None of these songs has been born again, and to that end there is no such thing as Christian music. No. Christ didn't come and die for my songs, he came for me. Yes. My songs are a part of my life. But judging from Scripture I can only conclude that our God is much more interested in how I treat the poor and the broken and the hungry than the personal pronouns I use when I sing. I am a believer. Many of these songs talk about this belief. An obligation to say this or do that does not sound like the glorious freedom that Christ died to afford me. I do have an obligation, however, a debt that cannot be settled by my lyrical decisions. My life will be judged by my obedience, not by my ability to confine my lyrics to this box or that. (taken from the CTK blog.)
Often my roommate and I have high aspirations of getting to bed early, and more often than not we fail miserably. Usually it's because we're on Skype or FaceTime with our respective girlfriends (who both happen to reside in California currently), but last night we were up talking with each other about a recent blog post from an artist I used to admire. I have to confess that the end of our conversation began to degrade into poking fun at the artist's blog, as well as some of his recent music. Unfortunately, I also have to admit that I found this artist's stance in his blog post to be on the verge of laughable. The issue at hand was the current status of the Christian music industry and the no-so-fine line between sacred and secular music.
The artist to which I am referring is Michael Gungor, front man for the band Gungor (which primarily consists of Michael and his wife Lisa). Gungor has been a large voice in this arena for a number of years, especially as he and his music have shifted farther and farther away from the Christian music scene. In this recent blog, he states that he can usually tell if a song is "Christian" if there is a disconnect between the emotion of the lyrics and the emotion of the singer. He touts almost all Christian music as being disingenuous and uncreative.
To this point I have to say that I am in agreement with Gungor. I've had many similar frustrations with much of the "Christian" music that is being released today. Much of it does sound the same, and there are certain groups that I choose not to listen to because I find their lyrics shallow and their intentions borderline fake. However, Gungor continues in his blog to mention that people have accused him of being hypocritical, having such criticism for the Christian music industry yet still being part of it. His blog makes many calls for more creativity in the Christian music realm, for people to stop buying into the format of the industry.
At the risk of being blunt, I think Michael Gungor needs to take his own advice.
As I mentioned in my review of Gungor's most recent album, the only way to appreciate it is to see it for what it is: a secular album. There's no getting around that fact. They may have made it to the glory of God, but the songs do not give any indication of that. I find it extremely difficult to listen to anything Michael Gungor has to say about the Christian music scene since he has so distanced himself from it in his own music.
Much of what his blog said spits in the face of what I do for a living. He called most of the music that I use to lead a congregation in musical worship completely unimaginative and un-genuine. If he feels this way, then shouldn't he be desiring to do something about it? We all know that he can; his career as a recording artist began with three worship albums, each creative and genuine. Now he openly finds fault with the system but cannot offer an alternative with his recent music.
I'm sure Michael will never read this, but I would like to pose this to him: Michael, if you're serious in your concerns about the Christian music genre, then either do something substantial about it, or be quiet. I find nothing in your latest album that offers any sort of Christian alternative. If you have no alternative to give to the system, then stop complaining about it. All you're doing is causing strife with no resolution.
This leads me to the second artist to which I made reference in the title of this blog. Not long after this post from Michael Gungor began making its way around the internet, a similar post followed behind which gave Jon Foreman's view of this issue. In particular, the blog post posed a question to Jon about why his band Switchfoot doesn't write overtly "Christian" songs anymore. Instead of trying to split the chasm between sacred and secular further apart, Foreman's response tries to bring the divisions closer.
Foreman attacks the idea that the pastor or the worship leader is any more spiritual than the janitor or the sales manager. The pastor's realm of influence may ultimately be more spiritual in nature, but all of these people are seeking to glorify God in the work that they do on a day-to-day basis. To confine the "sacred" and the "secular" to specific boxes and to say that one is better than the other is to undermine part of God's creation. When speaking of his own music, Foreman says:
I can sense genuine concern from this quote. Foreman's concern is not that people make better "Christian"-sounding lyrics, but that their lives reflect the God they serve. That may mean that someone writes music that is not geared toward congregational singing, but does it to the best of their ability. A love song written by a man to his wife can be more honoring to God than a disingenuous worship artist singing lyrics he doesn't even mean.
These two artists are trying to say the same thing, but they have taken different routes to get there. Michael Gungor seems more entranced by the effect of the industry, and his blog does nothing to bridge any gap between sacred and secular, creative and uncreative. He urges artists to be more creative, but tells them to follow their heart instead of offering obedience to the Lord. Jon Foreman offers encouragement that whatever you create, make sure it is an offering of obedience to the God you serve. That creation may not be what we deem "sacred," but the Lord can still be honored by it.
I find nothing wrong with Christians writing music that interacts with the world outside of the Christian bubble. This world may not be our permanent residence, but we have been put here for a period of time to the glory of God. If Michael Gungor wants something to change about the music specifically in the Christian realm, his music ought to be setting the standard (yet it is not). Jon Foreman has decided that what he believes will affect how he writes, but he is not confining himself into a constricted box that society has built. His desire is for God to be honored and to make his music the best it can be (and it is). Christian, whatever you create, be it "sacred" or "secular," give it all that you have and make it an offering to the Lord.
A simple servant of the Master.