jesus people and the christian music bubble

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Monday, April 6th, 2009

jesus people and the christian music bubble

second only to posts about theology (81 posts), i have blogged about music more than any other topic (68 times to be exact). beyond those hard numbers, it’s not difficult for long-time blog readers to gather that i’m what you could call music-obsessed. i love music—music of all kinds. by and large, i’m a fan of just about everything except country music (sorry to my redneck reader contingency out there…). one of the many kinds of music that i regularly listen to is often referred to as “christian music.”

i say “christian music” in quotations because i truly believe that music isn’t/shouldn’t be subdivided into “christian” or “secular” categories. there’s nothing inherently “christian” about notes and melodies and harmonies and all the various parts that make up music. certainly, you can write lyrics that speak of god or some kind of biblical concept/value, but even that doesn’t make it inherently “christian”.

with all that said, i do own quite a bit of christian music. i’m a big fan of people like derek webb, jars of clay, dc talk and waterdeep (to name just a very few). (as a sidenote, interestingly, the people i just happened to name are people who have intentionally distanced themselves from the specific genre of “christian music” for various reasons.) while i like these artists and other christian artists, i think it’s abundantly clear that the talent pool is fairly shallow in the christian music industry. well, maybe—in all fairness—i should say that the talent is there, but the way the industry shapes and molds artists, talent is trumped by shallow lyrics, top 40 pursuit and imitation-driven agendas. i’m not saying there’s not a lot of people in the industry who are truly attempting to minister to people through music, but i think the labels tend to water it down with mediocrity.

drippy lyrics, jesus-as-your-lover innuendos and a sweet and surreal peppiness have made christian music very cliche and generally irrelevant beyond the relatively small fanbase of christian music. for the broader public, the christian music bubble has, deservingly, been a joke. at best, it’s merely an afterthought to the “real” music that’s being put out by “secular” artists.

after years, though, of just “those hell-bound secular people” making fun of the christian music industry, now the christians have jumped on the bandwagon. a group of christian screenwriters/directors/etc have been working on a major theatrical release of a mockumentary called jesus people. think of this as the christian music version of spinal tap or a mighty wind.

the movie, which releases some time this year (not sure exactly when), follows the assembling, album-recording and touring of a christian pop group called “cross my heart”. as you would guess, the group consists of every christian music stereotype and really harpoons all the cliches that one would imagine from a christian pop group.

no doubt, a lot of people are going to take this as mean-spirited or unhelpful, but i think it’s time for christians get a sense of humor. ease up, people. it’s okay to laugh at ourselves. not only should we laugh at ourselves, but we also need to critically evaluate the way we’re bastardizing an artform in an attempt to be cool or make jesus “relevant” or even just to sell a few records. music is a powerful medium of communication and art and i think it’s worth not cheapening it in order to relay the beautifully rich story of god.

so, this movie may absolutely be terrible, but the trailer looks promising. it has a lot of big names in the comedy world, so that hopefully bodes well for its overall humor and effectiveness. it’s actually based on a series of very popular webisodes, so you can take a look at some more glimpses of what it could be here. here’s the trailer:

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