Jesus + Music ≠ CCM

Tonight at the ARK, one of the CCO staff working at W&J (Andrew Heffner) came to visit to talk about Christianity and Music, and, although I’m giving him no credit by this less-than-skeleton synopsis of what he spoke on, said that contemporary Christian music (CCM), is placing Christians in a space that ignores relevant culture, and that by considering music a tool, we are making it just that (like a hammer – no one ever holds precious their hammer), and not art.

I found such relief that we had a conversation like this.  Music is my #1 passion outside of Jesus.  And there’s too much beautiful and intelligent music that Christians are either running away from, or are allowing themselves to be satiated with inane, 3-chorded loosely-defined music that fills airspace.

I try to hard not to come off as a music snob, because my point isn’t that people – Christian or not – can’t find their top music choice to be Top 40 pop.  But, all of our call should be music that means something.  And as much as I hate to admit it (because I like these songs) Ne-Yo and Sean Paul aren’t really challenging anything – except maybe how low individuals can dip it and get thurr eagle’s on.

CCM is in an espeically delicate place.  Paul, in Acts 17, goes to the Stoics and Epicureans and talks to them about things not from an arrogant “I’m right, you suck” standpoint, but rather with things that they would understand, talking about their poets in order to connect on intellectual levels.

In much the same way, I question why we have a plethora of bands which are saying “we’ll use the same formulas of all of our ‘secular’ buddies, and say ‘Jesus’ 15 times instead of ‘baby'”.  And, obviously, CCM artists run the spectrum of artistic as opposed to mechanistic formulation, but, there will still be something lost if it is labeled Contemporary Christian Music.

In an effort to not turn this into a “it’s 2am and I should be in bed” rant, I leave you with a song by Sufjan Stevens – a Contemporary Christian in Music, who has made something both thoughtful, and beautiful (Paste and Rolling Stone both rated it within the top 5 albums of the year).

Goldenrod and the 4H stone,
the things I brought you,
when I found out you had cancer of the bone

Your father cried on the telephone,
and he drove his car into the navy yard,
just to prove that he was sorry

In the morning, through the window shade,
when the light pressed up against your shoulderblade,
I could see what you were reading.

All the glory that the Lord has made,
and the complications you could do without,
when I kissed you on the mouth.

Tuesday night at the Bible study,
we lift our hands and pray over your body,
but nothing ever happens.

I remember at Michael’s house,
in the living room when you kissed my neck,
and I almost touched your blouse.

In the morning at the top of the stairs,
when your father found out what we did that night,
and you told me you were scared.

All the glory when you ran outside,
with your shirt tucked in and your shoes untied,
and you told me not to follow you.

Sunday night when I cleaned the house,
I find the card where you wrote it out,
with the pictures of you mother.

On the floor at the great divide,
with my shirt tucked in and my shoes untied,
I am crying in the bathroom.

In the morning when you finally go,
and the nurse runs in with her head hung low,
and the cardinal hits the window.

In the morning in the winter shade,
on the 1st of March on the holiday,
I thought I saw you breathing.

All the glory that the Lord has made,
and the complications when I see His face,
in the morning in the window.

All the glory when he took our place,
but he took my shoulders and he shook my face,
and he takes and he takes and he takes.

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