Bono Called Out Christian Musicians For a Lack of Honesty. He Didn’t Go Far Enough.

Bono

In a newly-released documentary, U2 singer Bono commented on the lack of honesty in the Christian music industry, saying:

“I would love if this conversation would inspire people who are writing these beautiful… gospel songs, write a song about their bad marriage. Write a song about how they’re pissed off at the government. Because that’s what God wants from you, the truth.”

He’s hit the nail squarely on the head in a way that is both refreshing and revelatory, saying what so many both inside and outside the Church have either realized for years but couldn’t say or struggled to find words for.

He just didn’t go far enough.

It isn’t just the musicians in organized Christian that are guilty of this voluntary editing. No, it’s a far wider virus than that.

The Church itself has an authenticity problem.

The Worship Music Industry (and that’s what it is) much like the modern megachurch worship experience itself, is designed for mass appeal. Despite its very noble core, practically speaking it is fast food, big box store, franchisable product—carefully crafted and marketed pop music for Jesus. It has to be in order to do what it is created to do: engage and move big numbers of people in faith as easily as possible.

The problem is, as smaller churches have continued to die and as that market share been absorbed by massive suburban campuses and gleaming multi-site churches, the pressure to create a weekly, entertaining, crossover spiritual “event” has pushed all complexity out, leaving space for only the very narrowest diversity of faith expressions.

As a result our modern Christian music has devolved into either gushy, effusive love songs to God, or guilt-laden thank you notes to God for rescuing us from our utter depravity.

Those are the hits. That’s the basic playlist. There’s your Top 40. This is the Sunday morning soundtrack.

Complex songwriting containing sincere expressions of doubt, of anger toward God, of any nuanced emotions or thoughts are all but squeezed out, in favor of three-chord, earworm nursery rhymes that can be introduced to congregations and digested in three minutes. The primary question we ask of our Christian musicians isn’t, “Is it true?” or “Is it honest?” or “Is it helpful?”—but “Is it catchy?”

This is not the fault of the artists. Many of them have a great deal to say and the Church would be well blessed if they could say it. They are merely playing the game as one has to play it in order to survive and have success. For nearly two decades I’ve been a worship leader and songwriter in the Church and part of planning Sunday services for large gatherings, and the reality was that ultimately you understood (whether you verbalized it or not) that you were putting on a Sunday production, and entertainment value as much as religious conviction drives it.

There are writers and performers of faith giving voice to the full spiritual experience (Gungor, Jennifer Knapp, Derek Webb, John Mark McMillan among others), but they are either relegated to the periphery of the Progressive Church, selectively harvested for their more palatable compositions, or tolerated in the mainstream, only until their authenticity exceeds what the Church will bear—which isn’t all that much. 

Again, this isn’t a Christian music industry issue. This is true of The Church itself. This is an organized Christianity problem. This is the Church we’ve created, nurtured, and supported; one where pastors and priests and people in the pews all conspire together to maintain a thin veneer of religion concealing a closet full of bones.

We’ve invested all our resources into great curb appeal, all the while the inside of the house is falling apart:

Pastors and speakers, propped up by an expectation of infallibility and a culture of celebrity worship, become more and more reticent about sharing their theological questions, their real-time faith crises, and their general messiness.

Worship Leaders, no longer asked to delve into the deep waters of racism, lust, doubt, or anger, simply wade in the kiddie pool of easy Sunday School psalms, where God is good and we are horrible; second verse, same as the first.

Church attendees, immersed weekly in this conspiracy of inauthenticity, grow to believe that the most they can share with their small group, church friends, and pastors is a sanitized, heavily doctored version of themselves; a closely guarded image that avoids the most jagged of edges.

And it’s a shame all around.

The Church is capable of being a beautifully redemptive community; one where people are invited to bring the full weight of their inconsistency and hypocrisy and vacillation, and to be lovingly received as they are.

It can be a place of limitless restoration and healing and growth, but only when we allow those on the stage and behind the pulpit and in the congregation to be exactly who they are, to ask the truest questions of their hearts, to confront the deepest recesses of their personal darkness.

