Thursday, May 8, 2008

Praise & Worship THIS!

THE FIRST-EVER BOTG JESUS WEEK
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Post #2: Praise & Worship THIS!

Too Far Out - John Davis (mp3)
Undo Me - Jennifer Knapp (mp3)
The Pilgrim Song - Josh Bales (mp3)

There's this guy sitting at his computer with Last.fm playing random stuff through his speakers. A Newsboys song comes on, and instead of skipping to the next one, he listens. He's never gone to church. Wouldn't know Jesus from Shinola. But he listens. And something about the words and the music, they move him. A seed has been planted. This dude will become a Christian.

I'm sure the above or something like it has happened. But then, I'm pretty sure people have spontaneously combusted. Neither are events I expect to witness in reality.

I was in this cheesy church children's musical recently, and the woman who directed it offered the "Break a Leg" prayer for us before we went out there. "Dear Lord, if there's someone in the audience who's never heard of You, may we be the vessel for You to reach them...."

This isn't a unique prayer. It's muttered a lot before church events. And I'm, like, scratching my head, wondering when the last time a purebred Heathen stumbled into our Gothic religious monstrosities without the slightest clue about Jesus. It's not like you could accidentally mistake most churches -- even the newfangled warehouse-lookin' ones -- for a Wal-Mart or a carpet store.

That's how I feel about Christian music. It's not made to seek lost souls. It's comfort food for Christians. Anyone who sees it differently might as well expect another Spinal Tap drummer to spontaneously combust.

In spite of that, once every year or so, I'll dive in and buy an album by an artist whose work is expressly Christian. Musical Tithing, maybe. Like much of my Christian existence, I tend to keep this act to myself. I don't generally go bragging about it or asking my fellow music lovers, "Hey, have you heard that new MercyMe album? It totally kicks Christian ass." ("It really kicks Cross"?)

I'm more apt to discuss my admiration for Hanson than I am for Christian music. Where's the kitschy fun in Christian tunes? That kind of fun left once Stryper and DeGarmo & Key fell into obsolescence (which was, to be fair, roughly 30 minutes before they finalized their first albums). D&G's funniest/best/worst song was "Boycott Hell." Dude, I listened to that thing allll the time. It was the Deathstalker II of Christian music. I couldn't tell if they were serious or making fun of their own genre.

Amy Grant's rise to crossover recognition -- with plenty of help from U2 -- made it so Christian music in the 21st Century really isn't very different in instrumental quality and composition than all that good Satanic stuff.

Sure, the lyrics still frequently struggle. But that's only 'cuz Christian Rock is limited to coloring in the lines, while Satan Rock can go anywhere, say anything. John Davis' "Too Far Out," which musically could have come straight off a rollicking Superdrag album, still struggles with a chorus of "Thank you Jesus. Abba, Father. All things are possible with you."

I specifically chose the first two songs because they are in-your-face Yay Jesus songs. The final song I chose because I play this song many times over everytime someone I know dies, and I'd love to know it was played one day at my own funeral. I don't know a single song that has evoked more private tears from me, driving down the road in the strange privacy of my car, than this one has.

This isn't my Secret Sinister Plot to convert anyone. Not sure I could listen to lots of Yay Jesus music if it merely reminded me how I was going to Heaven while the rest of you bastards were headed on that Great Downward Spiral with Trent Reznor. Fortunately for me, I'm pretty confident we're all going to the same place. Christian music merely reminds me of a destination for which we're all bound. Whether you like it or not, dammit.

Nevertheless, if you ain't Christian, I don't see you downloading those first two songs and hitting Repeat until Jesus returns. It's just decent comfort food for us mostly-obedient sheep.

Baaaaaa.

"Too Far Out" is from John Davis' eponymous solo CD and could in theory be purchased in CD format on Amazon. "Undo Me" is from Jennifer Knapp's first CD, Kansas, available on iTunes. Josh Bales' albums can be purchased via iTunes.

5 comments:

Billy Bob said...

I don't quite see the connection between your last post and this one. I love and fully embrace the concept of a spiritual component in all kinds of secular music. But if that's true, why do you need this stuff? But, I guess that's the point of comfort food.

I exempt Josh Bales, of course, because I like him.

John said...

Bob, I think I get Billy's vibe. In high school one of my religious friends took me to a Keith Green concert. I hated the theology of the thing; at one point he asked all of us in the audience who thought that that the Church "had lost her way" to stand up. Of course, 99% of the auditorium stood up. I didn't. It was my Langston Hughes "Salvation" moment. But something about the music got me and I actually have, somewhere in my cd collection a Keith Green album that can move me in the way that Billy is moved by the Josh Bales. Hard to explain and something in me cringes that I'm affected that way, but there it is. That said, I think that over 95% (or more) of so called Contemporary Christian music is really just pre-packaged pap; I fall in line on that front with that Tom Perrotta novel, The Wishbones.

Bob said...

Is it in The Wishbones where a band keeps trying to make it in different genres and then eventually tries being a Christian band and is successful, so that's what they go with?

John said...

Yeah, but the guy who narrates it sees through the cravenly cynical nature of the industry and has some hilarious things to say about the lyrics which just substitute "Jesus" for "honey" and which are blatantly marketed to a specific fundamentalist demographic.

Billy said...

It's something like this, Bob. I believe God is everywhere, but for some reason I still end up in a church most Sunday mornings. I believe all music has God, but I still find myself buying a Contemporary Christian album once in a while.

And if that doesn't make sense, chalk it up to my being at the Development Retreat.