Contemporary Christian Music - The Good and the Bad

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Contemporary Christian Music - The Good and the Bad

Postby Kraavdran » Sat May 02, 2015 6:29 am

The topic of contemporary Christian music spawned from another Q&A thread, so I figured that I'd post it here.

So, what are your thoughts on contemporary Christian music? If you have trouble with it, why? Are there exceptions? What makes other songs better for you?

Also, what is your favorite song, contemporary and/or traditional?

Also, as a side note, here's an interesting article about music... particularly about how peoples' heartbeat will synchronize while singing together: http://www.npr.org/blogs/health/2013/07 ... eat-as-one
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Re: Contemporary Christian Music - The Good and the Bad

Postby Nate » Sat May 02, 2015 10:11 am

It's just flat out not my style of music that I enjoy listening to. Even ignoring the lyrical problems that they have of "standard love song, but about Jesus," even if that changed I just don't particularly care for the soft rock/alternative genres.

I guess one of the things that makes other songs better is that they're not restricted by having to be Christian. Look at They Might Be Giants. They have a song about Istanbul no longer being called Constantinople, one about James K. Polk, one about how terrible racism is, some about depression, there's a lot of variation in the lyrics and themes of their songs. Christian music doesn't tend to have that, it's pretty much solely about God which doesn't leave room for many other themes. And a big problem is that even beyond this, if a Christian group writes songs that don't say Jesus or God in every single one of them, they get accused of "selling out" or "being afraid of proclaiming God" by a lot of Christians who then abandon them or turn their back on them. Not very cool.

Christian music also has difficulty dealing with darker topics that non-Christian music isn't afraid to touch. Feelings of depression or anger are almost never present in Christian music, or are touched upon but then go "But Jesus will make everything better so no more being depressed or angry!" which isn't really how human nature works. Social or political commentary is another big one. For as much as Jesus talked about helping the poor and condemning the rich, when was the last time you heard a Christian song talk about social justice? When was the last time you heard a Christian song sing about the evils of war or racism? Not very often, or if these themes are touched upon they're often done in a simplified and candy-coated way like singing something like "All races are children of God" which while that's a nice message doesn't touch upon actual issues which affect people.

Where's the Christian version of Rage Against the Machine singing about tearing down capitalism and corrupt governments? Even if you don't agree with these views, the fact that no bands like this seem to even exist is a problem I feel.
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Re: Contemporary Christian Music - The Good and the Bad

Postby Midori » Sat May 02, 2015 12:09 pm

I don't think there's anything especially wrong with contemporary Christian music, besides the fact that I think there ought to be a lot more variety and more boldness. Contemporary worship songs are almost always in the same style, almost always in a major key, and far too often end on the IV chord. Their lyrics, while there's nothing wrong with them as themselves, tend to be kind of uncreative, just going on about how God is great and we really love worshipping him, sing with me how great is our god. I often prefer old hymns because they usually have very bold and interesting theology worked into their songs. Not that hymns have very much musical variety themselves.

I think currently my favorite worship song is Give me Jesus, which our team plays in a more blues style than other songs.

Personally, when it comes to music, I have very eclectic tastes, except that I prefer instrumental music over music with lyrics. Unfortunately, although historically there has been a lot of religiously-inspired instrumental music, these days we don't tend to count things as religious unless they explicitly mention religious things. At least, Christians seem not to. I suspect nonreligious listeners would have a broader definition. I'm pretty sure there are a lot of musicians who are Christians but who never mention that their music is religiously-inspired because if they do, they'll be categorized as religious and nobody will listen to them. So they keep on writing music with a faint hope that maybe their wordless music will lead people to God anyway.

Nate wrote:And a big problem is that even beyond this, if a Christian group writes songs that don't say Jesus or God in every single one of them, they get accused of "selling out" or "being afraid of proclaiming God" by a lot of Christians who then abandon them or turn their back on them. Not very cool.

This is definitely a problem, but I'm pretty sure there are some groups, if you look for them, who write "normal" songs too. For example, there's Relient K, which was popular with teens when I was a teen. Also, it's pretty common among country (don't neglect the genre just because it's memetically unpopular) music artists to freely write about both the sacred and the mundane.

As for political messages in Christian music...I'm not really sure what to think, but I have a feeling that a lot of Christians are unwilling to put political messages in their songs because they sense that politics in America is more of a dividing force than a constructive one. At least, that's how I would feel about it. Is it dangerous to mention politics in this thread? I think it might be, but I think we're all conscious enough to avoid making a controversy of it.

Oh, by they way, I'm moving this thread to the Jam Session area, since it doesn't really fit the schema of Christian Growth Q&A. The CGQA board isn't just for any old religious topics. The entire website is for religious topics. We are a Christian site after all.
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Re: Contemporary Christian Music - The Good and the Bad

Postby Kraavdran » Sat May 02, 2015 12:33 pm

Nate,

Really interesting (and good) points! I must admit, I had not considered the "casual listening to" music types. I don't listen to music because I don't enjoy any music genres, so you have provided really good information in terms of that whole field of music.

That being said, and before I comment on your post, I am curious what you think about communal worship music culture? In other words, when you go to church and sing songs, what do you think about those songs?

Really interesting points, particularly...

1) All music being the same genre (soft rock and alternative). I don't know much about music, but that is a really interesting point. My friends have a wide range of musical preferences from heavy metal to classical. It is just something that resonates better with them. It seems a shame to force people to enjoy just one or two genres when they connect better with a different one. Excellent point, I had not considered that at all.

2) That is another good point. Christian music as a genre by itself and bands feeling limited to that one genre (and, as you said, people disliking bands for trying to do different genres). There is no reason for songs to specifically mention God. Although, that being said, this might fit better for "listening to" songs as opposed to songs sung during worship at church. As a person who dislikes music as an art form, I really need good/deep lyrics... and preferably focusing on God. Not to say that others might enjoy variety in that sense, but I don't think that I would personally like it in a church setting.

3) haha, that is true, Christian music doesn't deal with darker topics because Christians in general fear negative things. That is one major criticism of traditional Christian culture. This particularly comes out in grief situations ( http://www.crosswalk.com/faith/spiritua ... eving.html ). I attribute these things to fear of saying the wrong thing and general lack of knowledge/experience on how to deal with darker issues.

4) This might be more of a side note because I don't want this to get too off-track, but I don't think that it is the church's place to sing about, like you suggested, tearing down capitalism and corrupt governments. I don't say this because I disagree, but more so disagree with the aggressive stance the church can take. Certain current hot topics, on either side of the debate, might be an example where Christians have overstepped their moral authority... which has resulted in considerable backlash. Particularly, I think of the whole mess with marriage going on in America now. When Jesus came, many thought that he would destroy Roman rule or break down the corruption everywhere. But, instead, he pointed people's thoughts to God and, particularly, loving one's neighbor. In this way, I feel that we are encouraged to modify our own actions... not the actions of others. And, sure, this could look different (anywhere from protests to campaigning to projects related to becoming free of capitalism)... but songs about tearing down those things? I feel like that comes from a more angry/fearful/complaining/judging stance. All this said, I think that is why there are not many (if any) groups that speak about tearing institutions down. Although, I should be clear, I agree with what you say about dealing with the hard things like racism and such. After all, racism is bad and should be addressed because it is something that we must do so that we may love our neighbor. In that way, it is more internal change than external change. But, for things that are not so clear-cut (political issues, for example), I don't think that Christian songs should include them. Especially considering the war-like political climate in America... but perhaps that is a different issue altogether. Lastly, I think that you don't see any of these types of songs because they would not cater to the largest audience possible. And, similar to your thoughts on why Christian bands don't sing songs that are not about God: enough people would dislike them.

Good stuff, thanks!

As a side note, one of my friends, several years ago, played a song at church that actually did focus on how Christians often don't have good priorities when it comes to helping others and focus more on having nice programs and such. I can't remember the band name, but it was a non-traditional type of music type... maybe some type of metal? I wish I could say more, but I have very little experience with music as a whole. But, I think, you would have appreciated it for its blunt nature and different genre.
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Re: Contemporary Christian Music - The Good and the Bad

Postby Kraavdran » Sat May 02, 2015 12:50 pm

oh, Midori, I just saw your post now. You must have posted while I was writing a reply.

oh, so you prefer instrumental music over music with lyrics? That is a completely foreign concept to me, since I dislike the musical medium. Although, having talked to a friend of mine studying anthropology, that does make lots of sense. She said that, in essence, music is a way to express feeling. This can be done with lyrics, or without. So, while I can't really understand it, what she said suggests that music without lyrics could connect you to feelings or ideas that can't quite be expressed with words. Knowing how difficult God is to understand (being incomprehensible and all), it makes sense... sometimes words are not sufficient. Thanks for your insights! Sometimes, I dismiss the importance of music having that quality because I don't appreciate that quality... but it is important.

mhm. That is a good point about being cautious when discussing politics. I hope what I said was neutral enough. I'll try to avoid controversy.

oh, I can understand putting it in the Jam Session area. Pardon. I've been thinking about how music should fit in with Christianity for quite some time. So I was focused on the "post spiritual questions to which they want answers" part, not the music part. But, now that you mention it, that makes sense, so thanks for moving it!

oh, you also reminded me that I forgot to mention my favorite song. My favorite song is "Come thou Fount". Particularly, for one part: "Prone to wander, Lord I feel it, Prone to leave the God I love. Here's my heart, oh, take and seal it, Seal it for Thy courts above." I like this phrase because it identifies the nature of man to "wander" away from God... but then turns that tendency into a whole-hearted commitment to Him. I can't speak much for the rest of the lyrics, but I like that part quite a bit. You don't see much in terms of healthy admittance of failure and, afterwards, commitment to God. At least, not in the contemporary music that I have experienced.

You also reminded me of something that I should have put in the original post. I think that, with any criticism, it is important to consider what we can do. So, a question: As consumers of Christian music, what can we do to correct the things we see as an issue?
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Re: Contemporary Christian Music - The Good and the Bad

Postby Thunderscream872 » Sat May 02, 2015 7:36 pm

Kraavdran wrote:So, what are your thoughts on contemporary Christian music?


What are you defining as Contemporary Christian music? Are you specifically thinking of artists like Mercy Me and the David Crowder Band (who pretty much only write worship-type songs, as far as I know), or are you including bands like Red, Skillet, Thousand Foot Krutch, The Devil Wears Prada, August Burns Red, Nine Lashes, etc (all of whom tend to have more variety in their lyrics).

I don't listen to contemporary worship-type music, unless I'm in a situation where I can't avoid it, like when I go to church every once in a while. There are some people who really enjoy it, and are moved by it...I'm not one of those people.

In regards to the bands who are more "secularized", and deal with a variety of topics, and don't seem to think that every song needs to be Jesus-oriented, I like a few of them. August Burns Red, Thousand Foot Krutch, and Red are all really good bands whose members happen to Christians, but not every song is a song about how much Jesus loves you.

Generally I listen to secular artists, but when I find out that the members/certain members of a band that I like are Christians, that's always cool :)

Kraavdran wrote:If you have trouble with it, why?


Overall, I have opinions about certain Biblical/Theological issues that most overtly Christian artist don't really share. Its hard for me to take a song seriously and enjoy it when I fundamentally disagree with what its saying/leading people to believe. That's a whole different issue though, lol.

Also, allot of contemporary Christian music just comes off as cheesy to me.