It should be the very last place that pretending should be required or encouraged.

And the wonderful truth is, a God worthy of worship can totally handle such naked honesty.

It’s sad when we who call ourselves the Church, can’t.

 

 

146 thoughts on “Bono Called Out Christian Musicians For a Lack of Honesty. He Didn’t Go Far Enough.

  1. “The Church itself has an authenticity problem.”

    Yep! When you have a ‘worship leader’ doing the faux spiritual act – closing her eyes, raising her hands, and calling out, “Come on people, I can feel Jesus here!”, even while she’s refusing to deal with the hurt she’s inflicted on members of the ‘audience’, there’s something seriously wrong 🙁

    • Yes there is something wrong! People are looking hard at peoples present n not hard enough on their own past. And that includes Mr Bono

      • Why do people, Bono included, have to dwell on their forgiven past? There’s no freedom in that.

        • I don’t think he dwells on his “forgiven past” but on forgiveness. He WAS a sinner and he IS a sinner, just like you and me. We live in a hurting and broken world and if we are honest, we would do others a favor because they think they are the only ones hurting. Because of Christ, I know we are saints but at present we still know sin.

  2. Wise commentary on Bono’s own comments, John. I think as well that at least one disconnect in today’s church is the Good News is used to hide rather than to resolve the bad news. As one who always approached my own sermon prep, as a retired therapist and 2nd career pastor, with the aim of presenting a universal and relatable problem dating back into biblical history for which Jesus offers our best hope of resolution and redemption. We all have both good news and bad news. The medium of music is a great way to present the bad news first in our Christian worship.

  3. Wise commentary on Bono’s own comments, John. I think as well that at least one disconnect in today’s church is the Good News is used to hide rather than to resolve the bad news. As one who always approached my own sermon prep, as a retired therapist and 2nd career pastor, with the aim of presenting a universal and relatable problem dating back into biblical history for which Jesus offers our best hope of resolution and redemption. We all have both good news an

    • Not very wise at all sound more like an anger issue worship is to prise god on bring people into the presences of god not to tell stories

      • Prise god from what?

        It was almost certainly a typo, but made me think that “prising” is exactly what some of us do.

        prise
        verb
        use force in order to move, move apart, or open (something).
        “I tried to prise Joe’s fingers away from the stick”
        synonyms: lever, force, wrench, pull, wrest, twist; More
        obtain something from (someone) with effort or difficulty.

        • Dont you just love people who try to win an approval their not sure about but non the less must win buy falling back on clever rhetoric. Lots of Trumps out here.

      • How did Jesus Himself bring people into God’s presence? You ever hear of the Parables? They were stories.

        • Right and in parable form so that only the ones seeking Jesus can understand. Its a code.

          • Jesus never avtually said the parables where for those who followed him, but those who had their eyes (mind) open to see what he was speaking about.

      • I don’t know where you get anger issues out of this article. I understand Bono to be talking about authenticity. Christianity is not always an easy road in a broken world. If some of us admitted that we were human beings, it would make church a whole lot more relatable (and palatable) for both believers and seekers.

  4. It’s amazing how few of even our “traditional” American hymns incorporate lament, sadness, even fear. Most are as triumphant and sniveling, even toadying, as the really popular ones today.

    We don’t have a lot of room for Ira Stanphill’s “Follow Me” or “I Know Who Holds Tomorrow” or the Stevens/Baxter “Farther Along” or one out of the Churches of Christ – “Be With Me, Lord”.

    We have no hymns for Job or Habakkuk or Elijah.

    • If some of you would only read the Bible you accomplish two things, 1 you would be happier n 2 you would know what your talking about. The Bible is the word of God inspired n written through humans. Hows that? Well think of the times we’ve been inspired by drink or drugs to do yhe wrong things ok? But God inspired these men n women to write His loving messege on how to live a life of success n not failiers. Some of you are very sad n it makes you angry that someone speaks, writes, sings n dances about the positives in their songs. You want a God thats negative or people that are negative in their religion? Try the Muslums and their followers Isis.

