Saturday, September 25, 2010

Christian Music?

To be entirely honest, I find a lot of "Christian" music to be SUPER shmaltzy.  In fact, I couldn't listen to a station like K-Love without rolling my eyes for YEARS, and I still roll my eyes at a lot of stuff that's played on Christian radio.  There are a few songs that I do really like, and I thought I'd post some of the lyrics I really love, as well as a video.

Tenth Avenue North - By Your Side

"Why are you striving these days?  /  Why are you trying to earn grace?  / Why are you crying?  /  Let me lift up your face; just don't turn away.  /  Why are you looking for love?  /  Why are you still searching as if I'm not enough?  / To where will you go child, tell me where will you run?  /  To where will you run?  /  And I'll be by your side wherever you fall  /  in the dead of night, whenever you call.  /  And please don't fight these hands that are holding you  / my hands are holding you."

Matt Maher - Alive Again

The first time I heard this song, I thought "that's Augustine's Confessions!"  Matt Maher is Catholic, and I love that he uses words from a Catholic saint written centuries before.  And I have a soft spot for the Confessions; here is an excerpt from Augustine:

"Late have I loved you, beauty so old and so new, late have I loved you.  And see, you were within, and I was in the external world and sought you there, and in my unlovely state I plunged into those lovely things
which you made.  You were with me, and I was not with you.  The lovely things kept me far from you, though if they did not have their existence in you, they had no existence at all.  You called and cried out loud and shattered my deafness. You were radiant and resplendent, you put to flight my blindness. You were fragrant,
and I drew my breath and now pant after you.  I tasted you, and I feel but hunger and thirst for you.  You touched me, and I am set on fire to attain the peace which is yours."

Matt Maher sings:
"You called and You shouted  /  Broke through my deafness  /  Now I'm breathing in and breathing out  /  I'm alive again.  /  You shattered my darkness  /  Washed away my blindness  /  Now I'm breathing in and breathing out  /  I'm alive again.  /  Late have I loved You  /  You waited for me, I searched for You  /  What took me so long?  /  I was looking outside  /  As if Love would ever want to hide  /  I'm finding I was wrong "

Derek Webb - What Matters More

This is NOT a song that is played on Christian radio, because Derek Webb is known for pushing a lot of buttons and he swears sometimes (which I'm totally fine with, it's used appropriately, not gratuitously).  His message isn't always an easy one to choke down for many people.  Stockholm Syndrome is a prime example of this: this song is about how Christians have a tendency to focus on homosexuality as a topic much more than they focus on genocide, starvation, humans rights, etc.  It's a focus on sexuality instead of SURVIVAL, which is sort of crazy... I think it's a powerful and necessary message:  What matters more to you??

"You say you always treat people like you like to be  /  I guess you love being hated for your sexuality.  /  You love when people put words in your mouth  /  'Bout what you believe, make you sound like a freak.  /  'Cause if you really believe what you say you believe  /  You wouldn't be so damn reckless with the words you speak  /  Wouldn't silently conceal when the liars speak  /  Denyin' all the dyin' of the remedy.  /  Tell me, brother, what matters more to you?  /  Tell me, sister, what matters more to you?  /  If I can tell what's in your heart by what comes out of your mouth  /  Then it sure looks to me like being straight is all it's about  /  It looks like being hated for all the wrong things  /  Like chasin' the wind while the pendulum swings  /  'Cause we can talk and debate until we're blue in the face  /  About the language and tradition that he's comin' to save  /  Meanwhile we sit just like we don't give a shit  /  About 50,000 people who are dying today.  /  Tell me, what matters more to you?"

(The way he shakes his head annoys me.)

If more bands came out with "Christian" music like this (although that's a weird title, how can a genre have a belief system? Strange), then I think that it will be moving out of shmaltzy and into something that's real and honest and genuine and challenging.


  1. It's funny - as I read this, I can't help but think back to a time when "Christian" music was all I listened to. I knew all the mainstream bands, the lyrics to all their popular songs...even had an extensive CD collection. That's all gone now.

    I don't know if you ever got this much, but I remember being on the praise team in high school at my old church. A lot of us became really frustrated at practices, especially some of us who were hoping to play some of our own worship songs we had written in services. If a song had too many minor chords in it, we would get complaints that the song didn't create enough Christian ambiance, and if a song's lyrics mentioned God subtly but not directly, we got complaints that the lyrics weren't spiritual enough. I'm not kidding.

    The end result was that we never played any of the team's compositions. About 95% of the songs we did play were Hillsongs. A lot of the team felt that it constricted creativity and put God in a box when it came to music (the idea that God only likes songs that have C G C G C G chord progressions is just kind of ridiculous, come on now).

    It's nice to see that there are some artists out there who call themselves Christians who aren't afraid to experiment musically. It's a shame they're not given a chance to play on mainstream radio. A shame, but unfortunately not really a surprise.

  2. I was totally into Christian music growing up too, but I also really liked Silverchair, Oasis, Radiohead and Counting Crows, so I listened to both Christian and secular music.

    I didn't have that problem at my youth group because I was the one who led the music, actually. It was pretty much me and my guitar. I played a lot of 'praise songs,' and many were in major chords, but we sang some minor chord ones too for sure. :-) I was also allowed to play songs that I wrote, but I only wrote a few that could be considered "worship." I was not a good singer, and not a great worship leader, but I loved it.

    The one time things got REALLY dicey is when one youth pastor (who wasn't there long and who I did NOT get along with) told everyone to "kneel before God!" in the middle of a song, which TOTALLY weirded me out. I ended up saying "you can do whatever you want, worship however, you don't have to kneel" in the middle of the song... which was also awkward since I was directly going against what the youth pastor had just said. But he was being WEIRD and who does that?! Not cool.

    Sleeping at Last is still one of my favorite "Christian" bands and they've never really gotten airplay, Christian or otherwise. But they had a fairly big following in Chicago, and I like them a whole lot. Here's two newer songs of theirs:

    Their new stuff is very slow and chill, they sort of sound like Radiohead, I think.