Kraavdran wrote: Are there exceptions?


I'm sure there are, I just can't think of any. I listen to ALLOT of music, lol.

Kraavdran wrote: What makes other songs better for you?


If by that you mean, what makes non-Christian music better for me then Christian music. Aside from the reasons above, most of the non-Christian artist that I like don't write cheesy religious songs. Its that plain and simple. I prefer songs that are about feelings, struggle, love, passion, rage, just having a good time, etc. I also like a certain amount of ambiguity to the lyrics, so that the song can be applied to multiple situations I guess.

Kraavdran wrote:Also, what is your favorite song, contemporary and/or traditional?


My favorite song by a Christian band is "The Art of Breaking" by Thousand Foot Krutch.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X2TNBj7_JaQ (song)
http://www.azlyrics.com/lyrics/thousand ... aking.html (lyrics)

My all-time favorite song is "Juneau" by Funeral for a Friend.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QUnNo_sJvwk (song)
http://www.azlyrics.com/lyrics/funeralf ... uneau.html (lyrics)

I hope I answered all your questions clearly enough.
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Re: Contemporary Christian Music - The Good and the Bad

Postby Kraavdran » Sat May 02, 2015 7:55 pm

Thunderscream,

Thanks for your reply, it seems that you have thought about this.

I guess, to answer your question, I was mostly thinking about music sung in church. After all, any music outside of that is foreign to me (aside from music in TV/movies and gaming, of course). But, after seeing everyone's thoughts, either works. Really fascinating stuff, seeing everyone's thoughts. I appreciate it. "Contemporary music" can be interpreted however you'd like.

So, you seem to focus more on the fact that you can't resonate well with the words of typical Christianese songs? I suppose we should not talk about specific theological things on this forum, so I'll message you about that. That is really interesting. And, to be honest, I dislike many of the contemporary songs for theological/practical reasons.
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Re: Contemporary Christian Music - The Good and the Bad

Postby Nate » Sun May 03, 2015 1:03 am

Midori wrote:Is it dangerous to mention politics in this thread? I think it might be, but I think we're all conscious enough to avoid making a controversy of it.


I don't feel like it is, at the very least I'm not out to start a political debate. There's enough of those other places. Besides even if I did I'd be in the minority. I don't like being ganged up on. :p

Kraavdran wrote:I am curious what you think about communal worship music culture? In other words, when you go to church and sing songs, what do you think about those songs?


Um...yes...well...uh...okay, assuming I'm still going to church. The songs...they're there, that's for sure. Waiting to be sung. It depends on the song. Some songs I'm like "Oh this is a nice song, I like the lyrics, good stuff." Some songs I'm like "Yeah this is really dumb." I know that at least for a while our church sang a Newsboys song at worship time, like they had a karaoke track of the song and we sang the lyrics. That was absolutely not my thing.

I mean I dunno. I like music and there's definitely songs that inspire powerful emotions in me but in general the songs at worship, they just kind of exist. I sing them because that is what you do when you are at church and they say "Let us sing this song."

When Jesus came, many thought that he would destroy Roman rule or break down the corruption everywhere. But, instead, he pointed people's thoughts to God and, particularly, loving one's neighbor. In this way, I feel that we are encouraged to modify our own actions... not the actions of others.


I would counter that Jesus very much got all up in the grills of the Pharisees and did things like healing people and shucking wheat on the Sabbath, this is one of the major reasons why he wasn't popular with the religious order. He also did things like hang out with tax collectors and other sinners, and lepers too. And let's not forget the well-known scene where he made a whip and chased out the money changers in the temple, and the "Woe to you" speech to the Pharisees. While Jesus may not have been a rebel against the Roman government, he certainly wasn't above challenging the existing power structures and traditions.

Would Jesus be totally fine and even support overthrowing governments? I dunno, he never really spoke to that. I will say however that most people who post on this board live in a country where a group of colonists had the belief that God was totally fine with them overthrowing their government and founding their own, whether they were actually right or not is up for debate but I can't imagine too many Americans thinking that overthrowing a government is somehow un-Christian, or else we're all living in a country founded on evil and need to submit to the British crown once again. :V

I feel like that comes from a more angry/fearful/complaining/judging stance.


My response is that I don't think any of those things are necessarily bad. Righteous anger is a thing, people tend to fear that which oppresses and harms them, complaining motivates people to take action, and judging things is totally fine, it's only judging people that's an issue. :p

Anyway, back on the topic of music specifically!

Lastly, I think that you don't see any of these types of songs because they would not cater to the largest audience possible.


Now see, this makes sense to me. CCM appeals to a very specific set of folks and songs about the things I'm talking about just flat out would not appeal to the audience CCM is going for. I do however think that there is definitely a niche market for music for say, Christian anarchists or communists...I mean, those groups do exist and at least some of them probably listen to music, right?

But I think here's the thing: if we're saying that "This won't appeal to the CCM audience that's why it doesn't exist" then I think that then asking what can save CCM or how it can be expanded or fixed is a pointless question. if CCM is really tied so strongly to a cultural/political/theological identity then it can't be changed. And I don't think this is necessarily a bad thing. After all, you're not going to see any punk music that says to submit to those in authority and always follow the rules because that's simply not what punk is. The very essence of punk is anti-establishment and you can't "fix" that about it or change it, it's one of the central themes of the genre. So if we're admitting that CCM is much the same way in its themes, then that's fine, but it also means that it's a lost cause to try and figure out how to make it better.

And, similar to your thoughts on why Christian bands don't sing songs that are not about God: enough people would dislike them.


But that's what bothers me. Why can't a Christian band just sing a song that doesn't mention God? Like a love song. We've got Song of Songs/Solomon in the bible, right? It's just love poetry. Why can't a Christian band sing a love song that doesn't talk about God, just talks about the purity and beauty of love? That's Christian, Christians love, Christians have romantic relationships. It's just silly.

But I disagree with your claim that enough people would dislike them. Jars of Clay is a very popular Christian band and many of their songs don't really mention God or Jesus. In fact their first single, Flood, was played on a lot of mainstream radio stations. This probably would have been unlikely to happen if the lyrics were more in line with other CCM. But the response from some Christians was to call them "sell outs" or that they were "ashamed" of God. Still, they got a LOT more listeners by being played on mainstream radio stations than they ever would have gotten if they were more like say, the David Crowder Band. They're still basically the biggest success a Christian band has had outside of the Christian music scene.

And ultimately if Christians are supposed to be going out and witnessing to others, preaching the good news, then isn't trying to have mainstream success a good thing? There were probably a few people who heard Flood on the radio, went out and bought the album, and maybe got closer to God, perhaps even converted to Christianity after hearing other songs on the album like Love Song for a Savior. Yet they get bashed because hey you're not supposed to be making songs for those people, you're supposed to be making songs for us.
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Re: Contemporary Christian Music - The Good and the Bad

Postby mechana2015 » Sun May 03, 2015 2:18 am

Yeah contemporary, especially in the context of 'Christian contemporary' is kind of a moving target and not just person by person but also year by year. CCM is both a generic term for a specific genre, but also is used to describe any Christian music that isn't a hymn from time to time, and over the past 25 - 30 years has swung all over the place as a genre definition from sappy keyboard songs to light rock to light hip hop, and back around and around picking up pieces of various 'secular' genres as it goes, partially because Christian media does more following than leading and runs around chasing trends a lot.

Personally? When I hear CCM I think of what could be charitably described as 'worship songs that weren't quite good enough for church, but sometimes make it anyways' or the previously stated 'sappy romance songs about Jesus'. I tend to split off the rock and hip hop bands somewhat into a separate category, but this may be because when I was more into said genre ska was big, and Christian ska bands were some of my favorites (some still are).

Why do I have trouble with it? Capital C CCM all sounds the same, boring. It's Lyrically uninspiring often as well. Lower case c contemporary music? Depends on what you're including. I still appreciate some of my older bands, and others now bother me as I've gotten older, in general though similar problems still apply. Lack of interesting content. Lack of creative musicianship. It often feels like music in a box that's not allowed to play with metaphor as much because someone put a
requirement on how many times certain words needed it to be said to be on that particular record label.

Exceptions... Five Iron Frenzy. Other bands that use more metaphor and imagery, rather than ramming the word Holy into my face a lot. Bands that are more than a worship band on tour.

Favorite songs-

CCM- after hard thinking... I guess Steven Curtis Chapman -Dive? It's the closest thing under the capital C category.

cCM - Five Iron Frenzy - Greatest Story Ever Told

Traditional - The Messiah by Handel probably

Outside of the 'Christian' genre bubble you'd have to ask by genre. I don't have a single favorite.
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Re: Contemporary Christian Music - The Good and the Bad

Postby Kraavdran » Sun May 03, 2015 9:01 am

Nate wrote: mean I dunno. I like music and there's definitely songs that inspire powerful emotions in me but in general the songs at worship, they just kind of exist. I sing them because that is what you do when you are at church and they say "Let us sing this song."

I think that we can find quite a lot of common ground here. I am curious to hear what you think causes songs to "just kind of exist" instead of "inspire powerful emotions." I've always assumed it comes down to the lyrics and the hearts of the people (perhaps more so for the 'worship leader') who sing it. But I don't know if that is correct. Also, I guess, part of it is that some songs will reach some people while others songs with reach others. It may not be possible to have a "perfect song lineup" that meets everyone where they are. But, if that is the case, how could we make worship more bearable(for a lack of a better word)?

Nate wrote:While Jesus may not have been a rebel against the Roman government, he certainly wasn't above challenging the existing power structures and traditions.

I agree with you there. I would view his work as an active process of reform within the hearts of the church... a teachable internal change. But I think that I can better understand where you are coming from and our view on music being used as a way for social/political reform may be different as a result. But that's ok.

Nate wrote: ...I can't imagine too many Americans thinking that overthrowing a government is somehow un-Christian, or else we're all living in a country founded on evil and need to submit to the British crown once again. :V

oh, interesting. I guess that I would have a different view about overthrowing a government... to a certain point. But that might be another topic.

Nate wrote:
I feel like that comes from a more angry/fearful/complaining/judging stance.


My response is that I don't think any of those things are necessarily bad. Righteous anger is a thing, people tend to fear that which oppresses and harms them, complaining motivates people to take action, and judging things is totally fine, it's only judging people that's an issue. :p

I guess my response to that would depend on how each of us define words like "angry," "fearful," and "complaining." That might become a thread alone. But, it seems, we agree on the fact that judgment (and related intrusive thoughts/actions) are not good for song or life.

Nate wrote: I do however think that there is definitely a niche market for music for say, Christian anarchists or communists...I mean, those groups do exist and at least some of them probably listen to music, right?

hm... I don't know, to be honest. I've had fairly limited exposure to people who are really anarchists or communists. Most people I know limit themselves to aligning with one of the two major political groups here. Perhaps that group is small enough (or spread out enough) that making music for them would not be financially feasible? Or, perhaps, they would get too much bad rapport... especially among more rigid Christian groups... and the politically correct. Also, and I may differ from the majority of Christians in this, I only view music as a form of worship (communally) because I don't listen to it or sing it outside of church. In this way, would talking about government overthrows or politics really directly worship who God is? Personally, I would have difficulty singing political-laced songs. Even if it was for something I believe is good and biblical. I don't know, that's why I would not support that type of music. I can't speak for the majority, however.