      • Why do you feel the need to reply every comment you don’t agree with with your angry dissuasions? You are not convincing anyone of your side of the argument. Your comments are offensive and uninformed and completely go against the intent of a forum like this which is intended to encourage open, courteous, friendly dialog. Jeez. And these are the people who make up “God’s church”. Glad I left a long time ago!

        Stop being a troll, hiding behind your keyboard. Put a name and a face to your comments and participate in the conversation like an adult.

      • I’m battling to understand what it is you’re trying to say here. What has Islam got to do with anything? Why are YOU so angry?

    • I’m having trouble understanding why the writer of this post thinks we should sing hymns of anger and defeat! We worship God because of Who He is and what He does for us – and that is all positive, something and Someone we celebrate. We should certainly acknowledge our failures, our anger, all the negatives in our lives, and one place to do that is in the worship service – at which the Solution to those problems can be presented, as well. But the hymns celebrate the positive, alluding occasionally to the negative only as an explanation for our need for God and a description of His positive actions for and toward us.

  5. Thank you so much for this input.
    I am always impressed by your blog. That you put the rage, the frustration and the immense sadness out there – about how our faith has been hijacked by fear-mongerers, racists, homofobics, anti-feminism, islam-bashing and vomit-producing conservatism.

    And I am in awe of your impressive productivity and creativity.
    Thank you!

    I live in Denmark, and a lot is better here – not least of all the religious referrals or justifications or morality-claims play next to no role in the public debate – and never in politics.

    We are an extremely secularized country – and I am grateful for that.
    It is so, to the extent that most Danes are more comfortable talking about anal-sex (sorry, if this offends anybody), than about faith.

    I consider that a blessing.

    Gospel-singing is pretty big here – and growing.
    And I feel that some of the music/lyrics/issues that you call an “Amber Alert” for is indeed part of the tradition. This is at least the case in my own church: The Gospel Fellowship.

    Here is only a single example, where Laura interprets the longing for a church where ALL of us can belong – and the fear, the heart-break, the loneliness, that comes with feeling, that connecting to the church, feels impossible.

    Enjoy.
    God Bless You and your great work.
    May He continue to guide, inspire and protect you.

    Christel

  6. I most admire that this whole convo between Bono and Eugene Peterson was inspired by the Book of Psalms after Bono read Peterson’s book “Run with the Horses”.

  7. By the late, great Prince Rogers Nelson, may he rest in the arms of the Savior.

    “The Cross”
    Black day, stormy night
    No love, no hope in sight
    Don’t cry, he is coming
    Don’t die without knowing the cross
    Ghettos 2 the left of us
    Flowers 2 the right
    There’ll be bread 4 all of us
    If we can just bear the cross
    Sweet song of salvation
    A pregnant mother sings
    She lives in starvation
    Her children need all that she brings
    We all have our problems
    Some BIG, some are small
    Soon all of our problems
    Will be taken by the cross
    Black day, stormy night
    No love, no hope in sight
    Don’t cry 4 he is coming
    Don’t die without knowing the cross
    Ghettos 2 the left of us
    Flowers 2 the right
    There’ll be bread 4 all, y’all
    If we can just, just bear the cross, yeah
    We all have our problems
    Some are BIG, some are small
    Soon all of our problems, y’all
    Will be taken by the cross
    The cross
    The cross

    Hi John, thanks for your insight and dedication…and inspiration as well. I get a lot out of your blog, sorry I’ve been mute until now.
    Although my husband is an Episcopal minister, I am as unchurched as they come.
    My mother, in an effort to run away, spiritually speaking, from the Roman Catholic convent she grew up in, in Italy during WWII, took my small childhood hand and said just this, “You don’t ever have to confess to a man in a box. You just talk to Jesus like he’s your best friend, and he will listen.” Then she gave me her oldest rosary. Go figure. Her journey of faith took her from the intrinsically complicated to the sublimely simple, and until now I have followed her path. My husband leaves early on Sundays, as there are vestments to be donned and a procession, and all the preparation that entails. I make my coffee on Sunday and listen to what I call “secular spirituals” were I can find them. Coincidentally (coincidentally???) I found this Prince song I’d never seen a minute before my email told me to read my mail, where I saw your name and brought the song along. I have never been exposed to “religious music” per se, so I can’t comment on Bono’s opinion, but I find there is plenty of spirit to be had by mindfully cruising YouTube.
    On June 12, I will stick my toe in the church, and if I don’t run away, it will be the first Eucharist I’ve had in over a decade. Wish me luck and pray that the preacher doesn’t faint dead away at the sight of his wife INSIDE the church.
    Thank you, and keep up the good work, Tammy Settles.

