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Monday, July 16, 2007


Almost invariably you can find me moved (often to tears) by the singing/band playing when I go to church on Sunday mornings. Not because their performance exudes "excellence" (a new-ish church word meaning you practised a lot, talked on the phone about what colour schemes your clothing should match to, and secretly hoping that your team would get a call from a producing company because of your stellar sound...) but because the words and sounds and people around me somehow roll over and through and around me in a way that I can only describe as deeply spiritual. I hope again. I pray again. I feel tenacious about my desire to believe in a good God who loves me and mine.

But as much as I love it, I sometimes I wonder about the "Christian music scene". Occasionally I'll put on our local Christian music station while I'm working in the house so that the words will soak into me and the dirty couch and the wildebeast children. It never does a darn thing for the couch. But almost every time I feel vaguely disturbed about some aspects of what I'm listening to. I imagine the bands feeling as pressured as the "secular bands" to look and sound a particular way. I imagine them fussing with their hair, whitening their teeth, checking their rear view in the mirror and not wanting to come out looking frumpy or grumpy or chubby. Well, of course not. I'm not above that, and I'll bet my right thigh that you're not either. Then I imagine them checking their record sales, their placements on the popularity charts and glancing over their shoulders to see what gifted Christian singer is sneaking up behind them, about to steal their thunder, their sales, their moment in the sun.

I hear the Christian real estate salesperson advertise about how we should ask her to sell our houses because she believes in God. I hear about the conferences where we should all go and be together and rub shoulders after we buy our tickets through ticketmaster. I hear about the Christians who would like us to buy their cars, their lumber, let them landscape our yards or groom our dog.

And it just sits kind of funny with me.
Is it just me?


Judy said...

Nope. It isn't just you.

Linda said...

No way. It isn't just you. What bugs me is that some Christians think that "if it's (music, drama, novels) Christian, it's got to be good."

Michele said...

nope. not just you. i just turn it off or don't go there in the first place.
(don't get me started on Blessings Christian Marketplace either. nothing endangers my faith more than crappy 'Christian' kitcsh.

Tess said...

We don't have the Christian music scene so much in the UK (or if we do, I haven't found it).
But I was struck by your point about pressure to buy goods and services from Christian suppliers.
Well I know how rubbish a Christian I am, so I would be really embarrassed to ask other Christians to buy from me just because of that. I'd expect folks of all kinds to buy from me because I was honest and my goods or services were of high quality.
It strikes me almost as a kind of blackmail.
Scott Peck in one of his books talks about blasphemy. To him, blasphemy is not using words like "Jesus" in a profane way, but using one's Christian belief for gain in some way. (Now why do I think of certain politicians when I type that sentence?) And to me that's a pretty fair definition.

Anonymous said...

It sits funny with me too....Lindalew

self taught artist said...

I removed my comment because I guess it was harsh. I just get so tired of brainless people sometimes! You bring up great points and I guess I got riled up! :) Needless to say I agree with you.

Joyce said...

hey self-taught, I didn't think it was so bad. If it riled you like that, it must be a good point thats worth talking about.

here's the thing. I have a love/hate relationship with said radio station. I am too distractable to listen to cd's because they require some level of maintenance. The radio is convenient on those days when my spirit is dragging and i want the words to fill the empty spaces. But then I resent the dj's because... well.... I just resent them. And the advertising bugs me. And some of the songs bug me. I just fear that there is a certain phoniness and surface-ness going on.

Yet, I appreciate the option. I recognize that if there is to be a station, it must be paid for by advertisers. And what about Christian people who are talented singers? (much as I hate the saying.... ) What would Jesus do? Can you "buy into" the music scene and still be a non-self-serving person?

No desire to offend here, just curious if anyone else has thought of these questions. I'm not saying that Christian people should only be pastors or missionaries and always wear shoes with holes in them. I'm not saying that I think they should not be public. I'm wondering I guess if we all get so distracted by our culture that we TOTALLY are missing the point of what it means to follow the teachings.

Rosa said...

Wow we were talking about this with our house guests this weekend. I got to listen to a "Christian" radio station On the way home from wpg and heard that real estate pitch and actually laughed out loud yelling back at the radio "yeah but will i get the cheepest price or does your christian label cost me something" It some how makes me think of a whip in the temple story i've read. Did you know that the biggest Christian labels like sparrow etc are owned by mgm etc. I think what we sell as a safe zone for the church some how encourages us to turn off and stop dicerning. How boring. how nieve.

Gloria said...

.. i know where you are coming from. it's almost like the Pastor that was speaking on a certain Sunday asking for help from the congregation men to move their house once the sermon is done.. i don't know why it should bother me so much

Ruth said...

i hear your heart joyce. completely.

Crystal said...