Nate wrote: But I think here's the thing: if we're saying that "This won't appeal to the CCM audience that's why it doesn't exist" then I think that then asking what can save CCM or how it can be expanded or fixed is a pointless question. if CCM is really tied so strongly to a cultural/political/theological identity then it can't be changed. And I don't think this is necessarily a bad thing. After all, you're not going to see any punk music that says to submit to those in authority and always follow the rules because that's simply not what punk is. The very essence of punk is anti-establishment and you can't "fix" that about it or change it, it's one of the central themes of the genre. So if we're admitting that CCM is much the same way in its themes, then that's fine, but it also means that it's a lost cause to try and figure out how to make it better.

Perhaps, then, music is about too broad of topics? I'm just going to think aloud: Perhaps Christianity should only focus on the two core teachings of Christianity: To love God and love our neighbors. Anything else, theological/political/etc., might actually hinder the unity that communal worship should promote. Anything else might hinder our ability to feel moved/authentic in song. Or, would that "water down" the songs even further and make them mean nothing? I guess that would depend on how it is done. One way or the other, I feel like a healthy solution could be found. Even if that means somehow encouraging the split of CCM to include many sub-genres. Thoughts?

Nate wrote:
And, similar to your thoughts on why Christian bands don't sing songs that are not about God: enough people would dislike them.


But that's what bothers me. Why can't a Christian band just sing a song that doesn't mention God? Like a love song. We've got Song of Songs/Solomon in the bible, right? It's just love poetry. Why can't a Christian band sing a love song that doesn't talk about God, just talks about the purity and beauty of love? That's Christian, Christians love, Christians have romantic relationships. It's just silly.

Sure, I agree with you. My earliest memories about CCM come from a band called "Lost and Found." They sang funny songs and meaningful songs. I think that is good. It keeps us from becoming too rigid/uptight/monotonous.

Nate wrote:But I disagree with your claim that enough people would dislike them. Jars of Clay is a very popular Christian band and many of their songs don't really mention God or Jesus. In fact their first single, Flood, was played on a lot of mainstream radio stations. This probably would have been unlikely to happen if the lyrics were more in line with other CCM. But the response from some Christians was to call them "sell outs" or that they were "ashamed" of God. Still, they got a LOT more listeners by being played on mainstream radio stations than they ever would have gotten if they were more like say, the David Crowder Band. They're still basically the biggest success a Christian band has had outside of the Christian music scene.

oh, interesting. So, while some Christians called them "sell outs" and "ashamed of God," they still prospered. I imagine the fear of that sort of criticism does dissuade some people. But, maybe the solution is to have more Christian bands that don't have typical Christianese songs? Or, as a consumer, to support bands like that? I don't know, that is quite unfamiliar territory for me.

Nate wrote: And ultimately if Christians are supposed to be going out and witnessing to others, preaching the good news, then isn't trying to have mainstream success a good thing? There were probably a few people who heard Flood on the radio, went out and bought the album, and maybe got closer to God, perhaps even converted to Christianity after hearing other songs on the album like Love Song for a Savior. Yet they get bashed because hey you're not supposed to be making songs for those people, you're supposed to be making songs for us.

Sounds like, as the consumer and greater Christian institute, we could handle a bit less in the criticism department. In short, we need to chill out. People are reached by different means/methods/mediums. Perhaps, at least vocally, we (as a general whole) should be more supportive of bands who stray from the norm.

mechana2015 wrote:Why do I have trouble with it? Capital C CCM all sounds the same, boring. It's Lyrically uninspiring often as well. Lower case c contemporary music? Depends on what you're including. I still appreciate some of my older bands, and others now bother me as I've gotten older, in general though similar problems still apply. Lack of interesting content. Lack of creative musicianship. It often feels like music in a box that's not allowed to play with metaphor as much because someone put a
requirement on how many times certain words needed it to be said to be on that particular record label.

Ah, so you focus on the lyrics being uninspiring. I'd have to agree with you there, on most contemporary music... and even many hymns. But you also look at the lack of creative musicianship. I don't understand that part well, but I've heard that from some of my friends. Secular music just has better musical progression. It makes me wonder why that is and how it could be remedied (if at all).

You also make an interesting point about requiring "christianese" words to be used in songs instead of different metaphors. I feel a bit torn on this issue because I don't trust many CCM writers. Often times, I feel like their metaphors might work for them, but they have a negative connotation in my mind (example: One song refers to God's love like a hurricane and us being trees. Having lived through several hurricanes, this metaphor makes God look like a destructive force that "will love us even though it kills us." And that, for me, is not good). At the same time, I understand that "Christianese" is completely lost on non-christians (and, to be certain, many Christians like myself). The balance, I think, is really tricky. Still uncertain of a practical solution, but that is where I am on that thought. Thoughts?
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Re: Contemporary Christian Music - The Good and the Bad

Postby Nate » Sun May 03, 2015 4:31 pm

Kraavdran wrote:I think that we can find quite a lot of common ground here. I am curious to hear what you think causes songs to "just kind of exist" instead of "inspire powerful emotions." I've always assumed it comes down to the lyrics and the hearts of the people (perhaps more so for the 'worship leader') who sing it.


For me, it usually is tied to one of two things: either memories, or an ability to sit and really take in the song as its own thing. Good example: Dengon, Hotohori's character song in Fushigi Yugi, never fails to make me cry. I don't understand the lyrics at all, but I remember the scene that it played in during the series, and remembering that scene brings back those emotions. Male Roar in Dynasty Warriors 7 may not be tied to a specific scene, but given that the game is about fighting tons of dudes, hearing it gets me pumped up.

For things that aren't tied to memories, it's as I said, just being able to listen to the song at my own pace, think about what I want to think about. Gustav Holst's The Planets is a good example of this, they're orchestral pieces and didn't have music videos when I first listened to them, but the titles, and being able to just sit, and fully immerse myself in the music inspired feelings in me. Like Mars, the Bringer of War, the title alone is going to make you think of war, battle, and the nature of the composition definitely reflects it. Same with Neptune, the Mystic.

So where does that leave worship music? Well, since God is kind of intangible and unable to be physically interacted with in a meaningful way our human minds can comprehend, it leaves God as a vague idea, and even moments where we can say that "the hand of God" was active or that God did a thing, the memory is going to be more strongly tied to the event itself instead of God. Singing about how God created the world makes me think of the world itself, since "being created" isn't something we can really envision. As for memories tied to it, almost all worship songs have the memories of "Me standing up at church looking at a lyric sheet, sometimes hoping I wasn't singing really loud because my singing voice is terrible." Not really particularly inspirational memories!

And there isn't really an ability to listen to the song at my own pace either. Since I'm singing, my mind is focused more on "Make sure I'm singing the right words" than actually thinking about what the words mean. On top of that, especially with old hymns that may have say, five stanzas, most churches are typically only going to sing a handful of them, maybe the first and last, or first second and last, rarely all five. You're skipping a lot of the song, you're going at the music director's pace. And you can't go back and listen to a song again when it's over like I can with a Youtube video or CD where I can press the refresh button or back button, and say "Lemme listen to that again to fully grasp it." Nope, you're on to the next song, or on to the sermon! And since most people are rarely going to listen to a hymn or worship song outside of church, there isn't really any time to reflect on it or think about it.

So this makes it really, really difficult for worship songs to make me feel anything other than "Yep this sure is a song I am singing here at the church for the worship service."

Perhaps Christianity should only focus on the two core teachings of Christianity: To love God and love our neighbors. Anything else, theological/political/etc., might actually hinder the unity that communal worship should promote.


Even that would hinder the unity of communal worship, humans are VERY good at creating divisions within groups. Let's just take your premise at face value. Focusing on loving our neighbors: will that cause division? Sure, one group says "See, these songs say we need to love our neighbors, that includes gays, we must stop judging them and accept them for who they are." Another says "Loving gays is fine, but we must refuse to allow them to come to our church, and make them know that their lifestyle is sinful and we cannot condone it." A third says "No, we must not love gays, as they seek to force their lifestyle on the rest of us and harm society, they live a destructive lifestyle and as believers we can have no fellowship with darkness."

Three different perspectives on a subject, all from a simple tenet of "love your neighbor." And while everyone here is going to fall into one of the three camps (though hopefully nobody HERE falls into the third camp) it shows how division can be created from a very simple thing.

Loving God. Okay, sure, that should be the ONE thing all Christians can agree upon, right? Ha ha. So does singing praises to Jesus count as loving God? Not to Unitarians, to them, God is one and Jesus is not divine, and thus should not be worshiped. Heck, take a hymn like Doxology, look at the lyrics:

Praise God, from Whom all blessings flow;
Praise Him, all creatures here below;
Praise Him above, ye heavenly host;
Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.

That last line is VERY obviously Trinitarian theology, which Unitarians would reject flat out. The Living Church of God would too, as they accept Jesus as being God, but do not believe the Holy Spirit is an actual thing. So while most Christians wouldn't have a problem with it, some do! And now, by singing a simple hymn that you probably wouldn't think would cause issues, you are promoting theology, and thus creating divisions.

Sounds like, as the consumer and greater Christian institute, we could handle a bit less in the criticism department. In short, we need to chill out. People are reached by different means/methods/mediums. Perhaps, at least vocally, we (as a general whole) should be more supportive of bands who stray from the norm.


A big issue though is that CCM has a very intimate relationship with Christian bookstores and music companies, and being deemed "not Christian enough" can kill a Christian band, since they may not have the money or ability to make a breakthrough into the mainstream/secular music scene, but are rejected by Christian businesses because "They're just posers." This is an actual thing that happens, and while you and I can say hey that's not right, that's how the industry works, and even if we're personally supportive of them, it's little comfort to them if they can't actually sell albums because stores won't stock their albums. This is admittedly becoming less of a problem as the internet has grown larger and more common, but it is still a slight issue since Christian bands do tend to rely on their stuff being sold in Christian stores.
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Re: Contemporary Christian Music - The Good and the Bad

Postby Kraavdran » Mon May 04, 2015 6:04 am

Nate wrote:For me, it usually is tied to one of two things: either memories, or an ability to sit and really take in the song as its own thing.

Nate wrote:So where does that leave worship music? Well, since God is kind of intangible and unable to be physically interacted with in a meaningful way our human minds can comprehend, it leaves God as a vague idea, and even moments where we can say that "the hand of God" was active or that God did a thing, the memory is going to be more strongly tied to the event itself instead of God. Singing about how God created the world makes me think of the world itself, since "being created" isn't something we can really envision. As for memories tied to it, almost all worship songs have the memories of "Me standing up at church looking at a lyric sheet, sometimes hoping I wasn't singing really loud because my singing voice is terrible." Not really particularly inspirational memories!

Oh, very interesting. I can partially relate, I think. Definitely, especially when I was younger (but even now too), I have memories of awkwardly/unenthusiastically looking at the projector screen singing a song (particularly, songs that have only a few words whose meaning was lost to me via repetition). I don't know, this might be a personal preference. I feel like there a lot of people who like singing songs like about how God created the world and such. For them, there is an emotional connection to most songs they sing. Perhaps we are just different? But, I can see where songs might help us describe the intangible... I feel like singing about metaphors for God is good. Too often, we stick to one or two metaphors... but that really limits God. If we sang about different characteristics of God.... we would have a better understanding of Him in that we would be expanding our metaphor-understanding of Him. I suppose that this would require songs to have nice variety and not focus entirely ourselves. But that's good, right? I feel like many hymns try to do that (since they were historically used as teachings, in a way). That might promote a connection... or at least contribute to a deeper/broader view of God. Maybe.