        • I would say “Never settle”with the status quo. Much of the NT [Paul’s letters] are addressed to churches i.e. members who are in fellowship with one another. If you deliberately choose to not gather with other Christians it is difficult to see how you can grow in unity with others. That is not to say that you don’t meet with others at other times but you have not disclosed that. May you find new joy and refreshment in fellowship with others.

          • anasadaka, thank you for your considerate response. I failed utterly to include why I had not attended my church as an adult, as I spent much of my response on my “unchurched” youth. So to be clear, I have a genetic immune dysfunction that hinders my ability to safely be in the company of huge crowds of people, sometimes for very long stretches of time. We were members of an enormous congregation, and I had had pneumonia enough. Now, I am truly blessed, for my prayers have been answered, and then some. I have a new beginning in fellowship, for we have been transferred to a very busy and spirit filled, yet small church. Growing in Christ in unity with others is paramount to me. When I cannot be there in person, I make my presence known. I especially try to reach out to any other members of our church who may also be stuck home sick on Sunday.
            Thank you for your kind wishes~ May the Peace of the Risen Lord be with you always….

        • I agree with Tamara, I think it’s just a pun on your name. Perhaps not the best joke (sorry Dover), but he was just going for a laugh.

          • Wow. Thank you for your replies Jacob Keough Mishler and Tamara.
            I don’t think I’ll tell that joke to the pastor, Reverend Settles.
            I was teased on our wedding day with, “Tammy settles down!”
            Ok, it can be kinda funny.

  8. But with all due respect… yelling at clouds doesn’t change the fact that they are there.

    Mark Heard and Pat Terry and others made really authentic gritty honest Christian music a generation ago and nobody bought it.

    Rich Mullins came along later and often had his work sanitized by the industry that, let’s face it, needs to sell product to exist.

    Nowadays some of the people you mention are on the periphery because the music industry overall has collapsed.

    Might as well complain about how everyone goes out to eat. Ain’t gonna change anything…

    • Christians ARE being ministered to through Music and worship services. Thank you to all the song writers, musicians, worship leaders, –your sacrifice is appreciated. It prepares our hearts to hear from God.

      • A heart does not have to be “prepared” to hear from God. God can deliver his messages to whomever He likes and however He likes and make the hearer hear if that is his will.

        Sorry to burst your bubble, but this is Friday and I am feeling frisky.

        • Found this comment curious… music obviously helps the person above prepare for a message and possibly focus more. I know a lot of people feel the same way. So, I don’t really see anything wrong with his statement. You’re right about God’s ability to make people hear if that’s his will, I just don’t see a need to detract from the previous person’s comment.

        • I tend to agree with both points being made here. And I get what you are saying Dove. The danger with music is that it can be used as a propaganda tool to stir up emotions. Then we are required to absorb the message as the capital ‘T’ truth. So many times we are asked to accept the pastors message without question or discussion. And then church becomes a cult of personality not a place of community were we bring our gifts as equals, where we share our lives, where we welcome our neighbours; then worship becomes human emotionalism and the music takes the place of an awareness of God’s prescence in each other instead it’s a big show and we are performers rather than in fellowship. It does seem this way sometimes and it’s worthy of reflection. There is no reason why a church should not question how worship music is being utilized at the service.

