It’s no secret that much of the secular world holds Christian music in disdain. Many Christians do as well. Cliché, contrived, simplistic, naïve, and often just plain bad. These words have all been used to describe CCM (Contemporary Christian Music), by me as well.
(To be fair, secular music is all of these things too, but that’s a conversation for another day.)
I recently stumbled upon an article from the Washington Post. The author is Brant Hanson, one of the radio personalities featured on both The Way FM and Air1 radio stations (one of the more entertaining ones in my opinion). In this article, he advocates for the current state of Christian music, specifically Christian radio. He makes some good points, but a lot of his excuses for Christian music are just that: excuses. He stands in favor of little more than the status quo. This is my response.
Check out the original post below:
The first problem I have is with the title: “Our music isn’t high art – but it’s just what people want.”
Is it really what they want or is it all we’re willing to give them? Yes, it sells, but does it satisfy? Are people really happy with the current state of Christian music or are they just settling for it because there aren’t any better options? I grew up with Christian music, and most of my friends did as well. The general consensus among young Christians (the ones who are more familiar with Christian music than most) is that it’s just not very good. I’m unsatisfied with the state of Christian music, and most of the people I talk with (Gen Xers and Baby Boomers included) agree.
Brant himself admits that Christian radio can be “derivative, clichéd and over-produced” He goes on to describe how many people negatively view Christian music:
Christian pop/rock radio stands accused of being less than real, in addition to formulaic, talent-free and vacuous. All that, and even less, actually: One analyst of religion wrote recently …that a primary failing of Christian music is that it’s not negative enough. It’s too sunny, she wrote, with too-frequent appearances of words like “hope” and “joy.”
Brant combats the criticisms by basically saying that it’s what people want.
Listeners know they live in a judgmental world and they want a reminder…that God still loves them, and still wants them, even in spite of themselves. They’re anxious, they’re loaded with distractions, and they aren’t looking for artistic brilliance. They’re looking for encouragement. They want someone to say, “Don’t worry,” and “Keep going,” and “God hasn’t given up on you.” Sounds good to me, and to a lot of others, apparently.
I agree… kind of. So much of the music we listen to is negative. We live in a fallen world that sucks a lot of the time, and our culture too often reflects the nasty side of things. And yes, as Christians, we hold this amazing hope that needs to be shared. Music is a wonderful avenue through which to do so. I also agree that people are overwhelmed by judgement, but simply letting an ungodly worldview communicate the subject of judgement isn’t a good option. How about we address the subject of judgement from a place of godliness and Scriptural truth? That sounds like a better idea to me than just turning on the Christian radio and pretending worldly and sinful judgement doesn’t exist.
Finally, Brant just sort of… gives up:
Does Christian music radio fail as great “art”? I think so. But it doesn’t set out to be great art. At its best, it sets out to be a kindness.
This is the point I might disagree with the most. Great art and a ministry of kindness are not mutually exclusive. We can make great art that also ministers to people’s souls. In fact, God’s Word commands us to do everything with excellence:
Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters… – Colossians 3:23
Furthermore, the philosophy of “it’s what people want” seems like an excuse to continue in a less than excellent pattern. It communicates, at least to me, that Christian radio is more concerned with keeping an audience than it is with excellence of ministry.
Forgive me if I’m wrong, but Brant seems to be saying, “Yeah we suck, but people like it, so we’re going to keep on sucking at what we do.”
I agree with Brant on several of the comments he made. We should keep on giving the world hope through Christian music. We have the ultimate hope! But I believe we can do it in a way that we’re proud of. We can make music that gives hope, but is also musically excellent. We can make music that addresses the darkness and negativity in the world from a biblical worldview. We can make music that the rest of the world will want to emulate! That sounds a lot better than just accepting the status quo, turning up the volume, and listening to the same lackluster songs over and over again.