Christian Rock

I Object

On the train today, I was chatting with a guy I Know. He was telling me that He had recently been at a massive Christian event. In his words it was a “Christian Rock/worship event.” I asked him about if those two words go together “Christian” and “Rock”. He said he didn’t see a problem with it.

He told me about The performances by David Crowder band, Delirious?, Third Day, Newsboys. How great it was to have a big venue, 6000 people, and a day where the music, lighting sound, was top quality, a day you can take your non Christian friends too and not feel ashamed.

I Object.

what is Christian rock music.

If Rock music is not satanic
Rock music cannot be Christian.
what it leaves us with is a medium (Rock Music) which is used and abused by musicians how they see fit.

How does Rock fit in to this christianisation. It doesn’t.
If it is religious and be definition Christian then It is religious music. And the question has to be asked if Rock music the appropriate medium for religiosity.

It isn’t Religious and spiritual songs have their roots is communal singing. It is quite hard for communal groups to sing rock music. But slow the tempo and suddenly everyone can be singing along. Hence the popularity of the Hillsongs, Vineyard Soul Survivor musical experience.

Rock music though is meant to slap you in the face, provoke, challenge and make you think. It seems to be charged with more zealous indignation. When A rock band start to play, and the bass hits you in the chest, the volume is cranked to 11 you realise that communal singing is very different to singing along with a band.

This leaves us with a quandary.
Christian Rock music should not exist. So why does it. Well why does the mullet live on as a hair style? Why did the crazy frog get to number one?


Christina Rock makes some Big companies Some Big Money Hundreds of millions of dollars million of pounds, This is big business. Why?

Because It’s Safe. In two ways.
First way
It is safe for your family. No cuss words, not danger of liberalism, no danger of engaging with subject matter that is unwholesome. Some years ago memorably Christian Book stores decided to ban the CD Delicate Fade By Common Children due to it having a song by the title “Hate” on it. By listening to the latest Toby Mac CD Your child won’t want or need to listen to Eminem.
Second Way
It’s a limited but regular market. Parents will buy stuff for their child if you tell them it’s Christian. It’s a safe bet to make money. Young people will decided what’s okay and ask for more of that. Parents will feel happy to oblige.

This safety negates the need to engage, prove quality, and be salt and light in the world. Risk takers are needed and work.

People like, Over the Rhine, the late 16Horsepower, Sufjan Stevens, Kevin Max, Iain Archer, Martyn Joseph, The Innocence Mission.

People who have faith, but are willing to forgo the safety of selling a couple hundred thousand records but being restrained in their artistic vision. People who are putting their art out there for general consumption. People who are getting there.

David Eugene Edwards of 16horsepower was notorious for turning every interview into a discussion on Theology with the interviewer. Yet most Christian Rock Fans would be hard pushed to tell you anything about him. Ask what Third days drummer’s favorite hat colour is and well, the chances are they will know.

I guess it comes down to this. Is Christianity for you all about Staying safe, and singing religious songs and slogans. Well Christian rock is for you. But if your faith can engage, and deal with the unsafe, risk taking, dangerous world, then perhaps you need to see what music which does the same thing can do for you.

‘Now The Day Is Over’ offers is a safe place where one can exist (at least temporarily) outside of all of life’s hardships. This is music that leaves cynicism out in the cold. The purity of the soul is what counts. speaking about the innocencemissionss latest album.

6 thoughts on “Christian Rock

  1. I think where I would disagree with you would be in the fact that you say that basic “Christian music”, or what we refer to by that name, is wrong because it is released both on a level that is simple, and on a level that is commercial. I personally find nothing wrong with either of those traits, I admire someone who is able to write a commercially good song. And I think that for most people, basic truth is what they can relate to on an everyday basis. Most people don’t have the time or mental resources to take an Over the Rhine or Sufjan Stevens song and disect it, and try to understand it. When I hear the song ‘Who Am I’, by Casting Crowns, I don’t say that it’s a faulty song because it’s simple. I am able to relate to it and say, yes, I am Christ’s, He has claimed me! That claim, or understanding, no matter how basic it is, still greatly encourages me.
    I will put a disclaimer here by saying I am the type of person who likes disecting intellectually challenging songs, and I myself enjoy especially OTR, but I don’t only need the truth I find in them. I also need simple truth. As a matter of fact, Over the Rhine (and etc.) does not give me spiritual ‘Christian’ encouragement anymore than many secular songs do. I will give that maybe a few do, but most of the songs must be understood from a subtle, yet open-minded spirituality, not the basic Gospel message of Jesus Christ.

  2. I agree with Scott on this. Why do we need a sub-genre? – is not a safe place to hide, an easy way to sell music to a nice large sub-culture especially in the USA…
    do you think many of the bands would actually stand up musically in the “outside world”?
    people should be encouraged to listen to music that they actually like, rather than just because it is allegedly “Christian”…

  3. eucharisto. I think we have crossed wires here.
    Simple music isn’t bad, in fact, in my brief song writing experience, it is very hard to write a simple song which is good.

    COmmericial music by defination must be popular, there fore people will like it. Last year I totally feel for britney’s Toxic. Commerical yes, popular yes, sold to me on a premise which was false. no.

    Christian music is guarunteed sales not because it is commercial, not because it is simple, but because it trades off the name “Christian”.
    Later this year Micheal W Smith will be selling out the royal albert hall in London.

