On Christian Music

No, not all Christian music sucks.

On the other hand, not all Christian music is wonderful, either.

I have many Christian CD’s, tapes and records that surpassed much of what passed for popular music in the late 80s.  In the 90s and the turn of the century, we’ve had many bands that are excellent.

But I do not like contemporary, R&B, hip-hop, rap, Praise & Worship, ska, or skater punk, which seem to predominate Christian charts these days.  They do sound much like secular, yes, but hey, I don’t like that stuff in secular music either.  Give me rock, nu metal, goth!  Please don’t give me a Christian Britney Spears or Celine Dion!!!!!

In late August 2006, I posted the following in a thread on an Orthodox forum.  The thread was 10 pages long and only a couple of days old.  Somebody asked how many ex-Protestants who used to listen to popular Christian music, still listen to it now that they’re Orthodox.  A bunch of people posted that there are bands they still like, but a lot of the music seems terribly theologically fluffy.  I posted:

“I find there’s really no difference these days between secular and Christian pop music: It all makes me ill.

“I grew up listening to Christian rock/pop/metal.  Now, a lot of it was actually good: The Choir, Sheila Walsh, Greg X. Volz, Holy Soldier, Rick Cua‘s Can’t Stand Too Tall, Kim Hill, Whiteheart, Mastedon, Leslie Phillips’ The Turning.

“Nowadays, however, two things have changed my tastes considerably.  One is discovering goth music and its various subgenres and related genres (from the 80s through today).  Another is discovering Orthodox theology.

“I’ve been going through my music collection, playing it in alphabetical order so my toddler will get a musical education.  I’m also finding albums I can no longer tolerate.

“In some cases, I never did like the album, because it had only one or two good songs on it.  I’ll rip the good songs into MP3s to put onto one CD, and get rid of the album, thereby condensing my music collection a bit.

“In some cases, I used to love an album, but the influence of goth means I can no longer stand it.  (For example, a Christian tape with secular pop-influenced tunes which I loved in high school, but now mostly sounds lame–just like the secular pop of that time.)

“Christian and secular albums are getting purged, because being Christian does not necessarily make it bad music, and being secular does not necessarily make it good music.

“In some cases with Christian albums, I always loved the music, but when I listen to the lyrics now, the theology is like nails on a chalkboard.  Carman has Charismatic, name-it-and-claim-it theology; One Bad Pig has songs which sound like Jonathan Edwards (such as Bowl of Wrath).

“Until a year or two ago, I had absolutely no problem with CCM (Contemporary Christian Music) in worship services; in fact, I wanted more of the modern stuff, and less of the old hymns.  I wanted goth or rock worship music, since usually it’s the poppy stuff which I can’t stand.

“But then I started studying other theological systems in-depth, including Orthodoxy, and now I can’t stand CCM praise choruses in church.  The music sounds poppy and the lyrics are often weak.

“Hubby and I both would rather string ourselves up to the light fixtures than sing another chorus of ‘yes lord yes lord yes yes lord’ (Trading My Sorrows)  or ‘na na na na na na na’ (Every Move I Make).

“I’d much rather sing/listen to some of that Russian plainchant….”

To quote from “From First Baptist to the First Century: A Spiritual Journey” by Clark Carlton:

A.W. Tozer once called worship the ‘missing jewel of evangelicalism.’  I longed to worship a God who was bigger than I was a God who could not be contained by the chatty informality of an evangelical service or by Bill Gaither choruses.  I longed to worship Him Who sits upon the throne of the cherubim. I did not want to be the star of the show!

My last years in high school also brought me into contact with a group of charismatic-leaning high school and college students who frequented a Christian coffee house. Here I was exposed to a kind of spontaneous informality in worship that made us Baptists look liturgical.

Although somewhat wary of their Pentecostal leanings, I joined in gladly, thrilled to find young people like myself who wanted to truly follow Christ.

The whole setting, however, was haphazard. Every guest speaker/singer had his own agenda. I do not think any of them would have known historic Christian doctrine if it had slapped them in the face; they were primarily interested in ‘just praising the Lord.’

With very few exceptions the spirituality of the coffee houses and the music they inspired was trite, superficial, and emotionally manipulative.

To be sure, everyone was sincere, and there was enough youthful energy involved to create a lot of smoke, but very little real heat was generated. After all, Jesus never said, ‘Sincerity will set you free.’

By the time I graduated from college the thrill was gone, and I had all but quit buying contemporary Christian music, the staple of Christian coffee house worship.

It is only natural, I suppose, that young people should desire to express their faith in the popular idiom of their culture. Nor is it surprising that such an expression should take place on such a superficial level.

It is disturbing, however, when people are never prompted to move beyond such shallow, sentimental, and emotionally manipulative expressions of faith.

There has been a trend in many evangelical churches over the last few years to move toward more ‘praise choruses’ and away from traditional Protestant hymnography. Thus, the slim doctrinal content of Protestant hymnography is being phased out altogether in favor of catchy choruses.

Yet, where is it written that the praise of God must be bereft of solid doctrine or be aimed at manipulating emotions rather than uplifting the heart?

Written around 2005/2006

Index to my theology/church opinion pages:

Page 1:

End Times and Christian Zionism 
God’s Purpose/Supremacy of God Doctrine 
Cat and Dog Theology 
Raising One’s Hands in Worship 
Christian Music 
On the “still, small voice” and Charismatic sign gifts
On church buildings 
The Message Bible 
The Purpose-Driven Life 
The Relevance Doctrine, i.e. Marketing Churches to Seekers 
Republican Party 
Abortion Protests 
The idea that God has someone in mind for you 
Literalism in Biblical interpretation

Page 2:

Name it and Claim It Doctrine, Prosperity Doctrine, Faith-Formula Theology, Word-Faith Theology,  Positive Confession Theology, Health and Wealth Gospel, and whatever else they call it
More about Pat Robertson
Dr. Richard Eby and others who claim to have been to Heaven
Women in Marriage/the Church
Spiritual Abuse 
Other Resources 

Page 3:

Why do bad things happen?
Should we criticize our brethren’s artistic or evangelistic attempts?  Or, how should we evangelize, then?
Angels: Is “This Present Darkness” by Frank Peretti a divine revelation or fiction?
Halloween: Not the Devil’s Holiday!
Hell and the Nature of God 
Is Christmas/Easter a Pagan Holiday? 
Is everybody going to Hell except Christians?
How could a loving God who prohibits murder, command the genocide of the Canaanite peoples? 
What about predestination?
Musings on Sin, Salvation and Discipleship 
An Ancient View which is in the Bible, yet new to the west–Uncreated Energies of God

Page 4:

The Didache 
Technical Virginity–i.e., how far should a Christian single go? 
Are Spiritual Marriages “real”?  (also in “Life” section, where it’s more likely to be updated) 
Does the Pill cause abortions, or is that just another weird Internet or extremist right-wing rumor?
What about Missional Churches, Simple Churches, Fluid Churches, Organic Churches, House Churches or Neighborhood Churches?
Is Wine from the Devil–or a Gift from God?
What is Worship? 
Evangelistic Trips to Already Christianized Countries
Fraternities, Sororities, Masonic Lodge 
Was Cassie Bernall a Martyr?
Some Awesome Things heard in the Lamentations Service (Good Friday evening) during Holy Week

Conversion Story

Phariseeism in the Church