I recently had a conversation with a friend about the quality of Christian music. His observation was that the average Christian song heard on the radio was inferior to the average secular song. He is a self-described music lover, and I guess he’s heard enough music to be able to make that judgment.
I’d like to take this friend with me to a village in the mountains of Guatemala. The village is only a little over 100 miles from Guatemala City, but it takes well over 10 hours to reach it, traveling by school bus over dirt roads that switchback their way up the mountain.
Off of the village’s square is a nondescript building marked by a neatly painted sign. The sign is in Spanish, though I wonder if any who enter can actually read. Translated, the sign reads, “Jesus Heals and Saves”, which is the name of the church. (Side note: the order of the actions of Jesus is important, because that’s what happened to the founding pastor. First Jesus healed him, then he saved him. In fact, I’m wondering now if that’s the name of the church, or just a proclamation of what Jesus can do for them. Hmm.)
Inside the building, a church service is being held. You can hear it from the square, but from there it sounds like a discordant cacophony of noise. Once you enter the building, the cacophony is not resolved — it just gets louder. Oh man, is it loud. And discordant. And did I say cacophony? There is a band at the front, consisting of a couple of guitars and a drum kit. You wonder if the guitars are in tune. You doubt it. A man is singing into a microphone. The song is in Spanish or — more likely — one of the native dialects, so you don’t know the words. However, it is impossible to pick out the tune, or to imagine if the singer even knows the tune. Besides, the volume is up so high on the small speaker on the floor that the distortion is making any word or particular note virtually indistinguishable.
All around you, people are singing, either that song or perhaps another. Whatever they are singing, they are doing it at the top of their lungs, while many are rattling a tambourine or just shaking.
Your conclusion is easily reached: whatever this is, it is most definitely not quality music. However, you can also reach another conclusion: these people are praising their God, and do not seem to be affected by the lack of quality in the music.
Oh, I imagine they might like a cleaner sound, or better instruments. Then again, maybe not. If you were to suggest to them that they might have a better worship experience if they had tighter harmonies or some dramatic lighting, they may stare at you as if you had just grown a third eye. Maybe they would wonder about your priorities.
And maybe they’d be right.
One thought on “Christian Music”
Maybe “Christian music” is misleading. Maybe there’s just music.
There are lyrics that are horrible, there are lyrics that are uplifting. There are lyrics that promote good things, and lyrics that promote bad things.
“Christian” music is usually designated as such when it competes with “secular” music for the free time of a given listener. When it’s used in church services, the Christian part is just assumed, and it’s usually judged differently.
When it’s competing for air time on the radio, it seems to me that Christian music (quotes implied now) tries to come as close as it can to secular music, but using God-honoring subject matter. As such, it gets compared note for note and often does not hold up.
We don’t compare Christian books to secular books. We don’t compare sermons to speeches. Maybe music gets the apples to apples treatment because the cd purchase choice or radio tuning choice is so obviously one thing or the other.