I'm so sorry, but I disagree. I'm not sure what the problem is with Christian groups looking and sounding current? Are young people going to want to listen to a group that doesn't sound like they're in tune with youth today? I have heard of many christian artists who have turned down crossover secular contracts because they want their message to remain Christ-centered. And while I'm sure some artists are concerned with record sales and with other artists "stealing their thunder", I think the majority of artists signed under a "christian" label aren't doing it solely for money, because they're not making nearly as much money as their crossover counterparts. Also, while I agree the advertising part is hokey, that's life. We live in a consumer society, and there are people out there that, given the choice, would prefer to give their business to someone who is not ashamed to proclaim they believe in Christ. Just my two cents.

Crystal said...

oh, I have to add, I also have issues with our local station. I don't listen to it because I don't like the style of music. You might want to try some of the internet stations out there. Air 1 is my fave.

Anonymous said...

Maybe it's not the music or the station that bugs you, but the idea of us segregating ourselves at the expense of embracing others who think differently than us.
It reaffirms that "us and them" mentality that Donald Miller talks about. On a similar note, did you know that there are over 800 kids enrolled in only one large private Christian school here in the city? That astounds me. Whatever happened to being salt and light? It appears to me that we are afraid. We're hiding out.

I can't judge the motives or sincerity of others. But I can hold very loosely to those predictable indicators of what appears to be Christian. One of the most humble Christ-followers I know lives out of the back of his van and swears like a trucker. But his soft heart is inclined to help others and that is as Christian as you can get.
Loved the post. You always get my BP up.

Daphne said...

Hi Joyce.

Okay, I'm not Christian, but I understand your annoyance. I want to buy things because of quality, integrity and value. I don't want to feel that I should buy something based on a sense of guilt or pressure.

However, if I were Christian perhaps if I had to choose between two similar items, or bands and one was Christian and one wasn't I would be more interested in buying the product made by people like me. Just to provide support.

At the same time I occasionally question the quality of art/music or whatever if it seems to be succeeding not because of talent and professionalism but because of a sense of charity or guilt or fame.

I would be embarrassed if someone bought my work because I was disabled.

Leanne said...

It makes me miserable that the word "excellence" has been taken and then abused by the Christian church, by our crazy Christian North American culture. I agree that the music, the accessories, the labels, the money making schemes hold a certain phony air. I feel quite strongly that this culture has robbed Christ followers of true beauty. And I realize that is a strong statement - I too can sit in a 'contemporary' church service and be moved...but that's because God works and breathes and moves in all places. That is beautiful.
Excellence in music means (for me) a beautiful choral work by Bach, a piano work by Beethoven or Chopin. Or any piece that has been labored over, cried over and poured sweat through. A piece so magnificent that it has to have been ordained by our beautiful Creator. And it's funny that many of these composers are NOT perfect, did not dress perfectly, say the perfect things, or know the right people. They were ordinary people that often made awful awful choices in their lives...and still were inspired to create beautiful things. Now that is TRUE beauty.

Louise said...

Excellence in my opinion is to give God your absolute best!! I go to a church that uses the word 'excellence' meaning that... lets give God our best, our energy, our praise, our love, our worship. God gave His best for me so why would I strive for any less?!! Am I perfect? Absolutely not! Is any church perfect?? Show me one...

As for the advertisements..whatever everyone has a right to advertise right? and they choose when, where and how its our choice whether or not we take them up on it. Just my opinion..

self taught artist said...

well I'm happy you werent put off by my first response Joyce. I got triggered because I have been a catholic, a born again and a new ager. The thing about my parents that bugs me most is their judgemental attitude...and whenever I dare to voice my opinion I, at the ripe old age of 45 STILL think I am being like THEM. Am I being judgemental when I think religion is nuts? I do think its nuts. Do I have friends that believe in God? Yes. I think there is inexplicable reasons for everything but not because you are 'good' or 'bad'. I think it has more to do with your general health as an organism. There are plenty of sickos that are religious, there are TONS of peaceful healthy human beings that are good....but if they don't believe in god are they damned?
It's a bit much for me. It's actually exhausting, I personally don't want to exist FOREVER.

So this post obviously got to me because just thinking about people thinking because they believe in Jesus/God are better and should sell more homes or cars is ludicrous. Believe in God if you want but please don't think you are superior for it. There are many different cultures that believe in what they believe in and they were around alot longer than we have been. I'm not educated or elegant enough to write a better comment :)
ps. I can understand that christian music could be is interesting and peaceful regardless of the 'bent'. :)

Leanne said...

I'm wondering, Louise, what excellence means when you are unable to give God your 'best.' I think that is a "Christian-ese" saying... and it makes me feel uncomfortable and small and completely unworthy. (Which I am, by the way) Because sometimes people are broken. And aching. And miserable. And never able to give enough. Which is one of the things that is beautiful about our faith. We cannot EVER give our best, even though God gave His best. We have a grace based faith.
I think that's why Christian culture has started to feel 'funny' to people - things have become competitive, people think that they can earn enough points or stars or rungs with their behaviour. It feels phony. I think we need to ask ourselves what really motivates our behaviour? Because there really is nothing we can do. And Christ lived the life of "the least."
I don't want to be confrontational, because I don't know you at all. But please please...your language is powerful. And to say "Give God your best..." Well, it somehow seems trite to me. To someone that has walked through a desert and has scraped the bottom. And has been offered a hand by our Saviour even when I didn't want it and didn't ask for it, and couldn't give Him my best. And He pulled me up and gave me His best.
And it was Beautiful.

