Written by Ben Casey. Media by Tyler Wright. [divide]
“They are not of the world, even as I am not of it.” John 17:16.
We, as Christians, are called to be the salt of the earth, to let our actions shine through as beacons for Christ. Being in the world but not of it can be a lofty subject to process. The Bible encourages Christians to be separate but not isolated, walking the fine line between inaccessible and pandering.
This line is a common problem for churches. Many worry about losing the youth to “sex, drugs, and rock’n’roll.” But while there are no direct Christian alternatives for illegal drugs and premarital sex, rock music is another story.
Today, Christian rock seems a little stale. Not that I don’t love Reliant K or jam out whenever I hear Sanctus Real, but most people wouldn’t say the genre is envelope-pushing or challenging any norms. Christian rock today tends to be laughed at and worse by anyone who isn’t a Christian. This cannot be good for outsiders perception of Christianity. Some might even call this isolating.
Can that be true? Does modern Christian rock isolate Christians from the outside world?
To answer this question, it might be a good idea to look at some of the critics of Christian rock music. Artist Sufjan Stevens repeatedly criticized Christian Contemporary Music, calling it “devotional artifice” and “didactic crap.” Sufjan, whose 2015 album Carrie & Lowell received overwhelmingly positive reviews, is a Christian who makes folk and rock influenced music outside of the Christian label. Sufjan Stevens’ remarks show a clear distaste for the label of Christian rock or CCM and he’s not alone.
Tim Lambesis, former singer from the Christian metal band “As I Lay Dying,” revealed many Christian hard rock and metal bands fake their faith by claiming, “only one in ten Christian bands [As I Lay Dying] toured with were actually Christian bands.” While this number is unconfirmed, it is a scary thought that seemingly Christian bands are actually atheists, a statement echoed by former Newsboys member George Perdikis.
Then there’s the common criticism that Christian rock music is generic and uninventive. This is not a new complaint. From the South Park episode in 2003 to youtube videos made ten years after, everyone (Christian and non-Christian alike) like to point out how generic Christian rock can be.
The generic sound probably comes from the purpose of Christian rock. Christian rock is an alternative to regular rock for Christian consumers. While this may sound innocent enough, it does raise a problem. Sure, it’s nice for parents to have easy access to rock music tailored towards Christians to give to their kids to avoid the bad influences they might otherwise fall under. But can a musician make art to the best of their ability to praise God when they’re just taking secular music and name-dropping God and Jesus a few times?
Why does this even matter? What about Christian music being generic or boring matters? What makes a selection of Christian artists being disingenuous about their faith isolates Christians?
The truth is, this all adds to the narrative that Christians are out of touch with reality. This oversimplification may seem like a jump, but looking at Christian music from a non-Christian perspective, it begins to make sense. According to non-Christians, Christian music is generic and boring, made by dishonest artists, and given a free pass by Christians because it talks about God. These generalizations might not be totally accurate, but they paint a dangerous picture that isolates and alienates Christians from the outside world.
According to pastor Greg Laurie, “God has planted us as believers in this world. He has put His people in the culture to influence it, to make a difference. God is not calling us as believers to isolate, but to infiltrate.” If Christian rock is an attempt to infiltrate culture, it is perceived as a very poor one.
The solution is not to boycott Christian rock or only listen to Christian artists who talk about God indirectly. The problem is the public perception surrounding Christian rock. Christians need to have a critical ear when listening, challenging artists to praise God to the best of their abilities. Don’t give artists a pass to be lazy just because they have a Christian label. Go out and find the Christian artists who really explore new ways to praise God.