What makes one a “Christian” Artist?

Do you feel that mainstream Christian music doesn’t speak to you? Does it often feel shallow and failing to have depth, often like it was written solely because it’s what is expected?

Let’s deal with this question, is it okay to enjoy “Christian” music that isn’t Worship in genre? Music is and has always been, and can be Spiritual in nature. Often we quote Psalm 150:5  when validating worship music, that reads as follows ”Praise him upon the loud cymbals: praise him upon the high sounding cymbals” this and Colossians 3:23 ” And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men” is often used to create a dichotomy within our humanity, it begs the question ”What is okay to talk about and still be a ‘Christian’ artist? Let’s consider a direct example, two lyrics from a controversial “Christian” Artist, Switchfoot. Both lyrics with be from the same record, citing a different song on that record. 

This first lyric is from Track 3 of their album Hello Hurricane titled “Your Love is a Song.” 

“Oh, your love is a symphony

All around me

Running through me

Ooh, your love is a melody

Underneath me

Running to me

Oh, your love is a song

Your love is a song”

The second lyric is from Track 2 on the record titled “Mess of Me” 

      “There ain’t no drug

       It’s not enough

      There ain’t no drug

     The sickness is myself

Both of these tracks are by the same artist, which is considered by the majority to be a Christian band. The differing subject matter casts a dividing line between the songs, but yet both considered “Christian”.

The idea of confining worship to a specific genre of music can only naturally be seen as absurd considering that “Worship” is defined as a transitive verb which means that it accepts one or more objects (nouns) as a word used to describe an action being done. Worship should not be defined as a genre, rather the action that the music takes. The same principle can be applied to the word Christian. The word “Christian” is an adjective. Adjectives are defined as descriptive words used to describe a noun, a noun is defined in elementary terms as a Person, Place or Thing. If a sentence is made up of a noun, adjective, and a verb, the sentence would read like so, “Tom (Proper noun, person) is a Christian (Adjective) who worships (Verb) Jesus (Noun).” The idea that a certain artist is limited or defined by their faith as it relates or, rather dictates the focus of their music holds to a rigid view of what it is to be human and does not allow for the expression of experience outside of the scope of one’s belief system. 

Worship is an action, and therefore should not be classified as a genre of music. Music is a tool of the expression of worship, but it also can be used to express the vantage point of the believer on spiritual and human subjects. Jon Foreman, lead singer of the Alternative Rock band Switchfoot has said it this way in the past “I often use music as a handle for very emotionally explosive substances: love, sex, God, fear, doubt, politics, the economics of the soul – these are daunting thoughts in the back of my mind that I rarely visit without the safety gloves of song.”

So, therein lies a philosophical question, ”What is Christian Music in terms of genre and is it defined entirely by the content that is spoken on? And is there a solid definition we can use to define boundaries or should we leave it to the listener? I believe it should not exist at all because art is subjective and fluid a product of one’s humanity. 

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