’t need “worship music” to help us to connect to God. Some of us prefer silence, a katydid on the porch rail, a line from a Dickenson poem.. Some like Mozart, Pachabel, and Faure. Others prefer the Gaithers and the Primitive Quartet. Some don’t need visual or audial aids at all, not seeing it necessary at all.