Yesterday, I wrote an extensive post on how I overcame my general cynicisms toward Christian music.
Today, I remembered a few points that I left out.
First, I have a theory. Many Christian artists are criticized for copying the trends of secular music – that whenever some style tops the Billboard charts, new artists in CCM immediately emerge with the same style. In some ways, this is true. However, I’m not sure if it’s really a bad thing.
(To level the playing field, it’s also not just Christian artists doing the copying – there are thousands of artists from all over the map that try to copy the most trendy sounds.)
For Christians, imitation isn’t a peculiar act. They are meant to be Christ-like, and Paul himself told Christians to imitate him. In this sense, it is not odd that a Christian would, in other manners of life, be more akin to imitating what he wants to follow rather than trying to be super-original.
On that note, I also have had thoughts about why the oft-considered best music is made by non-Christians, and I had the revelation that non-Christians would be putting forth a very specific effort to be making the best music they can personally create. This sort of self-gratifying, self-glorifying work is not the way a Christian is supposed to be thinking. A Christian should not be trying to use his or her own skills and abilities as well as possible but instead should be trying to be used by the Spirit as efficiently as possible. With this more biblical mindset, (as the Bible has little to say that I know of pertaining directly to the creation of art), a truly great piece of art will be made by Christians only when the Christian stops trying to do things themselves and instead lets the Spirit do the work.
There may not be a guarantee of a Christian’s art being Spirit-led, but those works which are shall bear the obvious mark of their maker. (See: the music of Rich Mullins)
On a completely different point (that will connect back around shortly), I finished reading a book just a few days ago entitled Life Together. It is likely one of German theologian/martyr Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s most famous and beloved works. As in love as I was with most of the short book, I found myself oddly befuddled and at odds with one section, a passage about the manner Bonhoeffer felt common worship should be performed within a Christian community. He believed that everyone should be singing a simple song in monotone, with no musical accompaniment and no vocal harmonies: that everyone should worship together in one voice.
I understand the communal point he was trying to get across, but this idea seems mightily outdated when reading it from a 70-or-more-years-later standpoint. The idea of not having a worship band, or even of not having back-up singers and not being allowed to sing harmonies, sounds almost as evil to me as it does foreign. After resting on the ideas for a while though, I began to see his point.
Now, I don’t think any churches should do away with bands or harmonies, but I do understand and empathize with Bonhoeffer’s emphasis on simplicity. When music made for communal worship is kept to a simpler side of the musical spectrum, it becomes easier for everyone to join together in worship as a group. And this idea of large groups of believers worshipping together in collective wholes is primary for a thriving biblical community. So with worshipful, church-based music in mind, it would actually be counter-intuitive for anyone to be trying to write super complicated or intricate or difficult music made for the masses.
I, personally, might love worshipping God in solitude through the more “artistic” or “inventive” Christian music out there, (and I can only pray and hope that it was crafted by the Spirit through people who live and walk by the Spirit as well), but when I’m coming together with the whole church body…well, heck, why don’t we all just sing “Doxology”?