Hear, Hear

Or Sing, Sing, but that sounded more like a prison.

This article is an interesting – if undoubtedly not thorough – examination of Christian pop music.  It rings anecdotally true to me, but I also don’t listen to Christian pop music very much, if ever.

I wonder if there isn’t a much-needed aspect to this optimism in Christian music, considering the darkness that otherwise seems to dominate media.  I can’t check the weather web site without being informed of some dramatic weather development somewhere in the world, seeking to draw me in deeper to the web site (and advertising) with ominous warnings.  The news is certainly predominantly negative.  Cynicism is a predominant theme all over the place.  Maybe it’s reasonable for Christian music to strike a different chord, to insist on the joy that is found in Christ.

Admittedly, this will leave Christians in the midst of struggles with fewer songs that deal with their situations, and that’s deeply problematic.  Traditional hymnody, with an emphasis on teaching, could appeal to people in all situations.  The call to worship God could be positively recognized and responded to – even through tears.  One of the most popular hymns for memorial services I conduct is How Great Thou Art.  A song that calls us to acknowledge the greatness and glory and beauty of God and his creation, sung in the midst of personal loss and grief.  It seems ironic.

But the song doesn’t focus on the singer’s emotional state.  It calls on the singer to think about other times and situations where, surrounded by the grandeur of God’s handiwork, we can’t help but burst into praise.  The song doesn’t ask for me to praise God because today is a particularly wonderful day or because I’m feeling happy, but rather accesses me at a different level, a different place, enabling me to sing through tears and proclaim the greatness of God even in the midst of sorrow.  I’ve watched people sing this song with all their heart, tears on their faces.  They have no desire – or ability – to dance and bop around in that moment.  They are broken in the face of death and the reminder of their own mortality, but they sing praise to God and draw on the confidence of his greatness to bear their sorrow. The hymn doesn’t expect them to be happy; the hymn expects that regardless of their emotional state, they can praise God.

Christian pop-music may be better in terms of lifting spirits, or functioning as the soundtrack to a good day.  But it may not have the depth necessary to sustain someone in a time of loss and grief.  Admittedly, Christian pop may make no pretenses towards this.  But there has to be a catalog of music that we can draw on to get us through those times without compromising or fabricating our emotions.  This is what the psalms do.  This is what great hymnody does.  Maybe that’s not what Christian pop wants to do, and therefore it shouldn’t be blamed for a shortcoming it never intended to accomplish.  Maybe both can work together, providing a more comprehensive playlist for the Christian life.

One Response to “Hear, Hear”

  1. Christian Music Redux | Living Apologetics Says:

    […] to Lois for sharing this essay with me, since I recently blogged about Christian […]

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