          • Im sad to hear all these comments…seems like yal are to concerned about the world then your own salvation…ya know religion but dont Jesus face to face

            • Anon, it’s impossible to know if someone knows Jesus, or how well they know Jesus, or how Jesus speaks to them but we can have faith in each other. I may disagree with someone and say so, I may not trust people from time to time because they say hurtful things; I may doubt people from time to time because they believe things that don’t seem right to me; however being hurt and having disagreements is different from denouncing them outright.

        • Frisky hey? Cause its friday? Sounds like your gotta prepare your conscience for something onGodly by throughing a few rocks at the word that convicts you from doings what makes you frisky. You can be much happier than your pretending to be. Read a Bible on your own, find out who God is n not just know that He’s there causeeveryone knows that He’s there but few know who He is.

          • Why the judgement? What do you know of this person’s life and or intentions? Consider your own log I would suggest. Goodness me!

  9. Once and awhile, when I wasn’t attending church on a regular basis, I would feel drawn to go. I think I was hoping to meet other Christians and fellowship with them. I would check the paper and pick out a church. One particular Sunday when I was around thirty nine years old. I went to a non-denominational chapel that had a small sanctuary. When the worship band started up the drums and electric guitars were so loud I left the sanctuary and went out to the foyer. Sitting on a bench was an elderly woman. She smiled at me and said, “It’s too loud for someone like me. I never went to rock concerts.” I laughed and said, “ It’s too loud for me as well” We sat and chatted for awhile until the music ended. I experienced more church sitting with her than I did trying to follow the service that day.

    • Oh Kathy– That really got my attention. I haven’t attended church in decades. What little I know about contemporary “Christian ” music probably couldn’t fill a thimble.

      But what connected was that way in which, at the unlikeliest of moments, when I am not really consciously looking, I find myself meeting someone who embodies humility and grace in ways concrete, but oh so softly and quietly. It is that unassuming manner in which the “authenticity” John mentions is “spoken” in simple, modest, self effacing (almost too easy to miss) actions.

      Inevitably I have come away from such times refreshed and grateful. They were precious little gifts that I never saw coming, but will never forget.

      Thanks for reminding me.

      • Yes Tim ! I have met so many precious people in those rare moments in church and outside of church walls. Sometimes I regret all those years of not attending and feel at times, like a wanderer. But the rejection I felt as a gay women caused too much pain and anxiety; that I might be outed and rejected. I can’t keep up appearances or lie about myself. Things are different now because there are welcoming churches but in reality it has only be a few years that inclusion for LGBT is starting to gain momentum and we have a long way to go.

        • While growing up in a church, I feel I’m more open to speak with and meet people on a more profound level outside the churches or buildings of faith. Whre people are willing to let their guard down, are willing to delve into the questions of both the sacred and the profane.
          In the churches I’ve been to, peole are more performers hiding their insecurities and uncertainties following the normative thinking, avoiding using that enormous gift that god gave us, the brain, the spirit, the soul. While outside they are able to unravel the performance-attitude and speak as the spirit leads them to, not as a result of mass-psychosis, or a crafted way to build up a certain energylevel (I’m part of an award-winning band and played for thousands and thousands of people, I know how to build an audience, and that’s perfectly possible to build the same energy without envoking the name of Christ)
          But, speaking with people, from any denomination, faith or non-faith. Those moments where the spirit urges and moves has for me allways been outside of the presincts of the churches, and been the moments to give me a higher spiritual awareness and humility towards all of gods children.

          • Thank you for your comment Ingrid. It’s true I have found people out side of churches to be open and genuine. It was nice to hear your perspective.