Nate wrote:For things that aren't tied to memories, it's as I said, just being able to listen to the song at my own pace, think about what I want to think about.

Nate wrote: And there isn't really an ability to listen to the song at my own pace either. Since I'm singing, my mind is focused more on "Make sure I'm singing the right words" than actually thinking about what the words mean. On top of that, especially with old hymns that may have say, five stanzas, most churches are typically only going to sing a handful of them, maybe the first and last, or first second and last, rarely all five. You're skipping a lot of the song, you're going at the music director's pace. And you can't go back and listen to a song again when it's over like I can with a Youtube video or CD where I can press the refresh button or back button, and say "Lemme listen to that again to fully grasp it." Nope, you're on to the next song, or on to the sermon! And since most people are rarely going to listen to a hymn or worship song outside of church, there isn't really any time to reflect on it or think about it. So this makes it really, really difficult for worship songs to make me feel anything other than "Yep this sure is a song I am singing here at the church for the worship service."

That is a good point. Worship songs, compared to reflective/listen-at-home songs, don't allow going at your own pace. Interestingly, as I mentioned above, I actually dislike the repetition and going back to previously sung stanzas. It just just personal preference, but I feel like I lose a lot of the meaning on the other end of the spectrum. I honestly don't see much of a way to fix this because what we want in worship is so different that it might be impossible to make both sides happy. But, I feel like there could be a solution. Maybe, each week, songs focus on one aspect? In that way, the words will be different, but the meaning will be the same. It will paint a picture of God from one vantage point each week. This might satisfy both of us in terms of how worship best works for us, maybe? Another option, and I hesitate to mention it, is that maybe songs need to be simpler in terms of needing to process through it.

Nate wrote:Even that would hinder the unity of communal worship, humans are VERY good at creating divisions within groups. Let's just take your premise at face value. Focusing on loving our neighbors: will that cause division? Sure, one group says "See, these songs say we need to love our neighbors, that includes gays, we must stop judging them and accept them for who they are." Another says "Loving gays is fine, but we must refuse to allow them to come to our church, and make them know that their lifestyle is sinful and we cannot condone it." A third says "No, we must not love gays, as they seek to force their lifestyle on the rest of us and harm society, they live a destructive lifestyle and as believers we can have no fellowship with darkness."

That is a good point. Part of me assumes that like churches absorb like people. So anyone in those three sections would find a church who acts similarly. And, at least in my idealized worship service, politics would not be touched on. I think that every group in that category (hopefully) would agree that loving one's neighbor (non-descript) is good. So, singing a song that, perhaps like a prayer, asks God to help us love our neighbor would be acceptable. Also, people need to chill out about petty differences and start doing what Jesus did: Tell people about God, not get caught up in politics or judgment.

Nate wrote:Loving God. Okay, sure, that should be the ONE thing all Christians can agree upon, right? Ha ha. So does singing praises to Jesus count as loving God? Not to Unitarians, to them, God is one and Jesus is not divine, and thus should not be worshiped. Heck, take a hymn like Doxology, look at the lyrics:

Nate wrote:That last line is VERY obviously Trinitarian theology, which Unitarians would reject flat out. The Living Church of God would too, as they accept Jesus as being God, but do not believe the Holy Spirit is an actual thing. So while most Christians wouldn't have a problem with it, some do! And now, by singing a simple hymn that you probably wouldn't think would cause issues, you are promoting theology, and thus creating divisions.

Yeah, quite a few Christian denominations disagree with the Trinitarian view. Although, since Trinitarians are in the majority, most popular songs (like the Doxology, assuming it is still popular) involve aspects of them. And, sure, I can understand the distinction. In the worship song world (ones you sing at church) I feel like people can just chill out and not sing the songs they disagree with. The church I recently started going to is really careful about songs they add to services so as not to upset anyone or include songs with "trigger" words. I respect that and think it is a good practice. I'm not sure how this would translate to songs you listen to at home. I suppose, like anything, there might be some division in songs. But isn't that ok? God calls us to be unified, not conformed to a rigid thought-process. If a song sings about Calvinism, I'm not going to complain. I might not listen to that band as much because I find aspects of Calvinism incomplete for me, but I don't think it would cause a significant problem. Just a bit of Romans 14 (ie: accepting differences) practice. But, again, since I don't listen to music, I don't know if this is a practical solution.

Nate wrote: A big issue though is that CCM has a very intimate relationship with Christian bookstores and music companies, and being deemed "not Christian enough" can kill a Christian band, since they may not have the money or ability to make a breakthrough into the mainstream/secular music scene, but are rejected by Christian businesses because "They're just posers." This is an actual thing that happens, and while you and I can say hey that's not right, that's how the industry works, and even if we're personally supportive of them, it's little comfort to them if they can't actually sell albums because stores won't stock their albums. This is admittedly becoming less of a problem as the internet has grown larger and more common, but it is still a slight issue since Christian bands do tend to rely on their stuff being sold in Christian stores.

Oh, interesting. The music industry is quite foreign to me, so the things you mention are interesting. Aside from saying that people need to chill out, I don't know how this could be fixed. Granted, I also have some issues with the "Christian bookstore" culture. I'm glad the internet exists for music distribution for smaller bands. Perhaps, given time, there will be more variety in Christian/Christianese bands who can each dedicate music to a more specific audience. I'm not sure.


Blah, I almost feel like worship music in-church is useless now. I'd like to hear a post that explains the good of it. While I tend to have a cynical view towards music, I still feel like it can be good in a worship setting.
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Re: Contemporary Christian Music - The Good and the Bad

Postby Kaori » Mon May 04, 2015 10:43 am

I feel like this thread is about two separate issues: 1) music used as worship music in church and 2) Christian music made by bands and singers who are making music because they like music and that isn't necessarily meant to be sung in church. So I’m going to address them separately.

I'll limit this post to the first one, worship music. Here’s what strikes me as being problematical about worship music in Western Christianity (Protestant and Catholic):

In Catholicism it is not quite as bad because the Catholics at least have something else to offer which is not dependent upon how good the preacher is or how good the worship music is: the Sacraments. But in Protestant services in particular, there are often only two things that the parish has to offer people in its worship service: there’s the sermon, which appeals to the intellect (well or poorly depending on the speaker), and there’s worship music, which appeals to emotions (well or poorly depending on the musicians). So because that emotional experience is one of the only things that Protestant worship even has, there is an emphasis on “We have to try to create an emotional experience or a certain emotional state in/for the congregation.”

I think that is a huge mistake.

Actually, when you make it a goal to try to produce a certain emotional experience, you often lose the very thing you are trying too hard to grasp. So, for example, you might have someone who is in a Protestant worship service and who is thinking, well, I don’t feel the awe or sense of being overwhelmed or the joy or whatever that this song says I am experiencing. And then they feel like there is something wrong with them because they’re not feeling a particular emotion at a particular time, and they can’t identify with the song, and so they don’t get anything out of it. Also compounded with this is that many contemporary worship songs are focused on the singer, describing the singer’s emotional state or something like that, and not at all focused on God and describing who He is. (Just listen to how many contemporary Christian worship songs are in the first person, “I,” and are talking about the person who is singing, not about God.)

Now, it’s not like those emotional songs are totally bad and don’t ever have any sort of good effect for people. I’ve often had very strong emotional experiences singing those kinds of worship songs. But worship is not supposed to be about talking about or describing one’s own emotional states, nor is it supposed to be the goal of worship music to produce a certain emotion. Worship music is supposed to be about God, so worship songs should tell about God and who he is and about the events of the Bible and of salvation history. For example:

Immortal, invisible, God only wise, / In light inaccessible hid from our eyes, / Most blessed, most glorious, the Ancient of Days, / Almighty, victorious, Thy great Name we praise.


Or:

Christ the Lord is risen today, Alleluia! / Sons of men and angels say, Alleluia! / Raise your joys and triumphs high, Alleluia! / Sing, ye heavens, and earth reply, Alleluia!


I really want to also talk about the body and physicality and how that should be a part of worship, but that might be a little OT for the thread, so I’ll set that aside for the moment (Kraavdan, since this is your thread, if you want me to elaborate on this, let me know and I’d be happy to).

So for now I’ll just comment that, in stark contrast to Western Christianity, the Orthodox churches have a very strong sensibility that music is not included in the worship services for the sake of creating a certain emotional experience, and there’s a strong sense of restraint in the music we have; we use a lot of chant, for example, which is just not an emotional thing, and there’s a sense of holding back in order to not get too absorbed in the music and allow the music to be an end to itself. There are some songs and some times in the services that can be extremely emotionally powerful, but it’s not because we are specifically attempting to create that emotion, it’s more like, when we finally arrive after eight weeks of ascetical struggle and penitence at the joy of Christ’s resurrection, we allow that joy to come out and be expressed.

Anyways, in terms of what our music tends to actually be like, we tend to have a lot of statements about God and doctrinal statements (and with respect to those who disagree, I would say that the Church absolutely should teach its theology in its worship, so that way the faithful will learn it), for example, we have one hymn that says (about Christ) “He is not divided in two persons but is known in two unmingled natures.” Right there you have a doctrinal statement that Jesus Christ is one person having two natures. And we also have a lot of songs that are straightforward retellings of events in the Bible or in salvation history or in the lives of the Saints.

We very occasionally have a song that briefly mentions something about our own emotions, but it’s very uncommon, and it’s been a huge relief for me, going to an Orthodox church, to not have to feel like I have to try to make myself feel a certain emotion during worship and that if I don’t feel that emotion there is something wrong with me and my relationship with God. We praise God for who he is, and if the emotion is there, great, but if not, there’s nothing wrong with that, we are still choosing to praise God as an act of the will, and that is sufficient.

So, contemporary worship music? There were a lot of songs that I liked and enjoyed and that created really powerful experiences for me, but I don’t miss that at all. And there were others that I thought were way too focused on the worshipper (e.g. first-person statements) or didn’t have very much substance, and I particularly don’t miss those. And chant music is just a totally different animal from the emotional music that most of Western Christianity tends to use (some Catholic churches do still use chant). It doesn’t create an emotional state, but it creates a sense of concentration and focusedness that is a very distinct mental state, and I find it very interesting that other world religions also use chant—I think that people around the world have intuitively grasped the value that it has for spirituality, for mental concentration, and so on, and it is unfortunate that so much of Christianity in recent centuries has completely thrown chant music out the window.

Right now, this is quite possibly my favorite song to sing in the worship services. “Gladsome light” (the earliest known non-Scriptural hymn) also occupies a high place, as well as the Great Doxology (sung by Catholics and Orthodox alike; it’s the RCC’s “Gloria.”) To listen to, though (i.e. sung by the choir in my parish but not by everyone) my favorite song used in worship services is Chesnokov’s “Salvation is Created.” (“Salvation is created in the midst of the earth, O God. Alleluia.”)

P.S. Kraavdran, I saw the article you posted somewhere else about the condition of not getting pleasure from music (can’t recall the term for it) and thought that was very interesting. I kind of wonder what you would think of chant, since the point of chant music is not to create pleasure or to create a certain emotional reaction but to create a mental state of concentration—though I rather suspect that, like any other music, it would not do anything for you.
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Re: Contemporary Christian Music - The Good and the Bad

Postby Xeno » Mon May 04, 2015 2:23 pm

Hmm. I'm gonna go with "it's bad, and you probably shouldn't listen to it."

