Monday, May 02, 2005

My Own Take on CCM 

The Archer and his merry band have been having an interesting, if polarizing, discussion about contemporary Christian music. Now, this may surprise some of you, but despite my higher church leanings, I have been a fan of CCM since 1996. It was at a church youth retreat that I was first introduced to the genre, a retreat that had a profound impact on my life, in the form of DC Talk's "Jesus Freak". I was into "hard" music at that point in my life and I had no idea there was a band out there that had that sound but also the Jesus message going on. That year, for my birthday, I confused my parents by asking for both the DC Talk "Jesus Freak" album and Metallica's "Kill 'em All" album.

I found a decent radio station in my home town that played this genre of music and have unashamedly listened to it or a similar radio station as my primary radio entertainment ever since. Now, I also listen to the rock station, the classic rock station, the country station, and NPR. But, chances are, if you get in my car at any random moment, the radio will be tuned to the CCM station. I listen to it primarily as radio entertainment and not to derive any profound grace or theology from it, though sometimes that happens as a bonus. Yes, it is true, some bands have bad theology, some have cheesy lyrics, and some have a downright awful sound - but so do "secular" bands. And speaking of "secular" bands, I once heard or read somewhere that "there is no such thing as secular music, but only secular lyrics." I like that idea. Music is a gift from God, and when we use it, we give praise to God, the gift-giver whether or not we intended to or not. I like to think that, like a parent, He looks down and grins when He sees us doing things He taught us, even if we don't get it quite "right" all the time.

As far as the place of CCM in the liturgy, I've seen it done well (with a pretty standard '79 BCP Rite II, Prayer A Eucharist service too!) and I've seen it done bad. The last priest's ordination I went to featured almost solely CCM and "praise" music and it was incredibly moving. The danger, as always with performance in liturgy, is that it becomes more about the performance than about God. Sometimes this is an easier trap to fall into for a CCM band than a more traditional church choir, but not always.

Listening to CCM reinforces and informs my faith in a different way than reading theology, attending worship, or discussing my faith in class (as if that's a common occurrence at seminary). I've found myself so touched by some songs sometimes that I've had to pull my car off the road - the last time that happened was several years ago, but I still remember the song, "King of the Hill" by Eli. Sometimes there is nothing better than rolling down the windows, cranking up the volume, and singing as loud as I can my favorite CCM song. It's praise and I love to praise! Like any music, as I've said, there are good bands and bad ones, and you'll find all of them mixed together on the radio. (My two favorite examples right now are a lyric from a Todd Agnew song that says, "It's cold outside/or is that just the chill I feel inside," - ok man, that's just cheesy. Second, a song by an artist I can't remember who sings about "My Adonai", which, if you translate the Hebrew word there and re-insert it into the song has the song saying, "my my lord". To make it work, this artist really wanted the word "adon", but its not as easily recognizable, but that's no excuse for abusing language.) But, right off the top of my head, I can name seven that have their hearts in the right place, their theology well thought out and informed, and with excellent sounds. I'll list a particularly good song beside each that highlights the band's ability to combine the above characteristics. These artists are genuine Christians, struggling with their faith just like you and I. Their songs are not doctrinal statements, but their prayers, their hopes, their experiences, and their fears. And they should be taken as such, since they have been given a gift by God to share with us.

Jars of Clay - "World's Apart"
Third Day - "Thief"
Chris Rice - "The Other Side of the Radio"
Ginny Owens - "If You Want Me To"
Chi Rho - "Free"
Casting Crowns - "Voice of Truth"
Mark Schultz - "You Are a Child of Mine"

Sure, it's not a good idea to get all your "religion" from CCM, nor from any one source, but if it is a way that can reach someone who might not go to church, then I'm for it. God can work and has worked through this, and will continue to do so. If you don't like CCM, that's fine. You're neither a bad Christian nor a crazy idiot. But it is perhaps a misstep to demand that CCM artists be theological experts or degree holders any more than the rest of us and it is definitely a misstep to declare all the saints "meekrats" as a commenter over at the Archer's post recently did. They don't claim to be priests, but you're mistaken if you don't think they are ministers. And ministers don't get it right all the time. That's why there is forgiveness and that's why God gave us all the ability to do theology (talk about God) and reason things out, to a degree, for ourselves.




By Blogger Jane Ellen+, at 8:16 AM  

I too am a Jesus Freak owner, my favorite one is "Colored People".

I confess I have a hangup about CCM, which I unfairly associate with fundamentalism. I call it "Jesus be my boyfriend" music becuase of some bad theology in a few of the "praise songs".

I also have a weakness for country music. It is so easy to get into, even though I am a Yankee.

By Blogger K, at 9:11 AM  

A meerkat is a cute furry creature. Google it. I'm glad you find it pejorative.

And you're in seminary...?

By Blogger Kyle, at 8:32 AM  

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