In the event that you didn’t catch the “5 Reasons to Kill Christian Music” post over at Bad Catholic’s Patheos blog, here’s the synopsis:
Christian musicians have siphoned themselves off into a “ghettoized” music industry where unimaginative melodies and clichéd lyrics inconsistent with Biblical truths sell and are celebrated. What’s more, the American Church has adopted the “positive, encouraging, K-LOVE” mantra as a measuring stick for what is “acceptable” for Christians to listen to (even though no one would describe Jesus’ call to “take up your cross and follow me” as “positive” or “encouraging”).
The author claims that we need less Christian record labels pumping out formulaic easy listening for Christians and more skilled musicians of faith producing art that resonates with the challenges, struggles, victories and joys that abiding in Christ brings. As people who “walk through the valley of death,” we should not seek to be “family friendly” so much as we should seek to create “beautiful, authentic expressions of reality.”
Before I worked in a public library, I agreed wholeheartedly. In my brash, I-know-everything-because-I-have-a-Bachelor’s-Degree-in-English phase, I scrooged around proclaiming my disdain for Christian films, music and fiction (especially the kind about Amish women converting and then marrying the village badass). I hated sappy, unrealistic endings where people would come to know Jesus. I thought the world would be a better place if worship leaders would let me replace their droning, “You, you are God. You are Lord,” choruses with something gorgeously obscure.
But I’m becoming soft, you guys.
At the risk of sounding like my literary palate has been corrupted or that I’ve jumped on the conservative “Hide your wives, hide your kids” from all that is secular bandwagon, I will say this:
Christians, maybe its time we admitted that amid the glut of glittering, mass-produced lies generated by the American media, we need the voice of Christian music, stylistically and lyrically cliché though it is.
The library where I work a lovely place. I get to talk about books 30 – 45% of the day. The kids I talk to actually like books, and I don’t have to administer tests or grade papers.
But public libraries also double as glorified video stores. During an 8-hour shift, I am inundated by a swarm of perverse images that parade sexuality as though it were a fantastic recreational opportunity or The Ultimate Solution to My Problems. (It’s neither.)
Even though I “know better”—I cognitively understand that women don’t really look like this and that I am beautiful because God desires me—the images on these materials still drive me to the point where I’ll go into the break room and swat at tears: Is this why I’ve been single all these years? Because I don’t measure up to the golden-calf fantasy woman men created using Photoshop?
And it’s not just me. I watch our female patrons stare at the displays and pick through the romance novels as though thrill and contentment were only a page turn away. They’ll study the face of a DVD as though it were their own reflection, asking themselves (to quote Katie Makkai): “Will I be wanted?” “Will I be worthy?” “Will I be pretty?”
The answer is always no.
In a world where women are slammed with images that communicate
BEAUTY IS GODLINESS!
YOU ARE WHAT YOU OWN!
YOUR WORTH IS CONTINGENT UPON YOUR POWER TO SEDUCE!
and that familiar refrain:
ARE YOU PRETTY ENOUGH?
ARE YOU THIN ENOUGH? VOLUPTUOUS ENOUGH?
ARE YOU GOOD ENOUGH?
women need songs to tell them what is true. Especially young women.
We are (on average) exposed to 300 sexually-provocative advertisements per week. In case you weren’t counting, that’s 300 lies that we should be ashamed of appearances and go buy products so we won’t be. Or 300 lies that recreational sex will delight and satisfy our deep need to be affirmed and cherished. Being constantly on guard against these images is exhausting. Even if you have a degree in humanities, you’re not exempt from being stalked by their messages.
Who will confront them?
I’m not saying the solution to confronting lies about sexuality and value is to mass-produce awful music. I would love if Christian artists were mentored by poets and classical musicians to temper lyrical drudgery and predictable chord progressions.
Still, there is power in repeating simple truths to ourselves in music, regardless of the song’s style. For instance, this Sunday at church, some teenage girls performed a liturgical dance to a song that I instantly classified into the auto-tuned radio hit category.
But as they repeated the movements of the chorus, they affirmed the worth and purpose of those in the congregation with authority. The lyrics, regardless of their trite sentiment, were antithetical to the toxic messages I received when shelving DVDs.
If the genre of Christian music doesn’t stand in the gap for young women, what is the alternative? Will we continue to parrot Nicki Minaj and chant Gaga-isms?
I say, give our young women Christian music so long as it communicates that they are valued by, desired by and worthy of God.
Until something better comes along, let’s not be hasty to “kill” Christian music. It might be the only thing women hear throughout the day that doesn’t condemn them or cause them to feel shame.