Older style worship music is okay, especially if it's built off an existing hymn, not personally a fan of "gospel" music though. Even I occasionally like to listen to old hymns just because of the music and lyrical structure that you don't find in newer CCM. As Nate said, a lot of it are love songs, but about Jesus, and they typically are lacking lyrically as well as musically. It's bland and generic, and just feels like it's there to fill a gap.

As for the groups Thunderscream listed, most of those are what I'd refer to as "bands whose members are christians", rather than as christian bands. They'll occasionally have a song about god or whatever, but most of their music is within the same scope as peer bands of the same general genre they fit into, be it metal, post-hardcore, or whatever.
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Re: Contemporary Christian Music - The Good and the Bad

Postby Nate » Mon May 04, 2015 2:41 pm

Kraavdran wrote:songs that have only a few words whose meaning was lost to me via repetition


Oooh, yeah! That! There was one song, can't remember what it was for the life of me, but we'd sing it every so often and it was one of my least favorite songs because it was just like three or four words repeated six or seven times and I'm just like "Yep, uh huh, okay, I get it, we can move on now." Some people really are into that but not me, it's just repetitive and dull and then my brain checks out because it's like "Whelp nothing interesting to do here, call me later if you need me."

Part of me assumes that like churches absorb like people.


I think, to a degree, this is true, but it isn't always necessarily the case. I've known people that are fairly politically liberal who go to very conservative churches and are unhappy with them, but say "Well, y'know, church is important so I don't have much of a choice." And that sucks, especially in areas like let's say the South where you're just not likely to find liberal churches in some areas. This is especially true for some denominations like Catholicism. Catholics are on all sides of the political spectrum, and not going to Mass is a mortal sin, but I know that in my hometown, there is one and only one Catholic church. If I was Catholic, unless I wanted to drive 30 miles out to another town, that's the one I'd have to go to. And if my politics didn't match theirs, that would be really frustrating, but I wouldn't have much of a choice because hey, gotta go to Mass.

Kaori wrote:I feel like this thread is about two separate issues: 1) music used as worship music in church and 2) Christian music made by bands and singers who are making music because they like music and that isn't necessarily meant to be sung in church.


Yeah it kinda got off on the first tangent because of Krav's question to me about worship music. :V

And there were others that I thought were way too focused on the worshipper (e.g. first-person statements) or didn’t have very much substance, and I particularly don’t miss those.


The absolute best example of this I can think of, going back to a band I mentioned in a previous post, is Jars of Clay. On their first album they have a song called Love Song for a Savior, which is a very good example of this, not much about God, mostly about the singer and the people he's singing about. Lemme just post an excerpt of the lyrics:

He's more than the laughter or the stars in the heavens
As close a heartbeat or a song on our lips
Someday we'll trust Him and learn how to see Him
Someday He'll call us and we will come running
and fall in His arms and the tears will fall down and we'll pray,

"I want to fall in love with You"

It's a nice song! I'm not bashing the song but it's not much about God aside from the first line, but the rest of the song is about us, how we feel, what we'll do, what we'll say. And so while it's a nice sounding song I never cared for it much because of that point, especially the chorus "I want to fall in love with you." That bit makes me uncomfortable. Not in an "eww gay" way but because to me the phrase "in love" is a phrase that I personally only use to describe romantic relationships. I love my mom. I am not IN love with my mom, that'd be gross. And honestly I don't want to be in a romantic relationship with Jesus. That's not my thing. Maybe other people have no problem with that phrase and maybe they think I'm immature. That's possibly true but it makes it basically impossible for the song to inspire any emotions in me except "Uh, in a totally platonic and heterosexual way, Jesus, no homo, man."

I find it very interesting that other world religions also use chant—I think that people around the world have intuitively grasped the value that it has for spirituality, for mental concentration, and so on, and it is unfortunate that so much of Christianity in recent centuries has completely thrown chant music out the window.


I think that, at least in the US, this is partially due to the type of Christians who came over from England, Puritans who really didn't like the Catholics/Orthodox and thought the Church of England was way too close to Catholicism. The fact that Catholics, Orthodox, and even other religions is likely a huge mark against it in the minds of those people. Since they would other religions are Satanic (or at least Satan uses them to draw people away from Christianity), then things they do must be bad, so chanting is bad and should not be done. Chanting also got used in the "New Age" stuff too in recent history so even disregarding centuries old denominations, that's an actual in our lifetimes reason for US Protestant churches to dislike chanting.

Of course, I'm sure it also has a lot to do with your statement about emotion being considered really important as well, chanting doesn't give the kind of emotional experience that a lot of Protestant churches seem big on in their worship music.
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Re: Contemporary Christian Music - The Good and the Bad

Postby Mullet Death » Mon May 04, 2015 4:19 pm

I think that at Mass music should be based strongly on Gregorian chant and the organ and other more "traditional" instruments. There isn't any need to make everything "contemporary" and in fact something is lost when you do. Great music in general isn't set in any specific time period, and the message of Christ the King is equally timeless, so why reinvent the wheel of church music. Incidentally it's not wise to either stifle emotional response or make it the focus of the adoration of God. Traditional Catholic music and liturgical practices like the use of incense are therefore pretty well the best of worlds, invariably creating an appropriate atmosphere while not looking like a concert or circus. Unfortunately most parishes don't seem to fit that theme, which is why I love special occasions where such music is stressed. I like contemporary, mostly Protestant Christian music of all kinds, but there is something special about traditional music. Along with all the other feelings it's capable of reinforcing, it makes me feel a stronger connection with the Church of the past and the saints.

Outside of church, my radio is usually set to a local Christian pop station. Third Day, Building 429, Tenth Avenue North, and MercyMe are a few favorites I can think of off the top of my head.

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Re: Contemporary Christian Music - The Good and the Bad

Postby Nate » Mon May 04, 2015 6:16 pm

I'm a little confused how you can say "Great music isn't set in any time period, so only listen to old music and don't try to make new stuff." Kinda contradicts the first part of the statement, because you're basically outright saying "Great music is only from the past."
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Re: Contemporary Christian Music - The Good and the Bad

Postby Kraavdran » Mon May 04, 2015 6:54 pm

Kaori wrote: I feel like this thread is about two separate issues: 1) music used as worship music in church and 2) Christian music made by bands and singers who are making music because they like music and that isn't necessarily meant to be sung in church. So I’m going to address them separately.

Yes, that is certainly true. My initial focus was on worship music, since "listening to" music is so foreign to me. Very good distinction, and thanks for addressing them separately.

Kaori wrote: In Catholicism it is not quite as bad because the Catholics at least have something else to offer which is not dependent upon how good the preacher is or how good the worship music is: the Sacraments. But in Protestant services in particular, there are often only two things that the parish has to offer people in its worship service: there’s the sermon, which appeals to the intellect (well or poorly depending on the speaker), and there’s worship music, which appeals to emotions (well or poorly depending on the musicians). So because that emotional experience is one of the only things that Protestant worship even has, there is an emphasis on “We have to try to create an emotional experience or a certain emotional state in/for the congregation.”

I would like to clarify that "protestant" is not really a uniformed structure of beliefs or service styles. Some even don't believe in music at all. Some use music as a solely intellectual (not emotional) drive. So, for the purpose of my reply, I will replace "protestant" with "contemporary market-driven"... if it comes up. I believe that these types of churches really overemphasize the emotional experience in the way you are describing.

Kaori wrote: I think that is a huge mistake.

Actually, when you make it a goal to try to produce a certain emotional experience, you often lose the very thing you are trying too hard to grasp.
Kaori wrote: Also compounded with this is that many contemporary worship songs are focused on the singer, describing the singer’s emotional state or something like that, and not at all focused on God and describing who He is. (Just listen to how many contemporary Christian worship songs are in the first person, “I,” and are talking about the person who is singing, not about God.)

That being said, I think, at heart, we have similar views on contemporary worship. Like you said, focusing on what each individual is feeling is both unhealthy and misses the point of worship. It makes it self-focused instead of God-focused. I think that I'm tracking with you so far.

Kaori wrote: Worship music is supposed to be about God, so worship songs should tell about God and who he is and about the events of the Bible and of salvation history.

Are you saying that talking about how people compare to God (for example, us dedicating ourselves to God or, in a healthy way, humbling ourselves before Him) is bad? I'm not entirely certain how far you would take this. I see a distinction between "trying to create an emotional atmosphere" (not helpful) and "focusing our attention on" (helpful).

Kaori wrote:I really want to also talk about the body and physicality and how that should be a part of worship, but that might be a little OT for the thread, so I’ll set that aside for the moment (Kraavdan, since this is your thread, if you want me to elaborate on this, let me know and I’d be happy to).

I would really like to hear what you have to say about that. I think that it is so closely related to issues with worship that it would be hard not to touch on. Thanks for the consideration though!

Kaori wrote:So for now I’ll just comment that, in stark contrast to Western Christianity, the Orthodox churches have a very strong sensibility that music is not included in the worship services for the sake of creating a certain emotional experience, and there’s a strong sense of restraint in the music we have; we use a lot of chant, for example, which is just not an emotional thing, and there’s a sense of holding back in order to not get too absorbed in the music and allow the music to be an end to itself. There are some songs and some times in the services that can be extremely emotionally powerful, but it’s not because we are specifically attempting to create that emotion, it’s more like, when we finally arrive after eight weeks of ascetical struggle and penitence at the joy of Christ’s resurrection, we allow that joy to come out and be expressed.

I don't know if I can completely track with you there. To be honest, I have not really liked any chants that I have experienced. Granted, I haven't grown up with it or experienced it much. But, I have the same problem with most other liturgical things... mostly because it takes considerable effort to pace with everyone else than any meaning the words have are lost in the flurry. Take note: I'm not saying that it is a bad thing. Just not good for me. I think that I'm beginning to see how diverse worship is for each person... and there isn't necessarily a good, perfect answer for Christians as a whole. But, I think, that's ok. Unity means much more in situations where people are different.

Kaori wrote: Anyways, in terms of what our music tends to actually be like, we tend to have a lot of statements about God and doctrinal statements

Kaori wrote:I would say that the Church absolutely should teach its theology in its worship

I think that I agree with you there, to a certain degree, but not completely. To what extent does music create divisions by making some people uncomfortable. For example, singing about how events Revelation have already happened (preterism) or how women should not be in places of authority in church or men shouldn't have long hair (just to clarify, I'm talking about things that cause problems that would qualify as "non-essentials"). Maybe a more relatable example (which I might have mentioned earlier, I can't remember), I find some aspects of Calvinism particularly stifling in terms of spiritual growth/action. Would I really want to go to a church that sings about TULIP (or, if you are a calvinist, consider the opposite situation). Now, don't get me wrong. I think that this can be taken to the extreme to the point where you have watered-down words on a page. And, I recognize, that you might be a person who really needs specific/elaborate theology worked into worship. I can't really say if there is a "certainly good" or "certainly bad" in those terms. What are your thoughts on that? I kinda feel torn between the two extremes, to be honest.

