The issue of Christian versus secular music has been in existence ever since “pop” music was birthed in the early 1950s.
An even bigger issue is when artists “cross-over,” or produce music that is more spiritual or less spiritual. Several popular Christian bands, like Relient K, Switchfoot, and P.O.D. have successfully made the transition over to the secular market. However, were they forced to sacrifice some level of Christianity along the way in order to reach the top of the charts? It would almost appear that the phrase “Christian band” has now become a negative connotation in the secular market, and most bands do as much as they can to separate themselves from being branded so. Some Christian artists prove it is possible to reach out to the world through their music, while others struggle to define the line between witnessing and conforming.
Hard rock band Evanescence, mainly noted for their female lead singer and thought-provoking lyrics, has been a band struggling with the label “Christian.” One of their songs, titled ‘Bring Me to Life,’ includes such lyrics as: “Wake me up inside, call my name and save me from the dark, bid by blood to run before I come undone, save me from the nothing I’ve become.” However, in a recent interview with Entertainment Weekly, lead singer Amy Lee proclaimed, “There are people hell-bent on the idea that we’re a Christian band in disguise, and that we have some secret message … we have no spiritual affiliation with this music. It’s simply about life experience.” This comment, in and of itself, is not a bad thing for a band to strive for; to produce quality music that relates to an audience through life experiences and personal struggles. However, Lee went on to state that “I’m not ashamed of my spiritual beliefs, but I in no way incorporate them into this band.”
If a band’s members were indeed Christian, it would seem that one of their goals in producing music would be to reach out to non-believers. This is possible without having to be forceful or blatant, as rock band Switchfoot has proved with their MTV hit ‘Beautiful Letdown.’ When asked their thoughts about “crossing-over” to the mainstream music market, lead singer Jon Foreman thoughtfully replied:
“For us, it’s a faith, not a genre. We’ve always been very open and honest about where the songs are coming from. For us, these songs are for everyone. Calling us ‘Christian rock’ tends to be a box that closes some people out and excludes them, and that’s not what we’re trying to do. Music has always opened my mind, and that’s what we want.”
Music can still be from the heart and soul, without having to brand the band as a certain genre or religious preference. In fact, a greater connection can be made between a band and its audience by relating on a personal level.
When I see bands like Evanescence or Creed, who blatantly renounce all connection to Christianity, I can’t help but question their religiosity in the first place. With such bands, whose popularity has earned them top-of-the-charts ratings and award nominations, why the need to adamantly defend yourself? These artists are already making millions of dollars in album and concert sales; they obviously are not struggling with being branded as a “Christian” band. To them, it is almost a negative thing to be associated with Christ or the Christian church. This leads me to believe that another problem exists; if there are such negative effects with being labeled a “Christian” band, then there must be something wrong with Christians as well.
Many Christian bands are described by non-believers and believers alike as being cheesy, one-sided, and boring. I think there is a desperate need today for artists, musicians, and entertainers who are Christians, but whose quality of work excels that of secular artists. The only way to appeal to a mass audience, which thrives on being politically correct and non-exclusive, is to manufacture a high-quality product. Unfortunately, many Christian record labels hire Christian bands simply because they are Christians, almost completely overlooking the quality of their music. I believe this is part of the reason why Christian music has been given such a bad name.
Christian author and theologian C. S. Lewis once wrote,
“If you read history you will find that the Christians who did most for the present world were precisely those who thought most of the next. It is since Christians have largely ceased to think of the other world that they have become so ineffective in this.”
Unfortunately, many Christian artists have forgotten to “think of the next world” and make their mission one about saving souls. This is not to say that all artists must place Jesus in their lyrics or read the Bible at their concerts; it is to say, however, that many artists have been blinded by the glory and fame that have come their way. What once might have begun as a mission to reach out to non-believers has merely turned into a way of becoming more like them. If we are going to make a significant impact on this world, we must not forget where we have come from and where we are going.
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