Categories
Theology

A Bit More on Contemporary Christian Music

In my last post, I made the case that Contemporary Christian Music (in general) has grown shallow and must tap into the richness of the history of music in the Christian church in order for it to be a force for the gospel in the future.

In the comments, Grant made a succinct and insightful point that is worthy enough to post here:

Classical music, much of it anyway, was church music when it was written. The church used to be a bastion and financier of fine art. What happened!? I see a couple of reasons: a need to be “relevant” and the rise of top 40 CCM radio.

They kind of go hand in hand. Years ago now, Christians had the idea to make church more comfortable for non church-goers. Great idea, but it led to the need to somehow make Christ relevant to the culture (thereby saying Christ isn’t relevant to the human condition?) and we had to have the Christian version of everything. In my opinion, CCM songwriters were strongly tempted to dumb down lyrics to appeal to a wider audience. Then, it became even cooler to be a Christian band who wasn’t a Christian band (i.e. signed to a secular label). This just turned up the pressure on CCM bands and radio stations to really water down a Christ-centered message to make it easier for bands to get into a secular label.

The cycle continues today. The result is music that is neither interesting nor earth-moving. Jesus becomes analogous to our boyfriend and the concept of the true, broken human condition is moved into the shadows.

Categories
Theology

Jesus is Not Our Boyfriend

I have a love-hate relationship with Contemporary Christian Music (CCM). I love it because it desires to make music for Jesus. I hate it because it is often shallower than the kiddie pool. Unfortunately, its shallowness often overwhelms and leaves me longing for more.

I always hesitate to write about something I know little about. I am not a music expert or critic, and I cannot play guitar like every other American male age 18-29. I theologize and preach and shepherd, so I am treading deep water. Nevertheless, I generally like music, and it does not take a music professor to realize that Christian music needs nothing less than a modern reformation. Read a sample of the lyrics to the currently popular song “Hold Me” by Jamie Grace:

I’ve had a long day, I just wanna relax
Don’t have time for my friends, no time to chit chat
Problems at my job, wonderin’ what to do
I know I should be working but I’m thinking of you and

Just when I feel this crazy world is gonna bring me down
That’s when your smile comes around

Oh, I love the way you hold me, by my side you’ll always be
You take each and every day, make it special in some way
I love the way you hold me, in your arms I’ll always be
You take each and every day, make it special in some way

If you didn’t hear these lyrics on a Christian station, you’d probably guess the song is about the singer’s boyfriend. Never mind the teeny-bop melody. There’s not mention of human brokenness and the desperate need for a Redeemer. There’s not a hint of gospel. Instead, Jesus is a boyfriend who shows up smiling during a bad day at work.

The intention of the writer is good. The point is that Jesus is there for us. He takes care of us. If we have Jesus, we have enough. The problem is not the intention. But music (and all art, including writing) goes beyond intention, doesn’t it? Intention matters, but quality matters as well, and Christians should strive for the best quality because God did not spare quality when he created. This song is a microcosm of Christian music today. Don’t get me wrong: there are many good Christian songs, but far too often the songs I hear settle for corny Bieber-inspired lines that communicate nothing of the vast depth of God’s grace in the gospel.

Scores of words have been written about whether  “Christian” music is good or bad or why there is even a separate sub-culture of “Christian” things at-large. That’s not why I’m writing. I simply want Christians–musicians in particular–to embrace the long and splendid history of authentically transparent and objectively beautiful music in the church.

Written in 1759, the famous hymn “Come Ye Sinners” by Joseph Hart reminds us that Jesus is there for us; he takes care of us; and if we have Jesus, we have enough. Hart even uses the analogy of being held by Jesus, but he does it without making it seem like he is our cosmic, feathered-hair boyfriend. Hart writes:

Come, ye sinners, poor and needy,
Weak and wounded, sick and sore;
Jesus ready stands to save you,
Full of pity, love and power.

I will arise and go to Jesus,
He will embrace me in His arms;
In the arms of my dear Savior,
O, there are ten thousand charms.

Come, ye weary, heavy laden,
Lost and ruined by the fall;
If you tarry till you’re better,
You will never come at all.

Here we find gospel. Here we find a strong, yet compassionate Redeemer who beckons: “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” Will Christian artists go back to songs like these before they attempt to go forward? Will they tap into the richness of music that belongs to our 2,000-year-old community of saints? Will they grasp for and wrestle with language in order to winsomely and articulately communicate the gospel of grace?

I hope they do. The gospel is at stake–even on Christian airwaves.

Categories
Life

What are your favorite Christmas songs?

Over the next few weeks leading up to Christmas, I’ll be posting my favorite Christmas songs and hymns.  I’d love to hear what are your favorites — especially songs that most of us have never heard.  I’ll also try to provide a link to listen to the particular version of the song I post.

To kick it off, here’s my favorite Christmas song (non hymn):

I Celebrate the Day
By Relient K

And with this Christmas wish is missed
The point I could convey
If only I could find the words to say to let You know how much You’ve touched my life
Because here is where You’re finding me, in the exact same place as New Year’s eve
And from a lack of my persistency
We’re less than half as close as I want to be

And the first time
That You opened Your eyes did You realize that You would be my Savior
And the first breath that left Your lips
Did You know that it would change this world forever

And so this Christmas I’ll compare the things I felt in prior years
To what this midnight made so clear
That You have come to meet me here

To look back and think that
This baby would one day save me
In the hope that what You did
That you were born so I might live
To look back and think that
This baby would one day save me

And I, I celebrate the day
That You were born to die
So I could one day pray for You to save my life

Categories
Life

The Adulteress and Anberlin

This isn’t a part of our series on Proverbs, but as I was working out today, the song “Feel Good Drag” by Anberlin came on my iPod.  I’ve heard this song hundreds of times, but as I listened today, I couldn’t help but notice the similarities between the lyrics and Proverbs 5 and 7.

Here’s the first verse and chorus of “Feel Good Drag.”

“I’m here for you,” she said
and we can stay for awhile,
my boyfriend’s gone,
we can just pretend.
Lips that need no introduction,
now who’s the greater sin?
Your drab eyes seem to invite.
Tell me darling, where do we begin?

[Chorus]
Was this over before,
before it ever began?
Your kiss, your calls, your crutch,
like the devil’s got your hand
This was over before,
before it ever began.
Your lips, your lies, your lust,
like the devil’s in your hands.

Here’s Proverbs 5:3-6:

For the lips of a forbidden woman drip honey, and her speech is smoother than oil, but in the end she is bitter as wormwood, sharp as a two-edged sword.  Her feet go down to death; her steps follow the path to Sheol; she does not ponder the path of life; her ways wander and she does not know it.

And Proverbs 7:18-19:

Come, let us take our fill of love til morning; let us delight ourselves with love.  For my husband is not at home; he has gone on a long journey; he took a bag of money with him; at full moon he will come home.

Truly, adultery (and all sexual sin) is a feel good drag.  It might seem sweet for a while, but eventually it will be bitter.  It might appear to be life-giving, but it’s really planning for a banquet in the grave.  The pleasure will be over before it ever begins.

“Her house is the way to Sheol, going down to the chambers of death” (Prov. 7:27).

. . .

Update:  The song “Feel Good Drag” was in the #1 slot on modern rock radio this past week.