Joyce said...

having seem the "downside" of the excellence goal, I hear Leanne's heart and it relieves me. I've heard church service likened (by our pastor.... not currently.... not anywhere around here lest ye speculate....) to NIKE: JUST DO IT.
I've observed that an amazing church can be run and I think it can be done so without God. I've seen my husband lectured about his "lack of commitment" when maybe it was his spirit that needed attending to.
And I just want God to take everything. My ugliness. My questions.
I understand what you are wanting to communicate, Louise. Whats written here is some people's actual experiences, and they were left scraped. Its another reality check for all of us that its wise not to always surround oneself with likeminded thinkers. Iron sharpens iron.
(or is it steel? or wood? ...)

Louise said...

Leanne- I don't mean for it to sound judgemental or harsh or to offend at all...I have also had my share of struggles and hurts and I have also been offered the hand of grace and I am forever grateful for I better than anyone? NO WAY. W
What I am saying is by giving God my best is I am simply surrendering my ALL to Him, holding nothing back, surrendering my hurt, my pain and also giving him ALL my worship and praise and love and adoration and that in and of itself is giving him my best...I don't want to worship someone or something else so when I am saying I am giving him my best I am giving him my ALL as broken and as messed up and unperfect as any human is. Am I saying that being a Christian is all 'act', it is about our relationship with Christ..I have my share of ups and downs and have also scraped the bottom so to speak. it is NOT about competition or being better than anyone else I totally agree with you, it is about our relationship with the Lord and going where he leads us and I will choose to give him my all and that is the 'best' I have to offer!! (best does not mean perfection because noone is)
Didn't mean for my words to offend and if they did I apologize....I don't know anyone's walk but my own.

Louise said...

Joyce- I do appreciate a good 'sharpen' it is always good to give myself a check and see what my motive and where my heart is...I do appreciate your boldness and your ability to speak your heart!! :)

Anonymous said...

Okay, that was hilarious.Or am I still laughing from last night?GREAT post.Kathy

Leanne said...

Louise...I'm not offended, just offering some of my thoughts. I've been told in the throes of depression and despair that I wasn't "seeking God enough" and that I needed to "give him my best." And I learned that those are just phrases that Christians say when they don't know what to say - and often when they themselves have never had pain. So perhaps we're just arguing about semantics...because I hear what you're saying. And there was a time in my life when I would say things like that as well. Now I don't find a need to say things like that, because I know that to many people words like that can hurt and push people away from faith instead of inspire. Instead I would have rather heard, "God accepts you and loves you and cherishes where you are. You don't have to do anything." Because I could have rested comfortably in that. And yes, we can surrender our all and in our weaknesses and imperfections give him our all...will it make us better people? Perhaps. Depends on what's motivating us. Will it make us better Christians? Maybe. Being a Christ Follower does require a certain...weakness, a surrender, if you will. Will it guarantee our salvation? Make us 'more saved'? Absolutely not - because we are saved by grace, saved by choosing to believe in a Saviour that offers pure grace. And there's nothing that anyone can do to change that.
Please don't get me wrong - I respect your heart and your desires. I definitely don't want to offend...I just want to challenge the common Christian sayings out there - why do we say them? Do they harm or help?

Joyce said...

not that you're standing by your computers breathlessly wondering what I think... but if I don't record it it will be lost forever.

Standing under any Christian "umbrella" has its hazards. Whether that be the church you currently attend, the music you currently buy, or the marketplace that sells your fave kitsch. (hee, hee)

I don't actually care who singers sign on with, nor is it "right" or "wrong" that they are current. MGM, sparrow, whatever. I shop at box stores for products without sweating over whether the products came from "good" or "evil" people. Same with music. My point has more to do with a culture. A mindset. A distraction. Which can be found in any Christian, anywhere. But more so in our culture, so obsessed with success and status and beauty. I think evil works well through distraction and disagreement. I think God and this belief system can be trusted with more intelligence that we often attribute with it.

judgementalism. The four letter word of the faith. It seems to thrive in areas where its all been figured out. Where the answers have been found. Where the people figure they know God pretty well, and they're on the program of handling their "walk". Thats when they seem to have the time to check around on the rest of us and see how we're doing in the "righteousness" deparment. I hate it with a capital hate.

"blasphemy is not using words like "Jesus" in a profane way, but using one's Christian belief for gain in some way."

That, Tess sums it up. Excellent stuff to ponder.

Anonymous said...

Ooooops.....I commented on how funny the post was before I read all these serious, deep conversations everyone is having.Here I am just laughing away,getting a real kick out of the whole thing.Regardless, I had a great laugh over the POST only, not your readers comments!Thought I should clarify that.Kathy