    • I speak as a version of outsider on these matters, and because of that, I feel reluctant to even say anything. I came to know Christ in 1972, and have moved, through my life as a Christian, from fundamentalism through evangelicalism, then some time in the mainline protestant church, and now my wife and I are default Dones. For me, church changed around 1980, and I never felt the same power in it that I had in the freer, more open 1970s. Back then, in the house church where I worshipped, we didn’t have worship teams or praise bands. To be honest, those ideas still seem weird to me, kind of selfconscious. There were no drums or electric guitars, no sound systems. Speaking only for myself, after 1980, I left the remaining traditional, 1950s-like, conservative churches in spirit, if not at first in attendance, because of their turn toward nationalism and politics, etc.. But I have not felt comfortable with the progressive churches either. I’m not even comfortable with using the word “progressive”. They seem way too strident and on the verge of their own versions of pride, etc. But again, maybe this isn’t any of my business, being outside for so long. I can only say what keeps the spiritual fire going for me, and that’s quieter worship, mutual encouragement, Holy Communion at the center of things because it involves the mystery of Jesus’ presence at the center of things. We have our own angst every day. You can’t get older without going through that. Bucketloads of STSD. It’s true that we worship together alone and at home, but even when we are with a group, which is rare now, we want to be able to take these things to Jesus in our own quiet, out-of-it sort of way.

  10. Thanks for these thoughts! I was just thinking recently about the “old songs”…..hymns, etc, that I grew up with, and that my mom and my grandparents loved. I like them, too. They TAUGHT as well as led us to worship. There is not nearly as much of that in today’s music. Some of the older “new stuff” has some of that. Keith Green’s stuff is, I think, an example of more recent music that has “meat” to it, as well as leading us to connect to and worship God.

  11. I think we can call it the “selective sin” complex. You are allowed to talk about sin, as long as it isn’t too depraved or over the top. But we mustn’t let in people who, well, actually need loving and understanding support. They need to go get cleaned up first, or learn how to artfully hide the real pain so it isn’t necessary to understand.

    • Victoria — As I was raised in an evangelical (fundi-lite) atmosphere, I noticed that most folks seemed extremely uncomfortable, if there wasn’t an answer for everything. So if problems didn’t just disappear (or at least get hidden) after one had claimed the “redeeming blood of the Lamb”, a fear that something must be wrong with the one who is suffering set in. The faith seemed set on a foundation of magical thinking.

      As I have aged, and been able to look back over the desperately difficult times in my life, I have begun to accept that the grace I have been given has always been wrapped up in the mundane, methodical,meticulous effort to keep going. Redemption for me has not been something that has come in a momentary flash, a quick and clear answer, or an “easy pass” through difficulties. But what I HAVE experienced is a consistent determination to step into the moment I am in and the energy to get through it, even if just barely.

      I am very skeptical of folks who have all the answers. In the face of my hardest questions, I still don’t have answers. What I do have is a sense of Presence that is ineffable in a way that I can not clearly articulate, much less wrap my head around.

      My view is, the saddest thing about Bono’s criticism and John’s lament is that those who are often in a position (by their art or their bully pulpit) to offer solidarity with those in need, opt for shallow cliches rather than the admission of their own inadequacy in the face of another human being’s tribulations.

      The God of the Bible as I read it, is big enough to accept our doubts, questions, anger, even resentments and remain close and engaged, regardless of our own ability to comprehend.

      In my experience, redemption was not an answer, or an end in itself. Rather it has been an ongoing process. For some it may begin with a “come to Jesus moment”. But I thank God that when that didn’t answer all my questions, I was not left alone, even if I felt totally alienated.

      An old man who was a guide in the Adirondacks long before I was born used to love to say, “One foot in front of the other. It’s the only way out of these woods.”

      Answers probably distract me from what needs to hold my focus: taking each step with an effort to stay present in the moment and aware, ready for the unexpected. Maybe music and ministry would have meant more to me had they been willing to let me know they were right there with me.

  12. Because the Church doesn’t want messiness that is visible – you can be a drug addict, pimp, prostitute, abuser, what have you – but your story is always a variation of the classic cartoon where Scientist 1 is drawing his elaborate equations, inserts “Then A Miracle Occurs” , and continues…Scientist 2 says, ‘I think you should be more explicit in this step’. It’s always about the ‘Then A Miracle Occurs’ but never about the steps along the way – and you’d better not be a mess, or at least not where other people can see.

