My friend, Andrew, is blogging once again and invited some interaction with his thoughts about Christian music. You can find his thought-provoking, original, blog here.
His blog got me thinking about some of my opinions about what gets labeled “Christian” music. There is plenty of good worship music out there that can be used to praise God in a corporate setting. We could talk about that another time. But then there is all of that stuff that gets the moniker, Christian, or Spiritual, or Inspirational, or Gospel. We often get into trouble when we seek to put labels on who is “inside” and who is “outside” of the camp. We say this artist speaks from the perspective of “us” while this artist does not. I learn much from artists with whom I disagree. Their art is likely pointing to something I need to hear.
I remember listening to U2 in the early 80s when the only place you could buy the “Boy” album was in small Christian record stores. They had been given the label of alternative Christian music. Fortunately they spoke to a broader audience than that. Their music was prophetic and was not “safe.” Would they be viewed as a Christian band today?
Steve Taylor has a reputation as a satirical/sarcastic song writer but many of his songs are prophetic. I have written here about his song, “I Manipulate.” You could listen to songs like “We Don’t Need No Color Code,” “Baby Doe,” “Drive,” or “Meltdown at Madame Tussauds.” Most of these songs obscure the lines between “Christian” and “Secular.” Andrew pointed out to me that Derek Webb has said that “the word ‘christian,’ when applied to anything other than a human being is just a marketing term.” Both Andrew and I would agree with this. Derek Webb is another artist whose music is too prophetic for “Christian” radio and too "Christian" for mainstream radio.
Bob Dylan at one time made a profession of Christian faith. Evangelical Christians heard this and the headlines which proclaimed his newfound faith nearly ruined his career and livelihood. Other Christians pointed out flaws in his theology and his lifestyle expecting him to graduate to maturity instantly.
The fact is we can learn much from artists who do not follow Christ. Don Henley’s “Frail Grasp On The Big Picture” is a prophetic voice to North American culture. Listening to Dallas Green (City and Color), I am awestruck by his spiritual themes. I have no misconception that the man is a Christian but I certainly learn from this artist. I will seek to humbly learn from Christian and non-Christian artists. We must take “every thought captive and make it obedient to Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5) even if that thought arises from within the camp.