The debate over appropriate Christian music has been going on since David danced to the Lord in his tighty whiteys. Today music in the church is not just political, it often can lead to some downright nasty infighting. Being a Deacon, I see it firsthand. As a church with a broad demographic we have the young crowd that like drums and electric guitars ( and God bless em’! ), the over 60’s that prefer the classic hymns, and the over 80’s that prefer acapella. Oh yes…everyone is also convinced they are right and everyone else’s musical tastes are an abomination.
Well, almost everyone.
I come from a common Generation X background. Born and raised on the two-handed tapping of Eddie Van Halen, the soulful lyrics of U2 and the whimsical satire of “Weird Al” Yankovic.
Which brings me to Christian Rock.
Do a Google search of “Christian Rock Evil” and wow, the wing-nuts really start flying out the hardware store. So much so that I have to wonder, “have these people even listened to any?”. I’m immediately reminded of John Lithgow’s character in Footloose who felt every evil impulse in the young was the fault of the “devil’s music”.
Much like Southern Gospel is a spin on country music, Christian Rock borrows lock-stock-and-barrel the rhythmic vibes of its secular counterpart. Guitars are electric, beats move faster than the seniors home hymns, and there is absolutely a high energy vibe to the whole genre.
The question then is simple: Is this actually a bad thing? And if so, why?
Anyone who’s older than 30 probably remembers Petra. Petra was to Christian rock what Van Halen was to secular rock. Their message and lyrics were unmistakably based on the gospel with popular songs such as Creed, Beyond Belief, and Fired Up. And the Christian kids loved it.
The Christian parents however, hated it.
The reasons have been plentiful. It’s rebellion. It’s unholy. It uses drums. It’s conformity. It’s…well…different.
Different musical taste is not in itself and act of rebellion. The young have always tried to distinguish themselves from the generation preceding them and music is just the most available way to do it. Sure, the older generation doesn’t like it, but that’s just their payback for torturing their own parents with the Beatles.
Allow me to use my aging self as an example. I’m almost 40. My days of any musical rebellion are long…long past me. In fact, my teenage “rebellion” by most standards was pitiful. When I was seventeen I ran a stop sign at 3am when nobody was looking and have been living a life of guilt and pain ever since. But rock and roll to me was never about rebelling against my parents or anyone else. I just liked the sound. Trust me, when you’re 40 and playing “Mr. Roboto” in your minivan as you make a quick trip to the store to buy an emergency pack of diapers…you are most certainly not a rebel.
So whose music is most “Christian”? Guess what, it’s always ours. Not mine in particular, but whoever is reading this now. The 15 year old teen has no time for 1800’s hymns. The 70 year old has no tolerance for the dial going over 3 and the squeels of distortion. And the person from an entirely different culture has no appreciation for either! But isn’t that the way it has always been? Trust me, when your own mother was passing out from the ecstasy of watching Elvis Presley shake his hips, her parents were convinced the AntiChrist had come. But everyone survived, their kids in turn became parents and in turn hated their kids music. The circle of life goes on, and it has been this way long, long before rock and roll ever showed up.
Music is like an old sweater. It’s broken in, cozy and there’s no way we want to trade it in for a new scratchy one off the rack. While we all have our preferences, it is rather egocentric to conclude that our music is the only appropriate expression of glory to our creator. Sometimes people just want to buy a new sweater. Hey, I sometimes like a quiet hymn too. But I sometimes like to grab my Stratocaster and crank out some Lincoln Brewster with the volume turned up to 11.
If loud beats and dancing are the signs of evil then we better dig up King David, roundhouse kick his remains and throw him back in the hole. The King of Rock had nothing on the King of Israel. The energy and beat of middle-eastern music can make a Nirvana mosh-pit look like an evening playing Dutch Blitz with your grandma. David danced with a towel around his waist in the streets with such energy that his own wife was disgusted at him. You know what, David sounded like quite the rebel. He worshiped in the way he was drawn to and didn’t really concern himself with what others thought. Kind of sounds familiar doesn’t it?
Some people just want to follow David’s example. Much like King James Onlyism, we can easily run the risk of associating one style of music with holiness and condemning the expression of the next generation simply because we equate our personal comfort level as a seal of approval from God. For the sake of the greater body of believers we need to accept that not everyone can run at the same speed.
Otherwise our churches will be populated by an ever decreasing number of the young who have every right to fight for change. Without the young the church becomes stagnant water. Without the experience of the old, postmodernism flourishes. To their shock, the existence of the Emergent movement is actually the creation of the “Old Guard” due to rejecting the opinions of the young.
The gift of music is one of the most amazing that our creator has given us. When God gave music he didn’t intend for it to be monotonous and unchanging. Music is diverse, it’s creative, and it’s exciting. God has given us different gifts for different instruments and different types of music that we can use to give him glory.
In between writing and podcasting, the Dysfunctional Parrot can be found poking a stick at the forces of darkness with the soul-saving jam of his Stratocaster “Mary Ann”.
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