    We don’t want the OLD, THE SINGLE, THE INFERTILE, THE GRIEVING, THE STRUGGLING in our churches because they’re not the Young, Vibrant Successful Happy Married Couple With Children that the VAST MAJORITY OF PRIESTS AND PASTORS thinks the Church is composed of, exclusively—-any wonder why Christian music is so largely divorced from the actual lived reality of MOST BELIEVERS??

    • yattwood — I find the soulfulness of your posts authentic. I hope you sense you are not alone here.

    • Amen to that !!! I’ve always felt just a tad uncomfortable because the churches I’ve attended only catered to the nuclear family while 50% or more were not that.

  13. I was trying to figure out the source of the fracture dividing the loyalties among self-described evangelicals between Cruz and the unlikely Messiah figure Trump has become. Upon reflection, it makes perfect sense if you consider the explosive growth of churches developed around the abundance doctrine and prosperity gospels of the 1990s. Those who came to spiritual maturity within a community based around wealth as a measure of God’s favor, a legalistic culture and a focus on feel-good messages that don’t challenge believers to act out of radical love ran up against the recession. If you feel you were robbed of God’s blessing by others who were not subject to the same accountability what would you want to hear?

  14. I get the point of this article and Bono’s comment, but to me it still seems like the criticism is too easy and lazy. I think it’d be one thing if the Music Industry in general was a shimmering example of authenticity and artistic beauty, but in my personal opinion… most of it’s garbage. My thoughts on Christian music are fairly simple, why would it be different than the mainstream? Yes there are different pressures from the Christian music industry, but why should I be surprised if a majority of it is bad art? Doesn’t that sum up the music industry is generally? Even as a fan of U2, some of their lyrics seem to have the inspiration of a plagiarized Hallmark card (I can also point to what I believe are truly moving songs as well). I’m not saying his or John or Bono’s criticism is off, as I’d love to see songwriting reflect the emotional depth of the Psalms. However, narrowing it down to one industry seems pointless. While there are a few quality Christian artists – and I think there are definitely more names that could have been added – I think that’s the same with mainstream top 40 in virtually all categories as well. Not everyone is a Kendrick Lamar.

    Yes, much of the criticism lands, but it still seems like a selectively lazy exercise to me.

    • I agree. Also its presumptive and arrogant to think we know what someone else’s song is about. This is a free country. Whatever Christians want to sing about is ok with me. God certainly isn’t measuring them, why should we?

  15. Respect to Bono, but he just isn’t looking hard enough.

    Sure there is a “christian music industry” based in Nashville that churns out pap, but outside of that there are tons of christians making honest art. And this isn’t some new, radical thing. In the 90s there was a huge indie/underground scene of christians making music across genres from death metal to punk to hip hop to post-rock to whatever. It’s still there, especially in today’s hip hop landscape: artists who are christians and making music with explicit, implicit, parallel and perpendicular faith themes. Bono’s a busy guy, I don’t expect him to go searching for this stuff, but for someone like me who thirsts for great art I can’t be lazy.

    Allow me to recommend the documentary Why Should the Devil Have All the Good Music (2004) for an interesting “outsiders” perspective on the scene at the turn of the century.

    Also keep in mind a critique of music & art must be equal opportunity. Most top 40 music in every genre is shit. It’s always been the case that the best art is at the margins of “popular.” It’s not just the christian industry that is bland.

    • Agreed. Finally. Glad to find someone say this in these comments. There is plenty of Christian music out there that speaks truthful witness of the songwriters experience.. Maybe it is not top 40. As Dan mentioned, the best art is at the margins, with mainstream as well. Truth is, God can use anything to connect people’s hearts to himself, whether it be cliche sappy pop or death metal. He meets us where we are. Great that Bono’s comments have sparked conversation, but isn’t there a saying..people in glass houses….

