Disclaimer: I listen to Christian music. There are a lot of genuinely talented and great artists in the Christian music industry. And there are a whole lot of really bad mainstream artists out there as well. This doesn’t necessarily express my opinions on the music industry, this expresses how I feel about how people treat the music industry more than anything.
One thing that frustrates me to no end about Christian entertainment is the sacrifice of the art. As a critical listener of music, I find myself consistently choosing mainstream music over Christian music. Is it because I prefer music with no Christian undertones (or overtones)? Not at all. I just prefer music that is well written and has the best musical ability. I feel like as long as I have been listening to Christian music, I’ve heard people saying “Oh, you like *insert mainstream artist here*? Well you should listen to *insert Christian artist here* instead! They’re the Christian and a much cleaner version!” Now I understand that people love hearing music similar to their music taste already, but I don’t think an entire division of the music industry was ever intended to be a blatant imitation of whatever is currently popular in the mainstream music industry. I must say, I’ve never truly spoken to a Christian artist directly and said to them, “How do you feel about being the Christian version of *insert mainstream artist here*?” I’m sure they would be the first to say that they are definitely not trying to copy that artist, it is just one of their influences.
I think the real problem lies with the people listening to Christian music. To many people listening to Christian music, they are willing to sacrifice the musical ability and creativity in the mainstream industry in order to get lyrics that are “more Christian.” Many Christians treat Christian music similar to how people treat Great Value brand goods at Walmart. They are willing to settle with the lower quality product because they are not really listening for the music, they’re listening for the message it conveys to them.
Another problem is when people try and decide whether or not an artist is “Godly.” I recently saw a comment on a website that complained about a festival. It said:
“I sure hope that somebody is paying attention to the Godliness of these artists… I went here when I was a teen many times 20 years ago and hoped to take my own kids now. I am very nervous to do so because so much of the ‘Christian’ music is not really Christian at all. I hope that your efforts in all of this is to honor God and admonish people to live for Him…if a song can very easily be applied to boyfriend and girlfriend or to God then I think it is questionable. If a group has 99% of their music that can go either (relationships or God) way under the guise of ‘Christian’ I think their motivation to be in “Christian” music is purely motivated by money.”
I think it’s difficult for anyone to judge the “Godliness” of any artist. Who am I to qualify how Godly an artist is? How do you go about judging how Godly an artist really is? Is it based on how many times he mentions “Jesus” or “God” or “Him” (capital “h,” mind you…) in an album? Whether or not they ask for alcohol on their hospitality rider?
In my personal experience, music that has spoken the deepest to me has not always been Christian music. One of my favorite songs is by a band called The Wallflowers. Their song One Headlight is one that will always and forever be in my music library. The song is about a guy whose former lover committed suicide and he’s slowly realizing he can go on through life without her. The line “Me and Cinderella, we put it all together. We can drive it home with one headlight” is such a poignant lyric with the author metaphorically saying “Life is gonna be tough without her, and she had a huge part of my heart. But I can still continue life and move on from her.” I love how intimate and real this song is; One Headlight takes the struggles of real life and helps you come to the realization that your life is important. Now, do I believe that God has given us a purpose and a reason to live? Absolutely. Do I think Jakob Dylan, the lead singer of The Wallflowers thinks that? No idea. But isn’t it amazing that even though I have no idea of his beliefs in comparison to mine that I can still agree with his thoughts and have empathy and passion for the situation described in the song?
I think one thing that is crazy about music is that we put limits on God. We say to ourselves, “God cannot speak to me through this mainstream artist. God only speaks to me through artist who are ‘Christian’ and are very outspoken about how incredibly ‘Christian’ they are.” Who are we to say who God can and cannot use to speak God’s wisdom into our lives? The God that I worship has no bounds, has no limits to how I am impacted in ways I cannot even imagine.
My last thought on this industry is the argument about business and Christianity. In the final sentence of the comment mentioned above, the commenter ended by saying, “Are you in this for God or money? If God then choose true Christian artists.” Is it wrong to be in it for both? Let’s be real for a minute, nothing in America could reasonably function without the use of money. A church would not exist if it were not for money being put into it. In the same sense, a Christian music festival would not be able to continue functioning if at the end of the night its profits were not larger than their costs. The same goes for Christian bands, Christian bookstores, and even Christian coffeeshops. I do believe that a Christian music festival has a higher calling to ultimate be about praising God and following God’s will in the process, but if you are not concerned about money, then you are not showing God respect by using your resources in a manageable and responsible manner.
Again, these are simply my personal beliefs and thoughts and do not represent anyone else’s thoughts besides mine. I’d love to hear your feedback and see what you think. All I ask is that you be respectful in your responses, please and thank you.