Kaori wrote:We very occasionally have a song that briefly mentions something about our own emotions, but it’s very uncommon, and it’s been a huge relief for me, going to an Orthodox church, to not have to feel like I have to try to make myself feel a certain emotion during worship and that if I don’t feel that emotion there is something wrong with me and my relationship with God. We praise God for who he is, and if the emotion is there, great, but if not, there’s nothing wrong with that, we are still choosing to praise God as an act of the will, and that is sufficient.

ah, you bring up a good distinction: requiring to feel a certain emotion vs "if the emotion is there, great, if not, great." I agree with you there, certainly. Songs shouldn't be sung to create an emotional experience, but to glorify God in some (usually direct) manner (and for a sense of unity, I believe). For the right songs and right people, sure. And that is good. It sounds like you may have had experiences with churches who expect people to have emotional experiences (perhaps on the more charismatic spectrum). Now, I don't know about your situation, but it does make me wonder. Is that a problem with the songs or the church/worship-team with which you experienced the need to feel emotional? If you think that it is the songs, what specifically about the songs could be changed? Or is it something you find inherent in the musical medium itself?

Kaori wrote: P.S. Kraavdran, I saw the article you posted somewhere else about the condition of not getting pleasure from music (can’t recall the term for it) and thought that was very interesting. I kind of wonder what you would think of chant, since the point of chant music is not to create pleasure or to create a certain emotional reaction but to create a mental state of concentration—though I rather suspect that, like any other music, it would not do anything for you.

ah, yes. "Specific musical anhedonia" was the term the article used (if I remember correctly... although it could simply be called "musical anhedonia"). I guess I already told you my experience with chant above. And, interestingly, I think that I view music in a similar light as you view chant... all semantics aside. After all, without the musical aspect of music, you are just left with easier-to-follow (at least for me) chant. And this is why I have such difficulty with contemporary Christian music. Thanks for the suggestion!

Xeno wrote: Older style worship music is okay, especially if it's built off an existing hymn, not personally a fan of "gospel" music though. Even I occasionally like to listen to old hymns just because of the music and lyrical structure that you don't find in newer CCM. As Nate said, a lot of it are love songs, but about Jesus, and they typically are lacking lyrically as well as musically. It's bland and generic, and just feels like it's there to fill a gap.

In terms of lyrics, we seem to have similar views. That is an interesting view on the actual musical component: that it is lacking and bland. Some of my friends criticize hymns for having too simple of music. I don't completely understand that (since all music sounds the same to me), but that is interesting.

Nate wrote: Oooh, yeah! That! There was one song, can't remember what it was for the life of me, but we'd sing it every so often and it was one of my least favorite songs because it was just like three or four words repeated six or seven times and I'm just like "Yep, uh huh, okay, I get it, we can move on now." Some people really are into that but not me, it's just repetitive and dull and then my brain checks out because it's like "Whelp nothing interesting to do here, call me later if you need me."

Yes. And, to that extent, perhaps it is good to have different denominations and types of churches because people can really get with a song that speaks to them. After all, I don't want to endure those types of songs. But, at the same time, I know people who can't absorb traditional songs due to the many words. This makes the music dynamic rather difficult. My current church, although I don't attend the service with music, does a nice job by rotating the types of songs. They have a nice mix in terms of lyrics... so even if one song is bad (for me), at least it isn't constant... something can usually be appreciated.

Nate wrote: I think, to a degree, this is true, but it isn't always necessarily the case. I've known people that are fairly politically liberal who go to very conservative churches and are unhappy with them, but say "Well, y'know, church is important so I don't have much of a choice."

This does suggest that songs should be more "politically neutral" when it comes to worship songs. My old church was very conservative. My new church seems to have a nice mix along the spectrum (perhaps even a few anarchists :P). While the majority of that type of issue depends on the church people, the music can certainly play a role in encouraging/discouraging people from attending.

Nate wrote:
Kaori wrote:I feel like this thread is about two separate issues: 1) music used as worship music in church and 2) Christian music made by bands and singers who are making music because they like music and that isn't necessarily meant to be sung in church.

Yeah it kinda got off on the first tangent because of Krav's question to me about worship music. :V

Yeah, sorry. :/ It is just so interesting. And, I think, the two issues are closely related.

Nate wrote: It's a nice song! I'm not bashing the song but it's not much about God aside from the first line, but the rest of the song is about us, how we feel, what we'll do, what we'll say. And so while it's a nice sounding song I never cared for it much because of that point, especially the chorus "I want to fall in love with you." That bit makes me uncomfortable. Not in an "eww gay" way but because to me the phrase "in love" is a phrase that I personally only use to describe romantic relationships. I love my mom. I am not IN love with my mom, that'd be gross. And honestly I don't want to be in a romantic relationship with Jesus. That's not my thing. Maybe other people have no problem with that phrase and maybe they think I'm immature. That's possibly true but it makes it basically impossible for the song to inspire any emotions in me except "Uh, in a totally platonic and heterosexual way, Jesus, no homo, man."

To be honest, I feel the same way about many songs. The use of "love" is, certainly, another topic altogether. But, since its meaning can be so broad, I think it is best to not used it in the ways you mentioned. I know that some people really need the reminder with such a description, but I can't really sing it earnestly. Especially with all those love songs that use it in a similar fashion.

Mullet Death wrote: I think that at Mass music should be based strongly on Gregorian chant and the organ and other more "traditional" instruments. There isn't any need to make everything "contemporary" and in fact something is lost when you do. Great music in general isn't set in any specific time period, and the message of Christ the King is equally timeless, so why reinvent the wheel of church music.

I'd have to disagree with you there in terms of what you are saying as a general rule. Language changes over time. Ways we describe God must change to reach different groups/cultures. Regardless of music style, the words should be able to be understood by people. In this way, I can appreciate some contemporary Christian music. I wouldn't consider it reinventing the wheel. But, perhaps, maitenence work on the wheel... as the analogy goes. Without maintenance, the wheel will break. The important step is making sure the "maintenance" doesn't damage the wheel.

Mullet Death wrote: Incidentally it's not wise to either stifle emotional response or make it the focus of the adoration of God.

Yes! I agree. Emotion shouldn't be avoided, but it also shouldn't be our focus. I think that is a healthy balance, thanks for your words on that!

Mullet Death wrote: I like contemporary, mostly Protestant Christian music of all kinds, but there is something special about traditional music. Along with all the other feelings it's capable of reinforcing, it makes me feel a stronger connection with the Church of the past and the saints.

That is true. There is something to be said for songs that have stood the test of time and are rich in the Church's history. They have a bit more ethos (for a lack of a better word). Kinda like phrases in latin. That being said, I know some people who react fairly strongly against hymns (typically, because of what hymns signify in their lives as they grew up.. typically in a rigid fundamental background). So I can accept the lack of hymns as well.
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Re: Contemporary Christian Music - The Good and the Bad

Postby Kaori » Mon May 04, 2015 8:09 pm

Okay, I’m going to address some things related to Christian music outside of worship music now, and it’s going to be really long, sorry. There’s a summary at the bottom in case anyone just doesn’t have the time to read the whole spiel.

And Kraavdran, in the interest of keeping my thoughts the two subtopics of this thread at least somewhat separated (and also to give me some time to think about them), I’ll respond to your most recent thoughts (and a few other people’s comments about worship music) in a later post.

Nate wrote:Even ignoring the lyrical problems that they have of "standard love song, but about Jesus," even if that changed I just don't particularly care for the soft rock/alternative genres.

I guess one of the things that makes other songs better is that they're not restricted by having to be Christian.


Midori wrote:I think there ought to be a lot more variety and more boldness. Contemporary worship songs are almost always in the same style [. . .] Their lyrics, while there's nothing wrong with them as themselves, tend to be kind of uncreative, just going on about how God is great and we really love worshipping him, sing with me how great is our god.


mechana2015 wrote:Capital C CCM all sounds the same, boring. It's Lyrically uninspiring often as well.


Xeno wrote:As for the groups Thunderscream listed, most of those are what I'd refer to as "bands whose members are christians", rather than as christian bands.

Xeno, Is it just a semantic thing, and are you just saying that bands whose music isn't 100% about God should be called "bands who are Christians" instead of "Christian bands," but that they should still be accepted (e.g. allowed to be sold and promoted in the Christian music industry), or are you saying that bands ought to make music that is purely safe, positive stuff that is only always specifically about God in order to be considered Christian and promoted as such? If it's the latter, it’s pretty ironic that in a thread where everyone is pointing out that it’s a really big problem when Christian bands are required to have every song be some sort of positive, inoffensive song that is totally about God and Jesus, because it results in music that is boring, cheesy, and uninspired, you are saying that bands that don’t talk about God and Jesus all the time shouldn’t be called Christian bands.

At any rate, there is certainly a distinction that can be made between the CCM (as in the bland stuff that is exclusively about God and sticks to safe topics) and Christian bands generally (which are in a variety of genres and write about a variety of topics), but leaving that aside and talking about Christian music generally I am going to say that I agree with everyone who is saying that we need to not place restraints on bands by telling them that they can only ever sing about God and that their songs can only be positive and upbeat and not address the darker side of life like pain, hardship, and struggles. If you place that kind of restriction on musicians, then of course they are going to produce shoddy, bland, insipid music.

Actually, until Xeno said that, I was going to comment that I hadn’t ever really seen anyone say that a band isn’t Christian if they don’t sing about God all the time. Far from that, the only time I heard anyone make a cautionary statement about Christian bands was once or twice at youth conferences when speakers were cautioning people away from a small number of bands whose lyrics were completely dark and had little or no perceptible Christian message at all. But if Nate or anyone can give some more specific detail or examples about how bands are pressured to have lyrical content that is always positive and always about God, I’d be interested to hear about that, since I just haven’t seen anything like that or been aware of that going on. (I do know of some cases of bands who were excluded from the Christian music industry because their music had little or no Christian content and were entirely negative or because they had some specific objectionable content, but “This band uses profanity in their album” is a really different thing from “This band only has one or two songs about God and the rest are about other topics.”)

In regard to CCM proper, I’m going to use the radio station K-LOVE as an example, and before I start I just want to say as a disclaimer that I’m sure the people who are running that station have good motives and want to help people, and there are also a lot of people who get good things out of listening to that station and have been helped by it a lot. And I don’t want to criticize the motives of the people running the station or to denigrate the experiences of anyone who likes that kind of music or who listens to that station or who has gotten something good out of it.

However, the songs that are played on K-LOVE are the musical equivalent of the framed artwork that you see in hotels and hospitals and other public places. They are bland, they are musically and lyrically simple, and they seem to be chosen with the goal of selecting songs that are 1) identifiably Christian in their content and 2) inoffensive to everyone. So if this is the only kind of Christian music you are listening to, then saying “Christian music is all bland and insipid, and Christian songs are required to talk about God all the time and can’t be about any other subjects, and artists aren’t allowed any musical or lyrical creativity,” then that’s like walking into a hotel and saying all artwork is bland and insipid! Hotel artwork is bland and insipid specifically because it’s meant to be pleasant and inoffensive to everyone.

So, basically, there are TONS of bands and artists who are making music that is much more interesting, complex, and varied than that, but you generally have to look outside of K-LOVE in order to find it. Among popular bands from back when I was really into Christian music there are a lot of artists who addressed a lot of topics other than just singing about God and Jesus all the time, and even in their songs that were about Christianity they often addressed things like struggles with faith and doubt and were willing to admit that darkness and weakness within themselves rather than being happy and peppy all the time.

Nate wrote:They have a song about Istanbul no longer being called Constantinople

What’s the title of that song? I want to listen to it.

