Christian Music: Not Safe and Fun for the Whole Family

I haven’t listened to a lot of Christian music in a long time, certainly not on the radio, for reasons I’m sure many of you can guess. But music is a particularly powerful influencer. Good music often carries a lyric into the subconscious and a song can stick in your head for days. For me (and I suspect for most folks) music is an important habit of my mind, whether intentional or unintentional.

For this reason, I’ve recently been more intentional about the role of music in my need to to “take every thought captive to obey Christ” (2 Cor 10) and to think on “whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable” (Phil 4).

Since the stuff on Christian radio isn’t my style, among other things, it doesn’t have much power to help me in this endeavor. (It does help many, many Christians “set [their] minds on things above” (Col 3:1), so I won’t judge it too harshly, and I chide myself for doing so so disdainfully in the past.)

Fortunately, there is a good amount of “inde” music out there these days that reaches out to me and others like me (and others not like me!). Thanks to sites like Amazon and Noisetrade with their automatic, you-may-also-like suggestion boxes, out-of-the-mainstream music gets easier and easier to find.
Here are some of my recent finds.
As you can plainly see from the cover of their album, The Fourth Wall, The Vespers belie my bias for folk and bluegrass. They could be described as inde folk, or neo-folk, rockin’ out their pickin-n-strumin’ instruments in their vintage clothing. What you can’t see are their at times haunting, at times playful vocals and lyrics. You can sample those here.
The Vespers don’t only help us rejoice with those who rejoice, they also help us weep with those who weep, a holistic truth telling.
Note the cover art on Beautiful Things: this is not your typical Christian music scene. Paradox is a significant part of the Christian understanding of truth, and Gungor reminds us of one of the most crucial paradoxes:
You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of the dust
You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of us
Psalm-like, “Beautiful Things” opens with doubts and a sense of being overwhelmed and beat down by the ugly things in this world and in our hearts, but it is the refrain that remains in the mind—the reminder, the affirmation, the hope.
Wilder Adkins‘s Oak & Apple presents new, acoustic remakes of old, beloved hymns. This choice exposes my preference for hymns over other kinds of Christian music. I’m not the only one, apparently, because there have been several projects in this vein of late. I prefer acoustic, folk-oriented albums like this one, but there are a significant number of neo-hymn albums with more pop-rock flavor.
One reason I appreciate these kinds of albums is that, along with familiar favorites, I’m always introduced to hymns I didn’t grow up with. I love learning new hymns; the hymn is such a rich heritage, and learning the hymns from outside my own tradition links me to the wide, deep heritage of the faith.
It just so happens that one of my very favorite musicians is our very own Christine Hand. Christine’s music appeals to me pretty much for all the same reasons the above albums and artists do: the woman and her band can play their instruments; roots in folk, folk-rock, and blues; soulful, holistic vocals and lyrics. Her song, “The Face of All the World,” is one of my long-time favorites, and I often turn to it when I feel overwhelmed by the world and am in need of encouragement and a reminder that God is everywhere and in everything:
You’re every sweet sound
You are the cold rain
And every tear that from my eyes will fall for joy or pain
You are the best thing that I have found
And this world is wide and round
I haven’t given up “secular” music—as we often like to say, all truth is God’s truth. There are many, many songs of all stripes that remind me of Christ or the absence of him, of the glory and the horror of this life; and many songs of many stripes that are just plain fun! But as music is a powerful influencer, it’s something we should at times be intentional about. The above albums and artists disciple my mind and nurture my soul.
Your turn. I’m always on the lookout for good music. Share with us in the comments: What have been some of your favorite finds? What music gives you courage and hope? 
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