The other day, I was in the car listening to the radio. For you young kids, that’s this thing that old people use to hear music for free; it’s kind of like satellite radio, except it’s free. Anyway, I was flipping around channels, and I heard this song on a Christian station.
Except then I realized it wasn’t that song. It was this song.
I don’t have a problem in general with cover songs. The problem I have here is that this isn’t the first time this kind of thing has happened. A popular artist records and releases a song with a strong Christian influence in the lyrics, and it gets ignored by Christian media; then, just a few months later, a “Christian artist” covers the exact same song, it gets played heavily on Christian radio, and Christian music fans talk about how great it is. The problem isn’t stealing; Ms. Underwood was properly credited on Point of Grace’s recording, and I’m sure the necessary royalties were paid. The message being sent here is that the Christian music world is telling Carrie, “Hi, sorry, your song is great, but you’re a secular artist, and playing your song might send the wrong message because you have other songs that don’t glorify God. So we’re going to have one of our more Godly people re-record the exact same song.” Does this sound like nonsense to anyone else? Has the body of Christ really gotten so crazy and so arrogant? There’s something in the water, but it isn’t Jesus.
And this is not the first time this has happened. Remember this one-hit wonder from 2004?
Somehow this is inappropriate for Christians, but again, the same song is just fine when covered by a “Christian artist.”
Same song, same music, same lyrics. The only difference is who is singing it. If we are judging whether or not music is “Christian” solely based on the past career of the artist, we’re completely missing the point and descending into dangerously closed-minded legalism. This music is acceptable or not acceptable based on some arbitrary label that is depends on other things besides the content of the music. That doesn’t make sense.
But I think all of this misses an even bigger point. I’ve known people who have actually come out and said that Christians shouldn’t listen to secular music. I feel sorry for those people, honestly. They don’t have any music to express emotions like anger, sadness, and betrayal, which they all feel too. I hate to say it, but part of the reason I don’t listen to Christian music as much as I used to is because it all started sounding the same eventually. Can’t the Christian music industry do better? These people who take pride in only listening to Christian music, instead of opening themselves up to the wide range of cultures and beliefs out there in the world, shut themselves in a Christian bubble and make rigid rules about what is and is not okay, then self-righteously spend their time talking down to other Christians who don’t agree with their rules. Maybe they should spend their time on something else, like feeding the poor or telling those outside the church about the life-changing message of Jesus… you know, the things Jesus told them to do.
I used to be one of those people, to some extent. After I became a Christian, I started listening to Christian music, and I didn’t buy any secular music for about three years. I used to pride myself on listening to different music from people around me, although I didn’t seal myself off from secular music completely. I still listened to secular radio, and my TV and movie watching habits didn’t really change. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with choosing not to watch certain movies or listen to certain kinds of music. After all, I have made a choice not to watch Fifty Shades of Grey or listen to Justin Bieber. But it is not your place to say what someone else can and can’t listen to, especially when it is based on a semi-arbitrary label of what is “Christian” and what isn’t. And that line can be fuzzy sometimes, as I’ve written about before here. Can’t we just let music and art be music and art, and make decisions about individual works rather than grouping things into labels and genres? I’ve often said that the best music defies labels and genres (to which a musician friend once replied that great music creates genres, but that’s another topic).
And one final thought: Those of you who know me in person know that I have this uncanny ability to hear randomly chosen songs at the most hilariously and ironically appropriate times. Some time, maybe next week, I should make my entire post be stories of times when this kind of thing has happened. Anyway, so here I am, sitting here, with my music on shuffle, typing an article about legalism in Christian music, and people’s opinions on what Christians should and shouldn’t be listening to, and what should come on? A song that was condemned by the Catholic Church and other Christian groups, of course. I’ll leave you with that.