  16. I am reminded of a story: “The lady who always sits on the third row in church, always wearing new hat and jewelry, was on a roll with the pastor during particular sermon on repenting of our many sins. When the pastor spoke of repenting of sinful lust the lady commented, rather loudly, ‘AMEN.’ Then the pastor went farther by saying people that were having sex outside of marriage or cheating on their spouse needed to repent and there was the loud AMEN, and when the preacher referred to gambling or living in big fancy houses or driving fancy cars instead of giving the money to the church as a sin AMEN erupted again. Then the preacher added that ‘running up your credit card bills buying fancy cloths or accessories is also a sin and to repent’ that same loud voice boomed throughout the church saying ‘now you’ve gone to meddling preacher.'” TRUTH

  17. John–aren’t you tired of being judge and jury of mega-churches? I know many who are doing wonderful things in their communities and the world Get over your negative experience and move on.

    • Where are these “wonderful” megachurches? Specifics, please!!!!
      I live 45 miles east of Lost Angeles, in the Inland Empire….where are such churches? Churches that realize that NOT EVERYONE is a YOUNG MARRIED COUPLE WITH CHILDREN….churches that are ethnically/racially/economically diverse?

      Don’t see that in the Vineyard. Don’t see that in Calvary Chapel (yah, I named names)

      Would love to go to a church where people would know what a sonic screwdriver is and wonder if the Alcubierre Warp Drive (yes, there is such a thing) will ever be built

      • I hear you Yattwood. Those congregations sincerely think, they are diverse because there are some minorities in thier congregations but the overwhelming message is you must conform to the family model and subscribe to the lifestyle they affirm.

        Now I have to do some research on the Alburcurrie Warp Drive 🙂

  18. John’s Post is excellent.

    However, I gotta tell you the truth too. I just plain do not like most of the “so-called music” they play on “so-called” Christian radio stations in my area—and it has little to do with the fact—and it is a fact—that the stations in my area are almost entirely Christian fundamentalist and conservative evangelical enterprises—and both the songs and the talk between them carries all that baggage with it. And now a moment of wisdom from Dr. James Dobson: “Did you know that the public schools are grinding up your Christian boys and girls like hamburger meat?” But apart from stuff like that, the baseline fact of the matter for me is that most of the music just plain sucks—and I mean the BIG ONE too. A couple of the members of my family listen to those stations, and I have to switch the radio to another station every time I get into one of our cars because it just grates on my ears.

    And while we are on the subject, ever since I was a small child—and I do mean very small—I have absolutely despised so-called Southern Gospel music—particularly gospel quartet music. When “all day Sunday singing and dinner on the grounds” disappears from American culture, I hope Southern Gospel will disappear forever with it:

    Come on in baby take your clothes off
    Come on in Jesus knock your nose off…

    I mean really!!!

    My least favorite so-called Christian songs is one they play on regular radio stations in my area. Here it is—and my words continue below the song:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DU0MwNpRq6M

    “Will I dance for you Jesus?” I can just hear Jesus now: “Please—anything but that. Anything!!!!!”

    Here is my favorite Christian song:

  19. Christian fiction is yet another area that is ripe for commentary.

    Today’s Christian fiction is far different from that of the past, even the “recent” past of authors like Tolkien, L’Engle and Lewis

  20. It’s been several decades since I listened to “christian rock” or attended a church with a band. Even back in the 90s, it just grew to be an incessant noise to me: constant, vapid and shallow.

    After a while, I drifted toward a very, very traditional liturgical Orthodox church. The ancient music and form of worship held me close for twenty years. Until I came out as LGBT and was no longer wanted.

    My family is finally finding a home in a local Episcopal church where we’re accepted, warts and all, doubts and fears, love and trust, all mixed together. The worship seems to reflect that as well with both hymns and liturgy. It’s not perfect (but what church ever is?) yet has managed to keep me in the faith, and for that, I’m grateful.

  21. It seems the “church” was co-opted almost two millennia ago. It’s public manifestation a combination patriarchal control, dogma, questionable beliefs, and dualistic living. When you are brainwashed to believe your eternal destiny is tied to these, authenticity seems a stretch.
    The good news is the church always shows up in the least of these, the poor, sick, outsiders, fringe folk who take the message of Jesus and do quite well. The other stuff may have grown out of authentic people 1700 years ago getting the hell beat out of them for a few centuries. When offered the sword they took it. Now, there is authenticity!

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