Nate wrote:Christian music doesn't tend to have that, it's pretty much solely about God which doesn't leave room for many other themes.

If we’re talking about Christian bands broadly, not just the stuff that plays on radio stations like K-LOVE, then I would generally disagree that singing about God doesn’t leave room for much variation. I have a collection of Christian music in genres ranging from metal all the way up to light rock, and even in songs about people’s relationships with God, there are a lot of songs about struggling with not being sure of God’s presence, songs about pain, struggles with sin, despair, depression, really all sorts of things about the lows of the Christian walk, not just the highs. In particular in genres like alternative rock and metal those themes about darkness and suffering are particularly evident, and those bands are very often addressing those feelings of darkness, pain, suffering, and so on within the context of faith, e.g. “With every ounce of pain I feel / Yet my mind cannot deny that God is real” (“Pain” by Grammatrain) or “I know the truth / I know the light / yet I persist to dwell in fringes of the night” (“Epignosis” by Chatterbox). As I look at my collection of Christian CDs, most of the bands I listen to address darkness, struggle, and grief at least some of the time, and in a genuine and down-to-earth way, not just glossing it over, and quite a few of them I would say are predominantly more about dark themes than lighthearted ones. Along those same lines:

Nate wrote:Feelings of depression or anger are almost never present in Christian music, or are touched upon but then go "But Jesus will make everything better so no more being depressed or angry!"

This is not at all true, especially (though not exclusively) of extreme music. In Vain, Aletheian, Grammatrain, Project 86, Chatterbox, AP2, Virgin Black, Forsaken, Dalit, Dead Poetic, Living Sacrifice, Blindside, these bands all predominantly write more about struggling, anguish, and suffering than the lighter side of things. And that’s just naming a few.

This is also true of punk albums like Dogwood’s Building a Better Me, Burn Out by Slick Shoes, and Two Years to Never by Ghoti Hook (this last one particularly deals a lot with the loss of a father, I’m not sure whether to divorce or abandonment or death). Even bands as mainstream as Skillet still have songs like the very raw, anguished “Fingernails,” and bands as light as Sixpence None the Richer have whole albums (This Beautiful Mess) that are more about difficulties and struggles in the faith than they are happy praise songs or things like that.

Nate, I don’t know what kind of music you do enjoy listening to, but I would particularly recommend you at least take a look at the lyrics of Psalm 9 by Trouble (you can read the whole album’s lyrics on the page I linked), which has a lot of raw anguish and also some of the social commentary and outspokenness against war that you were saying Christian bands ought to have, and the lyrics to Sixpence’s This Beautiful Mess, which again deals with the struggles of faith in a very real, honest, down-to-earth way. (Also, the music and lyrics are very well-written.)

Oh, and I almost forgot to mention Argyle Park! Argyle Park is an industrial band that released only one album, Misguided, and the entire album is an outpouring of negative emotions like rage, bitterness, and doubt, and it notably deals with topics like abuse. I heard that the album was written for the youths who were sexually abused by Catholic priests. They broke up and sort of reformed into AP2, also industrial, not quite so bitter but still pretty dark-themed. Both are excellent albums.

For as much as Jesus talked about helping the poor and condemning the rich, when was the last time you heard a Christian song talk about social justice?

Ballydowse is all about social justice, helping the poor, and decrying the injustices of the system. They’re celtic punk; again, I don’t know if you would enjoy that genre, but you should take a look at their lyrics; they’re exactly what you are looking for.

Also, Five Iron Frenzy, especially in their early albums, satirizes everyone and everything. They have a lot of criticism against American materialism and individualism and selfishness, they criticize the evils that were committed against Native Americans in US history, they make fun of punk fans, the music industry, and themselves. And they also have some songs that are just about human relationships, like “Ugly Day.” And they also have a lot of songs about faith and some worship songs. You should also take a look at their lyrics, especially the album Upbeats and Beatdowns, because they do exactly the stuff that you are saying Christian bands should do, and intelligently.

There are some other Christian bands that get in some social commentary every now and then, usually not in a political way but in a general sort of way, but these two in particular come to mind.

When was the last time you heard a Christian song sing about the evils of war or racism?

War: “B******* Will Pay” by Trouble (“Then you make us fight your stupid wars”), “The Battle of Them vs. Them” by Dogwood, “Paralyzed” by Sixpence (though it is more focused on the loss of a friend than criticizing the war). Racism, though, that is something I haven’t seen come up in Christian music much. The closest I can think of is Five Iron Frenzy’s songs criticizing atrocities against Native Americans and a couple of songs by In Vain that are a tribute to Native American culture.

We've got Song of Songs/Solomon in the bible, right? It's just love poetry. Why can't a Christian band sing a love song that doesn't talk about God, just talks about the purity and beauty of love? That's Christian, Christians love, Christians have romantic relationships.

I agree completely—and bands are doing that!

Bon Voyage (light pop/rock) has a self-titled album that is almost entirely love songs between a husband and wife (two members of the band are married to each other). A couple of the songs are definitely sexual, not really graphically or explicitly so, but enough that I kind of wonder as a single person, “Should I be listening to this?” Pantokrator (metal) has an album called Song of Solomon that is a pretty faithful adaptation of some of the passages from Song of Solomon about romantic love, so it is a collection of love songs. Slick Shoes (punk) has one album that isn’t totally a collection of love songs, but about 50% of it is songs that are completely about romantic love and don’t mention God. Sixpence famously has a few love songs that achieved mainstream popularity and were played on secular radio. And besides those there are tons of albums that are not primarily love songs but have one or two love songs along with a bunch of other songs about other topics. “New Year’s Project” by Further Seems Forever and “Beautiful Face” by Johnny Q. Public are a couple of favorites of mine. If you need more examples, there are plenty more where those came from.

Besides all the topics already mentioned, I’m also struck as I look through my music collection by how several bands do write about the loss of a loved one, divorce, suicide (e.g. “Piano Song” by The Juliana Theory is a down-to-earth song pleading with a friend not to commit suicide), and criticism of the church (a lot of bands write about problems they perceive in the church or with Christians’ spirituality, e.g. Tourniquet has a song that criticizes people who use God as a vending machine and only pray when they want something). Tourniquet has some songs about environmental concerns. Living Sacrifice has a song about how the lyricist can’t successfully quit smoking even though he knows it’s a bad example for his fans. A couple of bands I listen to have songs about being a parent. Ghoti Hook has a song that’s an ode to a car. Some bands have songs about TV shows. One band (Believer) has a song satirizing internet culture. So Christian bands really do write about a wide variety of topics. And I’m not searching all over the place hunting for songs that are about something other than “Jesus is my friend and I’m happy all the time”; I don’t have to look hard at all to find these, they are just the songs that I have in my own CD collection. I would actually be very hard-pressed to find a single Christian CD in my collection that is only about God all the time and is only positive all the time. There are some that are very faith-oriented in content but write about darkness and doubt and struggles with faith, but I think the only albums I own that don’t address some sort of darker and/or not-specifically-Christian theme are albums that are actual worship albums.

TL;DR

1. If you define CCM as “music that is specifically about God or Jesus and has a positive message” and select only songs that fit into that category, then you’ve created an artistically restricted category, and the stuff that fits into that category is going to tend to be bland, uncreative, lacking in variety, and fitting into a nice, neat little box. The reason for that is specifically because you created a nice, neat little box and then only picked songs that go into that box to label as “CCM.” Like hotel artwork. This is not good and we shouldn’t do it.

2. Actually, Christian musicians sing about a huge variety of topics, including criticism of society, love songs, and songs about losing loved ones, and songs about faith are very frequently about the dark times and the struggles within faith, not just about everything being happy and good all the time.
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Re: Contemporary Christian Music - The Good and the Bad

Postby Midori » Mon May 04, 2015 8:49 pm

Thank you so much for that awesome post with all the name drops, Kaori!
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Re: Contemporary Christian Music - The Good and the Bad

Postby Xeno » Mon May 04, 2015 9:23 pm

Kaori wrote:Xeno, Is it just a semantic thing, and are you just saying that bands whose music isn't 100% about God should be called "bands who are Christians" instead of "Christian bands," but that they should still be accepted (e.g. allowed to be sold and promoted in the Christian music industry), or are you saying that bands ought to make music that is purely safe, positive stuff that is only always specifically about God in order to be considered Christian and promoted as such? If it's the latter, it’s pretty ironic that in a thread where everyone is pointing out that it’s a really big problem when Christian bands are required to have every song be some sort of positive, inoffensive song that is totally about God and Jesus, because it results in music that is boring, cheesy, and uninspired, you are saying that bands that don’t talk about God and Jesus all the time shouldn’t be called Christian bands.


Definitely the former of the two scenarios. I grew up in a really conservative (morally) Protestant denomination, and they definitely did not like the "bands whose members are Christians" because all of the music wasn't about god. I, thusly, see christian bands and the other group to be separate types of bands/music, but I certainly believe the latter group should be just as included as the former as far as what Christians should feel is acceptable to listen to.

I guess my point is, while you might like August Burns Red, its not something you're going to hear your church's choir do a rendition of on Sunday morning, and if I went to a church and heard their music being played I'd promptly get up and leave. I guess that's were I draw a distinction. And consider this: bands that chose to identify specifically as Christian rock/pop/rap/whatever are typically trying to appeal to a very specific group, that being people who only want upbeat, cheery, praise Jesus music. You're not going to typically find a band that makes songs about depression and internal conflict while claiming the Christian title, because they'll get run right out. There is a chain of christian book stores out here that refuse to carry very mainstream christian groups like Thousand Foot Krutch and Skillet because they're "too secular."

And that They Might Be Giants song is literally titled "Istanbul."

This is like my 8th edit to this post, but I don't really care. The need to put the label "Christian" on something tends to restrict it just because of the word. People expect certain things from "Christian music" or "Christian books" when a vast number of artists, in any medium, are likely Christian and just don't use that label to prevent the box Kaori mentioned. Thrice is a band that, to my knowledge, has never applied the term Christian go themselves, yet the frontman is a devout Christian who is his church's worship director. A very large number of their songs deal with god or have heavy christian imagery in them, yet they aren't a "Christian band." Just like Jars of Clay's music is almost universally bland and uninteresting because they choose to be seen as Christian as opposed to just a band. I think the christian label is more to blame in these discussions than anything. People have an idea of what Christian media is supposed to be, and no one in any positon to do so will challenge it.
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Re: Contemporary Christian Music - The Good and the Bad

Postby Kraavdran » Tue May 05, 2015 4:36 am

Kaori wrote: And Kraavdran, in the interest of keeping my thoughts the two subtopics of this thread at least somewhat separated (and also to give me some time to think about them), I’ll respond to your most recent thoughts (and a few other people’s comments about worship music) in a later post.

No worries and thanks for your input! Since you align more towards the Orthodox church, I feel like we are getting a nice difference in viewpoint.

Kaori wrote: So, basically, there are TONS of bands and artists who are making music that is much more interesting, complex, and varied than that, but you generally have to look outside of K-LOVE in order to find it.

That is a good point. Even with my strong dislike for most contemporary Christian music, there are some good songs that I can appreciate. I have had quite an experience with different worship songs, having church-hopped for a few years and attended a Christian university. Every once in a while, we did sing a (non-hymn) song that was surprisingly rich in helpful metaphor and meaning. And focused on God. All that said, like Midori mentioned, thanks for the name drops! I'll have to check out those songs for future reference.