    Not bacause he has had a commerical british hit. (Although I will grant you he did get to number 22 in 1992). Not because his songs are simple. Not because he has a film coming out in america this year. But because people buy his music because he is sold in the christian Music Industry.

    If people want to sing praises to God, Fantastic, biblical, great. Just do it properly. Sell it as religious music for praise.

    If you want to write a song about How God works in Mysterious ways. excellent.
    Write a song about it.
    Gig for ages until the band rocks.
    get proper management.
    get signed to a label and put the best you have out there against the best that pink floyd, the killers, razorlight, U2, or anyone has to offer.

    I object to being sold something because it is christian.
    I want to be free to judge music as an art form.

    I want to be aable to judge things against each other equally.

    If I buy a picture to go on my wall,My choice may be between, Da Vinci’s sunflowers or david from the roof of the Cistine chapel.

    I buy the one I ilke the best, not the one sold to me as christian.

    I think that should make it slightly clearer. if not more confusing.

  4. I don’t find anything wrong with the idea of Christians reaching to Christians through a commercial market. It’s called edifying the body. I also don’t mind Christians working in a secular market, if that’s what God’s called them to.
    Frankly, a song that preaches the Gospel plain and clear, like Michael W. Smith song (an artist you used earlier), simply wouldn’t be possible in a secular market. It’s unreal to think that someone could present a CD with a clear and undeniable message of the Gospel on it, and then expect a label like Capital or Virgin to pick it up. Granted, there are some exceptions, but I’m not talking about Over The Rhine or U2, who’s message, though good and thought-provoking, is not a blatant message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
    Unless an artist goes independent like Over The Rhine, they buy into a system. U2 buys into an industry just as much as Michael W. Smith does. Every artist that gets signed is molded into whatever the record company wants. For example, Universal Music International, U2’s record company, knows what sells and what doesn’t sell. Believe it or not, the record company decides much of what does or doesn’t go on the record. Bono can’t just write what he wants, he writes in accordance to the precedents set out by Universal. For example, he may have earned the right to write the song ‘Yahweh’, and record it on a full-lenth record, but partially the reason he can record that song is because though it means something to us as Christians, it goes right over the top of a non-Christian’s head. Most non-Christians don’t even have any idea what yahweh is. A seattle DJ was actually previewing the song and wondered out loud why Bono would name a song ‘Yeah Way’!
    Anyway, if you truly think that
    1) It’s ok for Christians to write straightforward, ‘simple’, ‘commerical’ songs, but
    2) It’s not ok for Christians to be part of a Christian industry, you’re condemning Christian Songwriters to being independent their entire careers. I have yet to see the day that a person who gets signed by a major secular record label and gets to regularly preach the gospel.
    I would say that I have been to concerts by Jars Of Clay, Newsboys, etc., and seen non-Christians repent and come to Christ. I have also seen secular venues where a Christian-by-name,-not-by-industry gives a concert, and doesn’t change a single person. This is not to say that there aren’t exceptions, but on the whole, the only thing a Christian in a secular field can do is pre-evangelise, lay the groundwork. Don’t get me wrong, this is important too, but so is evangelising through the simple message of the gospel.
    The Christian industry provides a place where the Gospel can be preached, and I guarentee you, non-Christians are hearing it.
    To ‘destroy’ it, as I’ve heard some people say, would be to destroy a good thing that God is working through.

  5. EUphisto thanks for the comments

    Your basic arguement seems to be that if christians were in the mainstream they would have to remain independant in order to be able to preach.

    You argue that if they were signed to a mainstream label then they would not have artistic freedom to sing explicitly about God.

    I kinda agree.

    Therefore the Christian Music Industry should be dismantled as soon as possible.

    If God in everything christians seem to think he is then why do christians try create an place for him in the market.

    Are you saying that the christian god would not onour those who stand up for him somehow, someway. fiery furnace anyone? lions den anyone?

    there can be no such thing as christian Rock.
    DOn’t try and sell me music on the premise it’s Christian Rock. I want music thats good, not overbrnaded with religiousity.

  6. I probably agree with you more than you know. I also dislike much of what goes on in the industry, a lot of it is very superficial, fake, etc.
    Personally, I think U2, Over The Rhine, and etc. make better examples of Christian bands in many respects than many ‘Christian Contemporary’ bands.
    I do know, though, through experience (I lived in Nashville, TN for a short time) that there are a lot of really sincere people in the industry who simply want to preach the gospel as possible. Of course that’s not always the case, but lots of Christians there don’t care whether you see it as Christian Contemporary Music or just as music, they just want to share their heart. It’s unfortunate what’s become of the industry in recent years, but we shouldn’t throw the baby out with the bathwater.
    As a side note:
    I don’t think artists are saying that their music is ‘Christian’ music, in many cases, but rather contains explicitly Christian lyrics. It would be deceiving the listener not at least give them some sort of warning about the content of the song, if someone’s going to be preachy on an album, I’d like an indication. Calling it a Christian album may not be the best use of the word, but it does give me some idea of the content.
    One thing that is an absolute “Don’t” in the music industry, don’t trick your audience. If it’s explicitly Christian lyrics, be honest about the way you present it. If it’s not, be honest about that too. Music is a very sensitve business, those among us who are in it need to be very careful how we present ourselves, and label our material accordingly.

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