We poke fun at the Christian music industry around here, sometimes. Rightly so – it’s terrible. The music we call “Christian” is made up of boring songs that try to make people cry before the end of the bridge, but then everything’s OK at the end. And the music is awful; tuning into Christian radio stations always makes me wonder if the songs are intended to be sitcom theme songs from the 80s.
Of course, like we said before, this is probably just an outcropping of the problems we see all over the music industry. (Which is why I only listen to the local jazz station when I’m in my car.) But the very idea of “Christian music” has become unpopular in Christian circles. This is partly because of the terrible music that it spawns, but also because it’s an approach to songwriting that has no place outside of the church. Why bother singing about God if the only people who will hear you already believe?
But I think Christian music is still important. Where would I be without the wonderful songs of Rich Mullins, reminding me that the natural beauty of the world reflects God’s love? Who else would put the ancient text of the Apostle’s Creed into a Celtic-inspired song featuring a mountain dulcimer? (I’m talking about the songs “The Color Green,” and “Creed.” Look them up if you don’t know them. Please.)
People like Bebo Norman and Andrew Peterson have written songs that I never fail to remember throughout my life, even though they would have little meaning to anyone outside of the church. The meditative sounds of Fernando Ortega always help me to calm down and remember what is important when I’m upset.
But the entire music industry is not what it used to be, and when it began to tumble the Christian labels were the first casualties. The best musicians in the Christian music industry stopped receiving contracts (because they were not the most profitable) and only the most generic groups stuck around. Of course, the same thing happened in the mainstream music industry, and you’ll notice that major labels no longer sign groups like Collective Soul or The Counting Crows. Dance party pop music always sells the best, so that’s what they make room for.
It’s common to criticize Christian artists for “living in a bubble” and not having relevance to anyone who doesn’t go to Sunday School, but there is always a place for ministering to other Believers. If we don’t make room for someone like Rich Mullins then we will miss out on the encouragement and teaching that good Christian music can bring us.
(More articles at www.ThinkingThroughChristianity.com)