Kaori wrote: I would actually be very hard-pressed to find a single Christian CD in my collection that is only about God all the time and is only positive all the time. There are some that are very faith-oriented in content but write about darkness and doubt and struggles with faith, but I think the only albums I own that don’t address some sort of darker and/or not-specifically-Christian theme are albums that are actual worship albums.

oh, that is interesting. I have to wonder, now. In terms of worship songs (ones typically sung at church), do you think they should try to stay towards the more positive, God-only genres? Of course, depending on the church (a church trying to reach a punk audience, for example, would probably look quite different). My tendency is to say that it should, to a greater or lesser extent.

Xeno wrote: The need to put the label "Christian" on something tends to restrict it just because of the word. People expect certain things from "Christian music" or "Christian books" when a vast number of artists, in any medium, are likely Christian and just don't use that label to prevent the box Kaori mentioned.

So, perhaps the things standing in the way of musical progression are the expectations of the Christian musical community as a whole?
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Re: Contemporary Christian Music - The Good and the Bad

Postby Nate » Tue May 05, 2015 8:46 am

I guess when I was talking about Christian music, I was mostly talking about CCM...which is generally like you mentioned, the kind of stuff they play on K-LOVE. I can't imagine Dead Poetic being played on that station. :V It's good that there's Christian music with the themes you've mentioned, it's just kinda outside the mainstream of the Christian music scene it seems. Not that I really follow the Christian music scene anyway though, so it's also just an issue of me being sort of ignorant in general I admit.

Kaori wrote:Nate, I don’t know what kind of music you do enjoy listening to


Weird stuff! Video game remixes. And can't forget those rap/hip hop and anime mashups. I also listen to what is affectionately referred to as "dad rock," you know, the stuff you hear on classic rock stations that isn't from the 90s, and occasionally classical/opera. But mostly the first two.
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Re: Contemporary Christian Music - The Good and the Bad

Postby mechana2015 » Tue May 05, 2015 11:03 am

Kaori wrote:At any rate, there is certainly a distinction that can be made between the CCM (as in the bland stuff that is exclusively about God and sticks to safe topics) and Christian bands generally (which are in a variety of genres and write about a variety of topics), but leaving that aside and talking about Christian music generally I am going to say that I agree with everyone who is saying that we need to not place restraints on bands by telling them that they can only ever sing about God and that their songs can only be positive and upbeat and not address the darker side of life like pain, hardship, and struggles. If you place that kind of restriction on musicians, then of course they are going to produce shoddy, bland, insipid music.

In regard to CCM proper, I’m going to use the radio station K-LOVE as an example, and before I start I just want to say as a disclaimer that I’m sure the people who are running that station have good motives and want to help people, and there are also a lot of people who get good things out of listening to that station and have been helped by it a lot. And I don’t want to criticize the motives of the people running the station or to denigrate the experiences of anyone who likes that kind of music or who listens to that station or who has gotten something good out of it.

However, the songs that are played on K-LOVE are the musical equivalent of the framed artwork that you see in hotels and hospitals and other public places. They are bland, they are musically and lyrically simple, and they seem to be chosen with the goal of selecting songs that are 1) identifiably Christian in their content and 2) inoffensive to everyone. So if this is the only kind of Christian music you are listening to, then saying “Christian music is all bland and insipid, and Christian songs are required to talk about God all the time and can’t be about any other subjects, and artists aren’t allowed any musical or lyrical creativity,” then that’s like walking into a hotel and saying all artwork is bland and insipid! Hotel artwork is bland and insipid specifically because it’s meant to be pleasant and inoffensive to everyone.

So, basically, there are TONS of bands and artists who are making music that is much more interesting, complex, and varied than that, but you generally have to look outside of K-LOVE in order to find it.

Yeah this is why I've been using 'capital C CCM' when I've been posting. CCM is a billboard magazine genre more or less (you see music by that label or used to at least when you went into the music sections of places like Target and Walmart) and its been defining/defined over the last 25 years into the bland K-LOVE music. To me CCM is a specific genre and one of the more public examples of how poorly art gets treated by the Christian mainstream. Most of the bands that have been referenced aren't considered, or at least weren't back when I listened to Christian radio a lot, considered CCM.

Kaori wrote:Also, Five Iron Frenzy, especially in their early albums, satirizes everyone and everything. They have a lot of criticism against American materialism and individualism and selfishness, they criticize the evils that were committed against Native Americans in US history, they make fun of punk fans, the music industry, and themselves. And they also have some songs that are just about human relationships, like “Ugly Day.” And they also have a lot of songs about faith and some worship songs.


Five Iron is probably my favorite Christian band to this day because of those types of songs. Unfortunately the CCM industry didn't like them very much, and they got very little airplay, and ended up having to quit being a band because they couldn't pay their bills. Thank goodness for kickstarter though. :)


Kaori wrote:1. If you define CCM as “music that is specifically about God or Jesus and has a positive message” and select only songs that fit into that category, then you’ve created an artistically restricted category, and the stuff that fits into that category is going to tend to be bland, uncreative, lacking in variety, and fitting into a nice, neat little box. The reason for that is specifically because you created a nice, neat little box and then only picked songs that go into that box to label as “CCM.” Like hotel artwork. This is not good and we shouldn’t do it.


The problem is that that's an actual industry genre, and a pretty strong one, or at least a pretty strong one when I was listening to that section of the radio regularly. I agree it's bad but it's more entrenched than just a category and that means it's actually more of a problem than just semantics, but an actual construct with companies and cash dedicated to its perpetuation.

When I get back later I'll post up a better look back at the music I have from when 'music you can buy from Berean' was my entire music collection, and maybe some better genre comments.
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Re: Contemporary Christian Music - The Good and the Bad

Postby Zeke365 » Wed May 06, 2015 9:10 am

okay I wanted to respond this because this very interesting issue and been on my mind lately as well

1.Worship music in the church I agree with them being this sort of low tone and same tone (and I been to a lot of church and they almost all sound alike) but as a personal preference, I would like churches instead of copying another style of music to make their own songs praise upbeat music and worship song that is original to that church and is completely out of the norm.

2.If your looking for Christian bands with lyrics that deal with deeper issues then I found a couple here you might like, one is called Rapid Fire Ministries which is combinations of different styles of music, same for Group 1 Crew, a christian who does dubbed anime but some of some of his songs are Christian and he Christian himself and shares his faith is Vic Mignogna's, these are the groups I found that are out of the box style type of music and as for a new radio station try www.air1.com which has alternative music as well.
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Re: Contemporary Christian Music - The Good and the Bad

Postby Kraavdran » Wed May 06, 2015 11:41 am

Zeke365 wrote: 1.Worship music in the church I agree with them being this sort of low tone and same tone (and I been to a lot of church and they almost all sound alike) but as a personal preference, I would like churches instead of copying another style of music to make their own songs praise upbeat music and worship song that is original to that church and is completely out of the norm.


ah, so your solution would be to completely detach musicians/songs/etc from any cultural expectations. In this way, churches would have freedom to use. I'm not certain how I feel about this. That is rather interesting, I hadn't thought of that. I see a few pros, but also a few cons. Please excuse me while I think out loud by listing them:

Pros:
- Songs are more reflective of churches, so songs do not have to be too "watered down" to fit for a general audience
- The song-writers are neither controlled by factions (in terms of threatening not to buy stuff) nor controlling what churches have access to.
- Songs can be allowed to reach the church congregation easier (in their own, non-universal language)
- Song melody/etc. will work better for the members, generally speaking.
- If someone has an issue with a song (or type of song), they can talk to the music-writer in charge and discuss the problem.

Cons:
- Smaller churches may find it difficult to find quality songs, especially if they have few (or no) musically-inclined people
- This might actually increase divisions among local churches (which, at least where I have lived, is already an issue) because none of the songs are familiar from church to church. People like some things that are comfortable, withdrawing anything that is comfortable may cause some people to shy away from new churches. As a side note, this is one nice thing about hymnals.
- Similar to issues with modern CCM, if individuals write the music, they may use metaphors that don't really work for people (perhaps not even the majority). Again with my example with God's love being "a hurricane and we are the trees." Having one (or a few like-minded people) writing songs for an individual church could cause some issues for the church as a whole.

I suppose that most of the cons could be worked around. Especially if there was a website that allowed free (or cheap) sharing of the songs written by different churches... and perhaps a council, of sorts, within each church considering what songs they are singing (and any practical issues with said songs). That is rather interesting. Can anyone think of a way to make this work for most areas? Or, perhaps, does anyone see a critical flaw that I haven't considered?
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Re: Contemporary Christian Music - The Good and the Bad

Postby Zeke365 » Wed May 06, 2015 12:13 pm

I thought about this again and I think I should be more clear on what I meant on praise and worship songs.

What I want is to have songs that I can dance to but still have the people sing a song with it and not this I dont even know what to call it kind of music praise with a slow beat but basically find songs that match different genres that can be sung together.

What I m not saying is a church should do rap, rock, metal, heavy rock, rock I m not talking about expanding in those area since there already bands like that I m just talking about the songs have a distinctive feel about them in church that might be out of the norm. I hope this answers some questions on the cons.

that reminds me instead of having one worship team lead each time why not have different people lead praise and worship that week and expand on that it could reach much more people and gets people more involved. That just a side note.
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Re: Contemporary Christian Music - The Good and the Bad

Postby Kraavdran » Wed May 06, 2015 12:37 pm

ah, I think that I understand you better. So you are talking more to the, for a lack of a better word, upbeat dance-ability of songs. Is that right? Or that quicker-paced songs could be adapted for different music genres (rock, etc) if songs were written like that? I think that, since I'm not familiar with music, I am not completely tracking with what you are saying. Sorry.

You make an interesting side note, about having different people lead praise/worship at church each week. I definitely agree. I find that having the same worship people up week after week can kinda create a rut of songs and kinda feels stagnant. Not to mention the possibility of burnout/resentment on behalf of the leaders. Now that you mention it, the church that I recently started attending does that, in their second service (the first one doesn't have music, it is abbreviated). Each week, they have different people run worship and it definitely has a different music style (different instruments, various worship styles... but all are relatable, from what I have experienced).


All these things aside, it kinda makes me wonder if musical worship should even be a part of a church service. What do you guys think? I can see some real nice pros for removing music from churches. But, at the same time, that idea grates against my sense of what is good.
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Re: Contemporary Christian Music - The Good and the Bad

Postby Zeke365 » Wed May 06, 2015 12:41 pm

either way but I m thinking more of the upbeat dance-ability way but I like the other idea to.
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Re: Contemporary Christian Music - The Good and the Bad

Postby Kraavdran » Wed May 06, 2015 12:52 pm

Zeke365 wrote:either way but I m thinking more of the upbeat dance-ability way but I like the other idea to.


Ah, I think that I understand now. Dance-ability is important to you. To a certain extent, I would find that distracting in a praise/worship setting. But that is a valid point and worship style, I think. I just don't know what a perfect system would be for a church worship setting to appeal to both of us. Hence my thought about removing praise/worship from church altogether. But something about that doesn't sit right with me.

I guess, the other option, would be to appreciate different churches for having differences (more charismatic for people that worship better in the active sense, and more reflective for people that worship better internally). I'm not certain how "music-writing" would fit in with all that, however. And, at that point, to what extent would it makes sense to have a separate church? What about smaller communities that can only support one church? Just thinking out loud, pardon.
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