Wednesday, September 30, 2009

"Christian" Music and Ramblings

You know what I think is maybe the stupidest question I’ve ever heard? “Are they a Christian band?”

Why is this such a stupid question? Well, let’s pick some “Christian” Bands:

Kutless is a “Christian” band. They sing “Christian” lyrics, are signed to a “Christian” label and tour with “Christian” bands.

Switchfoot is a “Christian” band. They sing “Spiritual” lyrics. They are signed to a “secular” label and tour with both “Christian” and “secular” bands.

As I Lay Dying is a “Christian” band they sing “secular” (but not sinful) lyrics, are signed to a “secular” label and regularly tour with “Secular” bands, but also with “Christian” bands.

Now, the thing is, all of these bands have been identified as “Christian” some, like Switchfoot has attempted to deny this altogether. Yes, they admit their Christian Faith, but they don’t claim to write explicitly Christian lyrics (“thinking man’s band”; IE Christian, or Biblical Lyrics, but they’ve never mentioned Jesus or God or something directly Christian) and they do try to tour and work with more secular bands. Others, like As I Lay Dying simply claim that they aren’t a Christian band, but Christians in a band. No Christian Lyrics or Christian Music Festivals (well… okay if there is ever a Christian Hardcore/Metalcore festival then they’d go to it, but there aren’t enough Christian bands for one of those. That being said the Christian Hardcore Scene is big enough they could tour with only Christian hardcore bands. But they don’t. They do “secular” festivals/tours like Wacken and stuff as well).

What is my point? The entire “Christian” label is meaningless. The First problem is that we one can never truly know how Christian a band is until they talk to them in person. The only “Christian” band I know for sure that has a relationship with God is Leeland, and that’s because I heard Jack Mooring preach to me, and then have him pray for me. I do honestly believe that most of the Bands out there that end up labeled “Christian” do in fact have some sort of relationship with Jesus, but I can’t be sure.

Another thing that bugs me is that we have this label of “Christian” but it only really deals with lyrics. Bands like Third Day are more Country-Rock, Skillet is Hard Rock, As I Lay Dying is Hard/Metalcore. These are all rather different genres yet all the bands get labeled “Christian”. I will admit that there is a CCM industry and a CCM sound along the lines of soft-rock/pop but there are also a LOT of bands that don’t fit that genre that get labeled “Christian” (POD, Switchfoot, Kutless to a degree, Demon Hunter, UnderOath to name a few).

Another thing I think that saddens me about the entire “Christian music” thing is how by labeling bands as “Christian” you alienate a section of the music listening population. Bands like Switchfoot and As I Lay Dying have avoided being labeled for just this reason. They want EVERYONE to listen to their music, and, especially in the case of Switchfoot I suspect (As I Lay Dying seems more to be just “Christians in a band”; they’re not really trying to reach people, just entertain) this is for evangelism purposes (though, it is hard to do evangelism from the stage, it can be done in a lot of ways. Demon Hunter is my favorite example because while in the Live in Nashville concert they don’t ever really mention God, they lyrics in all their songs are so Biblical etc it’s hard not to know what they’re talking about.

… I’m starting ramble here, so let me try to get to my point:

While I understand the Labeling of bands “Christian” (and honestly, it’s the best label for people like Chris Tomlin, who basically does Worship music) at the same time I wish people would stop it. I believe, that Believers should be at the forefront of every single thing in our world: Creative, Political, Economic, etc. The Top Songs on the Charts should be by “Christian” artists, not people like Kayne West or Britney Spears (okay, she is old news now, but it’s the best name I can get right now; I don’t listen to pop). One of these problems is a dearth of musical talents in the CCM Industry, but bands like AILD, Switchfoot, Relient K and Skillet have proved that one can be both “Christian” and “good” so I think that’s more of a general “90% of stuff is Crap” (Moore’s Law?) than anything.

I think in a lot of ways that my passion. I want to see Christians at the forefront of huge, multi-million international businesses, proving that you don’t have to be immoral and greedy to be successful. I want to see Bands like Switchfoot grow to become the next Iron Maiden or Nirvana. I want to see Christian authors to write good, not sappy, moral novels. I’m constantly disappointed by the amount of language and sex in novels these days, but I’ve yet to read a Christian Fiction that I’m truly, truly pleased with disregarding CS Lewis and Tolkien. Two authors out of the dozens I’ve read. How depressing is that?

*steps off soapbox*


Naomi said...

Your soapbox is so much better when it is virtual and you don't have idiots giving you "but..."s

Manwathiel said...

I agree but I don't agree. But then, I do.

Ahem. I'm totally with you that "Christian" really isn't a good, explanatory label. "Christian" shouldn't be a genre of music--since clearly, as you said, some Christian music is rock, metal, pop, heavy metal, so on and so forth... But I really dislike it when the "Christian" label is gotten rid of entirely. There's so much music out there that I hardly know where to start when I want to find a new band to listen to--but if I have the nice little "Christian" portion of iTunes, I know that I'm much more likely to find something I'm comfortable with (lyrics-picky-person-here) than if I have to traverse the depths of rock & metal and end up reading every single lyric on their albums. So I don't think the label should be gotten rid of--just moved. Out of the genre section, into somewhere else.

You do have a point about the alienation, however. But if you're going to get rid of the Christian label, that's great for the secular population who won't listen to something labeled "Christian," but what about people like me? *selfish* I like how Switchfoot is--the Christians know they're technically Christian, even if it isn't plastered on their album.

As to "Christian" bands having such a wide variety among does everything. I mean, pick a few rock bands. One is "rock" one is "heavy rock" one is actually pop but they call it rock, and one is signed to a whatever-label, one is signed to a rock label, and oh, one is signed to a Christian label. There's diversity in everything.

As to your last two paragraphs--I agree heartily with wanting Believers to be at the forefront of everything. *nods*

As to literature--go read Taliesin by Lawhead. Or Thr3e by Ted Dekker.